What someone did to help a sexual assault survivor

April 16, 2014 § Leave a comment

After being ostracized in 2005 for reporting sexual harassment and assault from my dissertation adviser–which he admitted to doing–I am considering going back and finishing my Ph.D.

Yesterday, I spent an hour-and-a-half on the phone with a tenured professor at a well-known university. She had read my story and through a mutual friend, ended up exchanging emails. This exchange lead to the phone call.

She took time out of her day to essentially mentor me and brainstorm what she can do to help secure my “return”.

There is so much hope right now, hope I haven’t felt in years. I keep thinking, “Someone who’s never read my work believes in me.”

She also (unfortunately) understands all too well the PTSD that sometimes haunts you after being harassed and assaulted. It was nice to talk to someone who understood.

What someone did to help a PhD student

April 10, 2014 § 3 Comments

This is a tale of a small thing that someone in my department did to support me, a woman in philosophy. I’m a PhD student at a well-regarded UK institution where there is very good awareness of inclusion issues. At the weekly visiting speaker seminar, I asked a question – the last or next-to-last question in the session. The speaker, though very polite and friendly, didn’t engage at all with my question, instead using his response as an opportunity to discuss something that he’d mentioned in his talk that he’d like to be asked about (but hadn’t been). As far as I could tell, his answers to other questions had all been very much to the point. I’d been really curious to hear what the speaker had to say about the point I raised, but I thought that I must have asked the question badly, or that there was after all nothing interesting in what I was asking, or that I’d misunderstood the answer. Immediately the talk finished, a senior member of staff (male) who I don’t know especially well came up to me and said ‘I thought your question was really interesting, and I don’t think the speaker addressed your point at all. Why don’t you ask him about it now?’ Heartened, I put my question to the speaker as we walked to the pub, he responded enthusiastically and pertinently, and a very interesting and productive conversation ensued. It turned out that I had been raising a worthwhile point, and the issue is one I may write about in my thesis. If I hadn’t received this active encouragement from a senior member of my department, I’d have gone away without an answer to my question, and feeling a bit stupid. Little things like this really make a difference to how I feel about being in philosophy – and I know they make my work better, too.

The Extreme Badness of Silence

March 25, 2014 § Leave a comment

Originally posted on Feminist Philosophers:

Note: One of the survivors quoted in what follows requested that I remove the “tirgger warning” that was originally at the beginning of this article, arguing that it contradicts the message that we shouldn’t be afraid of sharing trauma narratives. Her point that there is a certain tension is a perceptive one. We’re not ashamed, and part of the purpose of this piece is to encourage transparency — but we also feel, given the intensity of the responses to sexual misconduct in philosophy over the past couple of months,  that readers should know that what follows could be triggering. 

This is a difficult post to write – and probably an even more difficult one to read.

I’m writing it because I have had a number of conversations in the past month that have led me to believe that there are more than a few philosophers who have no clue just how damaging even mild forms…

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What University of Chicago is Doing About What it’s Like

March 9, 2014 § Leave a comment

UChicago started an Undergraduate Women in Philosophy group last year. We’ve been keeping a record of our meetings and projects at our website. This might be a good resource for other departments to know about.

February 27, 2014 § Leave a comment

Workshop on the Recruitment and Retention of Female Undergraduates in Philosophy, UNC – Chapel Hill, Department of Philosophy, April 25-26, 2014

The department of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be hosting a workshop this April 25-26 on the recruitment and retention of female undergraduate philosophy majors. Among the speakers at the conference will be philosophers, psychologists, experts in gender studies and education, as well as graduate and undergraduate students who have been working hard in the past couple of years to make a difference for women at their home institutions as well as for women in the field more generally.

The two day workshop will address the impact of implicit bias, evaluation bias, and stereotype threats on departmental and classroom climates, and how to counteract them; the influence of female role-models in the recruitment and retention of female students in male-dominated fields; potential differences in male and female philosophical intuitions; and the importance of teaching classes about women, gender, and the body in philosophy departments and/or of including (more) women philosophers in syllabi of philosophy courses. We hope that this workshop will identify some much-needed best practices and will subsequently be helpful to philosophy departments across the country.

For more information about the workshop, please contact Mariska Leunissen (mleunissen AT unc.edu).

Speakers list: Ellen Feder (American University), JJ Lang & Olivia Branscum (UNC); Julie Huh & Sabina Bremmer (University of Chicago); Laurie McNeil (UNC); Yena Lee (Princeton University); Toni Adleberg (USCD) & Morgan Thompson (Pittsburgh University); Bonita London (SUNY Stony Brook); Cheshire Calhoun (Arizona State University); Bryce Huebner (Georgetown University); Yolonda Wilson (Howard University); and Silvia Tomášková (UNC).

The workshop is funded by the UNC Philosophy Department, the Institute for Arts and Humanities at UNC-Chapel Hill, and the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill.

Holding a workshop on the recruitment and retention of UG women!

February 27, 2014 § 1 Comment

Workshop on the Recruitment and Retention of Female Undergraduates in Philosophy, UNC – Chapel Hill, Department of Philosophy, April 25-26, 2014

The department of philosophy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will be hosting a workshop this April 25-26 on the recruitment and retention of female undergraduate philosophy majors. Among the speakers at the conference will be philosophers, psychologists, experts in gender studies and education, as well as graduate and undergraduate students who have been working hard in the past couple of years to make a difference for women at their home institutions as well as for women in the field more generally.

The two day workshop will address the impact of implicit bias, evaluation bias, and stereotype threats on departmental and classroom climates, and how to counteract them; the influence of female role-models in the recruitment and retention of female students in male-dominated fields; potential differences in male and female philosophical intuitions; and the importance of teaching classes about women, gender, and the body in philosophy departments and/or of including (more) women philosophers in syllabi of philosophy courses. We hope that this workshop will identify some much-needed best practices and will subsequently be helpful to philosophy departments across the country.

For more information about the workshop, please contact Mariska Leunissen (mleunissen@unc.edu).

Speakers list: Ellen Feder (American University), JJ Lang & Olivia Branscum (UNC); Julie Huh & Sabina Bremner (University of Chicago); Laurie McNeil (UNC); Yena Lee (Princeton University); Toni Adleberg (USCD) & Morgan Thompson (Pittsburgh University); Bonita London (SUNY Stony Brook); Cheshire Calhoun (Arizona State University); Bryce Huebner (Georgetown University); Yolonda Wilson (Howard University); and Silvia Tomášková (UNC).

The workshop is funded by the UNC Philosophy Department, the Institute for Arts and Humanities at UNC-Chapel Hill, and the College of Arts and Sciences at UNC-Chapel Hill.

What feminists and friends are doing about what it’s like

February 11, 2014 § 8 Comments

Thanks to Anne Jacobson, Amy Olberding, Neil Sinhababu, Hilde Lindemann, Tom Dougherty, Sally Haslanger, Laurie Schrage, Elizabeth Harman, Sabrina Bano Jamil, Annaleigh Curtis, Ned Markosian, and Alison Reiheld, for adding to efforts to do something about What It’s Like!

Why I’m thanking them: At Leiter Reports, a set of criticisms of the APA’s CSW Site Visit team was featured, which gave more prominence to deploring the feminism of our colleagues as viciously biasing than I’m accustomed to witnessing.  Philosophers Peggy DesAutels and Carla Fehr worked to create a Site Visit program, and with Valerie Hardcastle wrote the report resulting from their visit to CU-Boulder.  The critic of their work ended on the following note: ” There are plenty who wish to end sexual harassment in the profession despite having a very low opinion of ‘feminist philosophy’: I am one of them. Departments bringing in a CSW team deserve to have at least one team member whose ideological commitments will not be furthered by making a finding against the department.”

This really dropped my jaw, and I’m glad to see I was not alone.  Philosophers, including many women, have replied to defend DesAutels, Fehr, and Hardcastle as women who are working so hard to contribute to ameliorating sexism in the profession, and many have argued against the cartoonish characterization of feminism.  My reply was this:

Kate Norlock said…

I am mildly surprised to see the statement [from a reader*], “There are plenty who wish to end sexual harassment in the profession despite having a very low opinion of ‘feminist philosophy.’” If there are plenty, and if the Physics colleagues have been successfully doing similar site visits for decades, then why didn’t the ‘plenty’ of philosophers who deplore feminists start a site-visit program? Indeed, feminist philosophers including Peggy DesAutels and Carla Fehr started the site visit programs in part because of their concern for women and gender issues. Now that they’ve done most of the work, it is somewhat insincere to argue that only one member of a site visit team can/should have such a view, and that the effort should be more “balanced.” The philosophy profession, on the whole, seems to have been content to let a few hard-working colleagues do a very unbalanced share of the work of improving this aspect of the profession.

Last, as a feminist and philosopher, I’m somewhat appalled to see the criticism that my colleagues on the Site Visit team have their “ideological commitments … furthered by making a finding against the department.” This seems a clearly hostile statement imputing determined unfairness to Hardcastle, DesAutels and Fehr as the report authors, and borders on a smear.

*Note that the statement which shocked me so was by a correspondent of the blog host, and not written by the blog host.

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