CWIP 2019: inspiring, motivating and empowering

On Sunday 23rd and Monday 24th of June, a very successful Conference by Women in Philosophy was held at the University of Groningen. Over 80 attendees enjoyed seventeen talks by young women philosophers, a keynote by prof. dr. Heather Widdows, two symposia with experienced women in philosophy and an informal roundtable discussion about what it is like to be a woman in academic philosophy. It was an inspiring, motivating and empowering event.

Like elsewhere in academia, women are underrepresented in academic philosophy. The Conference by Women in Philosophy wants to challenge this situation. It is committed to creating a more balanced environment and to empowering women to make the academic space their own. At the event, young women philosophers presented their work to peers and inspired and motivated one another. Productive alliances were forged, not only by exchanging research, but also by sharing experiences, tips and advice with peers.

Participants benefited incredibly from the presence of experienced women in academic philosophy, who functioned as representatives and role models for the early career researchers. Prof. dr. Heather Widdows (University of Birmingham) gave a brilliant keynote lecture on ‘Understanding the rising demands of beauty’. A symposium on ‘neurodiversity’ was featured by prof. dr. Trudy Dehue (University of Groningen), dr. Kristien Hens (University of Antwerp) and dr. Annelies Kleinherenbrink (University of Tilburg). Another symposium on ‘feminist philosophy and exclusion’ was featured by dr. Charlotte Knowles (University of Groningen) and dr. Amanda Cawston (University of Tilburg).

This year’s edition was the sixth Conference by Women in Philosophy. The organizing committee (consisting of PhD researchers from Dutch and Flemish universities) is very pleased to see the conference is growing every year: in number of participants, but also as a collective movement. On to the 2020 edition!

Photographer: Marieke Druiven

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Symposia ‘Neurodiversity’ and ‘Feminist Philosophy and exclusion’

Participants of our conference can really benefit from the presence of experienced women in academic philosophy working at universities in The Netherlands and Belgium. We have therefore organised two parallel symposia with experienced women in philosophy talking about their research topic.

Symposium ‘Feminist philosophy and exclusion’

Barriers to Engagement – Dr. Amanda Cawston (Tilburg University)

These are increasingly dark days for feminism and feminist philosophy. While there are small victories in the academy regarding representation and inclusion, popular support for feminism and openness to feminist philosophy is increasingly thin, and opposition is increasingly emboldened and vocal. I experience this most directly in the classroom when teaching introductory lectures on feminist philosophy. In this this talk, I highlight a number of barriers encountered while teaching feminist philosophy that work to undermine engagement. These include, for example, calls to treat ‘both sides’ of the issue. I fear that the benefits of diversifying curricula and reading lists will be minimal unless the barriers that prevent engagement with this material are addressed.

Choice, Exclusion and the Feminist Philosophical Project – Charlotte Knowles (University of Groningen)

Choice is thought to be a key indicator of feminist liberation, so when women appear to choose things that reinforce rather than resist their own oppression, we must ask whether such choices should be respected, or whether they should be challenged, and perhaps even excluded from the realms of legitimacy on feminist grounds. In an applied global context, this tension has come into focus most sharply in the debate between those who are committed to universal values of gender justice, which they believe can and should be applied cross-culturally; and those who take a more relativist position, and argue that judgments about women’s choices must be made relative to their individual, social, cultural and historical context. The talk offers a brief overview of the tension between cultural relativism and feminism, before moving on to explore issues of choice, relativism and the possible exclusion of certain choices on feminist grounds, within feminist philosophy. The talk brings into focus these tensions by concentrating on feminist critiques and defences of gendered cultural practices in an applied global context, as this has historically been a key area of the debate. The talk then examines some of the broader issues these debates raise in feminist philosophy more generally, around questions of agency and adaptive preference. The talk concludes with a brief discussion of the importance of a better understanding of ‘complicity’ as a way to begin to overcome the impasse between appeals to ‘choice’ and appeals to ‘gender justice’.


Symposium ‘Neurodiversity’

Sex-based approaches to mental health and brain health – Dr. Annelies Kleinherenbrink (Tilburg University)

Many mental health problems and brain disorders affect men and women in different ways and in different numbers. However, biomedical research is not always attentive to sex/gender differences and has often used male bodies to stand in for all bodies. To remedy this bias and to optimize health care for everyone, biomedical researchers have recently been urged (by finding agencies, governments, journals, …) to include “sex as a biological variable” in all medical and basic research. In this context, the idea that the female brain and the male brain are two distinct entities has gained renewed gravitas, in spite of damning critiques by feminist philosophers and scientists. In this presentation, I take a critical look at this mobilization of brain sex in the interest of women’s health and personalized medicine.

Neurodiversity and psychiatric classifications – Prof. dr. Trudy Dehue (University of Groningen)

For decades an international debate has been going on about the emancipatory versus repressive effects of psychiatric classifications. Do they enhance or hamper neurodiversity? Trudy Dehue attempts to disentangle the discussion.

The normativity of biology: the case of neurodiversity – Dr. Kristien Hens (University of Antwerp)

In discussions about neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism, the idea that these conditions have a genetic basis has normative implications. On the one hand, the idea that these conditions have a genetic basis helps to remove some of the feelings of blame and guilt that people or parents may feel regarding their own behavior or that of their children, and may thus be therapeutically helpful. On the other hand, a reductionist approach to challenging behavior may also hamper a correct understanding of the meaning of behavior in context. In this talk, I will explore some of these normative implications and suggest a way out of this dilemma by suggesting a more dynamic approach to human biology, inspired by the ideas of Georges Canguilhem and new materialism.

 

 

 

Keynote by prof. dr. Heather Widdows

We are honored to welcome professor Heather Widdows as our keynote speaker who will give a keynote on ‘Understanding the rising demands of beauty‘.

The talk is taken from Widdows’ book Perfect Me: Beauty as an Ethical Ideal (published in May 2018). In the talk she will describe the emerging beauty ideal and why it is an ethical ideal. She will argue it is the first global beauty ideal and that this is significant. Only a global ideal can be ethical and dominant such that it can demand more across demographics, normalise and naturalise. Yet despite the rising demands the rhetoric around beauty continues to be that of choice, even though practices are required. Prof. dr. Heather Widdows will explore how we understand the requirement to do beauty, how we increasingly feel like failures as it becomes harder to make the grade, and the dominance of the choice narrative. She will argue that traditional responses, for instance that individuals should simply resist, are no longer effective or ethical.

Prof. dr. Heather Widdows is a leading international researcher across applied ethics. In 2005 she was awarded a visiting fellowship at Harvard University, where she worked on issues of moral neo-colonialism. While her current research explores the moral philosophy of beauty, she has led a number of funded projects before on issues of property in the body; reproductive rights; human tissue; war on terror; and ownership and governance of the genome.

De deadline for registration for CWIP 2019 is June 10. You can find our call for registration here.

Practical information: Groningen (2019)

University & accommodation

The conference takes place in the Faculty of Philosophy, Oude Boteringestraat 52, of the University of Groningen. Please note that the main entrance of the Faculty of Philosophy is not on the main road, but can be reached through an alley on the right side of the building.

Groningen can be easily reached by train. From Amsterdam Airport Schiphol there is a direct train to Groningen that will take you there in approximately 2 hours. To plan public transport within the Netherlands you can use this website.  

The Faculty of Philosophy is located in the center of the city. Most accommodations as well as the main train station are within walking distance. If you intend to stay overnight in Groningen, this is a selective list of hostels and hotels in the city center:

If you have any trouble preventing you from visiting our conference, do not hesitate to send  us an email. Together we will try to find a solution.

Schermafdruk 2019-04-09 16.10.16

 

Reflection on our Keynote Lecture of Xhercis Méndez (2017)

mendez_xhercisOn July 3rd, we had the pleasure of welcoming Xhercis Méndez in Amsterdam, to give a talk about her career in philosophy and intersectional feminism. We found this extremely interesting, and we want to thank Xhercis for bringing her passion and knowledge to the conference.

Philosopher Grâce Ndjako has written an excellent piece about the lecture. If you want to get an impression of the lecture or want  to know more about Xhercis’ work, we encourage you to read it:

https://gracendjako.com/2017/07/11/xcercis-mendez-on-diversifying-philosophy-and-decolonizing-feminism/

Special guest: Sally Haslanger (2015)

SallyHaslangerWe are proud to announce that the guest speaker at the Conference for Women in Philosophy of 2015 will be Sally Haslanger. She is the Ford Professor of Philosophy in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and an affiliate in the MIT Women’s and Gender Studies Program. She also holds the 2015 Spinoza Chair of Philosophy at the University of Amsterdam. Sally Haslanger co-edits the Symposia on Gender, Race and Philosophy, convenes the Workshop on Gender and Philosophy and the Women in Philosophy Task Force and served as Director of the Women’s and Gender Studies Program at MIT from 2009-2013. Her philosophical interests include analytic metaphysics, epistemology, ancient philosophy, social and political philosophy, feminists theory and critical race theory. Her most recent book Resisting Reality: Social Construction and Social Critique (2012) was awarded the 2014 Joseph B. Gittler Prize for ‘outstanding scholarly contribution in the field of the philosophy of one or more of the social sciences’.