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’.
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.