“Islamic State burned a woman alive for not engaging in an ‘extreme’ sex act, U.N. official says”

After attacking a village, [the Islamic State] splits women from men and executes boys and men aged 14 and over. The women and mothers are separated; girls are stripped naked, tested for virginity and examined for breast size and prettiness. The youngest, and those considered the prettiest virgins fetch higher prices and are sent to Raqqa, the IS stronghold.

There is a hierarchy: sheikhs get first choice, then emirs, then fighters. They often take three or four girls each and keep them for a month or so, until they grow tired of a girl, when she goes back to market. At slave auctions, buyers haggle fiercely, driving down prices by disparaging girls as flat-chested or unattractive.

“Evil” isn’t a word that I throw around casually; this, however, qualifies. Read more at The Washington Post. For those who’ve not yet read it, “What ISIS Really Wants” by The Atlantic‘s Graeme Wood remains the most coherent account that I’ve seen of the group and its apparently self-destructive policies of extreme brutality. Strongly recommended.

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Disability, the UK General Election, and what it means for bioethics

It may not have escaped your notice that Britain has just had a general election. The result decides the flavour of the government, probably for the next 5 years. The outcome on 8 May was widely unpredicted: the polls had all said that the ruling Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition would morph into some other form of coalition, unholy or not. Instead the Conservative party walked away with an outright majority, giving Britain its first purely Tory government since 1997.

Quite what this will mean for life in Britain remains to be seen. There’s been no lack of discussion in the media and on the street. Some things are foreseeable, others less so. The government has already swung into action behind a couple of its manifesto promises; these include the holding of a referendum on whether or not Britain should stay part of the European Union, and the promise to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights. The two issues aren’t unconnected, and if they went through would have immense consequences for Britain, Europe and ultimately the rest of the world.

Perhaps less attention has been given to what the new regime’s plans mean for disabled people. The previous government had form[1] here, and there’s little indication that things are going to improve. Over the last 5 years vicious cuts have been made to the level of social and other support provided to disabled people: support to which disabled people have a right, according to (among other things) international agreements like that pesky European Convention. The cuts have reduced or eliminated altogether access to interventions that enable disabled people and their families to live as independently as others, to work, to get an education, to be active in society; to have, in other words, a halfway decent life. The incoming government now has to make good on its manifesto promise to enact a further £15 billion-worth of cuts to the welfare budget by 2018.

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“Confessions of a Bitter Cripple”

Some personal reflections on working in the feminist philosophy of disability from Elizabeth Barnes (University of Virginia):

I have sat in philosophy seminars where it was asserted that I should be left to die on a desert island if the choice was between saving me and saving an arbitrary non-disabled person. I have been told it would be wrong for me to have my biological children because of my disability. I have been told that, while it isn’t bad for me to exist, it would’ve been better if my mother could’ve had a non-disabled child instead. I’ve even been told that it would’ve been better, had she known, for my mother to have an abortion and try again in hopes of conceiving a non-disabled child. I have been told that it is obvious that my life is less valuable when compared to the lives of arbitrary non-disabled people. And these things weren’t said as the conclusions of careful, extended argument. They were casual assertions. They were the kind of thing you skip over without pause because it’s the uncontroversial part of your talk.

Read the full essay at Philosop-hera blog run by Meena Krishnamurthy (University of Manitoba) devoted to showcasing the excellent work being done in philosophy by women. It’s new on my radar, but looks to have a lot of great content. Do check it out!

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“Nurse Confessions: Don’t Get Sick in July”

Well, this is just full of horrifying information about the health care system (with a focus on the U.S.). It’s hard to decide what to excerpt, but here are two:

Every year in teaching hospitals at the start of July, medical students become interns, interns become residents and each successive class of residents moves up a level. [….] This upheaval causes what health care workers call “The July Effect” in the United States and “August Killing Season” in the United Kingdom (where the shift happens in August). The changeover harms patient care, increasing medical errors, medication mistakes and the length of hospital stays. In July, U.S. death rates in these hospitals surge between 8 and 34 percent—a total of between 1,500 and 2,750 deaths. UC-San Diego researchers found that fatal medication errors “spike by 10 percent in July and in no other month.” In Britain, August mortality rates rise by 6 to 8 percent as new doctors are tasked with surgeries and procedures that Britons say are “beyond their capabilities.”


A medical/surgical nurse who has worked in a pediatrician’s office warned that when you call a doctor’s office to speak to a nurse, you might not actually reach one. “Parents call to ask the nurse a medical question about their child. The medical assistants, who are not nurses, pick up the phone saying, ‘Hello, this is the nurse’ and then give advice,” she said.

Find the full story by Alexandra Robbins at Politico Magazine.

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Gender and Inequality: Panel at LSE’s day-long engagement with Thomas Piketty

I was back in London on Monday for a day-long symposium at the LSE on Piketty’s Capital in the 21st Century—this time, with Piketty in attendance. At least, he was there after his late Eurostar train got in from Paris. He missed the economics panel, but was there for the panels “Gender and everyday life” and “Accumulation and Timespaces of Class”—as well as a closing session in which Piketty and Mike Savage discussed Tony Atkinson’s work. Atkinson is one of the “godfathers,” I believe Piketty said, of inequality studies; he has a new book out—Inequality — What can be done? with a more robust set of policy recommendations than Piketty’s.

I’ll focus on the Gender and Everyday Life panel. Stephanie Seguino raised the question, “how do we distribute the bad news of capitalism in hard times?” Answering this question brings out the relationships between economic inequality, gender inequality, and racial inequality. The first might be getting worse, but the second seems to be getting better; meanwhile, racial inequality in the US is increasingly a phenomenon not of exploitation but of exclusion. Some of women’s advancing equality, however, has come thanks to men’s worsening employment prospects—i.e. some of the fact that the gender gap is (very slowly) narrowing in wages is because of “levelling down”. And it’s possible that capitalism just trades off one inequality for another: when a country is culturally homogenous, gender inequality is higher; when a country is diverse, gender inequality lower. Suggested implication, with bitter irony: if racialized people are available to bear the brunt of “the bad news of capitalism,” women are freed from precarity and can get ahead.

Naila Kabeer followed up on the global dimension, and emphasized a pattern seen over and over again in the data from gender and development studies: it’s not about how racialized or marginalized groups (such as the Dalits in the Indian caste system) do in hard times versus how women do: the real suffering is reserved for people at the intersections—Dalit women, for example. Kabeer emphasized a set of problems of particular interest to feminist bioethics: the choice of establishing social programs as universal or as means-tested, safety-net programs is a substantial choice. While it seems sensible to put money where needs are greatest, a number of problems result. Others have observed that such programs are vulnerable at the ballot box and that they tend to be of lower quality than universal programs. Kabeer focused on they way they re-enact the power relations of society in the relationship between agency and client. Who wants to access services when the organization of those services treats you as in moralizing terms? (Nancy Fraser writes about some similar dynamics in the social state from the perspective of critical theory, in “What’s critical about critical theory?” referencing the work of Carol Brown in “Mothers, Fathers, and Children: From Private to Public Patriarchy.”) Kabeer highlighted the tension between universality in programs, and tailoring programs to need, as one of several crucial challenges in addressing inequality.

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“The Founder Of Mother’s Day Hated What The Holiday Became”

Annoyed that most American holidays were dedicated to honoring male achievements, [Anna] Jarvis started a letter-writing campaign to make it a national holiday, involving wearing a white carnation, visiting your mother and maybe going to church.

Her campaign worked, but not in the way she hoped[.]

The commodification of the filial bond–just capitalism doing its thing. Find more details along with some choice quotes at HuffPost.

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Okay to vote Clinton just because she’s a woman?

Kate Harding of Dame Magazine says “yes”:

There has never been a president who knows what it’s like to menstruate, be pregnant, or give birth. There has never been a president who knows what it’s like to be the target of subtle and categorically unsubtle sexism. There has never been a president who was criticized widely for his political ambition, or forced into a bake-off to prove he’s not too career-oriented to cook for his family. There has never been a president who was forced to take his spouse’s last name for appearances’ sake. There has never been a president criticized for showing too much cleavage, or having “cankles,” or wearing unflattering headbands or colorful pantsuits. There has never been a president who was presumed to be mentally and emotionally unstable because of naturally occurring hormones.

Find the full article here. As always, debate is encouraged in the comments section (of the blog, that is–you don’t want to look at the comments on the article, trust me). Responsible decision to “vote with your vagina”? (Be forewarned, as was forcefully argued in response to a friend’s Facebook posting, the article is markedly ciscentric.)

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“Philosophy’s gender bias: For too long, scholars say, women have been ignored.”

A nice piece, perhaps most significant for appearing in the Washington Post, as its thesis is hardly news to readers of this blog (though some of the philosophers it mentions were, I confess, unfamiliar to me).

It also includes a link to Project Vox, the mission of which is

to recover the lost voices of women who have been ignored in standard narratives of the history of modern philosophy. We aim to change those narratives, thereby changing what students around the world learn about philosophy’s history.

Their website includes many useful pedagogical resources. Do take a look and avail yourself of them! And, hey, contribute if you can. They look to have a great mission.

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Holding and Letting Go Reviewed at NDPR

IJFABster Hilde Lindemann’s recent book, Holding and Letting Go: The Social Practice of Personal Identities, has been reviewed in the series of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, feely available online and by email subscription. An excerpt:

In Lindeman’s words, the book is about the moral practice of “initiating human beings into personhood and then holding them there” (p. ix). We hold others and ourselves through a web of stories that depict our most important acts, experiences, characteristics, roles, relationships, and commitments. This narrative tissue, as she calls it, constitutes our personal identities. So storytelling is of essential importance for the moral practice of personhood and identity work. Interestingly, she practices what she preaches. Each chapter starts with a story that shows us how persons can be held or let go.

Sounds fascinating!

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“Is it moral to save this puppy?”

Peter Singer at Salon on factory farming. There is no feminist dimension to the piece, but it does nicely tie together the bioethical themes of food and climate to be featured in upcoming issues of IJFAB. There is still plenty of time to submit to the latter issue, and I would encourage anyone interested in this crucial issue to read the CFP and consider submitting a manuscript. You have until January 1!

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“The Drug that Cried ‘Feminism'”

Branded as “The Little Pink Pill” and “Female Viagra,” flibanserin, Sprout Pharmaceuticals’ only drug, was recently resubmitted to the Food and Drug Administration for approval for hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD), a questionable condition promoted by pharmaceutical companies to sell questionable drugs. Flibanserin, a failed-antidepressant-turned-libido-boosting-drug, has already been rejected twice by the FDA due to a lack of proven efficacy in the face of possible safety concerns.

Rather than putting this drug to sleep, Sprout attacked the FDA for, of all things, sexism. Sprout created a public relations campaign called “Even the Score” that has misled several consumer groups, congresswomen, and many reporters into believing that the FDA is willing to approve male, but not female, treatments for sexual dysfunction. After all, they approved Viagra, the little blue pill, so shouldn’t the little pink pill get approved as well?

Well no, actually. Prescription drug regulation is driven by safety and efficacy, not parity. Promoting a lower standard of efficacy and safety in drugs for women is not feminist. Nor is drawing comparisons to unrelated drugs.

Read on at the Hastings Center’s Bioethics Forum.

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Alice Dreger Live-Tweets Son’s Sex-Ed Class

…and the results are truly quite wonderful. You can learn more about Professor Dreger (Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University) at her homepage and find the tweets with a brief write-up at HuffPost Women. Be sure to read on to the confrontation with the teacher.

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