Just Caring for Caregivers in the U.S. Workplace… For Some Workers
Alison Reiheld

On September 8, 2016, Deloitte LLP announced it would grant 16 weeks of paid leave to employees who provide family caregiving not only to new children, but to older children, parents, and spouses.  This is an enormous improvement in the U.S. which has very little national support for paid caregiver leave from paid work outside the home.  Many caregiver and maternity leave policies in the US guarantee only that you may have unpaid leave without losing your job, and usually for not more than 8 or 12 weeks, while many other developed nations require much more generous policies administered by the state.  The business magazine, Fortune, declared Deloitte’s benefit announcement “the latest in the paid leave arms race.” In America, this is good news.  Would that such an arms race could suffice.

In her influential book Justice, Gender, and the Family, Susan okin-justice-gender-and-the-familyMoller Okin wrote about how the structure of the heterosexual family, which assumes that women will do the majority of the caregiving, is a factor taken into account by businesses when hiring men over women and when assuming that employees are men and have a spouse at home to do caregiving, thus making long work hours and unscheduled meetings and overtime demands employers can expect will be met. Okin argued that businesses are thus “free riders” on the work of caregivers,  caregivers who are largely women, whose unpaid and uncompensated work makes more paid work hours available for their spouses.  Women still work a “second shift” when they come home from paid work.

Without a change in the business world and at home over who does the caregiving and whether employees are supported in their lives outside of work, those who do caregiving will continue to be exploited by our economic system.  Perhaps that change is coming. The Deloitte move is certainly the right thing to do relative to little or no paid leave, or paid leave only for new children.

But if it continues to come company by company, it will affect only small chunks of workers and be used in part as a recruiting tool to bring particular types of professionals to particular types of corporations.  These benefits will remain off-limits to even salaried workers in different sectors of the economy, and especially to lower-income workers who are seen by their employers as interchangeable with those currently looking for work. According to the US Bureau of Labor & Statistics and other reliable sources, women still tend to work lower-paid jobs than men in the US, with women of color earning even less than white women, overall. Men in lower-paid jobs will not have the flexibility to temporarily leave work to care for their families, and neither will very many women, and especially marginalized men and women.   Only a widespread cultural movement or governmental mandate regarding paid leave and other supports for caregivers will ensure that just caring for caregivers is itself justly distributed and available to all.

For more of my thoughts on the North American context for caregiving see:

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IJFAB Blog editor on a short break

Hello, folks. The IJFAB Blog editor is dealing with an impending death in her family, and with all that this requires in terms of compassionate planning leading up to this and afterwards. Alas that a career spent doing bioethics should be of so much urgent personal utility. What a blessing, that one’s work makes difficult parts of one’s life even somewhat easier.

IJFAB bloggers may post their own work, but through September 16, 2016 the Editor will be on a short leave.

Need some bioethics in the interim?  Check out our recent blog entries, visit IJFAB on Muse for current and past issues, or peruse the Stanford Encyclopedia’s very fine entry on Feminist Bioethics authored by FAB’s own Jackie Leach Scully and built on the scaffolding provided by the departed and much missed Anne Donchin.

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EpiPen and the laws of capitalism
Elizabeth Victor

Epinephrine is a very inexpensive drug that saves your life if you are reeling from the effects of anaphylaxis. I had such an experience just last week. I was applying body lotion that had among its otherwise innocuous ingredients juniper oil. By the time I had finished applying the lotion to my arms and legs, it looked as if I had a severe sunburn. I, realizing what was happening, threw myself into a cold shower and rubbed off as much of the offending lotion as possible. I could feel my lungs tightening, and I knew this was not going to go away. Knowing it was faster for my partner to drive me a mile to the hospital, rather than wait for an ambulance, we dashed off. By the time we arrived at the ER, within 5-10 minutes after applying the lotion, I could barely stand and had to receive triage care, which began in the middle of the hospital hallway. Epinephrine saved my life that day.

epi pen

This image, from the manufacturer, shows the EpiPen 2-Pak and Epi-Pen Jr. 2-Pak.

I received a script for an EpiPen with my discharge paperwork. My partner went to the pharmacy to pick up the prescription, only to be told that it was being excluded by United Healthcare and the cost would be $644.

I have had prescriptions excluded before. For instance, my nasal spray, Dymista, is not covered and I was told would cost $186, but the two separate generic drugs that make up Dymista are available for $10/drug through my insurance provider. I assumed that maybe something similar was happening with the EpiPen. I inquired whether they covered a generic or another viable alternative, and they said that if the script was written for an EpiPen they could not substitute epinephrine and a syringe; it had to be an auto-delivery mechanism. Furthermore, EpiPen, the representative told me, was coded as an elective “breathing treatment.” The representative went on to say that United does not cover elective therapies; the EpiPen, the rep indicated, was akin to a nose job. Except it wasn’t at all like a nose job because it was a necessary preventative therapy to keep me from dying, not an operation to appease my vanity. Issues with my insurance provider aside, the price of the EpiPen itself was astounding considering that only a few years ago, the same device was well under $100. Continue reading

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The dangers of saying Trump is “crazy”, “insane”, “pathological”, or “diagnosable”

In recent months there has been a steady uptick in media coverage of trump discussing whether he or his proponents are “crazy”, “insane”, “pathological”, or “diagnosable.” You can find one example here in this Mother Jones article titled “Here is Every Crazy, Insane, Terrible, Genius, Infuriating Thing Donald Trump Did This Year” and another example in the image meme below, the text of which describes the Republican party as filled with people who are “crazy.”


There are many disability critiques of the tendency to use these mental illness terms to describe people whose behavior or values we find to be strange, immoral, or unreasonable.  Very few focus on something so simple as the notion that this is offensive to persons with mental illness. Rather, such critiques caution against conflating mental illness with what appears to us to be immorality and/or irrationality.  Nice introductions to this critique of “ableism” can be found here and here.

However, it is worth attending specifically to how these terms are deployed in the current election.  David M. Perry considers this phenomenon’s appearance in presidential politics in his blog entry, “Medicalizing Presidential Candidates, past and present.”

[I am talking about] the drive to medicalize Trump’s behavior. The other day I wrote some opening thoughts, along with a storify, on the casual pathologization of Trump’s objectionable behavior. It’s had an afterlife to which I’ll link below. My general thought – we do not need to armchair diagnose Trump to beat him. Leveraging disability stigma to defeat Trump is, at the least, a morally complex choice. I’d like people to think hard before doing it. I won’t be doing it myself. 

I suggest you click through to the article. Agree or disagree, it is worth thinking about.

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A Feminist Approach to Palliation
Robyn Bluhm

The Spring 2016 issue of IJFAB is now available via Project Muse. It includes an interesting open access paper by Allison Merrick, “A Paradox of Hope? Toward a Feminist Approach to Palliation.” The paradox of hope arises in cases where a patient’s prognosis is very poor. Because physicians have a duty to respect patient autonomy, they should be sure that a patient receives accurate information about their progress. At the same time, however, receiving this information may cause the patient to lose hope, causing their condition to worsen. Thus, providing accurate information seems contrary to the duty of beneficence.

Merrick’s goal in this paper is to undermine this paradox by developing an alternative model of medicine, one that does not focus solely on cure – on “the eradication of the cause of an illness or disease, [or] the radical interruption of and reversal of the natural history of the disorder” (Pellegrino and Thomasma 1997, 27; quoted in Merrick 2016, 112). Instead, she offers a palliative model, informed by feminist scholarship, that understands hope in terms of the patient’s subjective priorities and experiences. Such a model, she claims, “opens up the space for a plurality of values” (112).

Merrick closes her paper with a discussion of some of the work in feminist bioethics that parallel her ideas and that could be used to further develop her approach to palliation. In particular, she stresses that we must incorporate a relational dimension to palliation, emphasizing the patient’s relationships with their loved ones and also the ways that power structures operate in the healthcare system. I believe that the model she offers is very promising and would love to see further development of a relational approach to palliation. As questions about end-of-life care become more pressing, it becomes increasingly important to develop frameworks that are adequate to the complexity of the decisions that patients, their families, and health care providers will face. A feminist account such as Merrick’s seems to me to be our best hope of doing so.

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Obesity at the Pediatrician’s Office

The excellent medical history and women’s studies blog Nursing Clio is running a series of posts about female presidential candidates. They also recently featured a truly illuminating scholarly blog entry on the history and modern use of obesity and BMI in pediatric settings called “The Problem With Fat-Talk at the Pediatrician’s Office.”

Combined with the fact that some states require “BMI report cards” to be sent home by schools (a practice some argue is necessary for combating obesity but others say pose serious problems and the efficacy of which is unverified), pediatric use of BMI deserves careful attention from those concerned with medical ethics and public health ethics generally, and more specifically with the way that medicalization can reify stigmatized human conditions. This is even more the case than in the adult context given young people’s vulnerability to life-long patterns of body shame and disordered eating.

You may find the Clio blog entry particularly useful in thinking about the use and misuse of these measurements, and why they continue to find traction despite their oversimplification with respect to health. While IJFAB Blog has featured several blog entries on adult clinical uses of obesity and BMI, we don’t have any on pediatric contexts and so commend this to you.

For some of our past entries on adult obesity and BMI, see:


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Why YOU should submit your work to the ASBH FAB Affinity Group
Anna Gotlib

asbhThe American Society for Bioethics and Humanities  —  one of the largest conferences for all academics, clinicians, policy analysts, and others working in the areas of bioethics, medical humanities, medicine, medical education, and related disciplines  —  is ready to roll in Washington, D.C, from October 6-9, 2016.  Among its many features is the opportunity for Affinity Groups  — smaller organizations whose members have a particular clinical, academic, or other kind of focus  —  to meet, hear each other’s work, and engage in lively discussions, debates, and other activities centered around particular concerns or approaches.

The experiences of participants in such groups tend to bring them back.  Because ASBH is such a large, multivocal event, finding oneself in an environment where one is in focused conversations with a small group of like-minded colleagues who share one’s passions and concerns (and sometimes even projects) is not only professionally fruitful and fulfilling, but often just plain fun.  As it happens, I am the current organizer of just such a group:  Feminist Approaches to Bioethics.  And I think that you should submit your abstract for our meeting.  Now.

fabWhy Feminist Approaches to Bioethics?  If you are reading this blog post, you probably are already somewhat familiar with FAB and IJFAB  —  so just submit your work already!

If you are new here, first  —  welcome!  We are very happy to have you!

Second, please pardon all the acronyms (ASBH, FAB, IJFAB, and so on).

Third, please consider submitting your work for the following reasons:

  1.  The FAB Affinity Group is a welcoming, exciting, open-minded community of people interested in feminist approaches to medicine and related issues.  We WANT to hear your ideas, and we want to engage with them.  We don’t bite.
  2. Among all the general sessions and Affinity Groups at ASBH, we are the only group, focused specifically on feminist perspectives and approaches.  If you are, too, then we already speak the same language.  This matters!
  3. Participating in our group is a wonderful networking opportunity  —  especially for students and junior faculty and researchers.  It is also a great place for the more senior members to present work, to mentor younger colleagues  —  and, of course, to see old friends!
  4. All we ask for now is 250 words  —  surely you have a spare few hundred words lying around somewhere!

Thanks for reading this shameless promotional screed.  Below, I am posting the actual CFA, and please  —  do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or concerns.


FAB AFFINITY GROUP:  Call for Abstracts

In an ongoing effort to stimulate scholarship and encourage the growth of the field of feminist bioethics, the FAB Affinity Group would like to invite submissions for the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities (ASBH) 18th Annual Meeting October 6-9, 2016 at the Hyatt Regency Washington on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.  The theme is open, but should relate to issues within feminist bioethics, broadly construed.  Especially encouraged are papers that reflect works in progress, exploring new theoretical approaches to feminist bioethics, or analyzing advances in the biological sciences and medicine using a feminist framework.

Abstracts or proposals (250 words or less) should be emailed to agotlib@brooklyn.cuny.edu by August 1st.  Please include your full contact information.  All submissions will be reviewed by the FAB Affinity Group committee.  Applicants will be notified of the committee’s decision by August 15th.

Please feel free to distribute this invitation as appropriate.

Thank you, and we look forward to seeing you at ASBH in October!


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Move Along — Nothing to See Here!
Anna Gotlib

I am not going to write a lengthy post about the story of drug testing kits (and their failure) linked below.  Please read it.  Because I think that it speaks for itself  —  loudly, predictably, shamefully….

Here is a taste:

In our own examination of those 212 cases — thousands of pages of arrest reports, court filings and laboratory-testing records, along with interviews of prosecutors, police executives, officers, defense attorneys and innocent defendants who pleaded guilty — we saw a clear story about both who is being arrested and what is happening to them. The racial disparity is stark. Blacks made up 59 percent of those wrongfully convicted in a city where they are 24 percent of the population, reflecting a similar racial disparity in drug enforcement nationally. Patrol units, not trained narcotics detectives, appeared to be the most prolific field-test users.

The kits, or the officers interpreting them, got it wrong most often when dealing with small amounts of suspected drugs. Sixty-three percent of the N.C.S. cases involved less than a gram of evidence. The smallest possession cases are the ones in which a field test can be of greatest consequence; if officers find larger quantities of white powder in dozens of baggies or packaged in bricks, they have sufficient probable cause to make an arrest regardless of what a color test shows. (Though in those cases, too, they are generally required to test the drugs.) It’s widely assumed in legal circles that these wrongfully convicted people are in fact drug users who intended to possess drugs. Barry Scheck, a founder of the Innocence Project, a nonprofit group that seeks to overturn wrongful convictions, says some who work toward exoneration have complained to him that those exonerated of drug charges often are just accidentally not guilty, and shouldn’t be added to the National Registry of Exonerations. The assumption is not entirely without basis — 162 of the 212 N.C.S. defendants had criminal histories involving illegal drugs. However, 50 had no criminal history involving drugs at all.

All of the 212 N.C.S. defendants struck plea bargains, and nearly all of them, 93 percent, received a jail or prison sentence. Defendants with no previous convictions have a legal right in Texas to probation on drug-possession charges, even if they’re convicted at trial. But remarkably, 78 percent of defendants entitled to probation agreed to deals that included incarceration. Perhaps most striking: A majority of those defendants, 58 percent, pleaded guilty at the first opportunity, during their arraignment; the median time between arrest and plea was four days. In contrast, the median for defendants in which the field test indicated the wrong drug or that the weight was inaccurate — that is, the defendants who actually did possess drugs — was 22 days. Not only do the innocent tend to plead guilty in these cases, but they often do so more quickly.

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End-of-life care, and counseling, varies with disease type

US News and World Report recently published an article summarizing the results of a study of Veterans Affairs hospitals. The study found that patients with cancer or dementia received better end-of-life counseling, more palliative care, and better end-of-life planning on the part of patients.  Patients with kidney disease, heart failure, lung disease, or general frailty did not receive as much palliative care or plan as well.

Is this a systemic failure? Why cancer and dementia? Are these conditions treated by health care teams that involve specialists in planning whereas others are not? Is it–perhaps wrongly–presumed by doctors treating kidney disease, heart failure, lung disease, and frailty that their patients will retain decision-making capacity, whereas oncologists and those treating dementia patients believe–perhaps rightly–that there is a good chance their patients will lost decision-making capacity? Why is such counseling not universally available, even in the VA? Or is it universally available, and only undertaken by certain patient groups?

Active duty military personnel routinely complete basic legal advance directives such as health care power of attorney, living will, do-not-resuscitate orders, etc. The VA’s website has a standard form for Living Will and Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care.  How is it  that advance care planning tracks diagnostic categories so closely?

Cruzan Gravesite

This image shows a picture of the headstone at Nancy Beth Cruzan’s gravesite. It has three dates on it: Born (July 20, 1957); Departed (Jan 11, 1983, the day of her accident); and At Peace (Dec 26, 1990, the day she was removed from life support and died).

21 years ago, Emmanuel et al. published their influential article “Advance Care Planning As A Process” in which they joined a growing chorus of ethicists calling for routinization of advance care planning, and discussion even with patients who do not have terminal illnesses followed by regular updates of advance care documentation.  When this Editor teaches advance directives and prospective autonomy, the subject follows on the heels of discussion of the case of Nancy Cruzan, who was a young healthy woman at the time she was found face down in a watery ditch and rescuscitated after an unknown period of time without oxygen.  She never recovered from the persistent vegetative state in which she found herself.

Cases like Cruzan’s, and advice such as that given by Emmanuel et al., direct us to the general importance of giving some indication of our wishes to our likely surrogate decision-makers and/or to our physicians regardless of our disease state.  And yet whether or not  this has been done appears to track particular disease states within the VA hospital system.  Lack of adequate palliative care and advance care planning remain serious issues with end-of-life care in the United States. This is a problem bioethics and medicine have yet to adequately address, and it remains complicated by the motley assortment of health care delivery systems in the U.S. As the U.S. News article notes,

Outside the VA system, patients may not get their choice of whether they get end-of-life care or not. Currently, Medicare patients have to choose whether to get palliative care or continue with curative care — they can’t have both, according to Dr. F. Amos Bailey. He is a palliative care physician at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.

None of us are getting out of here alive. We have no control over whether we die, but we could have some over how. Should more of us be able to exercise it? What kinds of systemic factors inhibit that, and what kinds of systemic changes would make it possible?

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Telling Tales: Narratives About Black Men and Obesity

EDITOR’S NOTE: This entry was originally published on IJFAB Blog December 19 of 2014.  In the early hours of July 5, 2016, Alton Sterling of Baton Rouge, LA was shot dead by police. He was a father, selling CDs outside of a convenience store. Cellphone video shows that the encounter escalated rapidly, and that police at one point shouted that Sterling had a gun.  Louisiana is a permitless open carry state.  What led police to escalate this encounter so rapidly? The investigation may reveal more information.  However, the notion that certain narratives of danger and threat are more likely to be associated with certain bodies bears consideration. To that end, IJFAB Blog re-presents this piece on just that issue. 

Rebecca Kukla and Sarah Richardson recently published a piece in The Huffington Post, “Eric Garner and the Value of Black Obese Bodies,” in which they examined a seeming paradox revealed in the cases of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, and 12-year old Tamir Rice. I seek here to add additional context regarding medicalization, narratives about black bodies, and how those bodies function as “public texts” (in Karla Holloway’s words), texts which tell tales. Though this conversation will focus on black men’s bodies, there is much to be said about how black women’s bodies are read by the public and by police. Bodies tell tales, and black bodies tell particular tales. Of course, these tales are not necessarily true or helpful.

Let us begin with Kukla and Richardson’s piece. As you may recall, Garner died as a result of an illegal chokehold used by a police officer on him to subdue him for allegedly selling cigarettes illegally while Brown died as a result of being shot multiple times by a police officer after an altercation which began with the officer instructing Brown to walk on the sidewalk instead of the street.   Rice was shot fatally by a police officer immediately after the officer arrived at a park where Rice was sitting with a toy gun. 

There are three sets of images. On the upper left, three stages of the fatal encounter between Eric Garner and police. In the first, it is clear that Garner is standing back from a police officer in front of him as one comes up behind him. In the second, the officer behind Garner has wrapped his arm around Garner’s neck in a chokehold. The officer in front is holding Garner’s arm, apparently to prevent him from removing the chokehold. In the third, Garner is down on the ground with one police officer still choking him and three others handcuffing him. It is at this point that witnesses say he began to repeat “I can’t breathe.” The text says “Rest In Peace Eric Garner.” All of these pictures of the encounter show how big Garner’s body was (quite large compared with those standing next to him). In the second set of images, on the upper right, we see two pictures. One shows Michael Brown in his high school graduation picture months before he was shot. His gown is forest green and he has a serious expression on his face. In the second picture, he is wearing a red sleeveless t-shirt and jeans. The t-shirt says Nike Air, and his face is serious. He is standing on the front porch of a house. Both pictures show that he was a large-bodied, though not morbidly obese, young man. In the final image, below the others, we see a photo of Tamir Rice, 12 years old, smiling at the camera. The text is as though the image were taken from a newscast, and says “Police Shooting Investigation.”

There are three sets of images. On the upper left, three stages of the fatal encounter between Eric Garner and police. In the first, it is clear that Garner is standing back from a police officer in front of him as one comes up behind him. In the second, the officer behind Garner has wrapped his arm around Garner’s neck in a chokehold. The officer in front is holding Garner’s arm, apparently to prevent him from removing the chokehold. In the third, Garner is down on the ground with one police officer still choking him and three others handcuffing him. It is at this point that witnesses say he began to repeat “I can’t breathe.” The text says “Rest In Peace Eric Garner.” All of these pictures of the encounter show how big Garner’s body was (quite large compared with those standing next to him). In the second set of images, on the upper right, we see two pictures. One shows Michael Brown in his high school graduation picture months before he was shot. His gown is forest green and he has a serious expression on his face. In the second picture, he is wearing a red sleeveless t-shirt and jeans. The t-shirt says Nike Air, and his face is serious. He is standing on the front porch of a house. Both pictures show that he was a large-bodied, though not morbidly obese, young man. In the final image, below the others, we see a photo of Tamir Rice, 12 years old, smiling at the camera. The text is as though the image were taken from a newscast, and says “Police Shooting Investigation.”


On the one hand, Kukla and Richardson note, each of these black males was depicted as a “giant, brutish King-Kong-like black man threatening our cities.” The officer who killed Brown in Ferguson, MO, Darren Wilson, was 6-foot-4 inches tall and weighed 210 pounds, vs. Brown’s identical height and 292 pounds. Wilson described him grabbing Michael Brown’s arm as “like a five-year-old holding onto Hulk Hogan.” The officer who shot 12-year old Tamir Rice estimated his age at 20, not 12.

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The First MSUD Undergraduate Women in Philosophy Conference, and the Climate for Women in Philosophy
Carol Quinn

In April 2016, my colleague Liz Goodnick and I hosted our first Undergraduate Women in Philosophy conference at MSU Denver. It was a tremendous success. We thought that this would be a great way to help positively change the climate for women in philosophy. Before discussing our fantastic conference, here’s a brief accounting of the climate for those who might not be aware.

Those of us who are in philosophy, and especially those of us who are women philosophers, know firsthand about the often-hostile climate for women. Most female-identified philosophers have either been subjected to some form of sexual harassment or know someone who has. Yet, as one of my mentors from graduate school, Linda Martín Alcoff, notes, many instances go unreported: “Women in our profession are, as a group, afraid to complain, loathe to complain, absolutely committed to not complaining.”


A gently crumpled conference program

Many of us are aware of the high-profile sexual harassment cases in philosophy departments in recent years. And all it takes is a few minutes of reading the blog, “What is it like to be a woman in philosophy?”  to get a good sense of the discouraging climate. Alcoff recalled reading the blog in a coffee shop near NYU and “tearing up” (see “A Call for Climate Change for Women in Philosophy”). As she puts it, the blog is “over-full with stories of disrespect, harassment, sexual objectification, even an attempted rape at an APA conference.”

In September 2013, New York Times’ “The Stone” presented a five-day series written by women philosophers on the appalling climate for women. Sally Haslanger, who was a contributor to the series, blames “bad actors” in positions of power. Alcoff, who was also a contributor, suggests that the principal issue “is not about harassment or come-ons but the thousand daily cuts that collectively dissuade women from staying in, the aggressive and peremptory dismissals in seminars, the a priori rejections and derision of feminist philosophy…” and on and on.

I recommend reading the March 15, 2016 report “Women in Philosophy: Quantitative Analyses of Specialization, Prevalence, Visibility, and Generational Change” by Eric Schwitzgebel and Carolyn Dicey Jennings: http://www.faculty.ucr.edu/~eschwitz/SchwitzPapers/WomenInPhil-160315b.pdf. Most disturbing is not just the small percentage of full-time female philosophy faculty, but also the percentage of women philosophy faculty by rank, which reflects “the higher attrition rates, lower promotion rates, and lower rates of senior recruitment for women.”

There are very few women full professors in philosophy. Equally disturbing is the appalling lack of women philosophers of color. Haslanger notes that, “change needs to happen on multiple fronts for us to make progress.”

This brings me to MSU Denver’s First Undergraduate Women’s Philosophy Conference. Since graduate school, I have been trying to find ways to improve the climate for women in philosophy. While I had a wonderful, supportive dissertation advisor, Sam Gorovitz, our department certainly was no stranger to the above-mentioned problems. One of my earliest efforts was helping to found, with my mentor Linda Alcoff, a women’s “support” group. At a recent visit to my alma mater, I was delighted to see that the group is still thriving. Some female graduate students told me that the women’s group has made a tremendously positive impact on their time in graduate school, noting that they wouldn’t survive without it.

In this spirit, my colleague Liz and I founded MSU Denver’s Women’s Philosophy Group a couple of years ago to help recruit and mentor female-identified students. Our first ambitious project (all the more so that I was on sabbatical) was to organize and host our First Undergraduate Women’s Philosophy Conference on April 22-23, 2016. We knew that this had the potential to be an important event. It was just a matter of pulling it off. The conference, the only one of its kind so far as we are aware, would provide a supportive space for undergraduate female-identified students to present and comment on philosophy papers and build community. We received financial support from our philosophy department, our Institute for Women’s Studies and Services, our women’s philosophy group, our philosophy club, and from our wonderful provost, Vicki Golich.



Our keynote speaker, Elizabeth Brake, Arizona State University, gives a talk entitled “Love and the Law.”

We didn’t expect such a tremendous response. We received fifty submissions from across the United States and Canada. Several students, both female and male, helped serve as blind reviewers. Two students in particular did an exceptional job in helping us pull off such a fantastic conference, Haley Burke and Alexa Brown.

Our budget only allowed for eight presenters and commentators, and a small honorarium for our keynote speaker, Elizabeth Brake (Arizona State University), who gave a terrific talk entitled “Love and the Law,” arguing for state support of personal relationships, including friendship, polyamory, and companionship for the elderly.

The conference was well attended with fifty-plus in the audience. Male-identified allies served as chairs and commentators. We hosted a banquet the night before. We started the conference with a workshop on the climate for women in philosophy, at which we distributed a list of online resources. University of Northern Colorado’s Nancy Machett gave a particularly inspiring talk at the workshop about “The unplanned and unexpected yet in my view utterly marvelous experiment that occurred at Oxford between 1937-1945. This was long before anyone was worried about the lack of women in philosophy.” As Machett explained, five remarkable women philosophers turned up at Oxford at that time: Mary Midgley and Elizabeth Anscombe (arriving in 1937), followed by Iris Murdoch (1938), Philippa Foot (1939), and Mary Warnock (1942).




Student speaker, Caroline Blaney, Hunter College, presents her paper “Platonic Pedagogy in the Meno: Virtue is not a Divine Gift.”

The feedback from the conference was amazingly positive. For example, one respondent noted that, “It was really powerful to be in a room of women philosophers and feel like part of a community.” And: “Exceptionally beneficial to hear from and engage with a group of fellow women who share a passion for philosophy.”

There were three main concerns about the conference, as indicated by the evaluations, which we would like to correct before our Second Annual Women’s Philosophy Conference. First, the conference should be longer, to allow for more participants. Second, the conference should be more affordable to allow more students to participate, and finally, there should be more people of color participating.

Liz and I recently applied for a small grant with the APA to help remedy the first two concerns. With APA funds, we can extend the conference to two full days and offer small stipends to student participants and a larger award to the student with the best paper. The third concern (including more female-identified students of color) will be addressed by encouraging women of color to submit papers in our next Call for Papers, to invite a woman philosopher of color to be the keynote speaker, and to advertise to historically black schools, Hispanic-serving institutions, and departments such as African American Studies, Chicano/a Studies, and Native American Studies.

We are looking forward to hosting our next conference in April 2017. I hope that some of you will encourage your female-identified students to participate. As one conference attendee noted, this conference matters.


A few members of the audience engage with the presentations


Participating in conferences of this sort, having more female-identified philosophy faculty (especially senior faculty) serving as positive role models, mentors and advocates, and actively recruiting female-identified philosophy students, including female students of color, will help make a positive difference for women in philosophy. That, and (to quote Alcoff) waiting for the “recalcitrant members of the old guard” to retire.



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Access to Health Care for LGBT patients in the US


This image shows the logo of the University of Wisconsin – Madison medical student group, PRIDE in Healthcare. The logo is a rainbow colored 7-pointed star with a banner across it bearing the group’s name. Their webpage states: “Our name stands for Promoting Recognition of Identity, Dignity, and Equality in Healthcare. Our main goals are to improve the conditions of healthcare for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people—and for those who may not identify as LGBT, but who do not have strictly hetero-normative sexual practices, sexual orientation, or gender identity. We also hope to increase quality and quantity of LGBT content in medical education, to raise awareness of LGBT health disparities and their causes while cooperating with professional and community members, and to provide a social forum for LGBTQ/allied students and professionals in the health sciences.”

As LGBT pride month in the U.S. draws to a close, The Courier-Post brings us an article on LGBT patients’ access to health care, with obstacles ranging from stigmatizing treatment and discrimination to lack of access to health insurance due to employment discrimination:

A 2010 survey of LGBT patients found that 70 percent of transgender and gender nonconforming patients and nearly 56 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual patients said they experienced some form of discrimination in health care, including harsh or abusive language, physical abuse, or rough handling. Some said their providers denied care, or refused to touch them.

For more on this, the Editor of IJFAB Blog suggests you read the 2014 Kaiser Family Foundation’s report on access to health care for LGBT patients and/or the Institute of Medicine’s 2011 report on the health of LGBT patients.

You might also find something of value in past IJFAB Blog entries on LGBTqi issues, including several that deal specifically with trans health care access.


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