a blog about philosophy in public affairs

Author: Beth Kahn

Beth Kahn is a moral and political philosopher working at the University of Durham. Her research centres around questions of social injustice and political action. Previously she worked as a postdoctoral fellow at the Goethe University as part of the 'Justitia Amplificata' research group.

Iris Young, Bad Dates and #MeToo

Can Iris Young’s analysis of structural injustice, problematic norms, individual guilt and forward-looking responsibility contribute to contemporary feminism as #MeToo broaches the subject of bad dates and male privilege?

This blog post comes with a trigger warning as it contains discussions of sexual harassment and sexual assault and controversial opinions regarding them.

Last week much of my facebook feed was again  full of discussion regarding accounts of sexual abuse  and comment regarding the #MeToo movement.

One of last week’s stories concerned the behaviour of a male celebrity who publicly endorses calls to end sexual abuse in the entertainment industry and beyond. A woman who dated the celebrity detailed to a reporter how he acted in a pushy, forceful  manner. She explained how he ignored non-verbal cues to slow down their encounter and end more overtly sexual activity, and then re-initiated sexual activity after she stated that she was feeling pressured. The woman left their date feeling violated and miserable. The report has been broadly discussed with a spectrum of opinions emerging regarding the case: some sympathetic to the celebrity, others criticising his hypocrisy and abuse and some suggesting we are reluctant to acknowledge this as abuse because we want to protect ourselves from facing the reality of the problems we have encountered in our own sex lives.

Last week also saw criticism of the #Metoo movement gain momentum. A letter was published by concerned women in the French entertainment industry who believe that the movement has gone too far and begun to stigmatise men who make clumsy and persistent advances. The letter also suggested that the movement has begun to undermine women’s power and self esteem, prohibit people’s legitimate sexuality, censor artistic expression and prevent the enjoyment of art made by perpetrators of sexual violence.   The letter too has provoked extensive discussion, clarification, criticism and response.

How should we think about these cases and positions? There are two sorts of understandings that opponents in the debate often identify each other as falling into.

‘We Middle-Class Liberals’

This post is the third in a series on:

Ethics in Academic Events

As theorists of justice and professional ethicists we are used to scrutinizing the practices of others. Is it not about time that we turned our analytical skills and discerning moral sensitivities on ourselves? Inspired by discussions at the closing of the workshop ‘Global Justice and Global Health Ethics Exploring the Influence of Iris Marion Young’, this series of posts seeks to examine our own actions and practices and explore the moral dilemmas of the academy.


Exclusivity in Academia

Verina Wild’s post highlighted that much of the polemical critique of liberal elites is unfair and dangerous. However, academia has played a role in sustaining the cultural divide that is now being effectively exploited by the right to turn people against each other. In this post I explore this issue and discuss how academic philosophers should respond to it.

‘We Middle-class Liberals’

Countless times I have heard ‘we liberals’ or read ‘as middle class people’ in academic discussions concerning questions of justice and ethics. At first it made me think I didn’t belong, later it just made me uncomfortable to be part of an in-group. The idea of a liberal middle-class ‘we’ is troubling and yet class awareness is vital to understanding injustice.  The tension for radical and progressive political theorists between the need to recognize in-group privilege and the need to challenge and oppose rather than reproduce it is a complex one.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén