Although you may have seen my name on the program for the upcoming CSWIP conference, I will not be attending the conference, that is, I have withdrawn from the conference. The reasons for my doing so are both complicated and very straightforward. I consider CSWIP (and Canadian philosophy more generally) to be a toxic environment for me as a disabled feminist philosopher of disability. My reasons for this sentiment are historical, personal, institutional, contingent, and transformable. During and after each CSWIP conference that I have attended, beginning with the first one that I attended as a graduate student, I have told myself that I would never go to another CSWIP conference. (That I have relented time and again is likely due to both a Presbyterian upbringing and an abiding desire for a philosophical community.)
I was scheduled to deliver a paper on microaggressions, philosophy, and the apparatus of disability. Why would I present such a paper to a group of feminist philosophers who have repeatedly rejected my job applications, repeatedly privilege medicalized understandings of disability in their hiring practices, research, public philosophy, and professional relationships and associations, and repeatedly privilege gender oppression and even ignore other apparatuses of power? My past endeavours to present my work on Foucault, disability, and bioethics as a technology of government to CSWIP audiences have variously met with indifference, hostility, and disdain. My interactions with many of the “core” members of CSWIP, including at the AGMs, have been variously infused with ableism, classism, condescension, patronizing expressions, and paternalism. How can I forget this?
In February, I submitted an abstract to the CSWIP CFP on the morning after the deadline, given a computer glitch. By the end of the day, I regretted having done so. When, several weeks later, I received notice from the conference organizers that my abstract/proposal had been accepted, I responded that I was ambivalent about whether I would in the end attend the conference, explaining my regrets and ambivalence. One of the conference organizers suggested that I put off my decision until the draft program was released some weeks later. I agreed, but, again, ultimately regretted doing so. The other day, not long after the draft program was distributed to participants, I informed the organizers that I could not attend due to financial constraints: CSWIP registration fees are usually high (a complaint that has gone unaddressed), overnight accommodation is usually limited to a couple of expensive hotels, and so on. The next day, one of the organizers wrote me again and indicated that the conference organizers would cover my transportation and hotel. I declined the offer.
Why? Again, my reasons for doing so are both complicated and straightforward. In short, because I want Canadian feminist philosophers to stop feeling satisfaction with and evidently finding comfort in piecemeal, ad-hoc approaches to improving the dire homogeneity of Canadian philosophy. I want a Canadian feminist philosopher to offer me a job rather than a travel grant. I want a Canadian feminist philosopher to have the guts to defend my application to the other members of the search committee on which they sit rather than strongly encourage me to apply to their department and then acquiesce to the others on said committee in order to maintain good departmental relations for themself. I want Canadian feminist philosophers to realize that I am more than a diversity quota (or part thereof) for their conference.
Given that my job applications have been rejected by virtually all of the departments represented in CSWIP, I initially thought of this CSWIP travel grant as a form of charity, that is, a sort of Feminist Philosophy Does the March of Dimes, where charity has a long and troubled institutionalized history as a way to distribute social resources to disabled people, an institutionalized history that disabled people have struggled long and hard to undo. But then it occurred to me that given the attention and respect my work gets in some quarters, if not Canadian (feminist) philosophy, and furthermore given the name recognition for work on disability that accrues to me due to my publications, to my work on BIOPOLITICAL PHILOSOPHY, and my other activism in philosophy with respect to disability, the money is more like a bribe. I don’t take bribes.
Now, I have one less paper to write this summer.