cafe public intellectual

Women Can’t Take a Break

It’s damn if you do, and damn if you don’t if you’re a girl or a woman in this world!  This instagram post perfectly captures why it seems that women just can’t take a break.



For more, check out Daisy Bernard, a London-based fashion illustrator and writer.  A feature in Huffington Post is also available.


Alternative Class for Philope A54 and Genders V24 on September 16, 2016 and September 19, 2016

Dear students,

In lieu of our regular classes on September 19, 2016, you will attend the special screening of Paradise Island by Canada-based filmmaker, Kathleen Jayme on September 16, 2016 2:00 to 4:00 pm, V207.  As proof of your attendance, please submit s one-page reaction paper with 2 parts:

  1. Summary or Synopsis of the Film
  2. Your reaction to the film and its connection to our course (Philope or Genders)

For those who cannot make it on Friday, you can go to the opening of the exhibit on climate change at the 6th Floor Henry Sy Library Commons, from 1245 0nwards.  The same one-page reaction paper (this time on the exhibit) will still be required.

Submission of the reaction paper will be on September 21, 2016.

Be guided:)


No Attendance Incentive Given

Just to settle the issue and clarify:  There was no perfect attendance incentive given.  There was confusion with the ID numbers earlier, and I fixed this already.  The grades were not affected by the confusion.

For guidance.

Grades are Up!-Updated

INTFILO A58 students, go to the Introduction to Philosophy page and click the hyperlink to download the grade document.  Should you have questions, I will see you on Friday, August 26, 2016 1-2 PM for the grade consultation.  This will be at the Philosophy Department, 4th Floor Faculty Center.


I’m missing the final paper output of the following students:






6.Marbella, Gabriel Miguel

Please note that failure to submit the Final Paper means a 0.0 in INTFILO Final Grade.  I will be at the Philosophy Department today, August 24, 2016 from 130 PM to 430 PM if you wish to see me.  For the rest of the class, our Grade Consultation Day will be on Friday, August 26, 2016 from 1-200 PM at the Philosophy Department.

Please be guided accordingly.

A most eloquent essay on why feminism is not a bad word from one of the world’s best thinkers

Glamour Exclusive: President Barack Obama Says, “This Is What a Feminist Looks Like”


Obama Vintage 2
President Obama (here in 1980)


There are a lot of tough aspects to being President. But there are some perks too. Meeting extraordinary people across the country. Holding an office where you get to make a difference in the life of our nation. Air Force One.

But perhaps the greatest unexpected gift of this job has been living above the store. For many years my life was consumed by long commutes­—from my home in Chicago to Springfield, Illinois, as a state senator, and then to Washington, D.C., as a United States senator. It’s often meant I had to work even harder to be the kind of husband and father I want to be.

But for the past seven and a half years, that commute has been reduced to 45 seconds—the time it takes to walk from my living room to the Oval Office. As a result, I’ve been able to spend a lot more time watching my daughters grow up into smart, funny, kind, wonderful young women.

That isn’t always easy, either—watching them prepare to leave the nest. But one thing that makes me optimistic for them is that this is an extraordinary time to be a woman. The progress we’ve made in the past 100 years, 50 years, and, yes, even the past eight years has made life significantly better for my daughters than it was for my grandmothers. And I say that not just as President but also as a feminist.

In my lifetime we’ve gone from a job market that basically confined women to a handful of often poorly paid positions to a moment when women not only make up roughly half the workforce but are leading in every sector, from sports to space, from Hollywood to the Supreme Court. I’ve witnessed how women have won the freedom to make your own choices about how you’ll live your lives—about your bodies, your educations, your careers, your finances. Gone are the days when you needed a husband to get a credit card. In fact, more women than ever, married or single, are financially independent.

So we shouldn’t downplay how far we’ve come. That would do a disservice to all those who spent their lives fighting for justice. At the same time, there’s still a lot of work we need to do to improve the prospects of women and girls here and around the world. And while I’ll keep working on good policies—from equal pay for equal work to protecting reproductive rights—there are some changes that have nothing to do with passing new laws.

In fact, the most important change may be the toughest of all—and that’s changing ourselves.

The Perk of a “45-Second Commute” The President has spent “a lot more time” watching Sasha and Malia (here, meeting Mac the Turkey in 2014) grow into women.


This is something I spoke about at length in June at the first-ever White House Summit on the United State of Women. As far as we’ve come, all too often we are still boxed in by stereotypes about how men and women should behave. One of my heroines is Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, who was the first African American to run for a major party’s presidential nomination. She once said, “The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, ‘It’s a girl.’ ” We know that these stereotypes affect how girls see themselves starting at a very young age, making them feel that if they don’t look or act a certain way, they are somehow less worthy. In fact, gender stereotypes affect all of us, regardless of our gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation.

Now, the most important people in my life have always been women. I was raised by a single mom, who spent much of her career working to empower women in developing countries. I watched as my grandmother, who helped raise me, worked her way up at a bank only to hit a glass ceiling. I’ve seen how Michelle has balanced the demands of a busy career and raising a family. Like many working mothers, she worried about the expectations and judgments of how she should handle the trade-offs, knowing that few people would questionmy choices. And the reality was that when our girls were young, I was often away from home serving in the state legislature, while also juggling my teaching responsibilities as a law professor. I can look back now and see that, while I helped out, it was usually on my schedule and on my terms. The burden disproportionately and unfairly fell on Michelle.

So I’d like to think that I’ve been pretty aware of the unique challenges women face—it’s what has shaped my own feminism. But I also have to admit that when you’re the father of two daughters, you become even more aware of how gender stereotypes pervade our society. You see the subtle and not-so-subtle social cues transmitted through culture. You feel the enormous pressure girls are under to look and behave and even think a certain way.

And those same stereotypes affected my own consciousness as a young man. Growing up without a dad, I spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I was, how the world perceived me, and what kind of man I wanted to be. It’s easy to absorb all kinds of messages from society about masculinity and come to believe that there’s a right way and a wrong way to be a man. But as I got older, I realized that my ideas about being a tough guy or cool guy just weren’t me. They were a manifestation of my youth and insecurity. Life became a lot easier when I simply started being myself.

So we need to break through these limitations. We need to keep changing the attitude that raises our girls to be demure and our boys to be assertive, that criticizes our daughters for speaking out and our sons for shedding a tear. We need to keep changing the attitude that punishes women for their sexuality and rewards men for theirs.

We need to keep changing the attitude that permits the routine harassment of women, whether they’re walking down the street or daring to go online. We need to keep changing the attitude that teaches men to feel threatened by the presence and success of women.

We need to keep changing the attitude that congratulates men for changing a diaper, stigmatizes full-time dads, and penalizes working mothers. We need to keep changing the attitude that values being confident, competitive, and ambitious in the workplace—unless you’re a woman. Then you’re being too bossy, and suddenly the very qualities you thought were necessary for success end up holding you back.

We need to keep changing a culture that shines a particularly unforgiving light on women and girls of color. Michelle has often spoken about this. Even after achieving success in her own right, she still held doubts; she had to worry about whether she looked the right way or was acting the right way—whether she was being too assertive or too “angry.”

As a parent, helping your kids to rise above these constraints is a constant learning process. Michelle and I have raised our daughters to speak up when they see a double standard or feel unfairly judged based on their gender or race—or when they notice that happening to someone else. It’s important for them to see role models out in the world who climb to the highest levels of whatever field they choose. And yes, it’s important that their dad is a feminist, because now that’s what they expect of all men.

Ladies First “Michelle and I have raised our daughters to speak up when they see a double standard,” says the President (here with his family at a 2016 U.S. state dinner).


It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too. And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships.

The good news is that everywhere I go across the country, and around the world, I see people pushing back against dated assumptions about gender roles. From the young men who’ve joined our It’s On Us campaign to end campus sexual assault, to the young women who became the first female Army Rangers in our nation’s history, your generation refuses to be bound by old ways of thinking. And you’re helping all of us understand that forcing people to adhere to outmoded, rigid notions of identity isn’t good for anybody—men, women, gay, straight, transgender, or otherwise. These stereotypes limit our ability to simply be ourselves.

This fall we enter a historic election. Two hundred and forty years after our nation’s founding, and almost a century after women finally won the right to vote, for the first time ever, a woman is a major political party’s presidential nominee. No matter your political views, this is a historic moment for America. And it’s just one more example of how far women have come on the long journey toward equality.

I want all of our daughters and sons to see that this, too, is their inheritance. I want them to know that it’s never been just about the Benjamins; it’s about the Tubmans too. And I want them to help do their part to ensure that America is a place where every single child can make of her life what she will.

That’s what twenty-first century feminism is about: the idea that when everybody is equal, we are all more free.

Barack Obama is the forty-fourth President of the United States.

Final Paper in INTFILO 3rd Term, AY 2015-16


Click the file above to download!

Another Activity We Ought to Support!





Re-visiting the question, What is a Woman?


Let me state at the onset that I do not consider myself a metaphysician nor I have illusions of becoming an analytical philosopher.  I am a feminist yes.  Nonetheless I observe that feminist theorizing has moved beyond descriptions of women’s oppression.  That women are oppressed is a fact that cannot be denied nor swept under the rug with the hope that it would go away.  What is evident now is that feminist theorizing has given us new lens with which to view the world, our bodies and ourselves.  In this particular undertaking, feminism necessarily engages with metaphysics; it has taken on a metaphysical project without losing sight of its original intention which is describing how women are oppressed with the goal of ending it.

Feminism may sound to those who are unfamiliar or un-initiated as entirely political and thus has no relation whatsoever with a very traditional philosophical subject metaphysics.  But the basic feminist pronouncements one of which is eternally captured by Simone de Beauvoir in The Second Sex: “One is not born a woman but becomes one” is a classic metaphysical claim that needs investigation. What constitutes “is” or “being” is a metaphysical concern and Western philosophical constructs are largely preoccupied with the search and investigation of that which “is.”  To claim then that a woman “is not” born but “becomes” one is highly provocative.   Sally Haslanger, herself a prominent feminist philosopher, offers key questions which are useful to guide any attempt to map out and forward a possible feminist metaphysics.  These are the following: How have metaphysical claims about what there is (and what there is not) supported sexism?  Are there metaphysical assumptions or patterns of inference that feminists should challenge? What assumptions or patterns of inference should feminists endorse?

This reflection is divided into two parts: first, it is a survey of some positions forwarded by feminist theorists on contentious metaphysical issues that are directly affecting women and second, it supports a realist stance that upholds the feminist project of ending sexism particularly in finding new metaphysical assumptions and inferences to establish new ways of understanding women without abandoning the notion that there is something fundamental and thus objective that binds women together either as a class or a kind, and that this something is also that which women share with other classes or kinds in the world.  Contemporary metaphysics as well as feminist theorizing are concerned with entities that are considered to be “natural kinds” and “social kinds” and whether such (either natural or social”) corresponds to our understanding of reality as largely objective. What constitutes reality is an on-going debate between the so-called “realists” and the “nonrealists”.  The realists basically hold that reality is objective, that is, it exists independent of the self or human observer; it is knowable and predictable insofar as it works through and is governed by physical laws.  Nonrealists on the other hand hold that what we know as “objective” reality is created or constructed as negotiated complex structures.  As such, there is no reality that exists outside these social constructions.  Moreover, the language of “kinds” or “class” or “types” smacks so loudly of essentialism which most feminists reject.  As we will see later on, feminist metaphysics also problematizes this tension between two camps in contemporary metaphysics.

Is there a Natural Woman?


Are transgendered women women?

“Man is not a female, barbarian, animal.”  At first glance this definition, albeit, in the negative, seems self-evident.  I often ask my students how they define a woman and I always get the answer, “one who does not have a penis.”  It is amazing that being either male or female is defined by a lack.  Nonetheless what these pronouncements hold is that there is something “objective,” in this case, genitalia, which is the basis for defining being male or female.  What makes them also seemingly self-evident is that this biological basis is purported to be natural and therefore shouldn’t be questioned.  Moreover, this basis serves as well the view that what is natural is real.  We rarely doubt the veracity of our sense-experience.  Either you have a penis, and in this case you are seen and regarded as male, or you do not have it, and in this case you are considered female. Or, to put it in simplest way, a male refer to a range of human beings with primary and secondary characteristics that include the penis, and a female refers to a range of human being with primary and secondary characteristics that include vagina and/or uterus. What sort of acts like a monkey wrench here is the fact that biologically, there are people who are considered intersexes.  Intersexuality as a term was adopted by medicine during the 20th century, and applied to human beings whose biological sex cannot be classified as clearly male or female.  In other words, our belief that biology has so neatly and simply provides the marker for sexual difference is deeply challenged by the aforementioned phenomenon.  And this brings about these questions:  Why are our conceptual frameworks that define male or female silent when it comes to intersexed and transgendered people?  Do we need to construct new frameworks so as to acknowledge their existence and subjectivity?


The Sun & Moon as Male and Female

The key gendered distinctions between reason/nature, mind/body and reason/emotion stem from the Greek Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle and many of the associations and separations were consolidated and developed during the Enlightenment.  Rosemary Radford Ruether (1975, 14) traces Aristotle’s legacy from Ancient Greek and Hebrew culture, which exalted social hierarchy founded on slavery.  ‘Women,’ ‘barbarians,’ and animals are seen as being without rational capacity and hence fitted only to be slave or servile instruments of Greek masculine sovereignty.  This in turn effectively divides the “reason people” with the “body people.” The implication of this is that women are treated not only as passive incubators of the formative male seed, but they are defined as biologically and morally defective.

Dualism pervades Western thought that results in the moral neglect of certain human and nonhuman beings by dividing the world into opposed pair of concepts: Mind is split from body, spirit from matter, male from female, culture from nature. One concept in each pair is deemed superior to the other. This ‘other’ is sometimes demonized and always discriminated against. In this dualism, beings and bodies identified with nonhuman nature, persons of color, women and poor are conceived as an inferior “others” in contrast to beings identified with reason and rationality. Hierarchical thinking also generates normative dualisms—views in which the disjunctive terms are seen as exclusive rather than inclusive, and oppositions conflicting rather than complementary.  The identification of females with inferior bodies and nature, identification of males with superior reason and spirit, are social constructs that have reinforced negative stereotyping of women. Dualist thinking that pits reason versus nature is entrenched firmly in a conceptual framework that is oppressive in a sense identified by Karen Warren as it explains, justifies, and maintains relationships of domination and subordination.  Moreover, an oppressive conceptual framework is patriarchal when it explains, justifies, and maintains the subordination of women by men.

It is important to note that there are many “dualisms” and they mutually support each other and are involved in highly complex interconnections. Australian ecofeminist Val Plumwood provides an extensive list, which echoes with Warren’s: the oppositions of human to non-human; mind to body; self to other; reason to emotion.  However, she expands this list, which includes: culture to nature; master to slave; rationality and animality; freedom to necessity; universal to particular; public to private; subject to object (1993, 43).

There is no Natural Woman


The statement in Mlle Simone de Beauvoir’s book, The second sex (1989), “one is not born but becomes a woman,” is a very strong rejection of the notion that there is a “natural” woman.  It rallies women’s experience of emancipation. As a slave in Albert Camus’ The rebel (1951) sensed that what his master asked of him violated his fundamental dignity as a person, there occurred in him a feeling that was so basal, so crucial and so gut wrenching, it enable him to say no, which led him to fight for the end of slavery itself! Women’s struggle for emancipation rests on this awareness of unfreedom too, and the allusion to slavery is not at all circumstantial—it is as every bit as complex and as painful.  While slaves declare their humanity with cries of “I am free!” women mark this crucial encounter of liberation with an affirmation, “I am a woman.” But there ends the comparison because women’s unique situation in human society demands a new praxis; a new way of seeing, thinking, feeling, and doing that will articulate their liberation and establish their identity. That is why the pronouncement, “I am a woman” made all the difference in the way de Beauvoir motivated herself to write what would become a landmark book on feminism. In other words, while de Beauvoir’s pronouncement is a metaphysical claim, she in fact upholding

Beauvoir begins her search for a definition from the data of biology.  “Woman is womb” and this description becomes the source of women’s unfreedom, oppression, and otherness.  That she is interpreted merely as “body” because of this biological fact makes her repressive situation inescapable and therefore, her lot and her destiny.  These “irreconcilable differences” between men and women had been brought about by biology, which legitimizes women’s place in history, or their lack of it.  On the other hand, some biological facts also establish that being male and female is no way fixed.  She declares, “It is not nature that defines woman; it is she who defines herself.” With great pains and remarkable lucidity, attempts to break, what she calls as the Myth of femininity, with data from biology itself.  Thus, stereotypes of women as weak, fragile, delicate, and the like are not natural.  Biology is not Destiny.  This proclamation affirms that women can now deconstruct those images that define them and begin the process of reconstructing newer images that are not solely defined by biology.  The implication is that whatever apparent differences there are between men and women are framed by a normative basis and non-substantive.

Part 2 of the essay will be published soon.


Why Study Philosophy?