Friday, December 20, 2013

The Problem of Women in Philosophy: Are We Just Not Mean Enough?

I stumbled across this read from....somewhere. On Twitter, I do believe. How can we end the male domination of philosophy?

I appreciate your concern, Mr. Wolff, but I find your solution to this problem rather troubling. Condescending.

We don't need to make philosophy "nicer" to encourage more women; women don't shy away from the field  because we don't enjoy rigorous debate. The gender ratio in my undergrad graduating class of philosophers was pretty evenly split, and it wasn't suddenly tea parties and diplomacy. Maybe it would be better for philosophy overall if it were "nicer," I don't know. Maybe it would be better if we started painting philosophy classrooms pink and giving them frilly lace curtains, while we're at it.

You cited a blog in your article, Being a Woman in Philosophy. Did you even read it before you linked to it? As if "everyday sexism," like "points made by women in meetings being ignored until repeated by a man; a room full of men falling silent when a woman walks through the door; clumsy sexual advances that when rebuffed generate a hostile atmosphere" are just piddling little issues to be brushed aside, and that the real problem is the nature of the discipline itself. That if we make philosophy nicer, women will be able to laugh off things like their dissertation's reception being dependent upon whether or not they agree to date one of the assessors or presenters using incredibly inappropriate rape analogies. There are few, if any, entries on that blog that complain of philosophy departments being "too mean." Yet there is a near endless stream of entries on male colleagues and higher-ups using their power to negotiate sexual attention or favors from women students/colleagues/candidates; rabid insensitivity to sexual harassment; and tolerance for crass attitudes and comments. The problem is not the field's focus on health debate as the whetstone against which we sharpen our ideas. It's the same kind of chilly, unwelcome atmosphere that pervades so many fields. 

If you want philosophy to be nicer, that's one thing. That's not even necessarily a bad thing. But then admit that it's what you  want, for yourself and the future of the discipline, not because us sensitive womenfolk with our sensitive ladybits will never manage otherwise.

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