Oh yay. One of many items I made a note to follow up from Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender was an essay by Sally Haslanger, a philosopher at MIT, “Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone),” from Hypatia, 2008. Then yesterday I happened on and re-read an article by Julian Baggini on the scarcity of women in philosophy, and how does it start?
Sally Haslanger is angry. “I entered philosophy about 30 years ago,” she told me at the American Philosophical Association’s Eastern Division meeting in Boston. “I had a budding feminist consciousness, and I thought then that there weren’t enough women on the reading lists in my classes or among my teachers. But I thought things would certainly change, given the importance of the feminist movement. I’ve been though the profession now and worked hard on the Committee on the Status of Women. I’ve worked hard in other forums like SWIP – the Society for Women in Philosophy – that were trying to advance women’s interests. After 30 years I was seeing that there wasn’t really that much change, and that made me mad.”
So today I looked, figuring it would be unavailable online, but hey what do you know – it’s available. Probably everybody with any sense has already read it, but I missed it. I love that little thrill when you find something you expected not to find.
Why there aren’t more women of my cohort in philosophy? Because there were very few of us and there was a lot of outright discrimination…In graduate school I was told by one of my teachers that he had “never seen a first rate woman philosoph[er] and never expected to because women were incapable of having seminal ideas.” I was the butt of jokes when I received a distinction on my prelims, since it seemed funny to everyone to suggest I should get a blood test to determine if I was really a woman.
My point here is that I don’t think we need to scratch our heads and wonder what on earth is going on that keeps women out of philosophy. In my experience it is very hard to find a place in philosophy that isn’t actively hostile towards women and minorities, or at least assumes that a successful philosopher should look and act like a (traditional, white) man.
Does that sound familiar? It does to me. An outspoken atheist simply has to be a (traditional, white) man, because women just don’t do outspoken and atheism. Women do shoes and feelings…at best; at worst they do bitchy cunt things.