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Jun 09 2013

No, no, no…not philosophers too!

You’d think if there was any area of human endeavor that was least likely to be full of absurd sexual drama and thoughtless harassment, it would be philosophy. Don’t those people sit around thinking ponderously about ethics and moral behavior and living the life of the mind all the time?* But no, it’s all booze and animal lusts for them, too, just like the rest of us.

The crux of this story is that Colin McGinn, a very well known philosopher, was sliming one of his own graduate students with salacious email (pdf), making remarks about masturbating while thinking about her, etc. McGinn’s own defense does him no favors; and now he’s claiming that women support him in email, because they’re so much more sensitive than men. Advances towards a student are simply unacceptable, no matter how much McGinn wants to pretend it was simply friendly banter. McGinn’s own defenders aren’t helping, either.

Professor Erwin goes on:

“There was some sexual talk, banter, puns, and jokes made between the two,”  Mr. Erwin said. “The written records, I believe, show that this was an entirely consensual relationship.” 

No, no. That is not how it works. It is remarkable how profoundly this misunderstands the student/professor relationship. A professor’s relationships with his or her students are not “entirely consensual” like that. Student/professor relationships inherently have a highly unequal balance of power. That includes students in one’s undergraduate and graduate classes, obviously, but it also includes teaching- and research assistants; academic advisees; people whose thesis or dissertation committees one sits on; exam proctors; everyone. Everyone. Anything a student says or writes to a professor has to be seen in that light. Suppose the professor engages in sexual banter and the student banters back. Maybe that’s because she consented and wanted to banter, but maybe it’s because the power differential inherent in the relationship placed her in a position of duress, in which she felt like she had to banter or face unpleasant consequences. If the return banter was performed unwillingly or under duress, there is no reason to think that the written records will reveal it.

But wait, that isn’t the worst of it. On blogs and on twitter, all over the place, bad philosophy is being done.

I take it as a mark of how deeply messed up the moral compass of professional philosophy is that there are commenters at some of the blogs linked above who seem willing to go to the mat to argue that there may be conditions in which it is acceptable to email your RA you that were thinking about her during your hand-job. Because personal interactions are hard, y’all! And power-gradients in graduate programs that are at once educational environments and workplaces are really very insignificant compared to what the flesh wants! Or something.

Read some of the dumbest things clueless people are uttering in McGinn’s defense.

OK, the communities of atheists, science-fiction writers, gamers, scholars of literature, skepticism, politics, and philosophers are rife with sexist scumbags. Is there any small part of the human community that is untainted? Do I need to start hanging out with polyamorous left-handed fly-tying hobbyists or something?


*The pdf linked above also cites something I did not know.

Complaints of sexist remarks and behavior have long plagued the field of philosophy, which has been dominated by men for years. More than 80 percent of full-time faculty members in philosophy are male, compared with just 60 percent for the professoriate as a whole, according to 2003 data compiled by the U.S. Education Department, the latest available.

77 comments

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  1. 1
    Martha

    Are you really surprised that any field in academia isn’t rife with this sort of behavior? Until more universities have the guts to fire tenured professors who behave in this way, this sort of behavior will continue. And I say this as an academic. Asking women students if any sexual harassment is going on can lead to painful awakenings.

  2. 2
    Pteryxx

    Don’t forget programmers, doctors, and of course the military. But basically the most open-minded communities (on the sexism axis) I’ve ever come across are among kinksters, furries, and Planned Parenthood volunteers.

  3. 3
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    You’d think if there was any area of human endeavor that was least likely to be free of absurd sexual drama and thoughtless harassment, it would be philosophy.

    No, no I really wouldn’t think that at all, and I can’t imagine why anyone would, when you look at who philosophers tend to hold up as relevant thinkers.

  4. 4
    Inaji

    “She’s happy to benefit from informality when it’s tennis & BBQs, but not handjob emails?”

    Uh…one of these things is not like the others. Y’know, if this is just so common and not a big deal at all, I think all the male students should open up about all the handjob emails they have received from their professors. Yep.

  5. 5
    Inaji

    Ah, there we are, the standard answer:

    “I have personally observed no harassing behavior in our field; so, it probably doesn’t exist.”

  6. 6
    ChasCPeterson

    Must see this comic. Follow links below to McGinn’s blog. Dude’s a piece of work.

  7. 7
    ChasCPeterson

    Haw!
    In particular, read this (McGinn), then this (spot-on parody).

  8. 8
    georgewiman

    We had sexual (anti-) harassment training at our university; administrators and staff had to go but faculty were exempted. Still have not figured that one out.

  9. 9
    Hooloovoo

    Twitter has delivered. Both (faux)McGinn and his hand are now on twitter: https://twitter.com/ProfColinMcGinn and https://twitter.com/mcginnshand.

  10. 10
    Inaji

    Holy Rodents, I just finished reading the baffling comments. This is 2013, right? Right?

  11. 11
    Lynna, OM

    Philosophers are just more adept at justifying misogynist behavior? As for being better at not engaging in misogynist behavior… no.

  12. 12
    sc_770d159609e0f8deaa72849e3731a29d

    You’d think if there was any area of human endeavor that was least likely to be full of absurd sexual drama and thoughtless harassment, it would be philosophy.

    You haven’t met many philosophers, have you? Philosophers exemplify the mind/body problem- especially the difference between the rarefied minds and well, bodily bodies. For an example of weird behaviour within philosophical circles- again involving McGinn- see: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/~uctytho/McGinnHonderichRossJCS.html

  13. 13
    Hooloovoo

    Re: philosophers and whether they should be better at this than the general population – here’s a discussion over an interesting study that found that bias blind spot does not attenuate with cognitive ability and one that found that “cognitive sophistication” (including being aware of one’s own biases) does not help much either.

  14. 14
    aziraphale

    “Is there any small part of the human community that is untainted?”

    Indeed there is. I am a member. We call ourselves “The Untainted”.

    Admittedly we are hard to recognize from a distance, having no distinguishing marks.

  15. 15
    maudell

    The most disgusting part is his rationalization. Apparently, it was an academic project to turn her into a genius (wtf). The comments are even more rapey, with people writing they found a picture of an attractive student, therefore it must be her. The fact that she is attractive shows that she wasn’t competent in her field, and was using her looks to get ahead. Again, wtf. But hey, rape culture isn’t a thing, people.

    http://mcginn.philospot.com/req.php?req=comments.php&y=13&m=06&story=story130607-090447

  16. 16
    sigurd jorsalfar

    I think all the male students should open up about all the handjob emails they have received from their professors. Yep.

    I used to get them all the time. Of course they were really about manicures. One should not underestimate the sophistication of the speaker (or writer in this case). Yep.

  17. 17
    robotczar

    So, PZ finds philosophers lacking in their ability to deal with ethics associated with sex and gender issues, but he is willing to have philosophers determine the ethics of science.

  18. 18
    Hooloovoo

    But wow, if you want to get a feel of the sexism in this field, here’s some stuff from the link provided by the commenter #12:

    Prompted by Jeffries, Honderich ventured an opinion as to how all this [his debate with McGinn] may have started:

    Nobody on Earth believes that his review is not motivated by animus. To suggest the tone wasn’t dictated by any history of hostility between us is crazy. … At UCL we had a jokey locker-room relationship. But then I made a misstep. I suggested to him that his new girlfriend was not as plain as the old one, and I could see the blood drain out of his face. That was possibly the start of our frostiness.

    Can we make anything of this? Well, I was acquainted with Colin’s first wife Marie back in the Seventies. She and I went to the same graduate seminars on truth and meaning, where John McDowell and Gareth Evans were the stars. Marie was slim and well groomed, and I imagine she distracted the stars regularly as she sat in the front row in her miniskirt. She once told me plainly that she would rather die than give up philosophy. Perhaps Colin went downhill after that.

    Keep in mind that the stuff about McGinn’s ex-wife – identified by name and still active in the field – comes from the author of the piece, a philosopher, and that this piece was apparently published in a peer-reviewed academic journal. I may be missing some irony or something, but still…what??

  19. 19
    spandrel

    The best that can be said about this was that the harassment was taken seriously. McGinn’s loss of employment may give other harassers pause.

  20. 20
    Gregory Greenwood

    Do I need to start hanging out with polyamorous left-handed fly-tying hobbyists or something?

    If you were really, really lucky, you might go a whole week before discovering that amongst the polyamorous left-handed fly-tying hobbyists there are dudebros who think that women don’t have the patience/appreciation for fishing/correct mindset/steady hands to tie flies, and that this is a self-evident truth because evolution/god/society/well, everyone knows that.

    They would doubtless then go on to ‘enlighten’ you about how women are really just there to please their peens, look good, or otherwise provide suitable mental fodder for the activity of their right hand, whilst their left is engaged in tying flies. And that really, the women who are blessed enough to play such a role should be flattered by that. Afterall, it is not as though they dislike women, they really like women, if you get my drift… *wink, wink, nudge, nudge*

    Well, apart from the nasty, castrating feminazi polyamorous left-handed fly-tying hobbyists – they are destroying it for everyone, what with their man-hating militant misandry as evidenced by their insistance on being treated as more than sex toys/mastubatory aids/brood mares. And there are plenty of lady polyamorous left-handed fly-tying hobbyists who back the dudebros up on that, dontcha know.

    Upon discovering your feminism and progressivism, they would whine long and loud that the only thing that might be worse than a woman feminist polyamorous left-handed fly-tying hobbyist, is a mangina/white knight polyamorous left-handed fly-tying hobbyist, and that bringing progressive social values into any discussion even tangentially related to polyamorous left-handed fly-tying would be the surest way to tear the polyamorous left-handed fly-tying community apart by means of the dreaded Deep Rifts(TM).

    Worse still, they would claim that your feminism is a prudish, puritanical attempt to deny their community its polyamorous rights – I mean, if the polyamorous left-handed fly-tying hobbyist dudebros have to treat women as actual people, then how will they ever get laid again, huh? That is exactly the kind of anti-sex extremism that they formed/joined a polyamorous group to get away from – stop trying to rule their nether-regions with your insistence that women must be seen as people rather than disposeable and interchangeable living peen-sheathes, monogomo-fascist!

    Should you blog about your experiences, and especially if you banned those of their number who turned up to troll the site, then they would shriek from the highest data-spires of teh intertoobs that you were hellbent on denying their freeze peech and thus destroying the ancient and noble art of the polyamorous left-handed fly-tying hobbyist.

    And why? Because you are a gender-traitor poopy-head, naturally…

    It would probably be a matter of mere days before the angriest and most toxic of the dudebro constituency among polyamorous left-handed fly-tying hobbyists popped up in the slymepit, crying about how that meanie PZ was poisoning another of the last bastions of True Masculinity(TM).

    Is there any small part of the human community that is untainted?

    Frankly, it seems doubtful to me. The prejudice may be more or less overt in the reactionary elements of a given group, and the exact form the bigotry takes will vary, but wherever there is even the smallest scrap of unearned social privilege to be had by virtue of having an odd-looking tubular organ flapping about between your legs, there will be arseholes prepared to do pretty much anything to preserve that privilege*. All we can do is seek to consign them to the extreme fringes where they belong, and work to improve education to minimise the availability of gullible new recruits to their cause.

    ———————————————————————————————————————-

    * Picture a superhero costume with a stylised peen symbol on it, created to hide the true identity of that brave hero, MRA Man, who every night guards the mean digital streets of Dudebro City from the predations of feminista supervillians by means of snide comments, gross misogyny, and anonymous rape threats. Should any dudebro be confronted with a well reasoned argument that his privilege-poisoned dude-brain cannot handle, the Peen-Signal will go up, and MRA Man will spring into mansplainin’ action…

  21. 21
    smhll

    If the Philosophy Department brought the donors to the yard like the football team does, this guy would still have his job. (sigh)

  22. 22
    Inaji

    robotczar:

    So, PZ finds philosophers lacking in their ability to deal with ethics associated with sex and gender issues, but he is willing to have philosophers determine the ethics of science.

    No. You need to sharpen your brain.

  23. 23
    chrisv

    O-o-o-o-o-o-o ergo sum

  24. 24
    rturpin

    I changed my mind, PZ — you might be disappointed in Catholic priests. There, too…

  25. 25
    David Marjanović

    This is 2013, right? Right?

    No, it’s only 63, 63 After Present.

    *facepalm*
    *headshake*

  26. 26
    sigurd jorsalfar

    McGinn’s defence is a tour de force of pompous, bloviating wankery. Everyone should read it.

  27. 27
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    I’m trying to imagine what must be going on inside the head of someone who classifies “don’t send unsolicited sexual emails to people you work with” as “walking on eggshells”.

  28. 28
    sigurd jorsalfar

    @Naked Bunny:

    I can’t help but feel that for a lot of men in positions of power “don’t whip it out in front of people you work with” constitutes “walking on eggshells”.

  29. 29
    Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human.

    You’d think if there was any area of human endeavor that was least likely to be free of absurd sexual drama and thoughtless harassment, it would be philosophy.

    Some philosophy really is about ethics and really does help to advance humanity. And (this is from my one college philosophy course) some philosophy is all about defending the status quo, justifying unfairness and bigotry and sexism as part of the human condition, and justifying the behaviour of the individual philosopher. Name any political system, no matter how odious, and there were philosophers who adopted the ethos and ethics of that philosophy and endevoured to support that political system through the use of philosophy. Why would it be surprising that there are philosophers who are MRAs? Do you think the average MRA came up with the philosophy of the ubermale all on his own?

  30. 30
    Marcus Ranum

    I’m trying to imagine what must be going on inside the head of someone who classifies “don’t send unsolicited sexual emails to people you work with” as “walking on eggshells”.

    Perhaps an overdose of Nietzsche?

  31. 31
    Chris Clarke

    You can add steampunk designers to the list of misogynist douchenozzle professions, apparently.

  32. 32
    okstop

    Misogyny has been a serious problem in philosophy for some time, and there is a great deal of discussion about it at virtually every professional conference and in virtually every professional forum. There’s no settled opinion about why it happened, but it’s largely agreed that the etiology is ultimately irrelevant to the steps taken to fix the situation. It would be amusing if it weren’t so disheartening to watch my colleagues quickly and decisively sort themselves by their reactions to this issue into “people I can respect” and “people I can’t respect.” I am happy to report, at least, that it seems to be changing somewhat.

    In case you’re curious, this is a highly relevant link:

    Stories of sexism in the discipline:
    http://beingawomaninphilosophy.wordpress.com/

  33. 33
    consciousness razor

    So, PZ finds philosophers lacking in their ability to deal with ethics associated with sex and gender issues, but he is willing to have philosophers determine the ethics of science.

    Ethics is philosophical. I don’t know what you mean by the “determine” bit (seems a little confused), but except for that there’s no alternative, as long as we recognize the need for ethics in the first place. It’s like complaining that “PZ finds that some programmers make borked software, but he is willing to have programmers make software for scientists.” Yeah… so? He could will otherwise, I guess, but how would it matter?

  34. 34
    Sili

    Wasn’t there a story a while ago that all applications to US faculty positions in philosophy are essentially handled at one big conference a year in smokefilled backrooms over cigars and port?

  35. 35
    Holms

    OK, the communities of atheists, science-fiction writers, gamers, scholars of literature, skepticism, politics, and philosophers are rife with sexist scumbags. Is there any small part of the human community that is untainted?

    Why would you expect there to be any exception at all?

  36. 36
    Inaji

    Chris:

    You can add steampunk designers to the list of misogynist douchenozzle professions, apparently.

    “Now understand, I make this shit…For a living. So I have a vested interest in people accepting cosplay, and yet I still think loads of people are wearing their “Captain Butthurt”, outfit under their costumes…Its their secret identity. And with their armor of self righteousness and social irresponsibility…”

    So being harassed or stalked is being socially irresponsible, eh? What a delightful person. I certainly hope this is spread far and wide in certain circles. Captain Asshole might find his views have an impact on making his living.

  37. 37
    Stardrake

    Leave us not forget that “John Norman”, the author of the Gor novels, is actually John Lange, professor of philosophy at Queen’s College of the City University of New York. And he really believes that shit about how women are the natural slaves of men.

    Dudebros be everywhere…..

  38. 38
    John Morales

    [meta]

    Stardrake, always good to cite, so I’ll do it for you: Gorean.

  39. 39
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    PZ:

    Do I need to start hanging out with polyamorous left-handed fly-tying hobbyists or something?

    Strangely enough, on FB not 10 minutes ago I reposted a friend’s post which (in the photo) said:

    “POLYAMORY IS WRONG!

    “It is either multiarmory or polyphilia. But mixing greek and latin roots? WRONG!”

    I stand by that statement. At least, as much as a physics major with very little foreign language education might.

  40. 40
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Multiamory, not multiarmory. One’s about love; the other about readily-available caches of firearms.

    I apologize for any misunderstanding.

  41. 41
    consciousness razor

    I stand by that statement. At least, as much as a physics major with very little foreign language education might.

    “Pseudoscience” is mixed Greek and Latin. I guess you could talk about “falsascience” or something, but the way it looks and sounds is a little … weird. On the other hand, I’d say “pseudognosis” works pretty well.

  42. 42
    SallyStrange

    Are you kidding me? Of course philosophy too! Come on, for years now we’ve been saying that sexism is everywhere, that to claim that [Discipline X] or [Hobby Y] is devoid of it is to make an extraordinary claim, not the other way around.

  43. 43
    Chris Clarke

    All you people who object to mixing Greek and Latin words can just go get in your autokinetikons and drive home. Or ipsomobiles if you have them.

  44. 44
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    I was kidding! I was kidding!

    I was just surprised at the timing. It’s not like polyamory comes up every day here.

    And yes. I do have an ipsomobile. It’s my wife’s, but she lets me use it as required.

  45. 45
    consciousness razor

    All you people who object to mixing Greek and Latin words can just go get in your autokinetikons and drive home. Or ipsomobiles if you have them.

    And even if you use a dicycle, when you get home, don’t use your alphanumeric clavitabula to complain about it there either.

  46. 46
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Also, too: philosophers are always and forever using the veneer of rationality to validate their own biases and desires. It’s one step up from religion in that they must at least attempt to establish a logical argument; but one step down from science in that the arguments don’t have to be based on observable reality.

    At least, that’s how I’ve always understood it.

    Non-pithy — fuckheads are all over the place. Yeah, we’re smart. I get it. That doesn’t mean we’re not selfish. There are not-so-smart people who are completely giving and wouldn’t do anything at all like this. There are brilliant people who are complete douche-tarts (similar to douche-pies, only without as much sugar, and maybe a bit more custard, and often with twice the smug).

    PZ: I know that’s your point here, that all groups are plagued by blind privileged misogyny. (I mean, barring the group defined by a lack of blind privileged misogyny.) But at some point in my education, I gotta ask — what do we do? What are the effective means of pushing social transformation? What are the positive examples, not just the negative ones?

    Awareness of my own privilege is a first step, and a mighty one, and I have Pharyngula to thank for that (all of you, not just PZ). I guess I just need to know, what do I do next? (That is: I’m doing my best to raise awareness of the situation. Is that all I can do as middle-class, middle-aged white guy?)

  47. 47
    Anthony K

    Are you kidding me? Of course philosophy too! Come on, for years now we’ve been saying that sexism is everywhere, that to claim that [Discipline X] or [Hobby Y] is devoid of it is to make an extraordinary claim, not the other way around.

    Moreover, I thought it was somewhat well-known that philosophy departments, specifically, had a tendency to house pompous, sexist asshats.

  48. 48
    Roving Rockhound, collector of dirt

    I’m pissed. From the Chronicle article:

    “Frankly, the thing that catches my attention here,” Mr. Leiter said, “is that the allegations, as I have heard them, are not particularly serious, compared to other cases I’ve heard about in which nothing has happened to the faculty member. It’s certainly surprising.”

    The main difference between this and other cases, I’m guessing, is that it was done through email and there’s PROOF (which is specially solid if he used his or her university accounts). I’m a female grad student. There is a male professor at my U that is a misogynistic bastard and regularly makes sexist comments to female grads. His last three female students left because they felt uncomfortable and biased against. No one has reported him, though, because we have no solid proof. The word of 10+ female grad students is worthless against that of a male tenured professor. There’s also no real guarantee of anonymity, and since hiring and promotion decisions in the academic world are so subjective and based on reputation and recommendations from faculty (buddy-buddies with this guy), we are not willing to try. THAT is why this “not particularly serious” case is having consequences – solid proof.

    Making the environment more welcoming to women by confronting sexual harassment is impossible when the system is set up in such a way that we can’t complain without risking our careers. These guys basically have to rape you in a stairwell under a security camera to make raising hell with the administration worth the risk. Meanwhile people like Mr. Leiter here live in denial because very few cases get reported, and those that do tend to have no real consequences for the offenders (so it must not have been THAT bad).

  49. 49
    PZ Myers

    Yeah, I’ve known of a few highly-ranked biology professors who drive women out of their labs with their behavior. None of it carries the burden of proof, however, so I can’t name them and they continue to run their little shows…all I’ve got is a few stories of graduate students crying on my shoulder or raging at the ceiling.

  50. 50
    PZ Myers

    Yes, everyone, I know it’s universal — I’m just expressing my dismay at seeing another example.

    By the way, I hear that 10% of all polyamorous left-handed fly-tying hobbyists are sexist assholes, too.

  51. 51
    Sili

    It’s an old tradition. Was it Kraft-Ebing or Ellis who complained about “homosexuality” on the same grounds?

  52. 52
    consciousness razor

    Also, too: philosophers are always and forever using the veneer of rationality to validate their own biases and desires. It’s one step up from religion in that they must at least attempt to establish a logical argument; but one step down from science in that the arguments don’t have to be based on observable reality.

    I think that’s a little confused. Philosophy does need to be based on observable reality, insofar as anything “needs” to be. You end up justifying their piss-poor philosophy for them with this kind of thing.

    We’re not taking a “step down” from science, when we talk about philosophical issues like ethics, politics, epistemology, aesthetics, etc. For one thing, it’s not the same thing as science, but science itself depends on philosophy. And the value of these doesn’t derive entirely from the simple empirical facts we think we know about the world: the difference between good and bad philosophy doesn’t always hinge on whether or not they’re based on observations. (I doubt that’s even usually the case, much less always.) I guess you could say it’s “stepping outside” the boundaries we’ve set for what science is, but that simply doesn’t mean we have to toss out science in the process. It’s just that the methodology of the sciences can’t answer every question we can come up with.

    Also, it’s certainly not that every non-scientific question is “meaningless,” despite what you may have heard numerous times from scientists and science-fans, here and now as well as historically, when they become a little too enthusiastic about rejecting religion/pseudoscience and start spewing their own brand of nonsense. So we can also talk about “the veneer of rationality to validate their own biases and desires” when it comes to scientists as well. Or just any person, ever, no matter their occupation or their worldview.

  53. 53
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    consciousness razor:

    I think that’s a little confused. Philosophy does need to be based on observable reality, insofar as anything “needs” to be. You end up justifying their piss-poor philosophy for them with this kind of thing.

    I’d rather consider it trite than confused, but perhaps that’s being needlessly defensive.

    I believe I understand, and even agree, with what you are saying. I’ve made (what I believe are) rousing arguments for the philosophical basis of science (mostly epistemology). And I’ve had to argue against reprehensible ideas defended by claims of science — “It’s human nature,” being the last one, backed up by evo-psych papers.

    But many things need to be based on observable reality. If we hope to accomplish much of anything, the things we trust in most should be those most vetted by reality. While I might discuss over a beer the value judgement of “need,” certain very important things are predicated on their congruence with reality.

    This doesn’t justify my trite dismissal of philosophy, of course. You are absolutely correct: not all important questions are strictly tied to observable reality. Questions of morality (which this behavior falls under) are not strictly based on reality, but on our judgement, which is more a meta-analysis of reality. Many of the most important questions are not tractable to strictly objective analysis. And philosophy tends to help guide science, by exploring the bounds of reality, and what is knowable, and separating what we think we know from what we actually know.

    So, yeah. I was a bit trite.

  54. 54
    screechymonkey

    More than 80 percent of full-time faculty members in philosophy are male, compared with just 60 percent for the professoriate as a whole, according to 2003 data compiled by the U.S. Education Department, the latest available.

    I guess we should ask Michael Shermer if philosophy is “more of a guy thing.”

  55. 55
    No One

    Uhg… this brings back some ugly memories. I keep typing and deleting whole paragraphs. When I was a student at a junior college the Art and Philo depts had contests to see who could fuck the most students in a semester. I had rented a room from my Philo Prof so I got to see all that shit up close. Too much shit to even begin posting it all here. Very selfish, very ugly, and very immature. Fuck.

  56. 56
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    Similarly, a professional glass blower might remark to his co-worker with a lopsided grin: “Will you do a blow job for me while I eat this sandwich?” The co-worker will interpret the speaker as indulging in crude glass blower’s humor and might reply: “Sure, but I’ll need you to do a blow job for me in return” (recall the SNL skit about “soaking the cork”). A naïve eavesdropper might report the speech act as follows: “He asked his co-worker to perform fellatio on him”—as if this were the serious intent of the utterance. But that would clearly be wrong; in the dialect of glass blowers a “blow job” is just what you do when professionally blowing glass—though these workers will no doubt be aware of the lay use of the term (hence the humor). Compare saying “Will you do me a hand job and pass the salt?” when using “hand job” in the arch manner described above: this speech act is not to be paraphrased as “Will you masturbate me and pass the salt at the same time?”

    That’s a defense?
    He treats his audience with disdain. His head is so far in the clouds looking down on the lowly ones. Does he really think people are going to fall for this? This seems like a variation on ‘c**t’ having a different meaning in another country.

  57. 57
    Stacy

    You’d think if there was any area of human endeavor that was least likely to be full of absurd sexual drama and thoughtless harassment, it would be philosophy.

    Having seen the reasoning employed by Jeremy Stangroom and Russell Blackford in defense of dudebros (and their own behavior), no, I wouldn’t think that.

  58. 58
    okstop

    @Sili (#34)

    “Wasn’t there a story a while ago that all applications to US faculty positions in philosophy are essentially handled at one big conference a year in smokefilled backrooms over cigars and port?”

    This is an exaggeration, but one with a kernel of truth. In times past, first-round interviews were conducted at the APA national meeting, which isn’t unusual – the troubling part was the role played by the “Smoker” (a misnomer for years, of course), an allegedly informal gathering where everyone attending can get together and have drinks and socialize. The problem is that interviewing schools usually have a table with their name on a little sign, and it was considered good form to “drop by” and do some schmoozing. This “informal interview” is of course a dreadful idea, not only being terribly unfair to those who do not “schmooze” well but also being a perfect venue for sexist behavior.

    These days, an increasing number of schools are interviewing by Skype and/or declining to reserve a table at the Smoker, in recognition of just these issues. But it’s still a problem.

    @Stardrake (#37)

    Fortunately for all of us, Lange is a relative non-entity in the profession and his department essentially inconsequential.

    @general

    I would undertake a defense of my field, but it seems consciousness razor has done an admirable job already.

    But there’s still a lot of dreadful philosophy out there.

  59. 59
    thetalkingstove

    I’m amazed at the ‘defence’ which Tony quotes in #56.

    ‘Hey, these phrases which seem overtly sexual and inappropriate could actually mean something innocent! Haha, what a clever game we play!’

    That’s just called ‘innuendo’. It’s not some super clever philosophical trick you’ve discovered.

    The fact that the phrases have very strong sexual connotations are why you shouldn’t use them in the work place even in the unlikely even that you’re genuinely referring to something non-sexual.

    Just incredible.

  60. 60
    thetalkingstove

    @ me in #59.

    ‘unlikely event

    Doh.

  61. 61
    Louis

    Well I for one think this is disgusting.

    After all a prominent philosopher has lost his job. And for what? An unwanted, unsolicited, non-consensual, unreturned sexual advance? Pah! Piffle, poppycock, tommyrot and rhubarb. If that were the case he’d just be some horny old man looking for a quick fumble with a sexy young graduate student. And it’s obvious that is not the case here.

    Why when I was a respected academic philosopher we were allowed to have proper adult interactions with anyone we liked. I remember sending emails to my students and other faculty members with carefully cryptic salacious suggestions, and even outright proposals of coitus without nary a word of complaint. The fact that I was the senior academic in the department and people may have worried that refusal of my sexual advances would hamper their careers is immaterial. Following a modus tollens process of reasoning, we can see that:

    If my sexual advances were inappropriate there would have been complaints.
    There were no complaints.
    My sexual advances were therefore appropriate.

    Quod erat demonstrandum as we academic philosophers say.

    Also, where there have been complaints the simple modus tollens demonstrates:

    If women were sensible there would be no complaints.
    There have been complaints.
    The women who complained are therefore not sensible.

    Q.E.D. again. And who wants to listen to women who are not sensible? The very idea! I ask you! Note that I do not say all women are not sensible. I’m not a sexist! Ha! Oh no no no.

    I remember this one student to whom I sent a few candid but entirely artistic photos of my genitalia via picture message. They were entirely appropriate and, if one is sufficiently academic and erudite, clearly a commentary on the depiction of male genitals in art and human society since the time of Michelangelo’s David. My genitals are, of course, much bigger than those of David. His are a bit….bijou. Academically speaking.

    Now this student and I were engaging in academic banter involving sophisticated wordplay. I wanted her to reciprocate, of course, by showing me pictures of her genitals. After all, we academics occupy a lofty sphere where the common man’s concerns with sexual harassment are laughable distractions. If I propose to offer my services in a coital scenario to a student or junior faculty member, I am operating on several levels at once, intellectually speaking. I am engaging in a game of the mind, an educational and toughening process with my student or junior colleague. I am trying to see if they are capable of enduring the slings and arrows of outrageous academic banter and responding in kind. Also, I am operating on a baser level, for man must not lose touch with his evolved roots as an ape, a cousin of the sexually liberated bonobo. In this manner if the student or junior colleague were to consent to engage in coitus with me, it would be purely for natural philosophic purposes. An experiment if you will. After all, for too long have we philosophers pontificated, we must occasionally get our hands dirty, so to speak, with experiment. The coitus would equally obviously be of an intellectual nature and would in no way be a condition for me to aid in the continuation or advancement of their position within my sphere of influence. And at no time have I ever let that be implied.

    We must not pruriently gaze in, in absence of context, and judge others without a fuller appreciation of the situation. Nor must we impose our own base expectations onto others. Why, I asked one of my students if they had seen my cock, and a colleague chastised me most severely without realising that I was referring to Dick, my prized Rhode Island Red, and that I was an enthusiastic breeder of Gallus gallus domesticus. Oh how we laughed when I zipped up my trousers and explained in a 90 page paper in the International Journal of Penis and Philosophical Innuendos.

    I hope now you all understand this situation a bit better and will be campaigning for Professor McGinn to get his job back. With some more attractive and amenable female students.

    Louis

    [Do I REALLY need a sarcasm disclaimer? Oh I suppose I do. There are always the humour impaired on the internet]

  62. 62
    Sili

    This is an exaggeration, but one with a kernel of truth

    Hence the “essentially”.

    Glad to hear it’s clearing up, though.

  63. 63
    Anthony K

    There are always the humour impaired on the internet.

    I’m not always on the internet, Louis.

  64. 64
    Louis

    Anthony K (The Artist Formerly Known as Brownian and not in any way publicly stripped of pseudonymity by Reap Paden which seems to be okay when he does it just to be clear),

    I am relatively sure you are not humour impaired. I mean, I saw you make a joke. Once. It was quite funny as I recall.

    How’s tricks?

    Louis

  65. 65
    ChasCPeterson
    There are always the humour impaired on the internet.

    I’m not always on the internet, Louis.

    whereas I am, but I’m not always humor-impaired. So it’s wrong either way.

  66. 66
    Louis

    I would {facepalm}, but I think you’re trying to be funny, Chas.

    I’ll give you points for effort.

    Louis

  67. 67
    Anthony K

    See? I was probably ripping off Chas that one time I was funny. Like that time Eeyore did that comedy special and all of the material was stolen from Dane Cook and Carlos Mencia.

  68. 68
    ChasCPeterson

    ouch, I guess.
    Have nice days, fellas.

  69. 69
    Louis

    But isn’t Dane Cook the funniest person ever, after Tosh whatisname?

    This has gone a little surreal early doors. Still, it’s more fun than being invaded by misogynists claiming McGinn is being persecuted for having a cock.

    Louis

  70. 70
    Anthony K

    Ugh, sorry Chas. That was not meant to be a dig at you, though it clearly reads as one. AFAIK, you’re no joke-stealer. I, on the other hand, am clearly derivative.

  71. 71
    Louis

    Yeah Anthony, didn’t I see you do all the stuff Dennis Leary nicked from Bill Hicks (allegedly)?

    Louis

  72. 72
    Anthony K

    Yeah, but I framed it as “What’s the deal with Denis Leary nicking all of those jokes from Bill Hicks?” so I was actually ripping off Jerry Seinfeld ripping off Denis Leary ripping off Bill Hicks. It’s all very meta.

  73. 73
    Louis

    Ahhhh meta. {Puffs pipe. Bubbles come out}

    Louis

  74. 74
    Anthony K

    Ahhhh meta. {Puffs pipe. Bubbles come out}

    And…thread won.

  75. 75
    Louis

    Really? I thought Chas won it a few posts back. Pff, shows what I know.

    Louis

  76. 76
    Dr.Cheeselove

    You’d think if there was any area of human endeavor that was least likely to be full of absurd sexual drama and thoughtless harassment, it would be philosophy.

    You wouldn’t think that if you knew that women were banned from philosophy lecture halls until the 1970s at many universities whereas they were allowed to study, say, biology from around the second world war on.

    And I mean, this is a field where people refer to the key theorists as belonging to a “pantheon” of philosophers, so is the sexism/misogyny really that surprising?

    Incidentally, from my own collection of anecdotes from students, sexual harassment seems to be far worse in philosophy than in other fields.

  77. 77
    doubtthat

    I was a philosophy major and loved the discipline and the department. We had a small but surprisingly distinguished faculty for not having a graduate program. I really enjoyed the professors and the closeness of the small group of students. There was only one woman in the faculty, but a third of the major were women, which isn’t great, but also not horrific.

    A couple of years ago I stumbled on this blog:

    http://beingawomaninphilosophy.wordpress.com/

    I was floored. I would have guessed that given the generally liberal and progressive attitudes of philosophers (in my experience), if any discipline would have been out front on these issues, it would have been philosophy. Nope. Same incorrect assumption as thinking atheists and skeptics would be better.

    After reading that, I’ve spoken with a couple of friends who are moving through the philosophy academic system. One very talented woman just moved into the professional world where she felt she received more respect and better treatment, but the opinion of philosophy having a serious problem with the issue is universal.

    My mother worked through academia for most of my childhood, so I always believed I was more aware of these things than the average dude, but holy hell, it’s amazing how completely oblivious one can be as a man in that world. At least in law school the slimy, shady professors looked like slimy, shady creeps.

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