“I will need a token woman”

From What Is It Like to be a Woman in Philosophy: “Don’t say shitty, undermining things”: how hard can that be?

I was scheduled to be a speaker at a workshop in my area, which was canceled due to lack of funding.  The conference organizer wrote this to me:

unfortunately for the only other workshop i have in mind the organizing theme is one where you won’t fit, but on the other hand for purely cynical political reasons i will need a token woman.

When I replied that I didn’t want to be his token anything and found his attitude disrespectful, he told me that the cancelled workshop

was 50% women, so if any of them were tokens they would have a hard time guessing this.

I tried one more time:

Yes, but please also don’t tell them shitty, undermining things.  “I will need a token woman” is a rotten thing to say to somebody you want to come to your conferences.  (Sometimes friends can say rotten things to each other as jokes, but that one definitely crossed a line.)

His reply?

sorry if you found the joke offensive, but that is the effect of the “gendered conference campaign” which it seems almost everybody but me thinks is a great idea.

I’m almost certainly not organizing any more conferences, thanks for your interest in participating in my nonexistent one.

So familiar. So, very, familiar.


  1. says

    sorry if you found the joke offensive, but that is the effect of the “gendered conference campaign” which it seems almost everybody but me thinks is a great idea.

    It’s nice when someone confirms for you that it wasn’t a thoughtless remark but passive-aggressive assholery.

  2. dgrasett says

    But now he gets to say “See, I told you it wouldn’t work!”. The person who votes against the idea should never be put in charge of implementing it.

  3. stanbrooks says

    I for one can only say the I’m so glad he won’t be organizing any more conferences. But he might just find his groove with the fellows at the KKK, I’m sure they wouldn’t find his idiot views offensive. Asshats like that cause me to revisit the notion that capital punishment should be abandoned, but it increases my belief that abortions should be legal. Just sad that his mother didn’t avail herself of one.

  4. says

    Unless the theme of the workshop were something like “How to improve your skills
    at being a misogynistic old fart,” it seems unlikely that there were no women who
    would fit. I don’t suppose much effort was made to find one. The conference
    organiser seems to be one of those people who is unaware that it is possible for
    women to be experts.

  5. brucegee1962 says

    Amazing. Not just the “Don’t wave your misogyny around” rule broken, but also “Don’t insult people whom you’re asking a favor from.”

    Or how about, “If you’re asked to do something you’re philosophically opposed to, simply not doing it is better than doing a lousy job while insulting random strangers.”

  6. says

    Saying you need a “token women” despite the fact that she “won’t fit” is effectively the same as saying that there are no women who are competent enough to actually be part of the event on their own merits.
    Not only is that not true, it’s quite obviously insulting and a demonstration of how far off base this guy is.

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