Philosophy and women


I found this image when I googled ‘women philosophers’ and was struck by the piercing eyes and absent mouth

Well this news item showed up this weekend in the New York Times about the philosopher Colin McGinn who has set off a debate about sexism in the profession.  There is a news flash, right?  However, in all fairness, my personal experience cannot testify to this wide-spread sexism.  I entered graduate school a long time ago; so you might think that it would have been even worse then.  Plus I went to a Jesuit institutions where all the faculty but one were men and most of my fellow graduate students were men as well.  I think that I can recall one other woman but she left soon to study religion in Hawaii.  Whether I was just incredibly naive and oblivious or whether I represent the women who did not experience sexual harassment, I am not entirely sure.  The Times article referenced this blog by  philosopher Jennifer Saul whose work I have used in my own classes and I have to say it is a damning collection of reports of sexual harassment, bias against women and just overall dismissal of women in philosophy.  Even my own anecdotal observations at the APA (American Philosophical Association) meetings noted the decrease in the number of women in the profession as represented by attendees.

There are indeed women, fine thinkers, in philosophy if one looks.

There are indeed women, fine thinkers, in philosophy if one looks.

In my recollections of my own graduate school experiences, I did note that the men in my  department never had any doubts whatsoever about their skills, intellectual potential and future in the discipline.  I was riddled with self doubt but frankly, based on what I still claim to be a realistic appraisal of my own limited talents.  And yet my professors seemed to accept me on the basis of what I could do, not type me by gender.  Maybe sexism has worsened since the 70s-80s?  Or do many of the current issues arise in top drawer programs which are so caught up with their own self-importance that they implode at the suggestion that anyone really deserves them, much less women?  Something to think about.