Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Quandary

From Sally Haslanger's Changing the Ideology and Culture of Philosophy: Not by Reason (Alone) (PDF):

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. And most women and minorities who are sufficiently qualified to get into grad school in philosophy have choices. They don’t have to put up with this mistreatment. Many who recognize that something about choices is relevant have "explained" to me that women choose not to go into philosophy because they have other options that pay better or have more prestige. This may be true for some, but this doesn’t sound like the women I know who have quit philosophy (and it sounds a lot more like the men I know who have quit). Women, I believe, want a good working environment with mutual respect. And philosophy, mostly, doesn’t offer that.


Very sad, but in even my limited experience too true. The saddest part about it, though, is that most of the people who are the problem don't recognize what they are doing. They don't have sufficient discipline for the self-examination that would be required. If confronted many of them would insist that they treat women as equals.

What is needed is something like what is implied in Haslanger's paper: an active, thorough, and rigorous investigation to identify those aspects of the culture and institutions of academic philosophy that are discouraging bright and qualified women in this way; and an active, thorough, and rigorous fixing of those flaws. Unfortunately, I don't think this is likely to happen; there are too many people entirely consumed by polishing up their next paper to step back and see the more cancerous tendencies of certain aspects of the profession, and too many people who are the problem but would never let themselves see it. It's a problem whose solution I don't really know. And I don't think anyone really does, since the only solutions on the table require mass conversion of academic professionals to a perspective they largely won't even acknowledge. And that's the worrying thing about it. To have serious change, are we really going to have to work for generations so that people die off and new blood can be moved, baby step by baby step, to the point of seeing what should already be obvious?

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