In my doctoral program, the student who received the largest funding package had been involved in a long-term affair with a married, tenured professor. When she decided to accept a terminal masters degree in order to follow her fiancé to another school, that professor failed her defense. She received a degree from the other school, and doesn’t mention this experience on her cv.
I was accepted into a Masters program that did not accept many women. Several of the faculty thought that women had no place in the discipline. I happened to be in a class of almost all women, who were selected by a dissenting group of faculty in an attempt to balance the student population.
During my first year, I was told explicitly by one of my professors that I should not be in a philosophy graduate program since, “Philosophy requires reasoning, and women are irrational.”
The incoming class that followed my group consisted of about 15 students, all but one of whom were male.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that this school did not accept my application into its doctoral program, even though two schools of higher ranking did (thank goodness!).
There’s a seminar this afternoon in my department on the topic of child welfare. Although I am interested in this topic, and have written relevant papers, I’m not going. Why not? Because it’s in the early evening, and my own daughter is very stressed at the moment, I am a single parent, and I do not want to leave her on her own. Deepening irony is that this weekend, sick of observing the stress I’m under by trying to work in substandard conditions, cope with very difficult student welfare issues, etc, she begged me to give up my lecturing job. So, as I’m REALLY interested in child welfare, I won’t be at the seminar on it. Not that anyone there will ever know or care.
During my time at an MA program, a friend and fellow student went out for drinks with two other students, one of whom was X. After I asked my friend how it went, he replied: “X knows a lot about Heidegger, and a lot of racist jokes!” (A connection here? I leave that as an exercise for the reader)
While grading papers with X, he would drop ‘ironic’ ‘jokes’ like: “haha, why did we ever give women the vote?” This was in front of not only me, a male, but also a female TA and a female professor.
Maybe there was an eye-roll I missed, but neither the female TA nor the professor responded. I said nothing and wrote him off as an idiot, his philosophical talent notwithstanding. He’s now at a very well-ranked PhD program, and it’s distressing to think that he one day might work with minority and/or female students.
In retrospect, I clearly failed to meet my obligations as a bystander, and I reflect on the episode in the hope that in the future I will call out this kind of shit.
I recently graduated with my bachelor’s degree in philosophy, and am in a relationship with someone who is in a top graduate program in philosophy. Today, we were discussing the most “meaningful” thing we have learned recently: without going in to much detail, we have to decide on one “meaningful” thing in order to include it in a survey.
I have been reflecting recently over the complexities of the mother/daughter relationship, so I said that I have learned that I spend a good deal of my daily life doing things in order to avoid becoming my mother (I had in mind, specifically, something my partner is aware of: struggling with an eating disorder).He responded with “You haven’t learned a meaningful thing that has to do with the lofty life? Like, existential, philosophical stuff”?
I felt my heart plummet into my stomach. I immediately became defensive and rattled off ways that the mother-daughter relationship was a deeply “existential, philosophical” topic: how a mother is faced with her own mortality upon giving birth, the phenomenological experience of pregnancy, etc…
He responded with something that he’s learned recently about explicit and implicit moral principles.
It feels like I have to defend why the female experience is worthy of philosophical analysis. It feels like I am not taken seriously the moment I talk about what I want to talk about. It feels like I need to transform my thoughts into useless philosophical jargon. It feels like my relationship has tension now, because his words hurt my self-perception. It makes me second-guess my recent applications to graduate programs. It feels like I am not a philosopher–like my thoughts, feminine, worthless–will be forever excluded from the realm of the “lofty, the existential, the philosophical”.
In my medium-sized department, sometimes the majority of the faculty and a bunch of graduate students get together in a seminar setting to discuss one of the faculty-member’s research. At a recent meeting of this sort, a tenured woman in the department who considers herself a feminist made a point of comparing two other women faculty: she pointed out differences in their bodies, the way they walked, and the kinds of boots they wore. The comparison was basically a non sequitur, and she noticeably didn’t discuss the bodies or fashion choices of the men in the room. One of the women being compared is not yet tenured. This struck me as a not-too-subtle way of undermining her status in the department.