I was employed as a feminist philosopher in a department where I was the only woman; that is to say, I was employed to teach feminist theory in philosophy. From the beginning there were questions about my competency, about the nature of my work, and with that, very little support from my male colleagues. I felt very undermined, and this did not help my profound lack of confidence. I was given no mentoring, and the one senior woman in a cognate discipline, was an anti-philosopher. She had no sympathy or understanding for what I was doing. One of my colleagues came and shouted at me in front of a grad student when I sent him an email in which I mis-spelt his name. As a result, I moved my office. No-one came to invite me back to the department; no-one tried to sort the issue out. No-one apologised. To this day the former colleague has never acknowledged his role in my moving office. I eventually returned to another office in the department but the whole event was ignored and never spoken of. When I unsuccessfully applied for a promotion at the very same time my first book with a first rate publisher was published, no-one helped me out or suggested I lodge an appeal. Yet there were clearly politics involved in my lack of success. When I was head of the department, my male colleagues basically ignored me or undermined any of my efforts to secure pedagogical changes that would benefit the discipline. I resigned in frustration and everything went back to as it was. I left suddenly, without any goodbyes after giving appropriate notice. No-one seemed to care that I left, or why. I became a philosopher because I love ideas and their exploration. That has not changed, but I feel emotionally and intellectually abused by my whole experience.
Archive for the ‘lack of mentoring’ Category
I recently returned from a conference at which I encountered the most contentious member of my dissertation committee. This fellow delayed my defense by 1) not reading my dissertation until the day before my originally scheduled defense date and 2) threatening to fail me if my defense date was not pushed back. My original defense date was cancelled the night before I was supposed to defend. This caused me to be a graduate student for an additional summer term. Because he was in Europe for the summer, he did not get around to reading the chapters of my dissertation relevant to his interests until late summer. This caused me to be a graduate student for an additional fall term. He did not actually read my revisions or my other chapters until late in the fall term, at which point I finally mustered the courage to say to him, enough is enough. I was allowed to defend late in the fall term, but lost a job as a result.
I count the interaction at this last conference as a win. Yes, he did approach me in a thinly veiled contentious manner, but I managed to avoid any private interaction for the most part. It is unfortunate that I have to do this, but one of my other committee members recommended this approach to him, complete avoidance in the profession, after my defense. I will not be able to avoid him completely, but I can certainly avoid any private interaction with him.
In the not-so-distant past, I wrote a dissertation on a relatively “hot” topic in philosophy of X. My adviser, who was not in residence at my grad-institution the year I defended, offered only minimal support during my “dissertating” (though other (male) members of my department went *way* beyond the call of duty (e.g. reading and commenting on multiple drafts, revisions, etc.) to support me while I wrote).
A couple of years after I defended and had gotten a TT job at a SLAC, my “adviser” published a monograph on my dissertation topic, but he did not cite (or acknowledge) my work. A couple of years after that, he edited a volume on the same topic I wrote on, but did not invite me to contribute.
It is true, I am not running in R1 circles, but I have had a steady stream of (low rent) publications. I have found it very hard to keep up with Philosophy of X at my SLAC with a heavy teaching and service load. Meanwhile, as part of my review process, I am suppose to show how I have been influential in my field. Seriously? I am a woman in M&E at a SLAC in the south. Puh-leez!
It has been some time now since I finished my PhD, and I am trying to break into another area of philosophy that may be more welcoming to me.
I was on the job market this year. I was told (more than once) by our placement director that if I got a job that would show that “the department should admit more female grad students.” Nothing was said of my abilities or accomplishments.
I submitted this earlier post about mentoring. I can’t believe it, but it just happened again. We’ve got two tenure-track people starting next year, one man and one woman. We were recently wrangling over our reduced budget, trying to decide where to direct resources, and several times the department chair asked a male colleague to check with our incoming man to see what speakers he’ll want to invite next year, what conferences he wants to go to, etc. These two men work in the same area, so it was pretty clear that the more senior person was being asked to informally mentor the more junior one. After several of these requests I finally spoke up and asked if anyone was going to do the same thing for the incoming woman. The chair looked surprised and said, “Oh. I don’t know. Could you take care of that?” So I guess I’m her mentor. But if I hadn’t said anything, she would have received none of this support, and I don’t think anyone would have noticed that they had forgotten about her.
In my first week of grad school at a non-Leiter top 20, my graduate adviser asked if I was married. When I told him I was, he asked if my husband knows I’m in grad school, and then he asked if my husband knows I won’t be home to cook dinner every night.
When I responded that I’ve been working and going to school for many years and that he’s quite bright and can cook for himself, he seemed to dismiss me on the spot. In fact, that was the last meeting I managed to have with him in the 5 or so years he was the graduate adviser. I figured out right away I was on my own.
In the end, he retired due to a medical condition and I finished my Ph.D. It seems to me that I won.
I am a female graduate student in philosophy and I am fed up.
I am fed up with my male dissertation supervisors never giving me written feedback on my work, never wanting to read my work (“just describe it to me (over email), please”), and never wanting to meet with me to talk about my work. I have verified that they have good rapport with most of their male graduate students and have given them pages of feedback.
I am fed up with being told by well-meaning female faculty that maybe the reason why I’m having a hard time establishing rapport with my male supervisors is that they “feel awkward” about the women in philosophy “problem” at university and “don’t want to risk anything that could be perceived as sexual harassment”. Is this supposed to make me feel better? Thank you for making me feel like a walking pair of breasts.
I am fed up with men and women never co-mingling during informal departmental activities. What year is this?
I am fed up with seeing my male classmates talk about going out to dinners and drinks and playing basketball with their supervisers, when mine barely acknowledge my existence.
Be friendly – in a way that isn’t lecherous. And mentor your students – all of them. It would go a long way.