I am currently an undergraduate student of philosophy at a Catholic-Vincentian University in NYC, I also work as a server in a rather busy and popular restaurant in Times Square, and am frequently bombarded with questions about my academic pursuits, my favorites are:
“Why are you studying philosophy?”
“That’s not going to get you hired!”
“Oh so you’re boyfriend is going to make all the money”
“But you’re too pretty for that”
“How are you going to have children and get married?”
“OHHHH, wait do you like women?”
And so many more that I can’t post without being specific, it seems as if there is no respect or help for any female in our field. And I am so glad to have found this site!
Archive for the ‘pretty women are stupid’ Category
Where are the girly-girls and why is it not ok to be one?
The majority of women I meet in Philosophy are tom-boy-ish. Many of them have short hair, wear no make-up, and dress like their male contemporaries (tramping gear or jeans and a tshirt). Of course, I don’t have a problem with women choosing this, if they are choosing it. Not all women want to wear makeup, dresses, have kids, etc etc, and I totally support a women’s right to chose what she does with her body (her clothes, her hair, her fertility). But what I do have a serious problem with however is the fact that, in my experience, women like this seem far disproportionate in philosophy. Where did all the girly-girls go, and why is not ok to be one?
I don’t know if this is due to the women in philosophy, or the men, or the institution.
-Is it that the women think that they need to be like the men in order to be accepted into this philosophy club?
-Or is that the men have driven away the more feminine philosophers (by hitting on them, harassing them for being too girly, or just not taking them seriously)?
-Or is that the institution does not make room for women? It certainly does not make room for people with families or spouses (double body problems) or caregiver commitments, given that graduates new on the job market have to apply for bunches of jobs and take whatever they can get at some horrid institution in the middle of nowhere.
Furthermore, many of my girlfriends in philosophy have changed since they went on the job market or got accepted into various prestigious grad programs. They’ve gone from having what I thought of as a modern kind of feminism (women don’t need to be like men in order to be equal to men), to changing into these tom-boy-ish women. I’m not convinced they’re doing it because that was the kind of woman they always wanted to be, rather than the woman they feel they have to be in order to succeed in philosophy.
The thing that I find the scariest is that they seem to have been brainwashed into this by their fellow women in philosophy. Friends who went to institutions where other female grad students or young female academics were tom-boy-ish, have themselves become like that. They’ve changed the way they dress. They all started a trend of dumping their boyfriends and partners in favour of their career (in most cases, it was not clear that a choice between the two needed to be made). They’ve decided to only sleep with men who agree that there will be no relationship (what if they fall in love, is that not allowed?). They talk about how their Doctoral dissertations will change the world, and hound other younger women about whether theirs will too, and how. It seems that the women are becoming just like the men that oppress them.
I’m a first year grad student on a philosophy programme where only 4 out of the 28 first year graduates are female. I studied Physics as an undergraduate, which had a similar gender-ratio so I’m very used to male-dominated environments. I have never previously felt judged, discriminated against or intimidated based on gender.
However, in the five months I have been a grad student, I’ve become peculiarly sensitive to the reaction of my male peers, who have frequently indicated that, first and foremost, I’m a girl.
To list some of my experiences:
1. At the end of a particularly challenging class on the history of modern logic, in which I was the only woman, a male student I had never met before approached me and began to explain some of the concepts that had been touched on. I had made absolutely no indication that I needed help, and certainly looked no more puzzled than anyone else in that class.
2. At our regular socials, the conversation is generally focused on philosophy or whatever people are specifically working on. We are primarily research students, and since we rarely attend class, do not know each other well. At these events, one of my male peers only ever talks to me about his romantic or sexual experiences. He talks to everyone else about Wittgenstein.
3. A male peer, who I also count as a good friend, never engages me in any academic conversation. Whilst he asks the men for their academic opinions on a talk we all attended together, he quizes me only on my love-life and my attitude towards sex. When I initiate a philosophical discussion, he patronises me and quotes Aristotle (for example) at me, even if we are discussing a subject that I specialise in, and he does not. The same ‘friend’ regularly flatters me with ‘you’re one of the smartest girls I’ve met, and you’re hot’, and has tried to kiss me, though he has admitted that he does not harbour any romantic feelings towards me. (To give some context to the attempted kiss: he was offering me essay advice at the time. Unfortunately, it is not possible to pass of the incident as a mistake at a party.)
4. Another male peer is in two classes with me, and yet he has never acknowledged me, either in a personal or academic capacity. I struggle to get my voice heard amongst the group of very confident and articulate men. Last week, I managed to make a few original points and actually engage with the discussion. This coursemate finally noticed me, and proceeded to initiate some small talk after the class. I then received an email from him inviting me out on a date. Clearly, if I am worthy of attention at all, it is in a romantic, rather than academic setting.
I am left with the overriding impression that to them, I represent a rare opportunity for a romantic dalliance with someone who at least approaches their intellectual capacity. I’m just intelligent enough to be good company, but not quite intelligent enough to be worthy of a rigorous philosophical discussion. To them, I am not their peer, an individual with individual interests, both academically and personally, but rather a symbol: a young woman in academic philosophy.
Though I have found many of my colleagues and professors over my several years in philosophy to be positive, there have been some incidents which have made feel uneasy about being a woman in a philosophy department.
The first incident arose when a fellow grad student went on a pseudo-scientific rant in front of many female grad students about how females are just wired in a way that is inferior to men, and as such would always be inferior philosophers (or mathematicians, or anything that involves complex reasoning).He also went on to claim that girls were just too emotional to be as rational thinkers as men. He was very convinced of these facts, and many students in the department were offended (both male and female). What compounded matters, was the fact that though the females in the department chose to largely ignore his baseless comments, one male student in the department decided to take on the “knight in shining armor” position and actually physically attacked the gentleman in question for his comments. While it is nice to know that even males recognize these sort of comments as offensive and baseless, the way he reacted was as though he thought that we, the passive, meek females needed some sort of valiant hero to “protect our honour” for us. This did nothing to help the cause.
The second set of incidents revolves around the idea that women cannot be both intelligent and attractive. I have had one professor, after knowing me for several years, confide in me that when I first took his class he automatically assumed that because I was “pretty” that I was also stupid, but then was eventually surprised to learn, once he placed my name and essays to my face, that I was actually not a complete idiot. He also said the he assumed most pretty students were idiots. This is related to another incident where one of my other female colleagues was made fun of by a professor for not “dressing like a philosopher,” just because she chose to dress in a “mainstream stylish” sort of way. I fail to see how either looks or attire has anything to do with “being a philosopher” or being intelligent.