Gender-inclusive language

Posted: May 22, 2018 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

I had the opportunity to publish an article in a journal that is well established in country XX. I sended the finished article to the journals chief lector. In my draft, I was using gender-inclusive language which was completely removed in the edited version of my article. I was kind of shocked about that and so I went to my (female) head and told her about it. She laughed and said “Well, he is like a typical old man!‘‘ and kept on laughing. Subsequently she changed the subject of our conversation. I felt lost after this conversation as there is enough evidence of the importance and relevance of gender-inclusive language and furthermore I really thought that it‘s basically the norm in scientific publications these days. Not least I was pretty sure that my head will support me in this matter.

So in the end I returned the article and complemented gender-inclusive language. The chief lector never came back to me. Until now, I don’t know if the article will or won‘t be published with gender-inclusive language.

I am a female faculty member at a mid-sized, teaching-centered state university. Although I have great colleagues and am quite happy with my current job, I fear that subtle sexism in the field may hinder the further development of my career … and I am saddened to realize that it probably already has.

Despite my efforts to gain the respect and recognition of the (mostly male) advanced scholars in my field, I definitely feel like I’ve hit a plateau or, sure, I’ll say it, a glass ceiling. I have been fairly successful getting papers published, so that’s not the problem. But this does not translate into respect or recognition at the conferences that I go to in my research areas. That is what has been irritating me lately.

For example, I have attended X conference for 6 of the last 8 years. The conference is very specialized, and the review process for getting a paper on the program is highly competitive. Still, I manage to have a paper accepted regularly. Moreover, I am one of the most active participants in the conversation at the conference each year. I know everyone’s name, as there are only about 50 of us. Despite all of this, several of the older male participants that make up the “base” of the society do not know my name. They do not bother to look up or share any biographical details when they present me. They do not read or cite my work. They have given leadership roles in the organization to male grad students over me, although I am now an Associate Professor.

I have also been going to Y conference regularly for 14 years (since my first year of graduate school up to the present). At this conference, participation is by invitation only, and you are either invited as a non-presenting participant or as a presenting participant. This approach is problematic, but would be less so if it were based on merit in any sense. Those invited to give special papers at this conference are invariably picked among (a) a group of 5 or 6 core (older male) professors and (b) their male colleagues or male (“golden boy”) students. Invites to the presentation spots on the program almost never go to females. If they do, they are usually the wives of core members. Over the past 14 years, only one of the female students of the core group have been invited to present (married to a core member). Meanwhile, about 15 male students have been invited. Highly successful female faculty have, on the other hand, been invited to take on service jobs for the organization. I can think of about a dozen women right now who gradually stopped coming to the conference, although they should be among its leadership by now.

In a field where mentoring relationships are essential to networking, it’s clear to see that lack of substantial, long-term mentorship of women philosophers is partially to blame for the low number of women in leadership positions. Although my advisor was personally very encouraging to me when I was dissertating, I am beginning to recognize that he was much more helpful to his male students in terms of real, long-term mentoring and networking. After I completed my dissertation, he never followed up with me to see about my research, to invite me in on a project, to invite me to give a talk, etc. Like many of the inspiring, successful male professors I had around me as a graduate student, none seemed to want to transition to treating me as a peer in the field. They seem very happy to have me participating in their conferences (often, I feel, as a token woman), but they seem to have no interest in really engaging my work.

Lately, I have been talking with a couple of women who are senior in the field about these things, and that makes all the difference. I hope to persuade one of them to act as a mid-career mentor for me. I don’t think it is too late to find a good mentor, but I think I need to stop expecting it to come from these male figures in the profession that I originally imagined it would come from.

A phone call

Posted: April 26, 2018 by jennysaul in harassment, Uncategorized

45 minutes ago I got a phone call from a man who identified himself as [name] from [University]. He asked me a few questions about my research and teaching interests, including “Do you use ancient Greek sources in your ethics class?” I said sure, a bit of Aristotle. “The Nicomachean ethics?” Yep. He then asked “When was the last time you stood naked on your desk with cum dripping from your cunt?” He followed up with several more comments, including an assurance that he was about to cum and that I liked it (why else would I be listening). I’m fortunate that my department is very supportive, so the incident is logged with the Chair and higher up from there. Hopefully IT can track the call but maybe not.

A disappointment

Posted: August 30, 2017 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

While making a syllabus, I came across several recommendations for a new anthology. One of its supposed advantages is that the authors had made a concerted effort to make it more diverse by including more women and POC authors. I was very happy to hear that such a text existed, and hoped it might save me the effort of compiling my own diversified reading list for my class, so I bought a copy.

When I began flipping through the newly arrived volume, I noticed that the very first line on the very first page of the very first chapter reads as follows, “When a philosopher tells you that he…” To be clear, this first section is introductory text written by the authors in the last 5 years, not an excerpt from a text written 50+ years ago, so there is no plausible deniability for pretending that “he” is gender-neutral.

Online discussion of ‘diversity hires’

Posted: August 24, 2017 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

I’m a woman graduate student in philosophy. I recently came across one of those anonymous online forums where people gossip about philosophers and academic philosophy. It made me feel sick to read what some of these people say, especially about women and people of color in philosophy, whose success gets written off because they’re “diversity hires.”

I fear that one day, if I am so lucky to get a job in academic philosophy, I’ll be gossiped about on one of these stupid websites. I also fear that the bullies who contribute to them may secretly be among my colleagues.

I’m hesitant to even submit this here, because I don’t want to feed the trolls. But these people don’t just exist online. They exist in real life, and apparently, they might be working down the hall from us.

Nordic country not a gender paradise after all

Posted: July 12, 2017 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

I came to a nordic country to be a doctoral student last autumn. Amongst other things, I was thrilled to be moving to a country that is known for taking gender equality so seriously. The last thing, then, I expected to experience at work was sexual harassment. This is not what thought it was at first, but my supervisor (who was an amazing support) gave it this name, hence we took the situation incredibly seriously.

At first I got on very well with my project partner, a male of around my age. It was obvious we had some political and ideological differences, but it was kind of a joke between us that we would argue over such things. However, in our discussions, his arguments became gradually more offensive and personal, to the point where he would tell me that, as a matter of fact and as a result of the choices I make with my body, I am less female and hence, objectively unattractive. Despite none of these beings facts, I could not escape what he was saying. For context, we were alone on a train to a conference together in a foreign country, so i was trapped in this conversation. I fought back tears as I realised what he said was sinking in, and for a moment I began questioning my life choices.

Unfortunately this was not an isolated incident. On several occasions, both inside the office and at work-related social events, he would invariably make sexual or even rape jokes directed towards me. I stopped going to our office altogether. It was only a month or so later when my supervisor asked me if everything was okay that I let it all out.

My department were excellent at dealing with it: both kind and professional. I now have a new office at the department and I go there every day. The guy involved does not speak to me any more, and now I can get on with my work without doubting myself as a woman, sexually or otherwise. Because really, that has nothing to do with who I am as a philosopher.

On impostor syndrome

Posted: July 7, 2017 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

There is a contest in my department for graduate students where we can submit a text that we have written in one of our seminars, and a committee awards a prize for the best text among the submitted ones.

When I saw the contest, my first reflex was to think that I had nothing worth submitting, but one of my professors encouraged me to submit the paper I had written for her class.

Turns out I was awarded the prize, and yet again my first reflex was to think that I was probably the only one who submitted a text. I was then shocked at how I was constantly belittling myself and trying to minimize my own achievement instead of celebrating it.

This made me appreciate how important it is to encourage students from minority groups to submit papers, apply for grants, etc., because very often our reflex is to think we are not good enough, which I have found to be very rare in white men.