Let me tell you what women like

Posted: May 14, 2019 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

I studied philosophy in undergrad at a state school (with no grad program in philosophy). The school itself was highly diverse, and the department was more diverse than the average philosophy department. About half the faculty were women. Of the three presidents elected by the philosophy club while I was there were, none were men.

I took a required course with an elderly male tenured professor. I hated everything about it, from the structure of the course to the assigned readings to the in-class discussions. Though there were a fair number of women in the class, there were (as there always are) a few male students who dominated the discussion (often without even the courtesy of raising their hand first), ranted at length about their own thoughts and opinions without letting anyone get a word in edgewise, and quickly got the discussion off-track from the topic. The professor did nothing to shut down such deviations or to allow others equal opportunity to participate, so this constituted a large part of the time spent in class.

One class in particular, we were talking about a particular Nietzsche passage. Both the problematic male students and the professor began making some pretty sexist remarks: The one I remember, from the prof himself, is the empirical claim that “women want to feel the pain of childbirth” (IIRC, this was somehow relevant to the passage). I walked out of class without saying anything.

I approached the department chair (a woman of color) about the experience and the discomfort I felt. She was sympathetic and offered to talk to the professor or to mediate a discussion between us. I ended up going to talk to him alone in office hours. I explained why I had found the remark offensive, especially in the context of other problematic aspects of the course. He became defensive and explained that his wife had chosen not to have an epidural during childbirth, and this is why he had made this remark. He was not moved by my response that his wife, one upper-class white woman, was not necessarily representative of all women. I stuck out the class (since it was required) and got an A, but never interacted with that professor again.

I have kept this incident to myself for more than 10++ years. Only now dare I speak, as I no longer think the incident will be salient to those who otherwise could easily identify me.

I am now a full professor in the U.S. at a fairly top institution (if there is any meaningful way of measuring that). The event I want to tell you about took place when I was just out of graduate school and had just started a tenure-track job.

It happened at one of the not-so-dreadful APA meetings back then. I was chatting with another junior professor from another university; male junior professor. It quickly dawned on us that we had overlapping AOSs, and the rest of the evening we talked shop. I told the male junior about a new idea which I had already fleshed out in a still-unpublished paper.

Looking back at our chat, I can now see that things were a bit off. I can now see how weirdly excited the bloke was about my idea. It’s hard to describe. There was nothing erotic about it (for once). Yet his keen interest was too keen, too intense, too in-my-face.

A couple of hours later I had promised to send him a copy of my paper.

And so I did. And I quickly forgot all about the meeting and our chat. I received comments on the paper from generous colleagues, and it was accepted for publication in a fairly top journal (if there is any meaningful way of measuring that).

One year later the male junior professor published a paper. I am still in shock. The paper he published was virtually a paraphrase of my article from the year before.

But that wasn’t it. Mistakes happen, right? They sure do. In his paper the male junior professor cited my already-published article as forthcoming, in spite of the fact that it had been out for more than a year at the time. In later work he perpetuated the mistake by citing my article as having appeared in print two years after it actually did —thus making him look like the voice of the idea.

Back then—and then, even more so than now—if a philosopher was bothered citing a contemporary’s paper, the author would usually be a man—and this was so, regardless of how many women had already said the same thing before them.

And so it happened. The male junior person—who soon moved up through the ranks—was publicly credited with my idea. Eventually heaps of people cited his paper. I occasionally get cited for the same idea but with the same typo in the year of publication, which makes my paper look like a footnote to his.

I am sure what I just told you still happens a lot, and it saddens me, not least because there is an easily discoverable fact of the matter in these kinds of cases. Yet what can one do? What could I have done?

What made me think of this incident tonight was that I just spent all evening reading an entry in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on this very topic. I was taken aback when I realized that the male professor from back then was credited with my idea in the encyclopedia entry. My paper wasn’t even cited, let alone discussed.

I could have come forward then. I could still come forward, I could stop hiding. But then what? What would happen?

I am saddened by this too: But honestly I don’t think philosophy is ready for its own hashtag feminist or anti-elite movement. Philosophers are all talk and no show, myself included. We talk and talk and talk about all the injustices we face and then we continue doing as we have always done. Isn’t it incredible that women in Hollywood were able to “pull off” what many of us female philosophers have dreamed of “pulling off” for years?

That is what saddens me most: I don’t think philosophy is ready to break with the male culture of buddy shoulder-padding, buddy-invites and buddy-hires. Philosophers, regardless of gender, aren’t willing to admit that there is a select inner circle who are particularly privileged and who got to where they are because of said privilege, not because of their acumen or intellect, not because they intellectually surpass the rest. One factor that increases the likelihood of being privileged is the Y-factor. It’s not everything. But it gives the guy the head start and protection needed to get away with cheating and riskier “idea heists.”

As I am coming to a close, let me emphasize that privilege and cheating go hand in hand, and that it still is the privileged philosophers and the cheaters who wind up with the golden tickets, the golden eggs, the Everlasting Gobstoppers and a whole lot of Oompa-Loompas.

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.

Implicit, systemic issues

Posted: July 4, 2017 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

Our department seems relatively better than other departments, but we still have several issues made worse by the fact none of these have clear-cut solutions. For instance, I have experienced explicit sexism and this is relatively easier to handle–but most of the issues my department has experienced are implicit and systemic. These experiences are usually not properly understood, and they have really affected how I feel in the department as an underrepresented and underprivileged person in philosophy. Presumably straight, white men seem to have a knack for choosing topics that are about the status of women in philosophy or oppression. It is good that they are aware of the complexities surrounding these issues, but the way these discussions are handled is inappropriate. When you have a club that stands for anything but diversity, with a very small number of people who express themselves as religious, or are women or ethnic minorities, you cannot possibly understand these issues in even an intellectual manner. Many of these people like saying they are “feminist” but their actions tell a different story. They have to wonder why women continue to leave the department, and less than 25% of most departments are women.
There are so many issues with these departments, and the only way we can solve them is by encouraging future generations. This is, however, not possible if philosophy continues to believe it is okay for men (with no fair representation of women)to discuss whether women are oppressed, and to hold discussions that further alienate and marginalize members of minorities. In essence, the sum of these experiences (this is only the tip of the iceberg) continue to further remove women from philosophy–I have seen this firsthand. Women do not feel comfortable in philosophy; my friends are switching career paths although philosophy is their #1 passion. Unfortunately, I have felt the same and it is a short matter of time before I, too, leave.

Experiences of a Master’s student

Posted: June 29, 2017 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

I’m a Master’s student currently finishing a degree that contains specific philosophical subdisciplines. My experience so far is that:

a) an external speaker, when speaking about a general concept of a philosopher, used the “he” pronoun (he was speaking English, so he could’ve used the “they” pronoun instead to be inclusive);
b) a fellow sudent was asked to provide an example of empty intersection of two sets and he replied with “a clever blonde woman” (there is a single word for “blonde woman” in the language of instruction);
c) our lecturer of Philosophy of Science laughed at the idea that a man or a white person cannot fully comprehend the women’s experience or a PoC experience, without going into detail about this philosophy even though it was part of his lecture;
d) a PhD student from the department was explaining to us something about scientific conferences during a lecture and he said, “When they want to present such idea at a conference, they say, ‘Gentlemen, I have found /…/'”;
e) white men are everywhere in the curricula even though they didn’t publish a single thing during their lives, but I, as an ethnic woman, cannot expect a worldwide recognition unless I have zillions of articles in top notch journals.

When does it stop?

Posted: June 25, 2017 by jennysaul in double standards, Uncategorized

About a year after giving a talk in country X I am told by a friend I trust that one of the (junior) organizers of the conference at which I gave the talk found my talk “scandalizing.” I found that very puzzling, given that my talk was in a mainstream area and was received well at the time (if you judge by the Q/A and the subsequent feedback and the publication of a written version of the talk in a top mainstream journal). I was chocked to hear it. Unfortunately, my friend didn’t have any further details about the alleged scandal that occurred as I was giving my talk (also, he wasn’t present at the conference but heard about it only about 1 year later). I have thought about confronting the person who made the comment. I might still do that. But it did occur to me that while I have heard similar derogatory (and unsubstantiated) comments about the talks of female speakers, I have never heard these kinds of unsubstantiated claims about the talks of male philosophers. I definitely have strong feelings of indignation and sadness now. Seriously: do I still need to put up with this as a very senior professor? When does it ever stop?

Experiences being a woman in philosophy

Posted: April 7, 2017 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

(1) Frequently being sexualized, when certain men in the department either assume you are romantically interested,or that they are romantically interested and therefore you are too, or that none of these are true–and therefore you must be gay.
(2) It is assumed that you are a women, so you must be interested in feminist philosophy.
(3) Not only having to deal with the fact you are underrepresented in classes and many talks, but there are always loud males who talk over you and speak more often than the females.
When you react to sexism/harassment: Called “sensitive”

What to say to prospective students?

Posted: April 4, 2017 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

Every year prospective students ask about the climate of the department, and if there are any “problematic” professors that they should be aware of. There are. But the department itself can’t/won’t say anything about them so it falls to the graduate students to do so. This has caused a lot of tension in our department because there are a group of students who think that nothing should be said and others who think we have a moral obligation to tell the truth about it. And in the middle of all this are the student(s) who were directly affected by the professors in question. It’s an awful situation.

A positive role model

Posted: March 25, 2017 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

Two weeks ago I’d gone to HR to alert them to two recent instances of blatantly harassing behaviour directed at me from a former colleague with a long track record of such improper behaviour. Both of these recent instances were at large, mainly social university celebrations. (I screamed at the top of my lungs at one instance, calling him out, and two other men immediately approached to say they had seen and were sorry at what they had witnessed.) I felt the need to alert HR about the harassment, but I was unsure whether I was getting singled out by this colleague or if he is back in town and playing up with many. Talking to HR was a little risky, since in the past that was often a fast way of inviting retaliation. This week the university had a third major celebration. The Head of HR made a bee line for me and sat next to me, politely pretending to need to talk to me about a philosophical book he’s been reading. Goodness the relief and comfort! It made me enormously proud of my university. Also HR provided a good model of how to not to allow colleagues to be victimised. Simply by sitting with me he gave me a quiet safety and let me be part of the community.

Problems with Confucianism

Posted: March 23, 2017 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

It’s sad that they say they want to make philosophy more inclusive, but what they do is bring in more male philosophers like those of the Confucian tradition. Do they know how much sexism is in the Confucian tradition? No. How the Confucian philosophers supported gender oppression throughout the history of China? Apparently not. They just remain silent on the issue. I feel offended, really, when people praise how great the Confucian tradition is.

Going public with sexual harassment

Posted: January 23, 2017 by jennysaul in sexual harassment, Uncategorized

Message: Below, please find a copy of a letter sent today to Chancellor X of Y University, the members of the Philosophy Department, as well as to several other departments, student organizations, the college newspaper, several of the deans, relevant philosophy blogs, and to a newspaper, regarding the sexual misconduct and abuses of power of Professor Z. My intention is that this matter be given full attention and that it will be discussed freely and publicly. As I mention in the letter, I know for a fact that other women have had similar and worse experiences with Professor Z. Given the ways in which sexual harassment suits have played out in the national media in recent years, I suspect these women might also come forward, in time. I am confident that you will give this matter due consideration.

———————————–
Dear colleagues,

Now that I am well enough established in my career to speak out (though not well enough that I can speak without anonymity), I am compelled to express concerns that I have had for years about the conduct and character of Professor Z of Y University’s Philosophy Department. With the recent inauguration in mind, it is especially important to say something to prevent other women from being exposed to abuses of power by de facto invulnerable faculty members. As we in philosophy know all too well, sexual harassment causes many women to doubt their intellectual and personal potential and to fade from the field or drop out of it altogether.

During my time as a graduate student at Y, Professor Z would make sexually charged remarks about and to women students. Professor Z referred to his alleged sexual exploits (often with Y colleagues or invited speakers) with suggestive imagery, making degrading remarks about ‘fat’ and ‘old’ women, nonchalantly evaluating the looks of the ‘beautiful’ undergraduate women on campus, commenting on their ‘tight pants’ and ‘fresh’ looks. He claimed that black women are not as attractive as white women, though he did name certain ‘exceptions’ to his rule.

He would approach groups of young women in conversation with one another, and find pretext to touch them. For example, he inserted himself into a conversation between women students on hairstyles, proceeding without invitation to stroke two of the women’s hair. Another time, a friend of mine was trying to see whether her leaked pen had stained her shoulders (she was wearing a backpack), and as I was checking this for her, Professor Z quickly took my position and began touching my friend’s skin. On both occasions, the women appeared distressed and exchanged looks with me, but said nothing.

In private, my academic dealings with Professor Z were infused with an undertone of sexual interest from the outset. He commented on my ‘delightful’ figure, on my breasts, on my ‘alluring’ style. He inquired into my sex life frequently but with plausible deniability. He would pursue and approach me relentlessly so that I became too stressed to regularly and comfortably attend department events. When I did attend, if he happened to be there Professor Z would stare at my legs and comment on any change in my hair or makeup (assessing it as sometimes more sometimes less ‘flattering’). He would flirt with me still more overtly at holiday parties, where he’d encourage me to drink more alcohol. During a departmental gathering, Professor Z told me that, as an “older” woman, a colleague of his he was seeing at the time would be jealous of a “pretty young woman” such as myself. A few weeks earlier, he had referred me to this same colleague for professional assistance. She was considerably younger than Professor Z. When in routine academic conversation with him I would attempt to redirect focus on my papers, or address him as ‘Dr.,’ he would look irritated and express frustration, twice closing his office door during two different meetings, ostensibly to discuss philosophy and my career path.

Professor Z habitually made use of his ability to extend and withhold professional opportunities, as a means to pressure me into becoming more intimate with him. Indeed, what initially appeared to me to be professional overtures quickly became personal, sexual ones. Hesitance and resistance were met with a temper he seemed to conceal in more public settings, or else with degrading and sexist dismissals. At a large conference reception in the evening, as I declined the last of several of Professor Z’s private invitations to meet him at his hotel room later that night to retrieve a book he said he wanted to give me, Professor Z took his leave by saying he needed to go ‘troll this place for interesting women.’

Professor Z seemed to derive satisfaction from the idea that I as a young woman was interested in him considering that he was, at the time, twice my age or even more. At its extreme, I think his intention was to sleep with me, or at least to flatter himself with that possibility. In any case, with indescribable, ongoing distress to my work in the department and after years of intellectual as well as personal self-doubt incurred from this experience, I still managed to stay on the right side of the line that was being crossed. Eventually I was both relieved and alarmed to find his attentions turning to a new, even younger cohort of incoming graduate students in the philosophy and other departments.

While I was a graduate student I coped by flirting back, smiling and nodding, trying to brush it all off as the byproduct of the typical male academic’s social awkwardness, despite my unease. After time and experience in the field, as well as hearing my colleagues and now also my students talk about their memories and current situations involving abuse of this nature, I have concluded that I was naive simply to go along with what was happening. Let me be clear: at the time, I felt that the power dynamics left me with no other recourse, while the demonstrably friendly and prestigious professional relationships Professor Z collected and flaunted, intimidated me further into silence and self-doubt. But Professor Z is disarming. He effectively plays the role of the absent-minded professor to the great detriment of the young women he approaches. And while by now I have heard many other accounts of Professor Z’s actions, some similar to mine but others far more disturbing, I can only come forward with my own.

The impact of this experience on me emotionally and intellectually has been profound. I know other women do experience far worse, but the consequences have even in my case been dire. For years I was absolutely depleted, unmotivated to write, travel, or study in ways I had once known myself to be capable of. I felt myself alienated from potential colleagues and friends, especially from other women. I have been reluctant and embarrassed to pursue lines of work that too closely coincide with his because I cannot stomach the idea of having to cite him and afford him some kind of public credit or acknowledgment. I almost left academia altogether. This was, above all, the experience of intellectual potential belittled, the stunting of philosophical independence and growth, the attendant shame of feeling myself diminished.

So I implore Y University’s faculty and administration to put aside what it might take to be in the interests of its stability, reputation, and atmosphere of ‘collegiality,’ to see the bigger picture. That it is in no one’s interest and it is downright wrong to continue to tolerate such damaging actions on the part of anyone, let alone an esteemed professor.

How not to introduce a colleague

Posted: January 15, 2017 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

I am one of very few women in a department with quite a few male colleagues. One of them introduced me to a visiting fellow by saying “Come and meet X, she always has great nails!”. Then they asked me to show the visiting fellow my hands to prove it.

Another faculty member (a male) and myself were being considered for the same administrative role in my department. My qualifications are unambiguously superior to his. When I pointed this out, one of the decision-makers said at a meeting, “Let’s not get bogged down in irrelevant discussions about who is more qualified than whom.”

Just grumpy, or not?

Posted: October 21, 2016 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

Back when I was an undergraduate I had heard (from fellow philosophy majors who had done so) that it was possible for undergraduates to enroll in the advanced logic course offered to the philosophy graduate students. Undergrads were admitted on a case-by-case basis by professor X, who taught the graduate class.

As a student who was taking the department’s upper-level undergraduate logic course (the natural prerequisite to the graduate class), I saw professor X in the department one day and figured I might go up to him and at least introduce myself as an undergrad interested in taking his graduate course next semester. As I approached him, however, he growled “NOT ME” and then waved me towards the department secretary. I ended up going up to the secretary and stammering an unrelated question.

Of course, I may have simply caught him on a grumpy off day. But I cannot help but wonder if X’s behavior towards me would have been any different if I had approached him as a white male. It wasn’t until that day that I really became aware that all the philosophy undergraduates I knew who had enrolled in professor X’s class were males and I was a minority female.