This one has a happy ending

Posted: October 6, 2010 by Jender in Good news, trivialising women

This happened relatively recently. I finished grad school a few years ago.

During my first semester of graduate school, I organized a grad student party. Later that week, a male graduate student told me, “I’m so glad you are here. Since X (an older female graduate student) left, the social scene has been terrible here. We need more female grad students. You make the place such a nicer place to be.” I’m sure he was trying to be nice and welcoming. This small comment exemplifies the ways that the male graduate students made it clear to me that my value to the department was social rather than intellectual. I would go to parties only to be hit on by the single male students; meanwhile, I would overhear the other new male graduate students be asked about their research interests and views. I kept wondering what I had said or what I was doing to make people not want to talk to me about philosophy outside of class.

During that same semester, a male fellow first-year grad student did try to talk to me about philosophy outside of class, but that interaction was humiliating. He invited me over for dinner. When I got there, he told me that he had asked me there to explain to me why something I had said in class was confused, socially harmful and based on my ignorance of his favorite philosopher’s work. He then proceeded to give me a long lecture on said philosopher. I don’t know why I just sat through this incredibly patronizing lecture. I think it was because I thought he was my closest friend in the program.

I came into grad school loving philosophy and full of confidence. I finished my first semester miserable, and I spent the rest of graduate school seriously thinking of leaving the profession. I’m glad I didn’t. I have a great job now, and I am in a wonderfully supportive department.

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