But there aren’t any women good enough

Posted: October 12, 2010 by Jender in Maleness of philosophy, women held to different standard

In the early 1990’s, when I was a young, female, assistant professor, I was assigned to team-teach a large Introduction to Moral Philosophy course with two senior male colleagues. At my institution, this course was typically taught as a history of ethics course with a focus on several main historical figures representing different traditions.

This was my first time teaching the course, although my two colleagues had taught it many times before. The syllabus they planned to use, like the previous syllabi for the course that I had seen, had no writings by female philosophers on it.

I said that I thought it was important that we include women in the syllabus and suggested several, including Philippa Foot and Judith Jarvis Thomson, but my colleagues would not budge. One of them said to me: “You show me a woman of the stature of Aristotle, and I will put her on the syllabus.” I was not able to get him to agree that the work of any female moral philosopher was worthy enough to be taught in this course. However, this professor’s own work in ethics (which was nowhere near as influential as that of the women I’d proposed) *was* included on the syllabus.

To this day, I vacillate between amazement that I didn’t leave the profession right then and there and satisfaction that I stayed in it long enough to see these two colleagues retire.

Comments are closed.