What it’s like to not be in the minority

Posted: October 14, 2010 by Jender in presence of women

Within the last ten years I attended an extended seminar on feminist philosophy, I was 4 years into a tenure track job. Perhaps because of the subject matter, it happened that all the attendees were women. This was the first time in my life that I had been in an all women philosophy environment, in fact it was the first time that I had been in an environment in which women philosophers were not a small minority. The contrast with my ‘regular’ life was striking. For the first time I realized the incredible amount of energy it took to go to work every day to a place where I was a minority, even given that most of my colleagues at my job had goodwill. One of the reasons why the seminar was such a great experience for me was that I could spend the finite amount of energy I had thinking about philosophy, not worrying about whether I deserved to be there, or being smart enough, or having my contributions discounted or disrespected, or even silly things like whether my haircut and wardrobe helped or hindered my professional credibility. For the first time I felt like I ‘fit.’ The seminar gave me a burst of academic productivity that was sort of mind boggling and helped me fall back in love with philosophy. Even though I was already well credentialed and well employed, it was the community of excellent women philosophers at that seminar who gave me the confidence to think of myself as a ‘real’ philosopher. I am overwhelmingly grateful for that experience.

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