A tale of two departments

Posted: October 19, 2010 by Jender in Bad news, Good news, harassment, Maleness of philosophy

I’m a male, but as far as I can tell my graduate education has been rather free of sexism, and usually when it occurs it comes from people outside the department or the occasional graduate student. I am sadden to realize how much of an anomaly my program is. Though I figured it might because of my undergrad experience (which took place in the last decade).

First, my undergraduate department was composed of three male philosophy professors. In the four years I was there, I don’t once remember a work of a female ever being assigned in any class taught by these men. When I brought this up to the attention of the professors, one told me that because he mostly taught ancient and early modern philosophy he shouldn’t be expected to teach women. The other two professors explained they had taught women before I was there, and planned to do so in the future (I guess just not in the four years I was there).

However, these last two professors were single and occasionally hit on or slept with female students. I don’t think they realized how toxic this made the department for *everyone*, but particularly for women. More than one woman experience anxiety about seeing these professors alone in office hours or generally socializing with them. And while none of these women had been hit on by these professors (I’m not sure they ever gave unwanted attention to students), it still created a climate that made it hard for women to interact with them in the same way that men could. I cannot emphasize enough the damage done to the trusts of all students by sleeping with only a few students. I also know the administration was informed, and no obvious actions were taken.

Comments are closed.