Am I making sense?

Posted: October 26, 2010 by Jender in failure to take women seriously, Maleness of philosophy, self-doubt

Within the last 10 years I was the only female participant in a reading group in core areas of philosophy. In the beginning I contributed frequently. My comments were often dismissed. It was also not uncommon for a person I was addressing to claim to not understand what I was saying. Rephrasing didn’t always help. I remember thinking that my comments seemed perfectly coherent and clear to me. One or two other members of the group also did not have a problem with understanding my points. It seemed that I was the only person this was happening to. Another thing that happened frequently is that my comments would be misconstrued to mean something much more rudimentary than what I was actually saying. I want to add that the people in the group were all very bright philosophers and I personally doubt that they were not capable of understanding my points. There were several consequences of all of this for me. One was that I couldn’t help but wonder whether I was actually being coherent and making valid points. I received some reassurance from the fact that some present seemed to understand me perfectly well and took the points I made to be important. At least they acted as if they did. Another consequence was that I started contributing much less frequently. I felt it wasn’t worth it to contribute because it was too frustrating. My self-doubt also did not help here. Moreover, I thought that the experience could end up doing me more harm than good. I considered not attending at one point but in the end I continued to attend and remain mostly silent in the hope that I would learn something by listening.

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