More classic worries about affirmative action

Posted: November 1, 2010 by Jender in women are tokens

At my school, we have a lecture series, and in the early years, the Committee Chair noted at a meeting that the next speaker had to be a woman because so far no women had been invited that year. Of course, the speaker’s work had to be good, but the main attribute was that she be a female! The speaker we subsequently invited did not know this was the reason she was invited, of course, but as others on this blog have wondered: is it morally appropriate to invite a speaker because she is a woman, or to pubish her article, or book, or to invite her to a conference, for the same reason? Or to teach the work of women philosophers purely because you want women philosophers represented? To select work based on the gender of the author? Like it or not, these practices attach a stigma to our work, and a male philosopher once said to me: “is your success in your field mainly due to the fact that you are a woman, or is is nothing to do with the fact that you are a woman.” (He was wondering why I got invited to be on an editorial board and he did not.) I realized later that I don’t know the answer; I know (or think) I am good, but how much of what I have achieved of far was, like the speaker we invited that year, due to my gender?

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