Feminist philosophers behaving badly

Posted: November 3, 2010 by Jender in Uncategorized

When I was a graduate student in the 1990s, I was in a graduate program that was quite strong in feminist philosophy as well as my area of interest, which was different than (though of course not opposed to) feminist philosophy. I quickly found a number of supportive mentors and peers among the graduate students, all of whom were men since there were no other female graduate students in my area. Of course, I could have been friends with the feminist philosophers, but they really didn’t want to have anything to do with me. No one was mean or rude to me, but I was treated as an oddity. I think the other women didn’t understand why I was interested in the subject that I was interested in. One of the female graduate students was different from the others, though. She wanted to do feminist philosophy, but her beliefs were different from those of the rest of the group. On multiple occasions, I witnessed her being subject to hostile verbal attacks from the rest of the group, and where I was mostly ignored and left alone, she was actively shunned. I did my best to reach out to her, but she was frustrated with the program and ultimately left.

All of this left me — someone who had always considered herself a feminist — with a very bad taste in her mouth when it came to feminist philosophy. It has been a long, slow process of trying to come to terms what happened in graduate school, and to feel comfortable calling myself a feminist again. But as I try to do that, I find myself shut out, yet again. It turns out that many societies, awards, grants, etc. that are ostensibly for women are actually for feminists only (and I am finding out this is true outside of philosophy as well). As a female philosopher who doesn’t do feminist philosophy, I feel as though there is nowhere I truly belong — since I am subject to many of the same explicit and implicit biases as other women, I am not fully at home with either my male colleagues or many of my female colleagues.

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