Dear Mr X

Posted: November 5, 2010 by Jender in But surely you're male

There have been a number of stories recently regarding the use of male pronouns to refer to anonymous authors. This story is a little different.

I applied to PhD programs within the last five years. I knew what I wanted to write about for my dissertation, but the topic could have been controversial or frowned upon by some philosophers. So I wrote letters to faculty members at the top 20 or 30 institutions who work in the area and asked each whether I could successfully pursue the project in their departments. Fully 50 percent of those faculty members who responded to my letters assumed I was a man and addressed them to “Dear Mr. X.” I am a woman, and although I have an unusual first name, I have known other women with the name, but no other men. I find it alarming that when in doubt, the assumption is still that philosophy PhD candidates are male.

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