Take action!

Posted: November 5, 2010 by Jender in Uncategorized

Three cheers to the posts from men philosophers stating a commitment to assisting the creation of a healthy environment for women in philosophy. For me, I reserve the title of “male feminist” to those men who are willing to break the male bond publicly and speak up in a mixed gender setting when a sexist comment or behavior occurs that demeans a woman student or faculty member. This is quite rare and quite difficult to do, indeed, but it would make a turning point, I believe.

Women in repugnantly misogynistic departments, grad students, recent alumns and faculty, can do what six of us did in the early 90s: file a hostile environment claim against the department. We won. As part of our negotiated settlement, the department has also been required to at all times have a senior, full professor feminist philosopher on staff. This has been very, very helpful in turning the attitude of the department altogether toward a mostly feminist friendly one. We also changed the state law limiting the amount of time one could file a sexual harassment claim, extending 60 days to 180 days.

I myself was the fourth woman in 35 years to earn a Ph.D. in Philosophy in this department but since then, numerous women have finished and are teaching around the United States. Being nice and agreeable does not seem to produce necessary change. If the concern is jeopardizing one’s possible career, there are protections in (United States) law for that, namely prohibition against retaliation. In fact, the women involved finished their Ph.D.s.

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