Students in Women’s Studies Classes, and Perceptions of Feminist Philosophy

Posted: November 13, 2010 by Jender in feminism isn't philosophy

I am a female philosopher, and I completed my undergraduate degree in Philosophy in Europe (in the 2000s). In the post “What we’re up against: One man’s view of women who do feminist philosophy”, a male philosopher expresses his sentiments about feminist philosophy. He is harshly criticized by some later (male) posters, one of whom calls the original post “insane”. I’d like to add my two cents. I haven’t been in contact with feminist philosophers or feminist philosophy since I’ve come to the U.S., but at my undergraduate institution, they sometimes offered undergraduate classes in philosophy or literature that were cross-listed with gender studies. I and many of my friends, after attending a few of those seminars, carefully avoided these classes after a while. Being philosophy majors, we were used to being able to have a rational discussion about pretty much anything, and we took it as a given that no claim would be accepted without good reasons. Arguing in this way in those classes was made impossible by some of the students of gender studies. They were easily upset, and rather than offering arguments for their views, they claimed that the person who was challenging their views was trying to offend them. If a professor tried to discourage them from arguing in this way, they accused the professor of being anti-feminist. This is not to say that there is anything wrong with feminist philosophy as a discipline, or that most people working in feminist philosophy are like the students I described. However, from my experiences as an undergraduate, I have gained the impression that gender studies/feminist philosophy seems to attract certain types of problematic students, who are very vocal and leave a bad impression.

It is very unfortunate, though, when a few black sheep are taken to be representative of all feminist philosophers, like in the example of the post mentioned above.

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