Unprofessional attention

Posted: November 20, 2010 by Jender in Do try this at home!, sexual harassment

I, a woman, have had my share of unprofessional attention in philosophy (all from male professors). One male professor claimed to be “in love” with me (he was married and I later learned that he told several female students the same things he told me). I asked him not to say those things to me, ever, but he continued to profess his “love” and “desires” for months. Another professor refused to talk to me (still hasn’t, half a decade later) after he made advances and I refused. This was especially devastating for me since I had taken many classes from him and thought we had a real philosophical connection.

I will echo what others have said: this undergraduate experience was a huge handicap, especially when evaluating my own work. I never knew if the praise I was getting was deserved or was for other reasons. I also began to think that the only way for me to be a good philosopher would be to pair myself with a male professor. I knew some women graduate students who had done this and subsequently done well in the profession.

But then, I was given the best advice I’ve ever gotten (incidentally, it was from a male professor). He said, “Don’t worry about them. They’re jerks, and they’re on the way out. Don’t ever let them stand between you and what you want to do.” Since then, interestingly, I haven’t encountered any overt sexism. I attribute this partly to my new graduate program (there are many more women here than there were at my previous institution) but I wouldn’t be surprised if I am less of a target because of my new attitude. I am glad I made it through my difficult undergraduate experience so that I can enjoy philosophy the way I do now.

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