Not fluffy after all

Posted: April 16, 2011 by Jender in Uncategorized

Here’s my experience with the stereotype of feminist philosophy as “fluffy”: One of my specialties is feminist philosophy, and I’ve also taught women’s studies courses. I know feminist philosophy and women’s studies have reputations for being easy, but I don’t teach “bird” courses. I didn’t take them when I was an undergrad — I thought they were a waste of time — so I don’t teach them either. Students keep amazing me by doing excellent work, so I keep challenging them to be more amazing.

Some years back, one of my colleagues in the history department told me that “the word on the street” was that I was the toughest professor in the College of Arts. Sometime after this the university’s in-house magazine did a story called “Tough profs and why their students love them.” The writer interviewed one professor from each college, and each of us was photographed. When the article came out, my picture was on the magazine cover, and the article began by discussing one of my classes. It was quite amusing watching my male colleagues’ difficulty in reconciling my “fluffy” philosophical interests with my “tough prof” reputation. Fortunately, those old geezers have now retired, the department has hired several more women, and most of my younger male colleagues don’t share the old boys’ prejudices about feminist philosophy.

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