Public ridicule based on abstract

Posted: July 13, 2011 by Jender in feminism isn't philosophy

When I was a tenured Associate Professor with one monograph out and another forthcoming, I was invited to speak at a university in capital city X. My female host sent out my talk title, abstract, and an invitation to attend to a list-serv for everyone interested in Philosophy-in-X. The talk was from the forthcoming book (to be published with Impeccable Credential University Press Z) on a topic in feminist philosophy, and included reference to a pop cultural example. In response to the posting, Famous Male Philosopher Y sent a message to all subscribers saying (pompously) that he thought my abstract was a joke, that such rubbish lowered the tone for all philosophers, and that he hoped no such further nonsense would be advertised. My host forwarded that message to me; I still don’t really understand why. I wondered if she too wanted me to ante up and give a “real philosophy” talk, as opposed to the bullshit I had proposed? We corresponded about what to do if Y turned up and started haranguing me. In the end, only a few people attended the talk anyway, almost all students, they were a perfectly decent audience, and I realized too late how totally throwaway Y’s posting had been. But I lost sleep over it for weeks, and seriously considered canceling the talk. (Y has been in the news a lot lately, trumpeting the cause of excellence and fairness in higher education.)

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