What is expected of a female philosopher

Posted: March 19, 2012 by Jender in but surely you do feminist philosophy, failure to take women seriously, ignoring women

My boyfriend and I are both graduate students in philosophy, and time and again, when we meet other male grad students—at conferences or workshops or dinners, etc.—they ask him what he works on and quickly get into a conversation, and either ignore me, or dont ask me the same questions about my academic interests.

Another feature of meeting male peers is that they keep assuming I work on feminist philosophy. A few years back, I ran into a a guy who consistently engaged my boyfriend, and we got to talking. And he mentioned something about my “work in feminist philosophy.” I dont work in feminist philosophy, although I have worked on female philosophers (I cant recall if I mentioned that). But at least a handful of times, male peers assume that my focus is on feminist philosophy.

And this is frustrating for two reasons: 1) it shows they havent actually listened, if they ever asked, to what I said I worked on. And 2) it puts me in a position where I feel like the attribution of an interest in feminist philosophy is something I have to deny, or get defensive about. I am defensive because I resent their assumption that women only work on “women’s issues.” And I resent that I then have to distance myself from feminist work, which I worry makes it seem like I am putting that work down.

The worst part is that these are usually male colleagues that take themselves to inhabit progressive, even feminist perspectives. And yet their behavior everywhere suggests that if they take notice of a female philosopher at all, they assume that her only contribution will be to their (already proudly ingrained) feminist views. Ugh.

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