On the need for women to work together

Posted: January 12, 2013 by Jender in difficulty of problems

I’m a female grad student who organizes events in my local philosophical and surrounding community for other women, carrying on a tradition at my university that existed long before my time there. While we are not one of the worst universities, and have even for a few moments been among the best, for feminism and recognition of women’s contributions to philosophy, our numbers have recently tipped toward the usual balance and some women in our department are now feeling isolated and alone. My dilemma is that my efforts to organize events for these women and their fellow community members have been resisted by some of the very women who feel most alone. Feeling alone and overwhelmed, especially the grad students (who also are more outnumbered than the female faculty are here) tend to feel they don’t have the time or the confidence or the social skills (or something!) they need to become part of a new group, or to engage with a group of males who can be aggressive and unwelcome. And, I understand what it’s like to feel as though the best thing to do is put your head down and work as hard as you can on your philosophy to beat the bias. But, when women who are overwhelmed isolate themselves, they also isolate other women – like organizers of events meant to counter such loneliness, or like fellow female grad students who are left alone with the men because their colleagues resist joining them at department events. It takes consistent and even counter-intuitive effort to keep going to events we may not even enjoy, to respond to invitations and to make the time for others who make the time for us, but if no one does this then groups like the one I’m trying to carry forward will disappear, and future women in philosophy will have even less resources to help them get through it and make it better. It’s not enough to say it’s great that someone else is doing something to make it better.

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