Male athletes and philosophy

Posted: January 19, 2013 by Jender in Maleness of philosophy

When I was in graduate school, there were a lot of fellow male graduate students who interacted with male faculty members at the university gym by playing handball, squash, or other sports. Back then these men all also smoked, sporting pipes or cigars—yes, classes were very “atmospheric” in that time. There was an unofficial entrée into group membership through this “jock” route that was just not open to female grad students, although we did have one member of our group who competed well, and was well-regarded, in squash. These men also regularly exchanged stories about which TA or professor was bonking which attractive undergraduate.

The pattern continued when I was a junior faculty member at a place where the men prided themselves on various athletic accomplishments—at this time it happened to be swimming and diving. Again, one female faculty member managed to “fit in” to the group by being a triathelte. I have never been into sports or athletics, and always sort of felt that males in philosophy were more or less trying to prove an already lost cause by showing how masculine they could be at sports. Now, I find myself in a department where male faculty members and graduate students bond over softball, soccer, and other sports activities, once more leaving the women out. I hate to be a wet blanket and criticize these nice forms of exercise and friendship, but when by chance or reason of taste, habit, and also particular abilities/disabilities, such activities and get-togethers serve to leave out the women grad students and faculty members, what is to be done? It just won’t do of course to organize women’s needlework groups, but the fact of the matter is, I can’t do sports for reasons of my personal physical limitations, and I actually find them distasteful. I don’t begrudge the men their fun, but it simply never seems to occur to them that their soccer and beer times together DO create a male club that excludes women. Even though I am in a position of authority, I feel once more I simply can’t cope with what I personally regard as somewhat silly and exclusionary activities. Even if a couple of women junior faculty or grad students do turn out to want to join in, why should sports activities be such a crucial means of bonding for the profession of philosophy?

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