I’m sick of feeling like an imposter in this discipline, and I’m sick of having to work twice as hard as all the guys to get even roughly comparable marks, and I’m sick of being told I should be grateful for tiny changes. So I have some questions I need answered.
Why do I have to sit in a class on [topic removed] listening to people defend a rapist? Why do middle aged, middle class, white men in philosophy think they have the epistemic authority to moralise about gendered violence? Why isn’t their attempt to justify rape acknowledged to be as threatening as it is?
How come my lecturer thinks it’s acceptable to advance the idea that there shouldn’t be protocols against faculty-student relationships when we literally *just* read a book about a professor who rapes his student? How come he thinks it’s okay to do this in a philosophy classroom, knowing full well that philosophy is the worst discipline for sexual harassment and assault of female students by male faculty?
Why do I have to feel afraid or intimidated of potential supervisors or lecturers? Why are there still so many instances of harassment and assault against women in philosophy departments and why does no one seem to care? Why do I have female classmates who start grad school with the expectation that they’ll be harassed? And why is it so heartbreaking to hear them confess that they’re worried they’re unattractive when they’re *not* hit on? How warped is that?
Why do I have to research PhD positions based on an entirely different set of criteria to men? How come I don’t get to apply to departments based on potential supervisors or ranking? How come I have to make sure I pick a department that has philosophers of my gender working in it? How come I have to make sure I pick a department where no male faculty have been investigated for sexual misconduct?
Is it any wonder that male students are getting better marks than me when I’m working a day job on top of this degree to survive? As well as the domestic and emotional labour that comes with my gender? And if my marks suffer as a result, how am I supposed to compete for funding to even make it to grad school?
Why do I have to fight so hard for every little thing, like getting rid of the title ‘Philosopher King’ for the president of the Philosophy Club? Why is it so hard for others to accept gender neutral language? If we can’t even do that, in a student club, how are we going to increase women’s representation in the discipline?
If academic philosophy is as competitive as Olympic level sports, like my supervisor says, how come men get away with performance enhancing drugs and I don’t? Why am I treated differently? Why don’t I get mentoring, and extra help, and networking opportunities?
How come when I ask for things, like tutoring assignments, or comments on my work, I get made to feel like I’m too aggressive or pushy or demanding (when I even *get* a response), but when male students do it they’re motivated go-getters?
How come when I try to talk in in class and give arguments I’m called ‘too emotional’ instead of passionate? Why do men think it’s okay to talk over me? How come I get interrupted not only by classmates but *by my own students?* How come people don’t take me seriously as a philosopher when I have good marks and extracurriculars to back me up?
If this is one of the better departments, how come I had to set up a society for women in philosophy? How come we still only have three women in the faculty? If this is a good department, what’s grad school going to look like?
But most of all, if I’m a good student, and a good tutor, and have the potential to be a good philosopher, how come I have to keep asking myself the question men never have think about; whether I should even stay in philosophy at all?
Archive for the ‘lack of mentoring’ Category
After all the ups-and-downs, ins-and-outs, rough-and-tumble politics of a graduate career, as a “woman of color” (a term which I despise, but for which no adequate substitute really exist), the final nail was hammered into the coffin of my philosophical aspirations just over two years ago. My Ph.D. program expelled me, under the thin veneer of academic failure. Internal appeals failed me, and the prospect of pursuing external appeals through various deans and administrators, even should they succeed, seemed to exhausting to consider. As information about how other (white, male) graduate students were treated, it became clear to me that had I received even slightly comparable consideration and treatment, I would have been able to finish. No one will ever admit my expulsion had to do with race or gender, and indeed, there is a very good story about why I was expelled and department policies. On paper, it is all legitimate. The story completely fails to explain why white, male students were not subject to the letter of the law, and given chances I was not owed. The message was clear: THEY can fuck up frequently and continue, but YOU are always a fuck-up and we will run you out.
There was definitely a grieving process. After all, a Ph.D. in Philosophy had been my singular objective for more or less a decade – my entire adult life, at the time. I organized my life around, I made my choices to reflect it. It occupied a significant portion of my emotional life. It defined, in part, who I thought I was.
That was, as I said, about two years ago. As life moved on, my life changed form. Though employed as a philosophy professor at a community college, and, thus, technically a professional philosopher, I began to mentally disassociate myself from the profession. I no longer identify as a professional philosopher. When, in social settings, someone says, “You are a philosopher?” my joking response is to say, “Shhh! Don’t tell anyone!” and promptly change the subject. Rather than regularly checking blogs, I wandered onto them only occasionally – sometimes realizing months had passed since I’d visited them (once a daily activity) – and then only in some sort cathartic rubber-necking type moments. I signed off of email lists and gave away books (well, not all of them, but a lot of them). I stopped listening to philosophy podcasts, and gradually eliminated all but a few philosophers from my social life. The ones who are still in my life are people with whom I, as a stringent rule, never discuss the profession or philosophy at all, except as a passing remark here and there.
I became involved in legislative advocacy for higher education in my state (so I still deal with plenty of, uhm, colorful behavior). I subscribed to the local symphony. I went to hear bands and traveled to places where I wasn’t going to conferences. I made friends who are artists and real estate agents and accountants and school teachers and chefs and most definitely not philosophers.
I realized recently that I was happier than I had been in years. In fact, I was happier than I had been since I first started taking philosophy classes as an undergrad. This realization was both joyous – that I had recovered from such a brutal and unfair ending to my hopes and ambitions – and melancholy – that something, which I had loved so much and brought me so much joy when I first encountered it, had been reduced, through the racist and sexist actions of its principle advocates – to a increasingly distant memory that is better banished from my life.
I wonder how many people out there feel the same way.
I recently returned from a conference at which I encountered the most contentious member of my dissertation committee. This fellow delayed my defense by 1) not reading my dissertation until the day before my originally scheduled defense date and 2) threatening to fail me if my defense date was not pushed back. My original defense date was cancelled the night before I was supposed to defend. This caused me to be a graduate student for an additional summer term. Because he was in Europe for the summer, he did not get around to reading the chapters of my dissertation relevant to his interests until late summer. This caused me to be a graduate student for an additional fall term. He did not actually read my revisions or my other chapters until late in the fall term, at which point I finally mustered the courage to say to him, enough is enough. I was allowed to defend late in the fall term, but lost a job as a result.
I count the interaction at this last conference as a win. Yes, he did approach me in a thinly veiled contentious manner, but I managed to avoid any private interaction for the most part. It is unfortunate that I have to do this, but one of my other committee members recommended this approach to him, complete avoidance in the profession, after my defense. I will not be able to avoid him completely, but I can certainly avoid any private interaction with him.
In the not-so-distant past, I wrote a dissertation on a relatively “hot” topic in philosophy of X. My adviser, who was not in residence at my grad-institution the year I defended, offered only minimal support during my “dissertating” (though other (male) members of my department went *way* beyond the call of duty (e.g. reading and commenting on multiple drafts, revisions, etc.) to support me while I wrote).
A couple of years after I defended and had gotten a TT job at a SLAC, my “adviser” published a monograph on my dissertation topic, but he did not cite (or acknowledge) my work. A couple of years after that, he edited a volume on the same topic I wrote on, but did not invite me to contribute.
It is true, I am not running in R1 circles, but I have had a steady stream of (low rent) publications. I have found it very hard to keep up with Philosophy of X at my SLAC with a heavy teaching and service load. Meanwhile, as part of my review process, I am suppose to show how I have been influential in my field. Seriously? I am a woman in M&E at a SLAC in the south. Puh-leez!
It has been some time now since I finished my PhD, and I am trying to break into another area of philosophy that may be more welcoming to me.
I was on the job market this year. I was told (more than once) by our placement director that if I got a job that would show that “the department should admit more female grad students.” Nothing was said of my abilities or accomplishments.
I submitted this earlier post about mentoring. I can’t believe it, but it just happened again. We’ve got two tenure-track people starting next year, one man and one woman. We were recently wrangling over our reduced budget, trying to decide where to direct resources, and several times the department chair asked a male colleague to check with our incoming man to see what speakers he’ll want to invite next year, what conferences he wants to go to, etc. These two men work in the same area, so it was pretty clear that the more senior person was being asked to informally mentor the more junior one. After several of these requests I finally spoke up and asked if anyone was going to do the same thing for the incoming woman. The chair looked surprised and said, “Oh. I don’t know. Could you take care of that?” So I guess I’m her mentor. But if I hadn’t said anything, she would have received none of this support, and I don’t think anyone would have noticed that they had forgotten about her.