Archive for the ‘not believing women’ Category

Seeing the recent post about “Problems with Confucianism” reminded me of various levels of hypocrisy that I see male colleagues get away with, including a male colleague who claims to be a feminist.

Soon after meeting him, I disagreed with said male colleague on a matter within my AOS and he told me that I just think that because of my educational background.

He said something horrible to a student, and in his defense, to me, of this issue, he mentioned an incident in which he told a woman reading another work he disliked that she was “going through a phase.” He seemed surprised that she had been offended by this patronizing comment.

Same colleague has had several complaints from women in his courses, who do not feel respected, to the point that they seek help from other professors, or drop his class, or try to switch into another section, even well past mid-term or in situations when it could hurt their grade. I am leaving out several incidents that are hard to explain while keeping it anonymous, but I fear he is both classist and an in-denial misogynist.

He goes as far as to make claims about what should be taught in my AOS, which he has no experience in. My chair, who is otherwise great, seems to agree with his claims. What do I know, I am just a woman (a woman with a PhD in that AOS, who apparently knows less about what is important and relevant than a man who works in a completely unrelated area).

Okay, sexism is not new.

But here’s the rub: he discusses inclusivity frequently both publicly and in the department, and takes it upon himself to make others feel that they are not doing enough.

It makes me so angry that, frequently enough, women, people of color and others from underrepresented backgrounds are just expected to promote diversity and inclusion, without praise. But a man is praised for his awesome behaviour when he even claims to be for X, Y, or Z. Words seem to speak louder than actions and it makes me ill.

He is actively making me feel unwelcome, and undervalued, and yet he is viewed as a “good person.”

I am untenured and have no voice. He might just get his way and push me out, perhaps he can get another white male “feminist” from a privileged background to enter the department in my stead and further his “cause.”

I lose sleep over his behaviour and what it does for women at my university, what it says about philosophy, about my department. He gets kudos. I feel defeated.

I feel stuck and saddened, and yes, grateful to have a position at all, and an ability to try to counteract the damage that he inflicts. Nonetheless, the hypocrisy has wounded me deeply. My sense of powerlessness, while familiar, is even harder to express since he is viewed as “one of the good guys.”

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 don’t want to go into too many details because I suspect the people I’m referencing read this blog. I’m a female graduate student currently, and my department is attempting to address a number of problems associated with climate. It’s just so frustrating to have faculty ask me for advice on what to do, at the expense of my own comfort in the department, and then not listen to what I say. It’s even more frustrating when they then turn around and ask me to do extra work to help them, because I’m “important” and “knowledgeable.” If I’m so knowledgeable, shouldn’t they believe me when I tell them about problems with climate? It’s disappointing to be here, especially since I know that it’s likely nothing will ever happen to make this department more welcoming to future female (and other minority) students.


Posted: October 7, 2010 by Jender in not believing women

I posted the link to this blog on my facebook page. I promptly had two conversations with men who suggested that the negative stories must be old ones, since surely there is not much sexism in philosophy these days.