Archive for the ‘trivialising women’ Category

1. I got engaged, and a senior male professor jokingly tells me not to “go getting pregnant now,” thinking he’s giving me good career advice. I’m pregnant the next year and have two kids before I finish my PhD, which I do in 6 years (earning two masters degrees along the way).

2. I’m at an international conference, out to drinks with some other students. One student goes on about how women can never be good at logic. I tell him he’s just plain wrong (telling him how I tutored two male students in my logic class because they couldn’t keep up as well as I could) and that ridiculous opinions like his do keep people from pursuing his specialty, to its detriment. As great as some of us ladies are, some of us would prefer never want to have to regularly socialize with asshats like him, even if it meant not pursuing logic as a specialty.

3. Same international conference, a senior person in my field casually tells me that I must be sleeping with my advisor. When I get angry and say hell-no, he tells me I protest too much, and that it must be true. I do not tell anyone about this for 3+ years, not even my spouse, because I am so upset that anyone would have the nerve to say something like this and, worse yet, that, if this douchebag has the nerve to say it, then others must think it is also true and believe that my only worth to my advisor is in my pants and not in my work or intellectual worth.

Thanks for the vent.

I was scheduled to be a speaker at a workshop in my area, which was canceled due to lack of funding. The conference organizer wrote this to me:

unfortunately for the only other workshop i have in mind the organizing theme is one where you won’t fit, but on the other hand for purely cynical political reasons i will need a token woman.

When I replied that I didn’t want to be his token anything and found his attitude disrespectful, he told me that the cancelled workshop

was 50% women, so if any of them were tokens they would have a hard time guessing this.

I tried one more time:

Yes, but please also don’t tell them shitty, undermining things. “I will need a token woman” is a rotten thing to say to somebody you want to come to your conferences. (Sometimes friends can say rotten things to each other as jokes, but that one definitely crossed a line.)

His reply?

sorry if you found the joke offensive, but that is the effect of the “gendered conference campaign” which it seems almost everybody but me thinks is a great idea.

I’m almost certainly not organizing any more conferences, thanks for your interest in participating in my nonexistent one.

Let me preface this by saying that I am truly grateful to all of the women and men who have made, and who continue to make, our discipline a more welcoming, inclusive, and equitable discipline. I consider myself honored to know and work with some amazing, supportive, philosophers. That said, we are not there yet. Things are not changing quickly enough. We, as philosophers and as human beings, should not tolerate anything less than equity any longer.

Ever since its inception, I have found this blog therapeutic. Many of the stories here comport all too well with my own experience. There is some comfort in knowing that I am not alone. I have been amazed, time and again, when colleagues and friends express surprise at the stories they find here. I am amazed that they do not realize similar things are happening in such close proximity to themselves. I am amazed that some of my colleagues—some of whom have, at times, behaved horrifically themselves—fail to recognize the inequality that is right in front of them.

I note this because I have myself been discriminated against, harassed, propositioned, excluded, talked over, disparaged, and so on. Many of my own colleagues either don’t know the details, or haven’t noticed events that have taken place right in front of them. They don’t realize that what might seem like one-off bad jokes, disrespectful comments, and offers of romantic and sexual interaction are just small pieces of a much larger pattern. They don’t realize the extent to which harassment, discrimination, and even assault take place within our discipline.

We tend to think the problems are someplace else. We tend to think our friends cannot possibly be part of the problem. We cannot possibly be part of the problem. Often, we are mistaken.

Philosophers: Take notice. Listen. Act. Please. These are not just anonymous stories on a blog. These are real people. Real lives. Real suffering. Sometimes your colleagues, and sometimes your friends.


Posted: March 30, 2013 by Jender in sexual innuendos, trivialising women

I am an undergraduate student of philosophy. I almost finish my last year.
Some months ago I was talking with another female classmate about a certain class. She was a close friend of professor of that class and told me what he thought about me.
I used to wear a lot of skirts, blouses and ribbons so he nicknamed me “Lolita”, I also participate a lot in class and colleagues of his think I am brilliant and dedicated. Well, not him.
He thought I was arrogant and pretentious, like an annoying little girl. That no one that young (20) and FEMALE should behave like that. Being tenacious and strong looks well on a man but makes a girl look hysterical.
He never hid his hatred for me and my grades were never excellent even when my texts were good.
Needless to say that a friend of mine, a man, who behave just like me was his favorite. It’s a shame he is one of the most brilliant minds in my college and an expert in the topics I’m interest in. Philosophical collaboration is being damaged with mysoginistic thought.


Posted: March 20, 2013 by Jender in trivialising women

I’m the author of this entry. While I can report that my life as a professional philosopher so far has been mostly positive, the fact that I am young female faculty (the two other female faculty members are more senior than I) often means that I am treated with much less respect than my colleagues.

I am teaching my first graduate seminar this semester, and I have a great group of grad students–both male and female–who participate actively in it. We read one of my papers on a new approach to solving a key problem in my area of specialization. One (male) student had an objection to my account, but it seemed that his worry was orthogonal to my main project.

When I explained how my account could sidestep his objection, he countered with what he thought was an illustration of his point… using an example involving my mother. He actually started his objection with “Does your mommy…”, before getting to his irrelevant point! There is not a single other faculty member to whom I could imagine he would possibly have taken this tone.

Because at this stage I had done so much mental eye-rolling and it was clear to the other students in the class that his objection was not on point, it was easy to move on without having to dwell on the issue. But the fact that it is almost a week after the incident, and I am writing about it here (and have considered writing about it for that long) suggests that maybe this is something I should have called out in class.

I am a female philosophy professor on a graduate admissions committee. This year I found the following sentences in a letter of recommendation for a female student:

“You will have to forgive a bit of political incorrectness, but I think it important. #### happens to be a beauty and enhances her fine looks with a careful attention to her grooming and clothes.”

Naturally, after recovering from my initial sense of shock that someone would put this in a recommendation letter, I tried hard to ignore the comment; it is plainly irrelevant to the applicant’s academic prospects. Yet I found that the comment was nevertheless infecting my evaluation the file: rather than taking the academic content of the letter seriously, I started thinking about whether the letter (as well as all the others) wasn’t as strong as it was just because of the student’s looks. More disturbingly, and for reasons that I find difficult to state, I also felt I was having a harder time taking the student’s own writing seriously, once her physical traits had been brought into the foreground.

I do hope that I ended up successfully overcoming whatever biases this comment introduced and that I judged the file fairly. Nevertheless, reflection both on the terrible judgment of the letter writer and my own involuntary reactions to it left me with a sense of despair.

I am a MA student in a competitive humanities graduate program at a prestigious university. Upon first discovering this blog I was absolutely shocked by the sheer scale of misogyny that is operating within undergraduate and graduate programs on both a national, and international level. Now, after spending the past seven months working within a graduate-level academic environment I can safely say that I am considerably less shocked.

On the first day of my program-mandated introductory philosophy seminar the professor asked that all class members choose a topic off of a compiled list that would serve as the basis for our final term presentation. Since no one else in my (all-male) class had chosen Marxist theory, I offered to structure my presentation around Marx’s conception of historical materialism. In response, my professor said that he thought that I would find Marxism, “too hard,” and that I should switch presentation days with a male member of my class so that I could present on an “easier topic.” This switch may have been justified if I were struggling in the class, but this was the first time I had ever met this professor and he had no basis upon which to evaluate my intellectual abilities.

A second incident occurred a few months into the program. During the Fall semester all MA’s and PhD’s within my program are required to apply to a variety of grants in the hopes that an external funding agency will back our proposed research projects. In order to meet the grant requirements, all students are required to submit two academic letters of reference. Since I was new in the department I decided to ask one of my seminar instructors if it would be possible for him to provide me with such a reference. He said that he would have no problem with writing me a letter, but he said that he would like to have a beer with me later on during the week to discuss my research interests further (which would presumably help him to write a better letter of support). The night after meeting with this faculty member I received an email from him saying that he found my research interests “sexy” and would enjoy hearing more about my work at a later date.

Finally, at the end of the Fall semester my supervisor suggested that I meet with a faculty member working within another department, as he was working on a similar topic and would be able to provide me with some in-depth feedback on a paper that I had recently written. The meeting started out really well, with the faculty member providing me with a useful critique of my latest work. He ended the meeting on a different note however, saying that since he had done something for me, “would I be willing to do something for him in return?” After shifting uncomfortably in my seat for a few minutes he ended the conversation by saying “nevermind” and looking away. I left our meeting shortly after, saying that I was running late and had to catch a train.

Although my experiences are not as extreme as those mentioned by other female contributors, I do feel as though they are examples of sexist acts, and that members of academic communities should be taking action against chauvinism in all of its forms.