I am currently the only female graduate student in philosophy at a quite well-renowned European university. A while ago a fellow student of mine (male) had an appointment with my supervisor (also male), who had read and commented on a text of his. They do not know each other, and my friend was a bit nervous about the meeting. To cheer him up, I said something like “don’t worry, XXXXX always delivers his critics in a decent way”, whereby my “friend” looked at me and said: “yeah… But you know, I think the difference here is that I’m male and you’re female. XXXXX is probably not criticising your work as hard as he would if you weren’t a girl”.
Archive for the ‘women have it easy’ Category
When I was in graduate school one semester we noticed some odd classes taught by an unfamiliar prof, so we asked who this new person was. After doing a little investigating, the two professors we asked determined that he was a prof from another department who had been accused, and was found guilty by the university, of sexual harassing a student. Apparently one of the terms of his punishment was that he couldn’t teach in his home department for some set period of time while the victim was finishing her degree. So upper administration shipped him off to Philosophy and our (male) Chair accepted him knowing his history and allowed him to teach. Needless to say, all the female grads students were very unhappy to know we were in a department that would willingly accept a known harasser.
I should add that the professors who did the investigating were not happy he was allowed to teach in Philosophy and were very annoyed that as senior-level members of the department they didn’t know what was going on until they started to ask questions. Of course, there may have been pressure from upper administration to accept him, but there’s a huge difference between accepting it under pressure (and letting people know what’s going on) and willing accepting it.
But, to add a little more context, this was also a department where male grad students casually slammed the female faculty as “psychotic feminists” or “of riding their husband’s coattails” in front of everyone and blasted their fellow female grad students who received more APA interviews than them as “just getting Affirmative Action interviews, but there won’t be an offer because she’s not good enough”. And the real kicker, this happed in a department that was typically classified as feminist-friendly. Sigh.
This earlier story was from me.
This year I am reapplying to graduate programs in philosophy. Two of my former professors who are writing recommendations for me have independently told me that my chances of being admitted should be very good because of affirmative action (apparently they think programs didn’t notice I was female last year, but they are sure to this year). One professor has mentioned this to me several times just in the last month. The next time one of them brings it up, I would really like to say something like, “Food poisoning feels delightful! Oh, I’m sorry. I thought we were asserting claims that experience should lead us to believe are false.” Of course I won’t, because I would rather they not be irritated with me when they write my recommendations.
On the bright side, I mentioned this to one of my other recommenders, also male, whose response was, “It’s a good reminder that even the brightest of us sometimes have truly idiotic thoughts.”
In my last undergraduate year, a senior woman philosopher told me that if I was considering applying to Phd programs, I should apply to Harvard. The reason being that I had a double-standard on me – being a woman and Asian. Harvard likes diversity. And in virtue of me being both a woman and Asian, my chances of getting into Harvard would be very, very good. …
What I’m angry about today
I’ve seen a number of posts on this blog and elsewhere from women worrying that some of their advancement has come “because they are women.” And I get that. Especially when so many of our experiences already seem designed to make us wonder whether we belong here.
But for god’s sake, given the overwhelming evidence that women (among others) are systematically: dissuaded from pursuing philosophy; excluded from the kinds of (often informal) discussions where much serious training occurs; dismissed or ignored when they formulate arguments without bombast, and derided or censured when they formulate arguments sharply… given all this, why on Earth aren’t male philosophers worrying that some of their own professional advancement has come because they are male?
If the women’s concern is any legitimate reason for worrying about having affirmative action, it seems to me that the state of the discipline is a much stronger reason for worrying about *not* having affirmative action. And “affirmative action” here has to mean far more than a token effort to consider women in hiring before dismissing them. It has to mean really engaging, at all levels of training and hiring, with the full set of forces that push women out of philosophy, and thinking hard about the role our “meritocratic” judgments play in that process. Personally, I care much more about the thoughtfulness and openness with which people approach those questions than about whether I agree with the particular institutional solution they settle on.
I am currently a female graduate student in a top 10 philosophy department. One fellow graduate student in my year, who is male, regularly asks whether I will be “partying” on the weekends. He appears to be trying to make good-natured small-talk and be humorous, but I really resent the implication that I don’t spend the weekends, like him and all the other ABD grad students, working on and agonizing over my dissertation.
He also regularly suggests in conversation that my life is much more pleasant than his. When I ask him why he thinks that, one of the first reasons he lists is that I have a boyfriend. As if having a partner made my life simple and pleasant! When I point out that at least his dissertation is almost complete, he seems to be surprised that I even mention this – as if he can’t understand why I would be envious of such a thing.
I am a first year MA student in a reasonably well-respected department. I love it, so far, despite being overwhelming in the minority as a woman. However, I recently asked a fellow student about what a professors expectations were with regard to written work. I have been having a difficult time reading this professor and discerning what he thinks about my contributions to classroom discussion. I was told, “Oh, you don’t have to worry about so-and-so’s class. You’re a woman, so they want to keep you, so just write whatever you want.”
I had a rough senior year of college; my GPA suffered; I want to do really well academically, to prove that I belong in grad school. That comment did not help my confidence or give me any sort of direction for the paper.