The wrong attitude toward name choices

Posted: September 1, 2015 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

I got married and adopted my husband’s last name. Since then, a half-dozen “feminist” philosophers (both men and women) have commented on my name. Not a single one of them had anything nice to say. I’ve often been made to feel that I betrayed feminism and women in philosophy by getting married to a man, and made things even worse by taking his name and living in a somewhat traditional marriage (I currently work only part-time and am the primary caregiver in our home). It’s as though they feel sorry for me, like a victim of domestic violence who returns to her attacker or something, and I hate that feeling. I wish philosophers were more open-minded towards marriage of all kinds.

The only other woman has been dead 125 years

Posted: August 27, 2015 by jennysaul in Uncategorized

First day of first metaphysics philosophy class..

The next semester will be me, seating round table with 16 males, exploring the relationship between fiction and philosophy, beginning with a reading of Middlemarch.

The only other woman in this class has been dead 125 years!

I recently presented a paper on a panel at a national conference. I was happy to get on the panel because it was related to a growing interdisciplinary field which I’d like to incorporate into my research. So I went with the aim of making some new connections in this field.

One of the other panelists (a male grad student) expressed interest in my paper, and offered several helpful comments during the question period. After the session, he gave me his email and asked me to contact him to discuss the paper further and to talk about co-writing a paper with him. I am not particularly interested in co-writing (especially with people I don’t know), but since I am trying to make connections in this field, I decided to contact him.

He responded by writing that of course he remembered me from the conference; how could he forget someone who was so beautiful? And also who presented an interesting paper (though this read like an afterthought). He then said that he really knew I was beautiful because he is gay and therefore could not simply be flattering me. He said he’d be too busy to discuss work until the fall but would like to skype to “get to know me better.”

I felt demeaned and objectified. Even though I know better, I started wondering what I had worn during the presentation and if I had worn something different if he would have said the same thing.

I am a female Professor of Philosophy, married with two children, in a university on the East coast.
20 years ago, I was on a tenure-track in the philosophy department of a Midwestern university. At 40, I became pregnant with our second child. The Department was having its annual end-of-the-year party. The chair, about 10 years my senior, asked me into his office before joining the party. Once behind closed doors, he began expressing doubts about my progress toward promotion. I was surprised because I had above-average publication, teaching and service qualifications–at least as measured by the standards of that university. When I kept defending my record and expressing optimism about my prospects, he blurted out, indicating my swollen belly: ‘I just don’t think THAT is a very good idea.’
I admit, I was stunned by the inappropriateness,gall and sheer arrogance of that statement. But philosophy, the art of conceptual distinction, came to my rescue. I told the ‘gentleman’: ‘This isn’t an idea at all. It is a conception.’ I left the department (with tenure) two years later.

A hellish nightmare from beginning to end

Posted: July 28, 2015 by Jender in Uncategorized

My experience at an MA program was a hellish nightmare from beginning to end.  I hesitate to say more for fear of further retaliation.  I just want to caution those of you out there who are thinking about coming forward to report sexual predators.  Expect your department to turn on you; expect your department to retaliate against you.  Expect to be bad mouthed at every PhD program to which you apply.  Expect to lose your committee.  Expect to lose your letter writers.  Expect your department to withdraw all support from you.  Expect to become persona non grata.  Expect to be de facto barred from all opportunities in your department.  Expect to be gas-lighted.  Expect people to be thrilled to watch your fall from grace.  And, then, when you succeed, against all odds, and despite the prodigious efforts of your department to the contrary, through sheer force of will and talent, expect your department to exploit your success at every opportunity.  Expect to watch as your success is used to further the career of the predator.  Expect them to ignore your pleas to stop.  Expect this.

I was participating in an intensive research seminar and had a brief opportunity to meet with its accomplished, distinguished director. I was excited and nervous to discuss my project-in-progress. One of the first bits of feedback he gave me was that I would “make a good mother.” Although a significant compliment, on its face, it seemed a deeply problematic way of communicating that I shouldn’t continue on in philosophy, and it made me consider the professional costs of things I especially value about myself: empathy, kindness, intellectual humility. I said, “Thank you. I think so, too,” although I’d known for a long time that motherhood was not in my future.

Not a good feeling

Posted: May 14, 2015 by jennysaul in Maleness of philosophy

I’m a graduate student in a very supportive department for women. We have an above average number of female faculty and about average number of female graduate students. We have an active climate committee and some women-only events in the department.
I was recently at a department talk. The talk was in the subfield I’m most interested in, which has somewhat lower rates of women than the discipline generally. There were about 25 people at the talk, and about 7 of whom were women (I hope I’m not the only one who always counts when I’m in a room with philosophers). But by the middle of the Q&A, I was the only woman in the room, with at least 10 men left.
I do feel lucky, because this isn’t something that happens to me every day. But when I realized that I was the only woman, my stomach just dropped. It’s hard for me to place exactly why I felt so acutely uncomfortable in that moment. I was suddenly so aware of my femaleness in a way that I rarely am. I hope I don’t often experience that same situation and accompanying feeling, but I can be quite sure it will happen again at some point.