Indeed, the blog was quite interesting. About half way through, I found myself thinking 2 things: 1) This seems to me to be a very typical problem for America, not just for philosophy, and 2) Who cares about what other people (and men opposing women in philosophy in particular) think? If they put up barriers for us women, I guess we will just have to bulldoze the way! (Much like our mothers did).
The best and worst thing about being a woman, period, is that we have to work extra hard to prove that we are equal, or just as good. The benefit of that is that we do get a better education and a vast knowledge of anything we undertake. The downside is that when we fall, because we represent more than just ourselves, we take all the rest of the women with us. I think this may, in fact, be the case with all minority groups. Being looked down upon comes with a certain responsibility.
Before I comment on Brogaard’s blog specifically, I have to make a few comments about my experience as a female undergraduate at UNF, heading to the phil grad program. I am not under the impression (yet) that UNF suffers from the same problems that are mentioned on the blog. I find that my male professors have been fair and equal in their treatment of the women in the classes I have attended. I feel that I have been treated in a very respectful manner and I think that not only my male professors value my opinions, but also by my male student peers. I certainly hope that I was admitted into the graduate program because of my credentials and the value I can bring to the department, not because the board of admissions felt they ‘had to’ to satisfy some equal opportunity act.
It seems to me that most of the female professors are incredibly skilled and do not seem to hold anything back when it comes to asserting themselves in discussions. I should know more about that as I get an opportunity to learn from more of them. As for equal pay…I doubt that is a real problem, since we all know that no one in their right mind goes into the field of philosophy for the money anyway! Correct me if I am wrong, but for me, personally, I have yet to find opposition to my goal, at least in the academic environment. Of course that might just be because I simply can’t imagine that I will let anything get in the way of my success. I think I can, I think I can, I think I can….
That being said; I did just take a class in ‘Modern Philosophy’. While I know that the world, at the time of Kant, Hume, Berkley, Spinoza and the rest of the gang, was largely void of female writers, I doubt that we did not have one single female philosopher in that time period who was worth mentioning and contrast with the ideas of the male philosophers?! I, as a woman, would have liked to explore that contrast. This fall, UNF has a class in feminist theology. Word is a few men have already signed up. Should be really interesting. I would love to see a class on the history of female philosophy. I know ‘herstory’ is relatively ‘small’, but for what it is, I suspect that it has real value.
There is something in America, something strange. It is as if the female liberation movement started here, and then died here. Women were burning their bras in the 60ies, now, after all those years, they wear ‘training-bras’ at age 9. What is up with that???
In politics throughout the world, it is becoming more and more common to see representation of female politicians. Women argue in debates alongside men. Many countries have female heads of state and have had that for many years. Here, in the US, however, that idea is seen as very outlandish. I also think (though I don’t have the stats) that churches in the US are quite chauvinistic. Some churches won’t even let women become ministers. That seems backwards? I had a professor tell me that she had student walk out of a class once, because he had been taught in church that women should not teach men. I wonder sometimes if it is a religious thing of sorts that permeates into our ‘secular’ society over here, this idea that what women have to offer is not valuable?
Seems so silly?!
While I think that meetings taking inventory of ‘where we are at’ in the academic world have value, we, as women, have to be very careful not to hang our hats on that. The energy we use griping, could, perhaps be much better spent learning more. And from the conference notes I got the feeling that it was a lot about stating facts and complaining, not a lot about…”how are we going to change that”. That being said, the numbers of females in philosophy are clearly low.
As with everything else in the life of a female, I suspect that it is caused by a combination of many factors.
1) Is this really a field that is interesting to the female mind? A lot of women still seek jobs that are stereotypical ‘female’ because they are satisfied by that choice. We, humans tend to do what we are good at, and we tend to want to work where we feel that we can find meaning. Not all women find meaning in wrangling complex arguments.
2) Philosophy is lot like math, I think. And it seems to me that not many women are in the math departments either? Schools have only just begun implementing programs to turn around the social idea that girls are not good at math. It will take more than a generation or two to see the effects of that. And keep in mind: most middle and high schools do not even offer philosophy. What the stats from the conference are not showing is that in ‘male’ jobs, the female presence (while still very low) is steadily on the rise. We have reason to hope and to keep fighting for equality.
3) People like to ‘fit in’ to the majority. Breaking into a new field requires as special breed. You have to be willing to stick your neck out there. As a woman in philosophy, you are going to be noticed (even when we sometimes notice some men rolling their eyes…and so what?). Not all people (male or female) like sticking out from the crowd. So enrolling in a field that does not have a great representation of females requires a gal who is up for the task of plowing the road for the ones who will come after. Not everyone has the courage, energy or desire to do that.
4) While some males lack appreciation for what us women are saying, we should not take that as a testament to our inabilities. It is merely an example of a male who is failing philosophy by breaking rule #1. “Thou shall keep an open mind”. And let us not forget that women may be doing the same thing to men. I for one, have to admit that I had a class last semester where a male philosophy student just about had my eyes rolled permanently to the back of my head. But…as sexist as he was, he always had the courtesy of hearing my opinions. And while he dismissed everything I had to say, mostly because I had feminist ideas (which drove me nuts!), the constant disagreements coupled with the deep respect we still had for each other as professionals, gave us both a lesson in tolerance. Perhaps our energy should be best spent on those who want to engage in dialogue with us (even if we risk opposition)? As much as I wish it were the case, I just don’t think that we can force men into thinking and living equality?
5) Last thought and I am going to stick my neck out: American women are sexist and many of them are putting themselves in inferior situations. Stats back me up and think about it: When women have children, they quit their jobs and stay home, permanently impairing their ability to ever compete equally in the job market. If they go back to work when the kids are grown, they are hopelessly behind and may even need re-schooling. When their men leave them after 20 years, stats shows us that without a doubt, financially, the women suffer tremendously. Still, many very well educated women kick of their heels and trade their slick car for a mini-van as soon as the first baby appears. Why, I ask, in God’s name are women doing this to themselves? Is it just so impossible to imagine a father staying at home raising his own children? Not babysitting mind you, but actually raising. While the divorce rate for people who marry at age 20 in Duval country is 90%, I still listen daily to college women who plan to graduate, get married, get home, and raise their kids. (I don’t hear men having that same dream…) If that is the case, that women think their lot in life is to stay at home, then perhaps the idea of paving the road for others in a male field, may not seem so compelling? Why even bother getting a degree?
Mind you, I have complete respect for people who want to stay home and raise their own child. I did it myself for a couple of years (and it was me by default…I was a single mom). I just fail to see why women automatically think it has to be them? Girls: Why can’t your partner/husband stay home and raise the young ones? (especially in the cases where you make more money than him). Is he not good enough? Is he not smart enough? Why are men so underrepresented in that field???
Last but not least, as a side note. Brogaard noted that only about 12% or so of women are authors of published major journal articles. She speculated about whether that is due to sexism. To me the number seems logical (albeit unfair). If only about 12% of the graduates from philosophy are female, then is seems reasonable to expect about 12% of all articles that are published to be written by them? No??
The blog from Brogaard was excellent food for thought. Go check it out…!
In regards to the feminism on UNF campus; I agree with Linda that there is equal treatment. I do not have any woman professors. So I being such a feminist, have been on the lookout for unfair treatment. But all of my professors have been great. With philosophy, there has to be equal treatment because we are searching for the truth. Men’s preference on the truth as opposed to woman’s does not differ to me. It’s a matter of determinism.