Feminist Philosophers

News feminist philosophers can use

Important observations on (lack of) diversity and boundary policing in philosophy August 29, 2014

Filed under: bias,minorities in philosophy,women in philosophy — jennysaul @ 7:16 pm

From Eric Schliesser and Bryce Huebner.


Blacks make up just 1.32 percent of the total number of people professionally affiliated (as grad students or faculty) with U.S. philosophy departments.
Approximately 0.88 percent of U.S. philosophy Ph.D. students are black.
Approximately 4.3 percent of U.S. tenured philosophy professors are black.
Of black philosophy Ph.D. students in the U.S., half are female. That is about double the rate of the U.S. philosophy Ph.D. student population as a whole.
The distribution of black female Ph.D. students across philosophy Ph.D. programs is much lower than black males. Specifically, 69 percent of black female Ph.D. students are at Penn State.
The top areas of specialization for U.S. black philosophers are (1) Africana, (2) Race, (3) Social and Political, (4) Ethics, and (5) Continental philosophy…every time we treat the LEMM as the CORE parts of philosophy (recall) and every time we mock SPEP-style Continental philosophy, we are, in effect, also (further) marginalizing (insulting, demeaning, etc.) the majority of BIPs. Every time you are a bystander to this, you are very likely complicit to making matters worse when it comes to the status of BIPs. –


The kinds of critical race theory and the kind of continental philosophy that are commonly taught at Penn State are precisely the kinds of philosophy that tend to be dismissed, rejected, and marginalized by philosophers working at fancier institutions. Assuming that there is a stable practice of treating this kind of work as “not really philosophy,” we should expect these judgments to serve a gatekeeping function, keeping Black women out of academic philosophy, or at least keeping them from getting jobs at the ‘best’ PhD granting institutions.


What is the State of Blacks in Philosophy in the US? August 28, 2014

Filed under: bias,minorities in philosophy,race — jennysaul @ 5:21 am

A very important study.

This research note is meant to introduce into philosophical discussion the preliminary results of an empirical study on the state of blacks in philosophy, which is a joint effort of the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Black Philosophers (APA CSBP) and the Society of Young Black Philosophers (SYBP). The study is intended to settle factual issues in furtherance of contributing to dialogues surrounding at least two philosophical questions: What, if anything, is the philosophical value of demographic diversity in professional philosophy? And what is philosophy? The empirical goals of the study are (1) to identify and enumerate U.S. blacks in philosophy, (2) to determine the distribution of blacks in philosophy across career stages, (3) to determine correlates to the success of blacks in philosophy at different career stages, and (4) to compare and contrast results internally and externally to explain any career stage gaps and determine any other disparities.


A philosophy conference so diverse it merited a news story August 18, 2014

The Diverse Lineages of Existentialism meeting was a far cry from a typical philosophy conference. In a discipline dominated by white men, this conference hosted as many women as men and a large number of people of color along with white participants. In a discipline often characterized by its esoteric isolation from public and politics, instead there was outpouring of conversations about social justice and lived human experience. Given the recent public and professional conversations about the lack of diversity in philosophy, the Diverse Lineages of Existentialism (DLE) conference is a hopeful glance into the future of the discipline – one that is long overdue and necessary if philosophy is to continue as a viable and relevant living and growing field, both in the academy and in the public imagination.

More here.


“Why I Left Academia: Philosophy’s Homogeneity Needs Rethinking” August 15, 2014

Article by Eugene Sun Park (now a filmmaker) on why he left philosophy. 


“The pressure to accept and conform to a narrow conception of philosophy was pervasive. [...] While much of the rest of the academy has evolved to reflect these demographic changes, philosophy remains mired in a narrow conception of the discipline that threatens to marginalize philosophy even further. [...]  I loved studying philosophy, and truly have no regrets about devoting nearly a decade of my life to it. But I also grew tired and frustrated with the profession’s unwillingness to interrogate itself. Eventually, I gave up hope that the discipline would ever change, or that it would change substantially within a timeframe that was useful to me professionally and personally.”


“It’s not that women and minorities are (inexplicably) less interested in the “problems of philosophy”—it’s that women and minorities have not had their fair say in defining what the problems of philosophy are, or what counts as philosophy in the first place.”


Sexism’s Dilemmas August 2, 2014

Filed under: minorities in philosophy,women in academia,women in philosophy — annejjacobson @ 6:07 pm

Very often abusive conduct leaves one without any good alternatives. A kind of abuse described in an earlier post can at least prompt two responses that may well make things worse.

Two reactions are: getting angry, and dropping out as much as possible.

1. Anger can lead its recipients to reflect on and reassess their actions. But insiders, when faced with an angry outsider, may take her reactions to show they were right and she is an awful person. Her actions may even be cited as part of the department’s recruiting new members of the department into the boys’ club. I think this is one way that disrespect is taught, and neophytes come to believe that yes, some women, people of color, etc., have a great deal of difficulty fitting into the department culture.

2. The second reaction is dropping out, at least to the point of avoiding the insiders as much as possible. This reaction is recommended by a lot of “how to cope with an awful boss” books. This alternative has been chosen by some women faculty; it is recommended as a way of preserving one’s health and sanity. However, dropping out presents the abusers with a great opportunity for gossip and conjecture which may well be promulgated all the way to the upper administration. Think of all those people who think feminists are just trying to get special treatment; they really believe that. A department’s account of an outsider dropping out may get similarly off-base explanations.

I think that it is actually very significant that these two routes are very problematic. Foregoing them both has the victim having to hang around being nice and sweet. That sounds like something an oppressor would like.

So what to do? I think that this is a big question for our community. I do not have any easy answers. Right now I’ve started to look at books on autonomy. I hope that philosophers can find ways for people in oppressive situations to have autonomy and self-respect.

Legal action of one sort or another is possible, but it can also be quite destructive. People can have a lot of trouble quelling their desire to retaliate, and trying to work one’s way through such situations can consume one’s life. (Right now even people who write about the law as it applies to the Ludlow case may receive a threat of legal action from his lawyers.) In addition, I do think that it is difficult to get far without a lawyer, and that easily becomes very expensive.


Though I have spoken about women, anyone who may be in an outsider role can be targeted.

In trying to understand why a group in a department might target someone, I found the following very useful:
Naomi Zack
Pluralism in ‘Academic Politics’: The Collateral Damage of
Cronyism and Legal Aspects of Common Misconduct”

APA Newsletter on Feminism and Philosophy, Spring 2013.


A Reply to “The Gender Academy” July 14, 2014

In a July 5th article, “The Gender Academy,” University of Colorado Boulder philosophy grad student Spencer Case complains about his department’s new “Best Practices” document, which recommends, among other things, that classroom discussion facilitators make an effort to assist students from underrepresented groups in participating in discussion “by, for example, intervening when such students are interrupted or spoken over while attempting to contribute.”

“This is micro-managing and worse,” he objects, “Instead of being an objective facilitator of learning for all, the teacher must now be an advocate for some.”

Kudos to University of Colorado Boulder philosophy grad student Sofia Huerter, who wrote a reply to Case, drawing on Jenny Saul’s work on implicit bias and stereotype threat:

“I have, for some months, permitted myself to remain silent with regard to the climate in my department because I have become so preoccupied with my own fears of confirming stereotypes about women in philosophy, namely that we aren’t very good at it for one reason or another. I have felt fearful that any slip-ups on my end will result in accusations of fallacious and misguided reasoning, engendering yet more negativity in the debate about the status of women in philosophy…

Stereotype threat is a psychological phenomenon which affects the way that members of stigmatized groups perform. Victims of stereotype threat tend to under-perform on relevant tasks, such as writing papers, because they are unconsciously preoccupied with fears of confirming stereotypes about their groups…

As women enter graduate programs in philosophy, they are likely to be reminded of their under-representation in various ways. For instance, as Jennifer Saul notes, in most classes, other than perhaps feminist philosophy, they are likely to encounter syllabuses consisting overwhelmingly of male authors, and the people teaching most of their classes are likely to be male. Further, those who are teaching are susceptible to implicit bias. As such, we are likely to witness in philosophy departments the same well-documented asymmetries in the treatment of male and female students that have been observed in other areas of academics. For instance, we are likely to see teachers calling upon male students more often than female students…”

(See here for the full reply.)

UPDATE: Case has published a reply to some of his critics, in which he argues that feminism is not a sub-discipline of philosophy and ought to “be discussed alongside conservatism, libertarianism, liberalism, fascism, and socialism in political-philosophy classes.” Presumably his arguments are directed at feminist philosophy, and not feminism — which is not (and as far as I know has not ever been) characterized as a “sub-discipline of philosophy.” Even under this charitable reading, however, Case’s argument is little more than a classic example of a straw-person fallacy; the argument shows merely that feminist philosophy should not be “insulated” from “criticism” — which, of course, is not a conclusion that anyone would contest. What the “Best Practices” document recommends is that philosophers refrain from disparaging sub-disciplines of philosophy, not from providing a rational critique.


Disability and Graduate School Considerations April 14, 2014

Filed under: deaf,disability,graduate students,minorities in philosophy,Uncategorized — Teresa Blankmeyer Burke @ 11:33 am

Helen de Cruz has a great post up at NewAPPS that discusses, among other things, why graduate students might opt to attend unranked programs.


Another, often overlooked, consideration in play for some graduate students is disability. Some campuses are more friendly and accommodating to students with particular kinds of disabilities, some local communities have more resources than others, some states have policies that make it easier to be funded by vocational rehabilitation than others, some states (in the U.S.) provide tuition waivers to students with certain disabilities, and so on.




Reader query: Misguided ‘diversity’ efforts in recruitment March 13, 2014

Filed under: minorities in philosophy — Jender @ 12:37 pm

A reader writes:

Given the expertise of this blog and its readers, I would like to ask for some help. I have a philosophy student who is currently considering offers from several graduate programs. She returned from a recent campus visit feeling traumatized after school representatives marginalized her through efforts to demonstrate their “inclusiveness” and “commitment” to diversity.

I apologize for the vagueness of the details and understand the specifics may affect responses. The student liked the idea of presenting her situation to this blog, but for the purpose of protecting my student’s identity, I’m not going to name the “diversity” groups(s) or the specific graduate program. For now, I’ll include that the program is a highly interdisciplinary, social justice-oriented program. She is a member of a community with protected status and has been offered significant scholarships reserved for school-specific diversity initiatives.

Some examples she provided for how the school treated her as a token and exotic other:
– Planning events with unrelated “diverse others” that erased significant differences between heterogeneous identities
– Focusing on her “diversity status” in every encounter and putting her in situations to speak for an entire community, which distracted attention away from her work as a scholar
– Being told that if she had problems meeting admission requirements, including standardized testing, that the school has a “diversity exception” permitting them to accept lower scores, GPAs, etc. for diverse applicants, even though SHE HAS ALREADY BEEN ACCEPTED to this program!

Advice she has requested from us:
1. The economic incentives and research opportunities are substantial, but she’s concerned about working with and being mentored by people who treat her this way. What thoughts do you have on navigating this conflict?
2. How to respond to the program. She is considering turning down the offer, but also wants to explain why. How to do this without being reduced to an “ungrateful other”?
3. “Is grad school even worth it?”

Advice I’m requesting:
1. Experience with how to mentor a student through this process.
2. Strategies for using my professional position to help her respond that can deflect some of the focus and energy directed at her personally?


Samir Chopra on the Dearth of Black Philosophers March 9, 2014

Filed under: minorities in philosophy,race — Jender @ 2:18 pm



Want to improve the climate in Philosophy? Sign up to help! February 19, 2014

Filed under: minorities in philosophy,women in philosophy — jennysaul @ 6:23 am

Philosophical Spaces has made it easy. This post gives a list of simple things you can do. There’s even a link you can click that takes you to an online form allowing you to volunteer. And, if you have money but not time, there’s a link you can use to donate to the APA Fund for Diversity and Inclusiveness.



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