Dear Professor Manners:
I’m a pretty hot property on the philosophy job market this year. I’ve had three fly-outs and they all went very well. I had a lot of great discussions with the faculty in each department. Of course, I understood that the women faculty wouldn’t really be up to a discussion with someone like me, so I pretty much left them to discuss their feminism or whatever among themselves. One or two tried to break into the guys’ discussion, but I took my cue from the faculty there and didn’t provide them with the opportunity to embarrass themselves.
Since I fit in so well with each department, I am expecting more than one offer. What I am wondering is what is the right way to turn down an offer I know lots of people would die for?
You may have solved the problem already. Your profession is noted for being full of people with few or no social graces, and you can no longer assume that the behavior you recount means everyone agrees that women cannot do philosophy. I understand you may be surprised and even shocked by this news, but the fact of the matter is that you may have thoroughly and visibly insulted people who have the power of deciding whether you deserve a long term job in their department.
Even if the female professors are generous enough not to let their feelings of personal animosity toward you decide their vote on your candidacy, they may well be worried about your teaching. It is well recognized, at least among feminist philosophers, that women undergraduates find philosophy classes less appealing than do men, and the sort of exclusionary behavior you indulged in is one of the causes of that.
Perhaps you should get out that list of VAP’s and think of another round of applications.