The figures for women in philosophy are dismal. Careful counting of the job offers recorded on Leiter’s blog suggest that just over 20% of the new hires are women. Anyone who hoped the hiring figures would provide some cause for optimism should be very disappointed.
Conference announcement after conference announcement demonstrates that women too often have few or none of the more important and visible roles. And as for occupants of any other under-represented group, the situation is simply worse.
So what can be done? This morning I followed a link from A Womyn Ecdysis to Left Turn and Andrea Smith’s essay on recentering feminism. The task of recentering philosophy is almost as daunting as that of recentering the medical system or the criminal justice system, but I wonder about recentering our efforts. I think for Smith that means that we think less in terms of simple inclusion and more in terms of empowerment, at the very least. What would the analogues of empowerment in academia be?
It isn’t hard to identify some of them. One would be paying attention to positions of power, where these include journal editor boards and keynote speakers. Another might be encouraging the disadvantaged members within a department to form some sort of cohesive group.
But I mention this to ask others for ideas. WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Here’s a passage from Smith’s essay, though the whole fairly short piece is worth a read!
As critical race theorist Kimberle Crenshaw has noted, it is not enough to be sensitive to difference; we must ask what difference the difference makes. Instead of saying, how can we include women of color, women with disabilities, etc., we must ask what our analysis and organizing practice would look like if we centered them in it. By following a politics of re-centering rather than inclusion, we often find that we see the issue differently, not just for the group in question, but everyone.
An example of this re-centering is the way the national organization, INCITE Women of Color Against Violence, developed its analysis of domestic and sexual violence. We saw that it did not make sense to focus our strategies on involving the criminal justice system in addressing violence, because as women of color we are just as victimized by the criminal justice system as we are by interpersonal gender violence in our communities.
Many grassroots organizations are posing important challenges to how radical women of color should position themselves vis-à-vis the liberal feminist establishment. Fundamentally, these new projects and analyses do not start from or solely identify with the history and establishments of white liberalfeminism.
…. Many … grassroots organizations … are reunifying the personal and political, and struggling to provide immediate services in empowering forms, as well as building collective political strength.