What do you think? An open thread

This is an open forum. Let us know what is on your mind.

Some possible topics to pick up:

In the first open thread, we had a request from moralagent.  We’ve provided a lot of dismal observations about women in philosophy. How about some strategies for coping?

In the same thread Brandon suggested we have guestbloggers.  And Shelley mentioned having a guest with a point of view shaped by different cultural experiences.  Any nominations?

How about recent studies on diversity issues?

I’d love to hear about what participants here are reading, whether or not it is academic.

Please don’t feel restricted to those topic!


23 thoughts on “What do you think? An open thread

  1. I love the open thread. Such a wonderful distraction!

    I have two things; one related to the previous open thread and one on what we are reading.

    Moralagent’s comment in the previous open thread made me wonder what resources are out there that can help students support other students in philosophy. I think I’ve run across references to such things here and there, but hard suggestions would be useful so we can support—especially, I’m thinking, underrepresented—students in philosophy across research interests and department affiliations, as well as within our own departments.

    I have a huge stack of things I’m reading right now related to a project I’m working on. On the top of the stack is a nice article on American Indian autobiographies. For those who may not know exactly what that term refers to, think “Black Elk Speaks.” These are not true autobiographies, in the sense that Black Elk didn’t write down his own story. Rather his story was facilitated by a text producer and editors. Typically, there was a language barrier between the American Indians and the text producer, etc.

    The article on top of my pile looks at gender-related issues surrounding these texts. For example, when Frank B. Linderman, who tried very hard to be good at what he was doing, asked the Crow medicine woman Pretty-Shield to tell him her life story, he asked her to tell him things relating to a Crow *woman’s* life and made gender-related assumptions in his questioning. He wanted to know “only a woman’s story” and even eschewed anecdotes she tried to tell where she did something with males.

    There’s this one funny part where Pretty-Shield sort of mocks Linderman’s line of questioning. She says, “You have asked me for only a woman’s story, and I have found one. It is about a woman I used to know, a woman and a mouse; and even the mouse was a woman-mouse, so I will tell you the story.”

    That cracks me up, I swear.

    Eventually, however, this kind of mocking as well as frustration Pretty-Shield expressed made Linderman realize that his insistence on having her tell him what women do, only what women do and not what men do caused him to fall short in his attempt to adequately capture her life story.

    For those with journal access, the article on top of my huge pile is:

    Title: “Tell Me a Woman’s Story”: The Question of Gender in the Construction of Waheenee, Pretty-shield, and Papago Woman.

    Author: Christine Colasurdo

    Source: American Indian Quarterly 21 no.3 (385-407). Summer ’97.

    I like to hear what other people are reading, too! :)

  2. Here’s a question — how common are philosophy grad student women’s groups at PhD/MA programs? Someone told me that New School has a Women’s Caucus that is fairly active, but I was wondering if there is some precedent for this sort of thing at other places. This strikes me as something to think about survival-strategy-wise — even informally there might be some value to it for combating isolation: a working papers group, or even something as casual as a potluck or bar night, etc.

    If anyone has any information about this sort of thing, I’d like to hear about it!

  3. What do you do to break down that cringe that people get when you say, “Philosophy.” Because while I do love this blog, I still get that cringe…don’t know why. I guess cause I don’t feel like I really understand philosophy and thus am more of a lurker here.


  4. That’s a really tough one, Veronica! Sometimes I lie about my profession. Really. ;) Mostly I just try to be clear and sensible and hope everyone (myself included) can stop cringing! It’s nice to know you’ve been lurking– I’ve just been enjoying your blog. (I remember you from the carnival, but I haven’t managed to keep on top of much blog-reading lately.) Even better to have you chiming in rather than just lurking– so please do feel free to go ahead and do it!

  5. @ Rachel

    I tried to start an interdisciplinary (philosophy + political science + history) feminist reading group here at Notre Dame in January. It fell through, I think mostly because the handful of people who were interested felt too busy.

    But Notre Dame has a well-deserved reputation for being especially women- and feminist-unfriendly (and queer-unfriendly, POC-unfriendly, pro-choice-unfriendly, disabled-unfriendly, etc., etc.). So I wouldn’t take my experiences here as representative of any other institution. (Including, I should add, Jesuit-run Catholic schools. ND is Holy Cross, not Jesuit.)

  6. Unless self-nominations are considered inappropriate, I’d like to contribute as a (novice) guest blogger. The focus of my posts would almost certainly be disability, disability and feminism, disability and Foucault, ableism and disablism, disability and philosophy, gender and disability, disability and bioethics, disability discrimination…

  7. It can be wonderful to have conversations with women having the same problems. If you are nearly the only woman in the department, you can try to find women grad students in other departments. Think of visiting Women’s Studies, if your school has one.

  8. Shelley,

    Thanks for your self-nomination. We’ll respond with email, though not necessarily immediately.

  9. Rachel, there’s a women’s philosophy grad student group at Rutgers. I’m not sure how often they get together — once a month, maybe? — but they regularly have events, and take turns presenting philosophical material over brunch.

  10. I am reading “Reading Lolita in Tehran,” which has been out for a few years now but somehow I am just catching up. It’s both painful and inspirational and I really recommend it to anyone who wants to think about some of the very difficult issues faced by Muslim women particularly in that specific context that she’s writing about. Moreover it is a good book in general to read or to use in a class to ponder the role of fiction in our lives and in relation to political realities surrounding us.

  11. Potluck night, that’s a good one, Rachel. Thanks for the SEP links!

    Here’s another question. I’ve noticed that sometimes underrepresented students are hesitant to work on ‘the hard stuff’ (I’m thinking philosophy of logic, etc). But I’ve also noticed that sometimes there seems to be a secret interest. Does anyone know of how effective reading groups composed of underrepresented students fare at examining that stuff?

    Anecdotally, I’ve heard of one case where a small group of such students got together to read a book on mathematical logic. From what I hear it went well. Anyone know of other cases or data related to this (or something like it from other disciplines)?

  12. Forgot to say:

    jj, I think meeting other women grad students is an excellent suggestion. My program is woman and feminist friendly, by my estimation. Even so, I met some women from other fields—who are super awesome, by the way—and it’s been great.

    Jender, totally funny you sometimes lie about your profession. :) I know someone who, when asked what he does, always says vaguely, “Oh, I teach…” and rapidly changes the subject!

  13. I’m female and I got a PhD in philosophy once. I found the atmosphere at my school so toxic that by the time I got it, the last thing I wanted to do was work with those people. So I fled the scene. I miss philosophy-the-study/discipline, which is why I read this blog. But I don’t miss philosophy-the-department. I’m re-rereading de Beauvoir right now. Wondering where the “no one is allowed to re-translate Le Deuxieme Sexe” issue is at. My French isn’t good enough for the original (tsk tsk).

  14. Captiver, there’s a group that’s really just coming to grip with the news about the lack of repressentation of women in philosophy. I sent them your comment. They will learn something.

  15. I was hoping that some of you would be willing to reveal yourselves to be readers of “intelligent women’s fiction.”

    Here’s my recent list – the latest by
    Alice Hoffman – The Third Angel: a magical realism sensibly set in London over several generations.

    Joanna Trollope – Friday Nights: another parade of foolish decisions, with some wise people around.

    Sue Miller: the Senator’s Wife. Just imagine marrying some important charismatic person who can’t keep his…

    I also started on some Ann Tyler. My mother, who died in February,1987, loved her and I inherited a lot of paperbacks. So I thought I could finally start reading them. Many were marmed “1987” and I think that meant she bought them for her final, fatal trip. So maybe I’ll just give them away. At least, I can’t read them yet.

    As a substitute, I’m going to go sit by the pool and read Elizabeth George’s new novel. It’s not my pool, but at least no one had died in it, as far as I know.

  16. Captiver, you mention you fled from philosophy departments. i did too. I am so relieved to not enter into one ever again. But I do miss talking about philosophy with knowledgeable people. I am trying to decide between 2 different career moves. What are feminist philosophers here doing for work? Has anyone found a good fit? I think I have found a good fit but there is the issue of always having to hide my brains. Would be interested in hearing about life after philosophy departments. What kind of life should one choose? :) An

  17. Calypso, thanks for the book tip – it sounds really interesting; going to add it to my ‘to read’ list (which is rather long…)

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