Call for comments: Writing on feminist topics?

I’d like to solicit thoughts from philosophers reading this blog: what are your views on how graduate students can integrate feminist topics into papers? First, probably, is the question of whether we should, given the job market and the fact that these topics aren’t viewed as mainstream.

Just a reminder that while we require an email address for commenters, we do allow pseudonyms and never share your information. Still, if you feel comfortable giving some background on yourself and where you are (size school, area, etc.) that might be helpful as well.

9 thoughts on “Call for comments: Writing on feminist topics?

  1. Orlando, I hope I won’t cloud the discussion by mentioning writing as a feminist on what might well be considered non-feminist topics. For example, one might pick up on a lot of philosophy of mind for being heavily individualistic. There are all sorts of discussions of philosopher’s uses of intuitions that might interest someone who is thinking about epistemic injustice, a la Miranda Fricker. There’s are interesting discussions in ethics about situations, and whether attention should be paid by ethicists about creating contexts in which people are/can be more moral. (Gil Harman has a paper on the web about virtue ethics and situations.) And there have to be lots more.

    I suppose I’m mentioning this because I think it is possible to write as a feminist philosopher without writing on very explicitly feminist topics.

  2. It’s a tough call, especially for those as young as grad students. I have repeatably been told in my career to wait to try to address such issues until I am more senior and have more clout!

  3. as someone who works on explicitly feminist and anti-racist topics, i am pretty much fed up with the idea that one should stick with “safe” material early in one’s career and then go on to do more radical/less tradtional feminist/criitical race work once one has tenure. that mentality just further perpetuates teh marginality of explicitly feminist and anti-racist work, reinforcing the idea that it’s not “real” philosophy.

    i’m pretty early on in my career right now, and i can look to several previous generations of philosophers who had to do the “safe then gender/race” thing, and who now are incredibly prominent precisely because of their work on explicitly feminist and anti-racist topics. i realize that, for these generations, it was strategically necessary for them to first prove their chops in some more established field while working to develop emerging areas of inquiry. but feminism, critical race and poco theory are all nowadays established areas of inquiry (if you have your doubts, just ask anyone from any other humanities discipline, or, uh, your dean)! there are a good number of senior people out there to direct dissertations, write tenure letters, etc., for those working on explicitly feminist and anti-racist topics.

    it’s time to stop cowtowing.

  4. this is my field of interest: there is little information on female-targeted advertisement in particular when it comes to technology (just look at some magazines like T3 in the UK and you may understand what i mean. i also refer to the misconception that, just because it is pink, females will buy a product). i might be an outsider here due to the consequences of that form of marketing whereas the intention is to sell more products. but at the same time it could lead to a higher level of interest of girls in that topic.

    at the same time, little research exist on feminism and film, in particular present film. from what i know, most research and criticism focuses mainly on film from 1910-1970. i might be wrong though.

    certainly, it is a topic that is, to some extend at least, mainstream and relevant for society and organizations, from a cultural and business point-of-view.

  5. When I went on the job market, a long time ago, my handlers told me to take everything feminist or women’s studiesish off my vita. My women’s studies mentor told me the opposite. She said that I needed a job where I could do the research that I wanted to do. If we don’t have that kind of academic freedom, this job is significantly less fulfilling. I thought that it was easy for her to say, but I needed to eat.

    However, in the end I presented myself as I was. Most of the interviews that I got were _because_ of my feminist credentials, rather than in spite of them.

    I think a bigger issue exists regarding tenure. If you are at a prestigious school, you might need to have some pubs in the fanciest of journals, and of course that is a very hard row to hoe if your all of your work is feminist. But then, what is the chance of writing something spectacular if it is not in an area you are in love with?

    I think building allies in your department, administration, and discipline may be more crucial if you do feminist work, especially if you are in a department with senior folks who are not feminist friendly.

  6. It’s such a tough call. I want to agree with Alpha and DoctaJ, but I also want my students to get jobs, and I’ve seen what they go through. At least here, due to the RAE, it’s essential to have publications that other philosophers recognise as good. I have had students explicitly told that their publications in Hypatia don’t count because it’s not clear how Hypatia would be viewed by the RAE panel. This upsets me a lot– I don’t want to tell students not to publish in Hypatia. So I don’t. But I do tell them that they need to *also* publish in journals that are mainstream enough to reassure potential employers– and the fact is that this is easier to do with some topics than others. Feminists topics aren’t totally ruled out– there’s a lot of discussion of autonomy in mainstream journals, and feminist concerns arise pretty regularly, for example. But there are some topics– e.g. the metaphysics of gender– that non-feminist philosophers have trouble even seeing as legitimate topics to work on (the referee reports I’ve seen on this one are appalling). So I guess I tend to urge students doing feminist work to either *also* do mainstream stuff, or to do feminist work in a way that helps it to slot into mainstream discussions. I don’t want the world to require this, but it does. I DON”T think, however that there’s any need to conceal that one does feminist work– most departments are very happy to have someone who can teach feminism. They just also want the reassurance of the mainstream stuff.

  7. Jenny,

    I think you are right. Three more thoughts:

    One prominent scholar I know who does socially relevant work advises folks to have a two stream vita. For every ‘non mainstream’ project she writes on, she also writes a paper that goes in a ‘regular’ journal. My frustrated response to this is that it is difficult enough to construct a single stream vita. But, even one paper in Philosophy of Science goes a long way.

    I have also had people tell me that I ‘count’ as a philosopher because the philosophy of science work that I do counters my feminist publications. Yuck. I still get to be an honorary man.

    I sometimes put some extra ‘if p then q’ jargon in my work. I think it is funny, because the logic is apparent in the text, and the ‘if p then q’ adds nothing except comfort for some analytic types. I have started referring to this as my little logic joke. But, nevertheless an ordered n-tuple here and there does bridge building work.

  8. I’m totally with doctaj on this… I’m not sure it’s worth staying in the academy any more if it means tailoring a research agenda to the idyosyncirices and insanities of the job “market.”

    But maybe I also put too much faith in the path forged by my late teacher Iris Marion Young. Iris published articles on justice, feminism, and sexual difference right from the start. She published in “obscure” journals and edited volumes. She never hid her interests or her commitments, at least not on the professional stage. Perhaps it took a long time, but she was rewarded with the level of prestige and recognition that her work merited and her commitment deserved. But having known her in her final years, I think she was just as happy teaching engineering students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute as she was at Pitt or U of C. Of course, it helped that she was brilliant and worked harder than anyone else I’ve ever known, but the lesson seemed clear: if the only thing that will make you happy in the academy is scoring a prestigious job, you’re not going to be happy in the academy. Surely, a commitment to working on feminism and anti-racism is risky, but isn’t that kind of the point?

    mostly, I just miss Iris, I guess.

  9. alpha: as someone who works in the purported realm of “continental” philosophy, you just affirmed my secret belief about “analytic” philosophy, at least in terms of its style: the “if p then q” stuff is either a joke, or at least largely unnecessary! if the logic of the argument is already apparent, i actually find it distracting, along with the endless latin terms.

    i wonder what it is meant by the word “job” (we want a job, we want our students to get jobs) – and this is a wonder that is timely, given the controlled release of the new PGR. when we say jobs, do we mean any jobs? or do we mean jobs in “ranked” philosophy programs? do we count teaching in community colleges as jobs, or at least as jobs worth having? is the part-time work that i do now as a graduate student a job? why not? how visible is our labor, and who is in charge of that visibility? what would it mean to work for a discipline that saw us and recognized us (as feminist philosophers, as anti-racist philosophers), and must we continue to remain invisible in order for this to happen?

    i can’t speak for others here but i miss iris as well.

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