We’ve had a query from a feminist philosopher in a sadly far-from-unique situation. With her permission, I’m reproducing it here so that she (and others in her situation) can get the benefit of advice from all you readers. Please do make suggestions in comments!
I’m a graduate student, and burgeoning feminist philosopher, in a political science program in the US. Save one class I took that was specifically on women in Islam, there have been 2 females listed on my syllabi – 2, in the entire year. Coupled with that, there are no professors within my department who “do” feminist theory – a “narrow” viewpoint as it has been described to me. And I’m not just “at the wrong school.” I cannot believe that I’m the only woman in America being made to feel as if I’m imagining the world I experience every day.
During my undergrad, which was done at a university in the South, my gender studies professors could hardly provide the intellectual guidance young students need – they were battling their departments to even keep gender on the course schedule. How could I expect them to fight for funding for ME, when they were often trying to keep their own jobs.
Trying to find a feminist philosopher or political theorist under which to do my dissertation is nearly impossible. Even if I can locate these women whose departments value and support their work, I, like most women, cannot simply decide to move and hope I won’t be disappointed. I shouldn’t have to say this, but I have a 4.0, I’ve presented and published far more than my peers and I love academia – too bad the feeling isn’t mutual.
What is a feminist to do? Having scratched out my own intellectual development, is it too much to want some input? Preferably from someone who A) at least ACKNOWLEDGES that patriarchy exists and B) is committed to exposing and fighting it. I’m just so tired of the double workload I’ve always carried. Thoughts?
In a second letter, she writes:
After I sent you the message a few days ago, I began thinking about how distressingly not unique my situation is – and my anger made me try to think of concrete actions I could take to change this situation in someone else’s life. Well, not much right now, but I’ll make it out of the academy without losing my mind (we hope). And when I do, wouldn’t it be nice to start a WELL FUNDED summer program for young feminists without access to feminist theory or methodology? It might make the force-fed patriarchy a bit easier to swallow the rest of the year if you could spend a summer immersed in transformative ideas.Ahhhhh.
I know some folks dream of beaches, but I think you’ll understand that I’d find a month with Sara Ruddick or bell hooks far more interesting.