41 thoughts on “Learn about Philosophy of Religion. And the Maleness of the Field.

  1. Duh! It’s an RC college; a woman might raise the question of whether women can be priests and get the whole school excommunicated.

    I love it when philosophy is doctrinally pure; let’s get rid of all those pesky questions.

  2. I suspect it’s more to do with the organizer or the small, parochial character of philosophy of religion than either St. Thomas itself or the fact that it’s a Catholic school — 6 of St. Thomas’ 23 full-time philosophy faculty are women.

  3. It’s funny that, though I don’t really care about philosophy of religion at all, I can think of 3 or 4 well-respected women philosophers who work on an regularly publish in philosophy of religion right off the top of my head.

  4. I’m not sure that turning this into “blame the organizer” is such a good idea. I don’t know much about Rea, but Zimmerman has certainly included proportionally more women in e.g. the Metaphysical Mayhems (in every role– grad students, featured speakers, etc) than usually get included in metaphysics-related conferences, seminars, etc.

    Though I’m not so sure that “blame the institution” is a good idea either.

    In fact, I’m kind of uncomfortable with making a warlock-hunt out of every conference or event that features all or mainly men. Raising awareness of the implications of this is definitely important. But pointing fingers isn’t going to get us anywhere.

    I’m not sure, but I think ridiculing events like this on a blog is probably either going to have no effect or a negative one. A lot of sexism-in-philosophy stuff has been coming up in my department lately, and there’s been a lot of polarization and accusations, which seems to result in defensiveness on the part of those who we would be better off working with, and helping see why, e.g., it’s important to have women as speakers at conferences, seminars, etc.

  5. To be clear– I think that things like the gendered conference campaign letter are a great idea. I’m just afraid it might backfire if those who read the letters say “oh, let me look at what this feminist philosophers blog is”, go to it, and find themselves or the events they organize being ridiculed on the blog.

  6. Anon, I agree. But I don’t *think* there’s any of that going on here. Perhaps my post was a bit too cryptically light-hearted, but I meant to be pointing out the likely effects of the event, and carefully avoided saying anything about the intent of the orgainisers, or ridiculing the event. JJ did take a snipe at the Catholic Church, but that seems very different to me. And the only reason that Noumena mentioned the organisers was in defense of the department, which has a far better gender ration than many. And what N said seemed to me speculative, rather than accusatory.

  7. To be clear, my earlier post was a combination of defensiveness (I’m not Catholic, but there is a strong left-wing Catholic tradition that I feel liberals and leftists often inappropriately ignore) and nearly-pure speculation.

  8. Noumena et al, I thought I had put a great big “SNARK” on the comment. I was really just being silly. I’m very sorry if it seemed offensive. I should say, though, that I was intentionally drawing a connection between various exclusions of women; I am sorry to see that the connection I was making was dismissed. No doubt my form of expression invited that.

    I do think the Pope’s crackdown on discourse about women becoming priests is very serious, as is the two-fold investigation of US nuns that the vatican has initiated. (I believe that the Pope has forbidden continuing discussion of the women-as-priests debate.) I also think there’s a connection between the absence of women in some traditional fields and the absence of women from the higher authority positions in too many religions. For example, there is certainly a pretty clear connection between the original monkishness of Oxford, for example, and the exclusion of women, which was conducted in a very radical way well into the 1970’s.

    People who persist in having all male events when there are very distinguished women in the field might do well to be aware of the tradition in which they operate.

  9. I should add: I’m not sure I would have drawn the connection quite so explicitly were it not to Jimmy Carter’s recent op-ed in the Guardian.

    The exclusion of women from “men’s fields” certainly antedates Christianity, but Carter’s charge is that it and other religions have promoted the second class status of women that affects “all our lives.”

    I’m not arguing from authority here; rather, I think it’s appropriate to acknowledge his quite courageous refusal at 76 to continue to associate himself with the Baptist church, and his insight into the damage its discrimination can do.

  10. Anon 6:21am: (1) it’s Rota, not Rea, who is the second organizer. (2) to the best of my recollection, Mayhem has never or almost never had more than one woman as a *speaker* despite having at least four speaker slots (and often more). This is certainly not “proportionally” better representation in any venue except for the list of invited contributors to the Oxford Companion to Metaphysics.

  11. sorry, I was confusing this event with the Logos workshops. (Hence the Rea-Rota mix up.) Though I don’t know anything about Rota either.

    Regarding Mayhem: Sadly, but I think truthfully, 1/4 women is better than normal representation. Though there are exceptions, I do think it is the case that most metaphysics conferences have a smaller percentage of women.

    We have to take the reality– that there are way less women working in metaphysics than men, at least at top 50 depts.– into account. I’m not saying that excuses excluding women from a conference. But if 1/4 is a higher proportion than women:men doing metaphysics in, say, top 50 depts, then it seems to me to be a good thing.

    Every grad student studying metaphysics I know besides myself and two others is a man. I don’t think this is unusual. And I know, say, at least 25 such grad students.

    I will add that the one phil of religion conference I’ve ever been to had only one woman speaker (out of at least 15 or so), and the only reason it had women as commentators was that it mined my grad department for commentators. I think we definitely should be concerned about sexism in this area… and in metaphysics as well. All I was saying was that making accusations against particular individuals probably isn’t the way to go.

  12. Anon 6:17pm: I think I understand how you are thinking about this, but my concern is that your response sounds like some sort of justification or endorsement of the status quo. And the status quo is what needs to change.

  13. I am a bit taken aback by the idea that we mustn’t ridicule people who are acting harmfully and unjustly because they’ll just get angry and dismiss what we have to say, we’ll get a bad name, etc. This kind of worry is very classic and there are many dimensions to it, some good and some bad.

    One thing one might fear about such an attitude is that it is the effect of a kind of oppression. That is, one fears speaking the truth to power – still more to do it snarkily – because they do have the power. Our interests are getting tramped on, and complaining is just going to make it worse. That’s an abusive situation: one is harmed by the use of power and opposition will harm one more.

    And the consequence is, they are not adequately challenged and little changes.

    Of course, it is more complicated than that. We have debated this back and forth on this blog, and sometimes I feel optomistic, but that doesn’t last very long when I talk to people in the profession about the situation.

    Finally, I’m lost on the topic of mayhem and 1/4 women.

  14. I have to defend anon 6:17 here. I guess you could say that I’m “of two minds” about this particular issue. Metaphysics is less appealing to me personally than root canal, and I’m seeing similar patterns in posts all over this site and at my school. Very few women WANT to pursue grad work in that particular branch of the discipline, whether their reasons are similar to mine or not. What is required to reflect a male:female ratio of speakers at conferences that comes anywhere near “balanced” is to grossly overrepresent the percentage of females who actually reach the upper levels in that particular field.

    However, this overrepresentation is not a bad thing if it will bring more women out of their prescribed roles. I’m still (foolishly?) optimistic about the potential for change that may come as a result of allowing female voices to re-create Christendom in Our/Her image. It’s not the epic immeasurables in religion that I mind so much; it’s the constant pitter patter of little scapegoating manoeuvres :-P

  15. Re phil of religion there aren’t that many women doing it because the motivation for doing it are largely religious involvement and religious conviction and churches are exceedlinly unfriendly to professional women. In the SCP, in which I’ve been long-term active, only about 5% of members are women–just eyeballing it. But about half of presidents have been women, including Linda Zagzebski, Marilyn Adams, and Eleanor Stump. The SCP is actively concerned about this issue and, at our next Pacific Division meeting, will be having a panel discussion on it.

    The issue though is not in the market but in the pre-market. Churches, including liberal churches, are uncongenial to “non-traditional” women, including academics. Phil Papers did a study according to which just 14% of philosophers are theists, but I’d bet that the figure is much lower for women in the profession. Since very few women in the profession are theists, very few are doing phil of religion or joining the SCP.

    Metaphysics is another story. I do metaphysics but in my experience it’s very much an old boy, or young boy, network. When I was young and untenured I was pushed to do feminism and applied ethics stuff, which I did to survive. Now I’m old and tenured and I’m going to do mereotopology, so there. But for a variety of reasons, in my experience, it is hard for women to do metaphysics, even though in my case, that is what I love.

  16. Xena, could let us know how you found out that most women don’t like meta??

    We need to be very careful – behavior can be shaped by decades or centuries of exclusion. In saying that it’s individual wants, we leave out the causes that need to be changed.

    I suspect we’d all see this if we were looking at blacks and women and kinds of leadership.

  17. re: Jender’s comment: if you look at what both Xena and I said, neither of us implied that it wasn’t possible to have a metaphysics conference with over 50 percent women. What I said was that it was unusual, and further, that a metaphysics conference with 1/4 (or even 1/5) women probably has better representation than metaphysics as a whole, or at least metaphysics in the top 50 departments, does.

    Does that make it ok to have a conference with 1/4 women? Personally, I think so– you are already overrepresenting women in comparison to the numbers of women who are actually doing it. (Not said well, but hopefully you all know what I mean.) Is it even better to have even more women? Yes.

    And, re jj’s comment in response to mine: It’s not that I don’t think we shouldn’t publicly ridicule those who are acting harmfully and unjustly. It’s that I don’t think we should publicly ridicule anyone at all. I ESPECIALLY, though, don’t think that we should publicly ridicule anyone who might have good intentions and be a potential ally, who just needs more education on these issues and who indeed might already be thinking about them.

    Also, jj shifts from using the term ‘ridiculing’ to using the term ‘complaining’. I don’t think there is anything wrong with complaining. I think we should complain. These two terms have distinct meanings. There is nothing wrong with standing up to those that have the power. Making fun of them or making potentially false accusations without doing one’s homework is not an effective way to do so.

  18. Anon metaphysics: I am now a bit confused. My talking about snarky complaining seems not to be what you had in mind with ridicule. That’s great, but I had somehow the impression you thought snarky comments were ridiculing. I’m relieved to find they aren’t. Except I think you might think they are.

    Let me suggest that the costs and benefits of one sort of rhetorical approach over another really ought to be assessed with serious empirical evidence. What we feel is effective or too costly is probably not very good evidence. It would be interesting to test what actually gets people to change; given what other efforts at political change have had to resort to, I’m not optimistic about refraining from snark. I suppose we can refrain from chaining ourselves to fences, but a parade with placards might not be a bad thing.

  19. Actually, Anon. Metaphysician, JJ caught me mixing misnomers again. That comment does look like I’m erroneously inferring a “want” from an “is”. When the kids&pets won’t go to sleep (!!!) I sometimes forget my 9th grade grammar lessons, specifically the one about that “elephant I shot in my pyjamas”. My muddled modifiers distracted from the distinction between metaphysics and religious philosophy.

    Let me try that again…There is a very real shortage of women studying metaphysics. There also appears to be a lack of female INTEREST in phil of religion. I did draw that inference from statistical evidence presented by the experts on this site, including H.E’s previous commentaries on posts from last year. Her explanations for the “why’s” are stated in far more eloquent terms than I could have managed in #19, above.

    As I’ve said before, I do respect the women who can put up with the constant backlash from the male “gatekeepers” in the church and the rest of academia. I was as –ahem–unimpressed with my intro to religious philosophy as I was with the doctrines of the KKK. However, other women that have the guts to get past the politics and work inside these institutions for change are as inspiring to me as Daryl Davis, the only black American allowed in klan meetings. Man, that’s STRENGTH!

    Jender, I don’t want to argue with you. Your posts and your personal responses to me are so warm and friendly, often funny and always well timed. I did say few women in meta, though, not none. I”M taking a course in metaphysics and epistemology right now, with a female PhD candidate. It’s not my thing, but kudos to the women that do take an interest in the subject.

  20. Something worth noting: there are smaller numbers of women in m&e, but this does not justify inviting proportionally lower numbers of women to present at m&e conferences. One reason is because for women to survive the gauntlet and succeed they must be very good. So there are fewer, but they are better.

  21. Anonymous, do you mean the women in metaphysics are better than the men? What evidence is there for this?

  22. Hi, folks. I’ve been invited to explain how it came to be that a summer seminar in philosophy of religion that I helped to organize has no women on the program — and thanks very much for that invitation, by the way. I don’t think I’ve ever been accused of this kind of thing before — at least, I hope not. But, unfortunately, this is the second time in the last year that I’ve been singled out as displaying bias in favor of male philosophers; and the accusation is understandable, in the circumstances, so I’d better try to explain myself.

    The first precipitating event was someone’s noticing that the first four volumes of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics had no female contributors (volume five, which just came out, does; and six will, but still, that is rather remarkable); and now the first year of the three-year St. Thomas summer seminar has no women among the seminar leaders… I admit, if that’s all you know about me, it looks bad. In my little professional world, consisting almost entirely of people in metaphysics and philosophy of religion, I think I know nearly all the women who contribute to journals or attend conferences, and I have had many female students and dissertation advisees. I have always liked to think that, in these circles at least, I was thought of as somebody who made a point of including women in the events and books I put together. I organize conferences regularly, and they’ve always had women on the programs in the past. I used to host an annual “metaphysical mayhem” conference — it was an invitation-only annual summer workshop for professors specializing in metaphysics, with usually 12 or 15 papers, commentators for those papers, and an additional 20 or 30 professors there for discussion. Except for the first event (which consisted of 8 or 10 people, basically just the metaphysicians at Notre Dame, and visiting faculty at the center for philosophy of religion at Notre Dame who happened to be in residence that summer) I have always had numerous female participants (and, for several years, a female co-organizer, Tamar Gendler). Nowadays, the mayhem is a different sort of thing — four or five professors lead seminars over five days for a group consisting entirely of graduate students (several of whom are always women — there are more women among the up-and-coming generations of metaphysicians, I think). After this summer, the new-style Mayhem will have met three times. Delia Graff was one of the five speakers at the first one, Karen Bennett will be one of four (besides me) at the third. Given how few senior women there are in the field, this doesn’t seem to me to be surprisingly few among the mayhem profs. I’ve worked closely with quite a few female grad students at Rutgers, Syracuse, and Notre Dame; and I don’t think I’m fooling myself when I say that these women philosophers would “vouch” for me… To be tagged (twice) as an obvious male chauvinist in the volatile blogosphere came as a shock — though, when I looked at the tables of contents of OSM, and the flyer for the summer seminar, I certainly understood why it happened.

    The male-only composition of the program of the first summer seminar in philosophy of religion had not really dawned on me until I saw the poster. We are planning three of these events, one each summer for the next three years, and the list of speakers we are inviting includes, at this point, at least two senior women (the third year is largely uninvited at this point, so there will likely be more). Neither of these two are coming for the first year, though, and it hadn’t quite hit me that this meant the speakers in the first year’s program (which is all anyone will see at this point) are all male.

    Two factors make it difficult to find more than a handful of women qualified to speak at this event. First of all, it is in philosophy of religion. Among subfields in the already majority-male field of philosophy, philosophy of religion has remained more male-dominated than some of the larger, more mainstream subfields of philosophy. Secondly, this is a summer school for younger scholars, the goal of which is to set up seminars for graduate students and younger professors. Our feeling was that, since graduate work in philosophy of religion is uncommon, especially at the most “highly ranked” schools, it would be a good idea to put together a summer school in which young scholars could take short, intensive graduate seminars from the biggest figures in their subfield — in particular, the people who brought philosophy of religion back into analytic philosophy, like Plantinga, and the most senior scholars among the next generation after his, like Peter van Inwagen and Eleonore Stump (she will be one of the main seminar-leaders in 2011). There are really only four or five women in this overwhelmingly male group.

    Not absolutely everyone speaking is a super-senior person, though; and here, if I had noticed the absolute absence of women in year one, I would have suggested to my co-organizer that we must try harder to identify women speakers. But even when you turn to a slightly younger tier of philosophers of religion, the numbers of qualified female seminar-leaders, given the purpose of our summer seminar, is unbelievably small. We are trying to put junior professors into contact with somewhat older professors, who are already leaders in their field. Mostly, these people will have to be late associate or early full professors who are doing cutting-edge work, typically teaching in departments with graduate programs (so that they would be experienced at giving graduate seminars); and also, of course, they have to be deeply interested in philosophy of religion. I invite you to work your way down the graduate programs in philosophy (use the links, for instance, on the APA web site, or the Leiter report), and try to find a single tenured woman who specializes in philosophy of religion. There is one. (And her work fits well with a topic we hope to do in 2012, so I expect she’ll be invited then.) But if you can find a second, please send her name to us. Seriously. (Note that I’m excluding, here, the three most well-known, very senior philosophers of religion I was talking about in the previous paragraph, who were certainly on our radar from the beginning.)

    The dearth of women in metaphysics is often remarked upon (by those of us in the field, especially those of us trying to organize events that have some kind of gender balance). But philosophy of religion makes metaphysics look good, by comparison. That means we should be trying even harder to involve women in public events and in publishing ventures; but it also means it is extremely difficult to do.

    Of course there will be women participants in the St. Thomas summer seminars. Of the 183 applicants, 10% were female. Of the 20 philosophers accepted, 15% are women (and the three-person jury of distinguished scholars whom we drafted to make the decisions did include a woman).

    It is a worthwhile project to keep a weather eye out for bias in conference invitations and publications; I can see that we need people to do be doing this. It shows a lack of sensitivity to these issues, on my part, that I wasn’t aware, sooner, that the speakers for our first summer seminar would be all men. But, short of completely changing our goals for the seminars, we could not come up with a longer list of potential female speakers than the very short list we are working off of now. (The list would be much longer if we were choosing seminar-leaders who are up-and-coming junior professors — but that wouldn’t be super appropriate, given our goal of creating seminars in which up-and-coming junior professors are the students who get to meet the more senior scholars we bring in.) When subfields are very small, and, in the bad old days, almost entirely male, it can be very difficult to insure female participation in smaller, narrowly focused events without stooping to obvious tokenism — another thing to be avoided.

    So that’s about all I can say concerning the summer seminar; I’ll summarize what I hope are the mitigating circumstances: There will be three of these seminars (at least), there will be a very senior woman among next year’s primary speakers (Eleonore Stump, who accepted our invitation almost a year ago, I believe), and at least two other women are on our list to invite for the last year (they haven’t been invited yet, so I’d rather not say who they are in a public post); 15% of the seminar participants are women (a considerably larger proportion than the proportion of women applicants); a woman was one of our three-person panel choosing the participants; and anyone who knows just how few senior women there are in philosophy of religion will, I think, be able to imagine how we might find ourselves with senior women speakers in only two of our three years.

    Now, let me try to say something about the all-male authors in the first four volumes of Oxford Studies in Metaphysics. Since metaphysics is ever-so-slightly less gender-imbalanced than philosophy of religion (at least that’s my impression), it is actually more surprising to see that, until volume five, all the contributors to OSM were male. It certainly surprised (and embarrassed) me when it was pointed out (on this blog, I believe). And, again, I think it does show that there’s something a little wrong with me — not even realizing this had happened until so late in the day. But let me try to explain how this could come about, very gradually and in a way that wouldn’t be so obvious to an editor.

    I get submissions in two ways: (i) I solicit a few papers for each volume from senior people (though they still are sent out for refereeing, and a couple of times in recent years the results have even been negative), and (ii) I rely on a now quite popular “younger scholar prize” to generate submissions from people within ten years of earning their Ph.D. I receive, nowadays, at least 50 submissions a year for this competition, and about half the contributions to the volumes now come from the essays refereed by the judges of that contest (in other words, not all that are published are winners of the prize, which now comes with an $8000 award; but, on average, four or five additional essays are published from each year’s batch of prize submissions). When I began the series, I invited 10 or 12 senior “big shots” to contribute to the first volumes, to try to get the thing off to a proper start with papers by people like David Lewis and David Armstrong; and, at that point, I invited most of the female senior metaphysicians I could think of (I am certain that I asked Judith Thomson and Sally Haslanger, and perhaps a couple more, maybe Susan Haack or Louise Antony — but senior female metaphysicians are not thick on the ground). As it happened, the women I invited, sooner or later, turned me down (not, I feel sure, because they think of me as a male chauvinist; but because they were too busy, or not working on metaphysics — though I did manage to talk Sally into returning to some of her interests in metaphysics for the Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics, to which she contributed a terrific essay). It didn’t occur to me to worry much about the fact that the senior women were turning me down, because there are many more women in the younger generations, and I assumed they would enter the younger scholar competition — which some of them did indeed do, but not nearly so many as I would have hoped.

    I don’t have much control over the results of this second method of acquiring papers by younger people (I advertise on Leiter’s blog and other blogs, and sometimes in the APA proceedings; and I also send e-mails to graduate program directors, to distribute to their students). The judging is done by a three-member panel (I select the panel, but I am not a full-fledged member – and, for what it’s worth, in recent years, the panel has contained a woman), and they come up with a winner and also recommend which other papers they think are publishable — as I mentioned, they serve as referees for the submissions by younger scholars, as well as judges of the prize. Their judging is as blind as I can possibly make it; which of course means that they can’t be asked to employ any affirmative action policy in their judgments. Usually, the committee comes up with a clear winner, and definite decisions about which other papers are publishable; if there is some disagreement, I play a sort of mediating role — typically just urging them to talk amongst themselves and hash it out. Twice I have hired a fourth referee to weigh in on the final decision; but I think the panelists would agree that I generally take a back seat (as is appropriate, given that I know who wrote what).

    In 2009, 4 women submitted essays, and 50 men submitted essays. One of the women (Elizabeth Barnes) almost won, and her essay will be published in Vol. 6. This year, approximately 9 out of 53 essays are by women (I’m just judging by names, and gender is not always obvious, but it can’t be much more than 9). At this point, two essays by women are being published as a result of the competition (about 1 in 10 submissions eventually appears in OSM). Unfortunately, I don’t have figures for the first three years of the competition ready to hand, but there were far fewer entries — at first, only 10 or 12, then maybe 20; I seem to recall at least one of those years there were no essays by women at all.

    As the OSM series has become established, I do less inviting of senior people, and rely more on the annual essay competition (so the average age of contributors is going down rapidly!); but I’ve continued to invite a few contributions each year from people old enough to be no longer eligible for the prize, and I’ve certainly included women in this very small group of invitations (e.g., Delia Graff and Karen Bennett; in fact, Delia is, finally, supposed to give me a paper I asked for many years ago…right, Deli?!). I should also mention that most of the recruitment of contributions from senior scholars is being handled, starting with Vol. 6, by my co-editor, Karen Bennett; so, in future, please take up the issue of underrepresentation among senior contributors with her!

    The upshot is: I was quite unconscious of the absence of women in the first volumes, because I had invited quite a few women to contribute, and I had instituted a method of acquiring papers by younger people that I assumed would fairly and naturally uncover the best papers by the (more numerous, I expected) younger women. The competition itself was publically advertised, aimed at the younger generation (which does, in general, include many more women than the older ones), and was completely blind refereed by other people — making it nearly impossible to introduce any affirmative action considerations in deciding what essays to publish from its results. So the thought never occurred to me to try to do so. And before I knew it… there were four volumes with no women, and I had some serious explaining to do.

    So that’s all I can say about the two cases in which I do look rather like the gate-keeper at a boys-only club.

    There is another and, I think, more reliable way for people outside of a subfield to try to determine whether to worry about prejudice on the part of someone who organizes conferences and edits books or journals within that subfield; but it’s more time-consuming than counting heads, and no doubt impractical when what you’re looking for are general trends. What I have in mind is: ask the likely targets of prejudice in that subfield what they think is going on, and whether there is something surprising about the proportion of women to men involved in that person’s projects. Some subfields are worse than others for gender balance; and proportions that look bad in one area might be pretty good in another. You could, for instance, ask some of the women who work in metaphysics and who are within ten years on either side of me whether they think I’ve been excluding women from conferences I organize or books I edit. If you did this, I think you would get a different picture than you’re getting from looking just at the principle speakers for the first summer seminar in philosophy of religion and the authors in the first several OSMs. I’ve invited many women to speak, in one capacity or another, at conferences and workshops I’ve organized over the years; off the top of my head, I can think of quite a few: Berit Brogard, Kathrin Koslicki, Karen Bennett, Laurie Paul, Lynne Rudder Baker, Eleonore Stump, Elizabeth Barnes, Carrie Jenkins, Brie Gertler, Loretta Torrago, Jenann Ismael, Tamar Gendler, Delia Graff Fara, Elizabeth Harman, Diana Raffman, Susanna Siegel…I’m sure there are more, but I don’t keep very good records, so it would take some work to recover the full list. Anyhow, if you were to ask some of these women, especially the ones who work most centrally in metaphysics, whether they think women are underrepresented in the metaphysics events I organize and books I edit, I hope you would come away with a different impression than you’re getting from the two facts which have, understandably, caught your attention.

    Again, I appreciate the e-mail invitation to explain how these things came about. In the rowdy world of blogging, I feel you’ve treated me really quite humanely. Thanks for that.



  23. Thanks for coming by, Dean, and for taking this discussion so seriously and explaining so fully. What you describe (“it didn’t occur to me that the list was all-male until somebody pointed it out”) is exactly the way that implicit bias works. Perfectly well-intentioned people simply don’t realise what’s going on unconsciously. And, crucially, a list that’s all-male looks *normal* and doesn’t raise any red flags until someone points it out.

    I should say that I’m personally not so sure about the use of categories like ‘sexist’ or ‘male chauvinist’ in cases like this, which is why I’ve avoided doing so– this is unconscious stuff, and can occur in the absence of any conscious discriminatory attitudes and in the presence of their opposite.

    Thanks again for stopping by, for thinking these issues through with us, and for your planned changes.

  24. Let me add also: I think it’s incredibly important to talk about this stuff candidly, as you do, especially about the phenomenology of it. It matters that you’re someone who consciously thinks about and cares about these issues and that nonetheless you are subject to implicit bias. (To those of us who know these issues that’s no shock: it means you’re a human.) If you’re willing, and I hope that you are, one of the most important things you can do to help the cause is to TALK about this stuff and spread awareness of it. We need to bring it about that people no longer think they can introspect and see that they are free from bias, and you’re very well-situated to help us in that, given your experience.

    Finally, thanks for thinking we’re humane. We try. ;)

  25. Let me also invite you to advertise the competitions, etc on this blog, and suggest that you send them as well to the Society for Women in Philosophy mailing lists– google SWIP-L and SWIP UK to find them. Lots of women philosophers (in many fields) subscribe to them and read this blog, and not all of them read Leiter, etc.

  26. I am a senior female metaphysician, and this is a message for Dean. First, Dean, thank you for taking the time to respond to the discussion on this list. Second, I think of you as a perfectly well-intentioned, extremely nice person who wants to do the right thing. That said, I think it was straightforwardly a mistake not to notice the problem with the conferences and OSM. Many senior women have noticed. It gets commented on routinely.

    My hope is that we can move past this in a constructive way and without acrimony, since it is very easy for anyone to make this sort of mistake unconsciously. Perhaps we can all try to be more aware of these issues when assembling conferences and issuing invitations in the future. The results, of course, are what will tell: outcomes, not attitudes, are what ultimately matter. The point is not to label some people as good and others as bad, but rather to move to a situation where, as a matter of standard practice, we don’t routinely see such absurd and unjustifiable imbalances and oversights.

  27. One way to get concerned is to consider the following:

    1. Though we hear there are few women doing philosophy of religion, there are lots of women, apparently, in religion departments, according to the American Academy of Religion; 26.7% of the tenured member of religion depts are women, and 60% of the tenure track faculty are women.
    2. We wonder why there are so few women doing metaphysics – or so we are told – but there are a number of women addressing these problems as historians of philosophy. Witness, for example, Christia Mercer and Eileen O’Neill’s anthology on early modern philosophy on mind and metaphysics.
    3. We probably think the number of women doing philosophy of language is low, but the field of linguistics has lots of women.
    4. And no doubt the word is that there aren’t many women doing philosophy of mind, but 36% of those doing cognitive psychology are women.

    So there is evidence that in at least some of these field, there are fine women scholars doing work on the same or pretty closely related topics, often with considerable originality. I really have little idea what’s going on in general in religion, but I do know that some of the work in history of philosophy, linguistics and cognitive psychology is really top-notch. And there are brilliant and original feminist theologians.

    It isn’t that women can’t do the sort of work we’re discussing, but clearly many who can do not end up in philosophy.

  28. None of what I just noted shows that women find introductory courses in philosophy a turn-off or that women in philosophy grad school are under a variety of pressures to go into the fields where it is recognized that women do them (history of ethics/political philosophy). Nor does it show that there is excellent work being done by women that is kept under the radar by various factors.

    However, it should make us wonder whether there is really some incompatibility between being women and thinking about the topics of the core and male-preserve areas.

  29. I would like to second Anon sr metaphysician’s comments. But I would add that Dean Zimmerman appears to be an exception–in a good way–rather than the norm, at least in the philosophy profession. He cared enough to try to explain himself in a particularly appropriate forum.

    No doubt, “implicit bias” is widely common. But it often seems too quickly cited in cases where, in fact, the major explanation for gendered and racialized imbalances would appear to be biases of a more familiar kind, say, explicit, presumptuous, or institutionally indifferent.

    If there were very many perfectly well-intentioned people in philosophy, the profession–especially at the level of hiring in research departments–would not continue to look and function the way it does…after roughly 40 years of its overwhelming white maleness being actively raised as an issue.

    Indeed, the philosophy exception–as compared to other major fields in the humanities and social sciences–has become a named phenomenon. The situation is an embarrassment to our profession and, I imagine, helps to explain the increasingly, openly dim view of our profession from outsiders.

    As A.s.m suggests, handwringing about the persistent underrepresentation (and underrecognition) of women and minorities in philosophy is beyond tired. Results are what matter, and presently there is little evidence that more than modest change might be coming.

    jj @ 15 is on point. Well-intentioned persons (like Dean Zimmerman) don’t get bitterly defensive when obvious, longstanding problems are brought to the fore. Those whose sensitivities are tender would do better simply to acknowledge the obvious and try to commit themselves and others to substantial, corrective courses of action.

    In the meantime, I favor calling out offenders more, not less.

  30. I do both metaphysics and philosophy of religion, so let me present some anecdotal evidence in support of the suggestion that it isn’t the content of these fields but the way in which they’re institutionalized in the profession.

    It’s harder to publish in metaphysics than it is in feminism and social and political philosophy. There is simply less opportunity to publish or present minor, non-technical pieces that can be swatted up fast. Please understand: I am NOT saying that feminism, ethics, etc. are soft: there’s a hard core that’s just as hard as metaphysics. But there is also an extensive, soft penumbra that makes it easier to get lots and lots of little publications and presentations for vita-building.

    Women in the profession face greater risks than their male counterparts–there are fewer viable fall-back positions and, because of implicit bias, women are assessed more harshly. Before tenure, there’s more pressure to get lots of stuff on your vita and get it on fast. And, outside of major research institutions, there they don’t care that much about the content: just get a long list of publications, presentations and professional activity, and get it fast. This, at least, was the way it was at my place. So, after getting out one piece from my dissertation, I got into feminism and “applied ethics” where I could get more vita entries.

    There is also some pressure to get into feminism. In grad school, the faculty member in charge of placement, recommended that we women put together a “feminist discussion group” so that we could put feminism on our vitae. This was all perfectly cynical on his part (and on ours) and relatively non-intrusive. But when I got my tenure-track position, I was told that the way I could get into the strongest possible position for tenure was to “get into feminism.” Of course he didn’t tell me that I wouldn’t get tenure if I didn’t get into feminism–that would probably have been actionable. But if you are a junior faculty member (with a kid and unemployed husband), jobs are scarce, and you don’t see any non-secretarial options outside of academia, you are going to be scared shitless and will do anything that could improve your chances of tenure.

    After spending 6+ years doing this stuff, it’s hard to get back on track. You lose touch with what’s going on in metaphysics and, at the same time, have developed a new specialty where you can keep cranking out papers. My take is that it isn’t about metaphysicians keeping women out, whether intentionally or unintentionally, but how the academic system works and in particular the incentives. Feminism, ethics and social and political provide a fall-back position, a safety net, for women.

    The phil of religion/religious studies dynamic is different. Philosophy of religion is dominated by theists, mostly Christians, doing philosophical theology. And I am one of them. Theology is dominated by atheists, “religious studies scholars” who have a “non-realist” take on religion. Christianity on the ground is simply uncongenial to professional women, including academics. Look at any church, including liberal ones like my own, and while you will see a preponderance of women, professional women will be seriously unrepresented. Churches almost universally cater for “traditional” women. Now this is my conjecture and I’d like to see some stats. According to the Phil Papers poll, about 14% of professional philosophers are theists. I would bet that if you broke this down you’d find a somewhat higher figure for men and a much lower figure for women.

    Anyway, my guess is that there are disproportionately few women in phil of religion because there are disproportionately few women in the profession who are sympathetic to theism. As I think I said in my earlier post, this issue comes up over and over and over at every meeting of the Society of Christian Philosophers: “Where are the women?” And there’s probably going to be a session addressing this question at the next Pacific SCP. I’ve been pushing for this.

    This issue is a little complex because phil of religion and metaphysics overlap, so the dearth of women in metaphysics contributes to the dearth of women in phil of religion. But mainly I think the gender imbalance in phil of religion doesn’t come from inside the profession so much as factors outside, from the fact that churches are just unfriendly places for academic women–something that men, with the best of intentions, don’t often notice.

  31. H.E.– I’m very surprised by what you say about feminism. This discussion is purely anecdotal, but I’ve heard anecdote after anecdote about articles on feminism being rejected simply because the subject matter isn’t “important”, or rejected by incompetent referees who know nothing about feminism, or being rejected without review (where the authors’ papers in other areas always go to referees). I’ve had far too many junior colleagues in feminism tell me that their colleagues refuse to count work in feminism as serious publications. The standard advice given to young feminists these days is to market themselves as something else if they want a job.

    Your experience sounds very, very different. Perhaps it’s because the bit of feminism you got into is applied ethics, where the mainstream journals are more receptive to feminist work?

  32. Jender, I’m just saying what it’s like from the perspective of someone at a non-research-oriented college–where lots of us are. I’ve never even tried to get my feminist stuff, or any other stuff since my first glorious publication, published in mainstream or prestigeous journals. I look for places where they’re most likely to get in because, as I said, at my place–and I suspect this is true of a number of other places–they just want a long list of “professional activity.”

    I don’t know how to do this but it would be good to get a larger, fairer sample of women in the profession to find out which experience is more typical since I suspect that this blog over-represents women (and men) who have a serious professional interest in feminism. And feminism is a serious area, shouldn’t be rejected as “not serious” etc. With that I heartily agree.

    However looked at from the POV of individuals who want to do feminism but are thwarted by the way things work in the profession, the issue looks very different from the way it does to someone who wants to do metaphysics but finds that being female, for a variety of reasons, is an impediment. I’d just like to see a bigger picture: maybe my experience is anomalous. Dunno.

    It really takes us back to the discussion on risk-taking, in which I argued that women are under-represented in philosophy in toto because it’s risky. My point is that within the profession doing metaphysics is risky. Now, as I’ve returned to it, I’m scared. I may never get another publication. I won’t get fired, but won’t get any more merit pay increases and my colleagues will regard me as “dead wood” because I’m not producing vita-entries.

  33. Hi H. E. – I think your experience may not reflect the experiences of those of us in the UK. We’ve got far less non-research oriented departments – although there are some. Research-oriented departments don’t just want to see professional activity; they want to see publications in ‘good’ – and by that they mean ‘mainstream’ – journals. In fact, I’ve sat in shortlisting meetings where the general mood has been that a publication in a ‘minor’ journal or with a less-well known publisher is worse than no publications at all, as it demonstrates that the candidate’s work is not top-notch research. This means that for the vast majority of UK jobs, people need to publish in the mainstream philosophy journals. As Jender has said, it’s very difficult to get them to publish feminist philosophy, because it’s not taken seriously as a topic. Metaphysics, on the other hand, is considered to be a respectable and difficult philosophical field.

    It’s interesting that you should say Theology tends to be atheists. Anecdotally, at my place of work they are mostly all Christian.

  34. H.E., that’s really interesting. It’s important to get the bigger picture– mine may well have been unduly influenced by the people I’m talking to most: people in the UK, people whose chief interest is feminist philosophy, and people at research-oriented institutions. I wasn’t aware that there were places which define productivity in terms of quantity and place the sort of pressures you describe. We need to think about how to improve things at those places as well.

  35. It’s a very bad business, and not just as regards feminism. Once you get a job at a place where they want “professional activity” and don’t much care what kind, you can get effectively stuck. You spend time churning out those pot-boilers–including papers/presentations on philosophical pedagogy as well as minor presentations at minor conferences, and don’t have the time to do real stuff that takes more preparation and has a longer turn-around time. It’s just too risky to go for the gold–in a lousy market, you just want to survive.

    At my place years back they got in a guy to do a workshop for us on research in philosophical pedagogy. He said, outright, at a place like this, with your 4-4 course load and obligations, it isn’t feasible to do research in your fields in a serious way. But being at a teaching college you’re in a good position to do research on teaching philosophy and there are publication outlets for this work.

  36. A couple more thoughts…

    Part of the reason I went so fully into the phenomenology of how I gradually ended up with these two “all-male revues” was to try to convey how I was thinking of my invitations and so on, as an editor and conference organizer planning several years of events and a series of publications. When I used to organize the Mayhem every summer, there would be one month when I did all the inviting for that summer at once, and it would be obvious to me if the women I initially invited turned me down, and the program was looking ridiculously lop-sided. And when I plan a single volume, like the Oxford Handbook of Metaphysics, I’m doing all the invitations at once, and the complete absence of women among the contributors does, actually, jump out at me. But in these two cases, I was juggling long lists of names intended for two series of things. Often people slated for one volume of OSM are late and end up in a much later volume. I only occasionally think of the volumes as single units (when I finally have to send 10 or 12 articles off – it’s like cutting off a sausage that comes out of a meat grinder; ew, sorry, that’s kind of a gross thought). Something similar was true of the St. Thomas things; people who couldn’t come to the first year of the summer seminars were able to come to a later year. So I was rarely looking at the individual volumes and summer programs properly, as units — just vaguely thinking that, since there were quite a few women “in the mix” of people invited to contribute to OSM and in the competition, and at least a few on our list of invites and potential invites for the summer seminars, it would all come out all right in the end… As I say, I do find it hard to believe I didn’t notice the OSM absence myself, immediately…I’m clearly not as “on the lookout” for such things as I have believed myself to be.

    Harriet Baber has some made some really perceptive remarks in this thread about the differences between scholars with philosophical interests in religion or religious studies departments, and philosophers of religion in primarily “analytic” philosophy departments; and about publication pressures. The gulf is gigantic between (“analytic”) philosophers of religion and philosophers in religious studies or theology; these people cannot even speak the same language as one another. A lot of it has to do, I suspect, with religion departments (in the U.S.) getting their start in the heyday of logical positivism — so, if you were going to bring any philosophy to bear upon religious issues (besides saying, “religious talk is meaningless!”), it had to come from somewhere else (the Continent, mainly, though some turned to dissenters like the later Whitehead, or Paul Weiss). In seminaries and departments of religion, many professors still routinely tell their students not to bother with analytic philosophy because “they’re all logical positivists”!

    Harriet mentions places that apply pressure to publish, anywhere, so long as it’s an academic journal of some kind… I can confirm that I have heard many philosophers in less prestigious schools in the U.S. reporting this sort of pressure. And I think it MAY well discourage younger people from pursuing metaphysics (though I don’t really know, first hand, about the publishing opportunities in other subdisciplines). Even (seemingly) obscure European journals of metaphysics have pretty strict refereeing and high standards; it’s very tough to get published in metaphysics, when you’re just starting out. What she says rings true.

    A couple of mistakes or infelicities in my first post: I seem to be implying that Karen Bennett is the only woman leading a day of the next Mayhem, other than myself! And apparently I’ve invented a new nickname for Delia — “Deli”. Probably not going to catch on.

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