Ancient Philosophy Conference, lots of women

Check it out!!

The organiser, Matthew Duncombe, tells me that the submitted papers were chosen by anonymous review, and *all* turned out to be by women. He notes that “The respondents are mostly men, but sadly that was unavoidable, as they are all PhD students at Cambridge in a rather male-dominated department.”

16 thoughts on “Ancient Philosophy Conference, lots of women

  1. Wow — blind review leads to a program with all women. It’s a good anecdote to have around to counter certain stereotypes. I’m posting this! Thanks so much.

  2. One hates to be picky, but the last speaker, Dr Kurt Lampe, currently seems to have some characteristics at odds with being a woman. Chief among these is that the home page at Bristol uses ‘he’ in describing him. The red beard is also a bit anamolous.

  3. Sorry but I don’t find this information uplifting at all. What were these women presenting on? What were their topics? The neglect of female philosophers in ancient times? I doubt it. Women in philosophy often specialize in history of philosophy, including ancient philosophy. Why? Because that’s where jobs are and not in feminist philosophy. Men in philosophy who deny the reality of sexism can simply say “Look, why are you complaining? Why is there a need for feminist philosophy? There is a conference in philosophy in which all the presenters are women.” Having more women in traditional history of philosophy is not a sign of significant progress. It’s like husbands in sexist mariages giving their wives money and recognition for their wife and motherwork but not allowing them to work outside the home. :(

  4. An, I think you are raising important issues, though I don’t necessarily share your perspective on them. I also don’t want to hog this conversation. Let me point out, however, that some of the work in history of philosophy done by women can be informed by an illuminating feminist perspective. I’m thinking here of Annette Baier on Hume and Jenny Lloyd on Spinoza. There are many others.

    I do know that some of Baier’s work on Hume that is distinctively feminist may completely pass the men by. I’m thinking particularly of her stress on the role of community in Hume and her rejection of the Cartesian idea that the mind is whole and entire in itself. Jackie taylor has also worked on the role of community in Humean ethics, and yet I think still the unquestioned individualism of the male Humeans is pretty strong.

  5. Good points. Yes I am familiar with feminist perspectives on white male philosophers. Nancy Tuana edited a series of books on re-reading the canon. I contributed a paper to a volume. I think this is an important series but probably the contents are ignored by many philosophers in the area of history of Western philosophy. I wonder what the papers for the ancient philosophy conference are about. Certainly it would make me feel more celebratory if many are about feminist perspectives on ancient philosophers and/or engage with contemporary themes because this would show that those selecting the papers were feminist friendly. From what I hear, however, folks specializing in ancient philosophy tend to be especially conservative; though I hope I am wrong.

  6. I just checked out the conference site Heather above refers to. Unfortunately, papers seem to be simply solidifying the traditional canon.

  7. I’m another of the conference organizers, and someone else who was very pleased by the result. Because I’ve been keeping tabs on the gendered conference campaign, I would probably have said something if we used blind review and ended up with an all-male program. For one, our final choices in coming up with a program felt almost arbitrary since we had more good papers than slots. It’s worth noting with regard to our keynotes that much the more senior speaker was female and much the more junior male.

    I have to admit I’m confused by the dialectic of the comments here. Can’t we keep two things separate, women in philosophy and feminist philosophy? I think both are important, but the gendered conference campaign isn’t about the latter, is it?

  8. I’m with you, D– and I meant to weigh in on this earlier, but was busy and then forgot. The Gendered Conference Campaign is about women in philosophy, not feminist philosophy: it’s about breaking down the stereotype of philosophy as male, and this goal is just as well served by women doing “traditional” philosophy as by women doing feminist philosophy. Indeed, it’s arguably *better* served by increasing the representation of women doing traditional philosophy, since feminist philosophy is *not* stereotyped as male. (Although, to be honest, history is also *less* stereotyped as male than many other areas.)

    Increasing the representation of feminist philosophy is also a worthy goal, which this blog supports, but the GCC is not about that.

  9. Thanks for that, Jender. I think the conference was good for Cambridge, since ancient philosophy here is very male-dominated (all the university-level teaching faculty and roughly 2/3 of the graduate students), despite its location (for funny historical reasons) in a classics department.

  10. Now I’m a little confused here. This blog is called “feminist philosophers.” I guess having a conference on ancient philosophy where most of the speakers are women can to some extent serve to challenge the stereotype that only men can do philosophy. But whatever challenge this entails is significantly undercut by the fact that the papers are perpetuating the assumption that the Greek male philosophers are the most deserving of attention and critique. As I said before the extent of the challenge really depends on the content of the papers. What would ancient women philosophers think of a conference all about ancient male philosophers and their writings and nothing at all about them? Would they find this a happy situation? My points in my other postings have not been addressed though they are relevant.

  11. P.S. Do give another analogy: Do we normally think women leaders of conservative parties are a good thing?

  12. There are two goals: promoting feminism and promoting women in philosophy. The goals call for different methodologies. Getting more women into traditional metaphysics conferences can serve the second goal, but not the first. Getting more men giving papers at feminism can serve the first goal but not (except indirectly) the second. The GCC is about promoting women in philosophy, not about feminist philosophy. (And yes, it’s still appropriate for this blog. We are feminists who are philosophers. And it’s a feminist goal within philosophy.)

    As to women leaders of conservative parties: they are a good thing for breaking down stereotypes about what women can do. They’re not a good thing for advancing feminist policies.

  13. Sure, point well taken; but if the areas of traditional philosophy don’t change their terms and if those working in them are still expected to engage with particular white, male philosophers seen as the most great, then the project of promoting women in traditional areas of philosophy is definitely going to conflict with and undermine the project of promoting women in feminist philosophy and other philosophers concered with issues of gender, race, class, culture, ability, etc, i.e. those who are very critical of traditional philosophy as a tool of white, male, abelist centered culture. I am not saying anything orginal or new here–as this kind of perspective has been advanced by a lot of “radical” philosophers working on different social issues. Perhaps though, on a more positive note, women specializing in ancient philosophy once they obtain jobs can teach and research in the other, “radical” areas of philosophy, and thus help advance marginalized philosophy in this way. Certainly there are women and men in feminist philosophy who started off in traditional areas of philosophy; and these have been very active in promoting women and other people from under-represented groups in philosophy. It is certainly still highly risky for one’s philosophical career to specialize in feminist philosophy at the onset.

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