is philosophy Ageist?

I think been thinking for a while about references to age in philosophy blogs and web documents, but this particular post is a reaction to a comment by maenad on this post.**  I think the comment is important and it can focus our attention on a possible trend that might be significant and unfortunate.

First, though, let’s note that with any of the “isms” that label as discriminatory acts or attitudes, there is often some controversy over how conscious and intentional the phenomena have to be to get the label.  However, if we are talking about practical outcomes, rather than assigning blame, we might try to put the issues surrounding awareness to one side.  So this post is not about conscious ageism.

Some time in the mid to late 80’s it seemed to me that the philosophy profession had started to recognize that women might be able to do philosophy.  Before that it could be close to impossible to get called on at a meeting or to find people willing to engage one in a discussion that did not simply end up with one being lectured.  Then rather suddenly one started to hear female voices in non-feminist meetings.

There was a rub about the change, though.  It seemed to be assumed that what was really going on was that women who started philosophy around then could be called on.  Not so for the old hands. 

In this context it is very noticeable that now that members of the profession seem able and prepared to do something about the very considerable lack of justice for women in our profession, there is some Significant focus on young mwomen.  This reference to age is often completely explicit, and can come from both men and women.  And there may well be some good reasons for it.  The young are our future, young people are struggling, etc.  At the same it, this view leaves us with a profession that continues very considerable inequities for many women.

It may leave untouched many of the problems younger women will encounter further down the road. If I remember correctly, the STEM figures suggest that there’s a continous loss both of women and of opportunities for women as they age.  

Interestingly, the NSF Advance program, which has been a big factor in improving the representationof women in STEM fields,  has highlighted recovering the talented women who have for one reason or another been sidelined in  scientific research.   I am not sure what the reason for this move was, but it makes sense for any profession that has been unfriendly to women for so long.

** do note that the reference to young members of the profession was in a report being discussed. It is also not referring specificaly to women.