They make it easier

While everyone knows that philosophers love the occasional blogosphere shitstorm, this latest one has been more than a little uncomfortable and upsetting for a lot of people. So to cheer ourselves up on this Monday morning, let’s use this blog to remind ourselves of some of the awesome female philosophers who are out there making philosophy a better place for women.

One thing that struck me about the comments on this post was how many people said that Jenny Saul makes it easier to be a woman in philosophy. She does, as do many other women out there – and that’s a helpful thing to remember sometimes. So this post in an invitation. Please comment and tell us about a woman who has made it easier to be a woman in philosophy (either for you personally, or for women you know). Or tell us about several such women. The more the merrier, really!

38 thoughts on “They make it easier

  1. I’m not a woman, so perhaps I’m not in the best position to say which women philosophers have made it easier for women in philosophy. But if it’s ok, I’d like to say a few things about some of the great women philosophers that I’ve been fortunate enough to know personally. In order to keep this short, I won’t mention all of them, but maybe it will get the ball rolling.

    A number of people know Laurie Paul as a great metaphysician who can literally kick the crap out of people with her mastery of the martial arts (no joke). She has also organized a ton of conferences over the last six or seven years (maybe longer?) that did an excellent job at showcasing the work of established and up-and-coming women philosophers. One of my favorite things to do at those conferences (when I’m lucky enough to get to come) is to jog with Laurie while we talk philosophy. She is smart and tough, and inspiring.

    Elizabeth Barnes is an awesome philosopher; her work on ontic vagueness, for example, is really first-rate stuff; she also does important work on disability. She’s also one of the most compassionate and fundamentally decent people I know. She inspires me with her strength and her sense of justice.

    Karen Bennett rules. I’m lucky that Cornell is only an hour’s drive or so from Syracuse, so I get to see her at local conferences fairly regularly. Super-smart and very funny too. I’ve learned a lot from Karen.

    My sister Shieva Kleinschmidt just got a job at USC! She is definitely already made a big splash, and I expect some big things (or stuff) from her.

    While I’m talking about “the latest generation”, let me also mention Meghan Sullivan. Holy cow, she is impressive. Notre Dame is incredibly lucky to have hired her.

    I could go on and on and on…. but i need to take care of my ten-month old daughter. There are so many great women philosophers; when my daughter becomes one herself I can’t help but think their examples will have made things better for her.

  2. But I will feel like a dorkus malorkus if I don’t mention my close friend Carrie Jenkins, who has published important work in metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and philosophy of mathematics. (She’s also a great musician, but maybe I am a little biased there….)

    ok, need to feed the baby. :)

  3. Awwww, thanks Kris. :-)

    I have two people that I’d like to mention (there are so many others, but these two hold a special place in my heart). First, I’ll echo Kris’s praise for Laurie Paul. Laurie is a big part of the reason I wound up as a philosopher. When I was a final year undergraduate, I was trying to decide whether to go to grad school in philosophy. I was feeling nervous about it for a lot of reasons – so many of which were gender-related, though I don’t think I was particularly aware of that at the time. Anyway, Laurie came and gave a talk at my college, and she was awesome. She was young and cool and confident and relaxed, and of course she gave a great paper. Somehow, watching her give that talk made me think “Okay, I can do this.” For as long as I’ve known her professionally, she’s gone out of her way to encourage me. Have I mentioned she’s awesome?

    The second person is Katherine Hawley. Katherine was one of my supervisors when I was doing my phd. She’s also my hero. She made me feel supported, valued, and encouraged without ever making me feel like she was coddling me or talking down to me. Her philosophical insight and clarity, which she manages to convey powerfully without the slightest philosophical aggressiveness, have been and remain the professional model to which I aspire. I owe her more than I can say.

  4. Aww, thanks!

    One I’d like to name is Sarah Buss. When I was a PhD student at Princeton, I was having a horrendous time due to my disability, and she really helped me keep going.

    Then of course there’s Sally Haslanger.

    Also Helen Beebee- who has done fabulous work mainstreaming issues of women in philosophy in the UK through her work with the BPA.

  5. Excellent! Thanks for the great posts. Keep them coming, people. And now that someone else has started things off, I can chime in without feeling silly.

    I know she’s already had her own thread, but this thread wouldn’t be complete without her: Jenny Saul. And once more with feeling: Jenny Saul. Because I catch a glimpse behind the scenes here at FP, I’m beginning to get a sense of how much effort – mental, emotional, and physical – Jenny puts into making philosophy a better place for women. It makes me a little awestruck, and to be honest it makes me tired just thinking about it. We’re really lucky to have someone like her in our corner, fighting the good fight.

  6. All my fellow bloggers at FP (and not just the women, though I known this violates post rules): they keep me going when I want to give up.

  7. Lorraine Code. I heard her speak when I was a grad student teetering on going to law school. I liked her work on second persons, saw her talking about issues that I thought were important and saw that she was a big deal. Her example still helps me keep my head up.

  8. At this time more than ever: Linda Alcoff, who was a much valued senior colleague at Syracuse University. While I have often disagreed with her over substance and tactics, she is to be acclaimed for sticking her neck out while so many others prefer the path of least resistance; she makes the path for those that follow much easier.

  9. I’ll second (third?) the shout-out for Laurie Paul! She’s been a huge resource for women in metaphysics. There’s a wonderful community among women working in the subfield now, and that is due in no small part to Laurie’s leadership at conferences. And another reason to admire Laurie– she can break a board held over her head with a single karate kick!!

    Ruth Chang, Frankie Egan, Susanna Schellenberg, and Holly Smith were also very encouraging “local” role models for me in graduate school. I’m especially indebted to Frankie, who took the time to help me develop my first logic course and helped me get a handle on undergraduate teaching.

  10. The first person who came to my mind when this post went up was Sarah Buss. I was a grad student at Princeton around the same time as Jenny, and Sarah was (and is!) a true light.

  11. Alison Wylie. Her work on the Chilly Collective at Western and the work she did on Women, work and the academy: Responding to ‘post-civil rights era gender discrimination have been so very useful and inspiring, and now Hypatia.

    And, of course, Sally Haslanger, for her work on journal editing practices and the representation of women in philosopher, and so much more.

  12. I’m a graduate student at Colorado and all of the female faculty are commendable. I have had the most experience with Alison Jaggar, Claudia Mills, and Mitzi Lee, but I know that Kathryn Koslicki and Carol Cleland are very supportive of their respective students as well. They (and many of the male professors, my fellow graduate students, and the department’s staff) help make CU a great place to study philosophy!

  13. I’ve been very inspired by women in my subfield of early modern philosophy. Though I’ve not had many personal interactions with them, people like Patricia Easton, Marcy Lascano, Alice Sowaal, Mary Domski, Ericka Tucker, Karolina Hubner, Julie Walsh, and Emily Crookston are top-notch peers and role models. Large numbers of women in a philosophical subfield contribute to a sense of safety and security; it allows other women to take intellectual risks that they might not have taken otherwise.

  14. I also am not in the best position to say who has made things easier for women. However, there are several women philosophers to whom I owe debts of gratitude that I will never be able to repay. Laurel Scotland-Stewart, Jennifer McKitrick, Reina Hayaki, Sarah McGrath, and, especially, Janice Dowell and Sarah Sawyer have all been there for me when I desperately needed encouragement.

  15. Many many have helped me along the way and I can’t list them all or even a short list. But I want to give a special shout-out to Charlotte Witt and Rae Langton. Thanks too to those who mentioned me.

  16. Jennifer Saul: she is my model for how to do really good work- everything that she’s written is abundant in substance, clarity, insight, and balance.

    Amy Kind: she’s a great speaker, is doing really interesting work on the imagination, and has been a force for good in the Pacific Division (APA).

    Laurie Paul: her papers and presentations pack an incredible punch (in the best way), and she’s encouraged me and other junior women, not only by example, but with generous and honest conversation.

  17. What a great idea for a post! It is so nice to have an opportunity to name with acclaim.

    I want to second the kudos for Rae Langton — both she *and* Sally have been wonderfully supportive mentors for me, as a grad student and now as a junior faculty member. I’m not sure I’d still be in philosophy if it weren’t for them.

    Alison McIntyre, Catherine Wearing, Jill North, and Rachael Briggs have also provided much-needed support and encouragement along the way.

    And I’ll also join the chorus of shout-outs for Jenny, and all the bloggers who keep Feminist Philosophers so active and interesting. Thanks!

  18. I heart Karen Bennett. Every girl in philosophy should be so lucky as to have someone like her for a teacher.

  19. Another person that deserves mention is Christina van Dyke. Christina took a tremendous personal risk when she publicly fought her exclusion from an NEH summer seminar (the seminar organizers had claimed she wouldn’t be able to participate adequately because she is a single mom). That wasn’t an easy thing to do, but it’s hopefully spared other women similar forms of discrimination.

  20. This *is* a great idea, and it’s very heartening to see all the names going up!

    I’ll start with Susan Moller Okin — not strictly a philosopher, but she paved the way for a lot of political theorists, and was very supportive to many women grad students in poli sci and philosophy.

    Debra Satz, who supported women grad students even whilst fighting her own battles — and who emerged victorious!

    Ann Garry, whom I’ve only met a few times at conferences, but never fails to offer useful advice and genuine comradely spirit.

    I know I’ve missed many, but thanks for the opportunity to remind myself of all the support I’ve received.

  21. Honestly, if Claudia Card was not at Wisconsin when I stumbled into it, I would have quit philosophy so fast. She was so unapologetically herself, in pursuit of lines of study she found promising regardless of the opinions of others. Also, she made it clear to me that she thought I was good at philosophy, which was news to me.

    But Claudia helping me at least makes some sense, as I became her advisee. I have no earthly idea why Hilde Lindemann, Susan Brison, Margaret Walker, Peggy DesAutels and Paula Gottlieb have been mentoring and supportive figures for me. Perhaps they’ve just TONS of time on their hands? :-) And why would a junior colleague like Alice MacLachlan share her efforts on a topic we both study, support me in my endeavors, why? When does Andrea Veltman find the time to give me detailed feedback (which she does!)? Where does the motivating impulse to be such helpful and extraordinary women come from? WHen I grow up, I want to be just like them!!

  22. Kathrin Koslicki has been an incredible mentor, teacher, and friend to me. She’s also unbelievably brave, in many different ways, and has done many things at Colorado that made it much, much easier for me to be a woman in philosophy (and, specifically, in metaphysics). She’s truly admirable.

  23. Paula Gottlieb is my hero! My experience as a grad student at UW Madison was made so much better by her kindness, her perceptive manner, and generous comments. Thank you Paula.

  24. Thanks, Anne, for the shout out. Annette Baier’s support made a huge difference to me early on in my career. I’m just back from the Hume conference in Edinburgh, and to see so many of her former students who are taking original and often feminist inspired approaches to early modern philosophy is heartening.

    I also want to echo thanks to all the bloggers on FP.

  25. Let me second a couple words of praise. I probably would have left philosophy if it weren’t for Annette Baier. And I have seen first hand a lot (but hardly all) the work Jackie Taylor has been doing on behalf of women in philosophy.
    And to add to the list: Margaret Wilson, though I only met her once, made a huge impression on me, both through her work and through the work of her students, and her generosity. Eileen O’Neill also has made a significant impact both through her mentoring of women students and support of junior women, and through her work.

  26. Too long a list, but some of the most awesome women who have given me unadulterated, pure support or just ‘juice’ to carry on: Susan Wolf, Sally Haslanger, Maggie Little, Tamar Schapiro, Pat Curd, Connie Rosati, Frances Kamm, Chrisoula Andreou, Valerie Tiberius, Lori Gruen, Laurie Paul, Sarah Buss, my female colleagues at Rutgers, all the women grads at Rutgers and really cool women grad students I have met over the years at other depts. Then the women who were my teachers: Sabina Lovibond, Jen Hornsby, and Susan Hurley – they showed me that women can do it!

    And there are two younger people I have to single out as just incredible people in my book, one female and one male. First, Meghan Sullivan (it looks bad b/c she mentions me but that’s not why I’m saying this): I’ve seen her up close and personal, and trust me, she is a force to watch out for. Second, Tyler Doggett at Vermont. He is the Platonic form of Great Philosophical Commentator – really probing while deeply sympathetic with zero ego on the page. This next generation is going to bring really good things.

  27. I’m sure I’ve missed recognition of others who contribute to my sense of “safety” in my subfield, but I need to add Lisa Shapiro to that list as well. She was one of the first women philosophers that I ever heard give a talk in my field, and I remember thinking, “I want to do philosophy like THAT!”

  28. Can we still contribute to this thread? :)
    (or have a relevantly similar one to it?) :)

  29. Ok, I will then! As before, I don’t feel like I can speak for women philosophers, but I do think threads like this one are really important, and I hope you will consider having another one like this in the future. In the meantime, I hope it is ok that I mention how awesome I think my two new colleagues at Syracuse are, both of whom just finished their first year with us: Jessica Gelber, who works primarily on ancient philosophy, and Hille Paakkunainen, who works primarily in ethics. Both are terrific philosophers and great people to have around. We are really lucky to have recruited them!

  30. Kris, thanks so much for a comment that is so positive. It is the sort of thing that makes many of us more hopeful about the future of women in philosophy. One small step…

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