Rebecca Kukla has a post up on this topic over at Leiter.
Tentatively, I think that for a subdiscipline of philosophy to be truly woman-friendly, it needs all of the following to be true. (1) There are a sizable number of leaders and up-and-coming stars in the field who are women, regardless of whether they take up feminist issues, and (2) it has a culture of taking women seriously, treating them respectfully, and including them in social networks and professional opportunities. If feminist approaches to the field are helpful, then also (3) there is a thriving community of feminist scholars who have the means to network with one another and exchange ideas and support, and (4) feminist insights and approaches are not relegated to a ghetto but incorporated, as appropriate, into the mainstream – anyone can draw upon feminist insights and approaches without having to join a dedicated ‘feminist philosopher of x camp’, and these insights and approaches are recognized as (sometimes) helpful and philosophically legitimate. Furthermore, (5) the subdiscipline as a whole does not presume that all of its female members do feminist philosophy, and (6) the women in the field who do feminist work and those who do not are friendly towards and in solidarity with one another.
Go join in the discussion!
Say I just had a student in my office who is beginning to get a sense of her interests in graduate programs. Say, further, that I told her of my alma mater, Wisconsin, as a good place for metaethics, and she asked me to name further schools with strengths in both feminist philosophy and metaethics. And then imagine I drew a bit of a blank, which I blame on my jet lag. What would you suggest? Mention of particular potential advisers would be welcome.
Reader S poses this challenging question:
A colleague and I are finishing up on a paper that deals with issues related to parenthood and procreation. We spent some time debating what gender pronouns to use throughout the paper to refer to “the parent” and “the child” in our discussion. Because the paper will make heavy-handed use of these pronouns in the abstract third person throughout the entire length of the paper (i.e. “The parent is situated such that s/he …” or “The child deserves to have given to him/her by the parent…”), we would like to be able to consistently assign one gender pronoun to the parent and one to the child. We think this is the best way to avoid confusing the reader (i.e., “Wait, who does this pronoun refer to again?”). But, given the context, we are worried about how gender norms will be read into the paper as a result of what we assign.
Our first thought was that we wanted to use masculine pronouns for the parent. This is at least partially because we want to avoid creating the assumption that parenthood is equivalent to motherhood, and that male parent figures are included in the scope of our argument. We also want to create a space that challenges the idea that philosophical issues of parenthood are of exclusive interest to those philosophers who happen also to be women. That is to say, philosophers who happen to be men do and should also have a stake in philosophical discussions about parenthood and children.
If we do so, then we would use feminine prounouns for the child. However, given that the paper heavily discusses the vulnerability of children before those who parent them, and their status as requiring extensive care and nurturing, we were concerned about invoking a sense of paternalism with respect to women in the reading. We don’t want the reader to get the impression that the feminine-gendered child is cared for, nurtured by, protected by, etc. the masculine gendered parent figure.”
If we reverse the assignment (feminine pronouns for parent, masculine pronouns for child) we run in the problem, again, of parenthood seeming to just mean motherhood.
We talked about other options: mixing it up or switching around the gendered pronouns, using masculine and feminine (and culturally diverse) names for example cases, etc. But those other options — the ones that save us from the aforementioned problems — would really, really obfuscate our core argument and add significant length (and word count) to the argument.
So, my question to the community here is this: is there a way to avoid both of these problematic implications (philosophical discussions of parenthood as just about motherhood and including only women, and men take care of girls/women) AND preserving the sense of organization and clarity in our paper? We would really appreciate your thoughts as we decide what to do while editing this paper.