National Humanities Medal for Men

You know we’re just kidding.  Of course, women are able to win it also.  In fact, of the 27 winners in the last three years, 2 were women! 

And here we thought philosophy has a low representation of women!  I guess that applies to all the humanistic fields.  What would have thought?  [SNARK!]

See this year’s winners here.

Thanks CW.

7 thoughts on “National Humanities Medal for Men

  1. Anne, I concur with your observation. We desperately need role models! I’ve known so many promising female PhD students give up because they think there is no point. Now, there are many ways in which women can gain prominence. The APA poster is a step in the right direction. Medals might be another. I find it depressing to walk through the corridors of my home institution, and see only paintings and photographs of men, and (until very recently) to see only names of men on the doors.

  2. I agree with the point about role models.
    However, I’m a little surprised that you didn’t at least mention that the two philosophers who won this year were at least not solely of European ancestry. After all, there’s a low representation of philosophers of Indian and African descent at North American Universities, at least when you consider the proportion of people of such descent that live in North America.

  3. Something, I debated this with myself. I’m not sure I was right not to mention it. However, the post was really about the decisions to make awards and the fact that it certainly seems discriminatory. In fact, it just is discriminatory in effect if not in conscious intention. How can one possibly justify 2 out of 27?

    In this situation, I’m not sure we do anyone any favors by saying that at least the process isn’t totally discriminatory. Even the Nobel Prize is doing better, and the science and economics awards draw on a very gendered group.

  4. Thank you for this post. In terms of promoting stereotypes, I agree that this seems damaging. The fact that this year there is diversity wrt to race and the awardees included an educational program in addition to individual humans doesn’t seem to mitigate the damaging effect, which is what this campaign is concerned with.

    In fact, I find it almost disingenuous that there was a woman accepting a National Humanities Medal at the awards ceremony (Cathy Gorn, on behalf of “National History Day”), but the only woman among those accepting a NHM medal was not accepting it on her own behalf, but on the behalf of a K-12 program.

    I appreciate this post, as I think the question “What stereotypes were reinforced by the NEH awards ceremony?” is important. It was described as inspiring — Obama quoted from Emily Dickinson: “Emily Dickinson wrote, “I dwell in possibility.” “I dwell in possibility.” And so does the American spirit. That’s who we are as a people. And that’s who our honorees are.” The transcript of the awards ceremony is here:

    I don’t know — I think an open letter to the NEH pointing out the issue of the damaging effects might be good?

  5. One example about role models receiving recognition such as medals, etc. Whatever you may think of Margaret Roberts Thatcher, there is a point about role models in her life story. At Somerville College, Oxford, she was advised by Dorothy Hodgkin, a chemist, and reportedly felt to the end of her life that Hodgkin had been a role model for her.

    Hodgkin was awarded the Royal Medal in 1956 and made a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1958. In 1959 Margaret Roberts Thatcher was elected as a member of Parliament.

    I am pointing this out not in admiration of Thatcher’s politics, but as an observation on the dynamics: the recognition a woman scientist received and the confidence the young woman who studied with her later showed (which she attributed to having such a role model). If you want to track all the awards her role model received as Thatcher was facing sexist remarks, look here:

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