With some very nice words for FP’s work on behalf of women in philosophy, but also some important points about other directions that efforts to diversify should take:
The overwhelming whiteness of philosophy is staggering, and I think it leads to insular thinking that harms philosophy itself, as well as being self-perpetuatingly exclusionary in fairly obvious ways.
More controversially, perhaps, she suggests that we should devote less attention to the maleness of philosophy in order to pay more attention to the whiteness of philosophy. (A part of me said: why can’t we just do both? Then I reflected more on the limitations of time constraints, and thought perhaps she’s just being realistic.)
But– as one the strongest defenders of the Be Nice rule– I deeply don’t agree with this:
Third, let me go on record as saying that I think that the whole idea that women are put off by or unsuited to the aggressive, argumentative style of philosophy is crap. Discursive intensity and tenacity, a high premium on verbal sparring and cleverness, and a fundamentally critical dialogical method have been central to philosophy since its birth, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The fact is, most people, regardless of gender, find that kind of discourse difficult, overwhelming, and somewhat threatening; the Athenians didn’t crack out the hemlock for no reason. This is why most people should not be philosophers, and that’s just fine.
Now, I don’t actually know whether women are put off by aggressive argumentative style. But I am firmly convinced that it’s bad for philosophy. It is more than possible to be critical and careful and to raise objections without being an arsehole. And guess what? Better philosophy ends up being done. Far too much philosophical discussion is more about showing that one is more clever than the speaker (or the objector) rather than trying to understand shit. This is one of many truly great things I have learned from my colleagues at Sheffield. (And why yes, one can still swear a lot while advocating niceness. In fact, I find it fucking irresistible.)
UPDATE: Here’s the interview. (Sorry!)