A reader writes:
As the job season approaches again, I was curious if I could get feedback about men applying for feminist philosophy jobs. I am a heterosexual, cissexual, white male. I work in a field of philosophy that I often approach through feminist and queer thinkers. My MA advisor was a feminist philosopher of some note, and my PhD advisor was a male queer theorist. I have a graduate certificate in Women’s Studies, my biggest publication is in Hypatia, and two-thirds of my conferences are explicitly feminist or queer oriented. At the job I adjuncted at while finishing my dissertation, I was affiliated with that University’s Women and Gender Studies department, and taught classes that were cross-listed. I say this as a way of pointing out I have fairly traditional credentials for applying for feminist philosophy jobs. However, I don’t know if I should apply for those jobs.
The first question is if it is ethically permissible to apply for feminist philosophy jobs. As we all know, there are few women in philosophy, and many departments are mostly, even exclusively, male. Feminist philosophy jobs are one of the ways many departments make sure to hire at least one woman. Moreover, the constant maleness of departments is a good way to turn off female students, and I wonder at the way such students would react if even their feminist philosophy professors are another heterosexual, cissexual, white male. Perhaps I should apply for jobs in my other area of specialization, and simply ignore jobs whose AOS is feminist philosophy. Feedback on if I, and other men, should apply for feminist philosophy jobs is welcome. Thank you!
10 thoughts on “Reader query: men and feminist philosophy jobs”
Apply for the feminist philosophy jobs. If you are hired more men might study the area. If you are hired you can try to expand the number of people in the department so that you create jobs.
I agree that you should go ahead and apply, but you should realize that you probably won’t get the job. As you note, many philosophy departments are all male, and almost all need more women. They are apt to want to use a Feminist Philosophy slot to hire a woman. (Not all departments will do this, but they are *apt* to want to do so.) You won’t have much of a shot, I think.
I’ve thought about this issue as well, and as another man in philosophy, I sided with not applying for such jobs. All things being equal (and they are so not), if you know departments tend to look for women to fill those jobs, why waste the time and energy to apply and justify credentials? Aside from that, I’m convinced by the ethical arguments that feminist philosophy positions are often a way of making sure that there is at least one woman on faculty, and we need more women on philosophy faculties.
As a man with an AOS in feminist philosophy, my advice would be to take the first train out of silly-town apply for every position for which you are qualified. Are there job ads where a department uses “feminist philosophy” as a part of its diversity strategy? Sure. Will you ever be able to reliably distinguish those from the ads where the department *really does* want a feminist philosopher? No. So, apply away.
Regarding the ethical issues, there are some things a woman can do in a feminist philosophy classroom that a man cannot. But there are also some things a man can do in a feminist philosophy classroom that a woman cannot. And, yes, it would be better if a department set a good example by having a proportional number of women on the faculty. But you aren’t going to contribute to that project by self-flagellating and removing yourself from an applicant pool.
Most of your cis straight white male colleagues in other areas of philosophy do not seem to share your compunction about taking jobs that should have gone to women; maybe the problem is really with those men, and with the sexist practice of relegating women to a feminist philosophy ghetto, rather than with you. Maybe we need MORE white cis straight men doing queer and feminist philosophy, and more women (especially women of color!) doing everything else.
I’m not saying you should go ahead and apply for those jobs without worrying about who you might be keeping out, but remember that the problem in philosophy is systemic and perhaps there is no good individual solution.
Of course you should apply. Perhaps you won’t get the job. Perhaps you won’t get the job and a woman will. Perhaps you won’t get the job and a woman will, because she’s better at it. A possibility worth entertaining. ‘just sayin.
I had a white hetereosexual male teach my feminist philosophy course as an undergrad. He was excellent; he really brought out passion in his students, and made me realize, personally, how important the field is.
As for whether to apply, do so. You need a job, so why not take a shot at it?
I agree with Matt Drabek, except I think it’s quite possible that a department will genuinely want a feminist philosopher *and* want to use the opportunity as part of its diversity strategy.
What Anon 8 says is right. Those two things can (and probably do sometimes) go together.
Hyacinth, I agree 100%.
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