Gendered Metaphysics Textbooks

Carrie Ichikawa Jenkins has sent us this guest post:

This year I had to stop using the metaphysics textbook I used in previous years (Crane and Farkas, Metaphysics: A Guide and Anthology, OUP 2004), as it features no papers or book extracts by women. Although there is introductory material written by the editors (one of whom is a woman), of its 54 selected readings zero are by women. I couldn’t in good conscience present this book to any more of my students as their introduction to metaphysics. I looked around when I was preparing my course this year for a more representative alternative, but I couldn’t find anything. So this year I’m using a selection of readings I’ve curated myself. I’m wondering what options I have for next year; I’ve been informed of the /Routledge Companion to Metaphysics/, which does include some articles by women (9 out of 53, I understand) but this collection doesn’t line up ideally with the topics I would like to teach in my course, and 9:44 is still not a great ratio. I also know that Elizabeth Barnes is currently editing /Current Controversies in Metaphysics/ for Routledge, and that Alyssa Ney is preparing a metaphysics text and accompanying anthology (also with Routledge). I’m looking forward to checking these out when they are published and I’m optimistic that one or both of these will help me in future years. Is there anything else I should know about?

I’m writing this post partly to get help for myself (and for others whom I know to be in a similar position), and also partly because I’d love it if academic presses could be encouraged to bear this sort of consideration in mind when commissioning and publishing textbooks in the future. The more we can raise to salience the fact that academics take this issue seriously when making textbook choices, the clearer it is that publishers have a reason to care about it as well.

“Things are a lot better for young women today” … Not so fast

The NY Times has a long article on young women in STEM. It’s researched and written by a woman, Eileen Pollack, who was a physics major at Yale in the early 70’s. She now teaches creative writing at Michigan. So what happened then to decide her to leave? And is it still going on?

It is not entirely obvious how to generalize from her discussion, but it seems as though the large male component in STEM really is indifferent – or worse – to the needs of the minorities in their midst. That said, things are better but niwhere enough.

Some snippets:

… we need to make sure that we stop losing girls at every step as they fall victim to their lack of self-esteem, their misperceptions as to who does or doesn’t go on in science and their inaccurate assessments of their talents.

The key to reform is persuading educators, researchers and administrators that broadening the pool of female scientists and making the culture more livable for them doesn’t lower standards. If society needs a certain number of scientists, Urry said, and you can look for those scientists only among the males of the population, you are going to have to go much farther toward the bottom of the barrel than if you also can search among the females in the population, especially the females who are at the top of their barrel.

As so many studies have demonstrated, success in math and the hard sciences, far from being a matter of gender, is almost entirely dependent on culture — a culture that teaches girls math isn’t cool and no one will date them if they excel in physics; a culture in which professors rarely encourage their female students to continue on for advanced degrees; a culture in which success in graduate school is a matter of isolation, competition and ridiculously long hours in the lab; a culture in which female scientists are hired less frequently than men, earn less money and are allotted fewer resources.

Great study of gender and citation

There’s an excellent article in the NY Times about the undercitation of women here.  The study reported on is wonderfully useful.  The solutions are less amazing, I think:  writing under initials instead of first name doesn’t serve to conceal gender in a small field.  And anonymous marking, while a great thing, is not the radical new innovation it’s presented as but the norm throughout the UK. Still, it would be great if it got taken up elsewhere!  (I am thinking of writing up a web-based primer on anonymous marking: why to do it, and various methods for doing it.  Will hopefully get to that sometime soon!)