Cato Taylor is a PhD student at the University of Alberta and she covers lots of turf, including fatness, fashion, and being a woman of colour in Philosophy.
Here’s her terrific, articulate response to being asked about often being the only one of her kind in the discipline, like being a unicorn.
“Hah! You’re not the first person to have called me a philosophy unicorn and I so hope that this somehow comes to be one of my officially recognized titles from now on. Unfortunately, institutionalized philosophy does have a, frankly, pretty well deserved rep for being one of, if not the most homogenous of all the humanities. According to the most recent data from the Canadian Philosophical Association’s Equity Committee (which, full disclosure, I am currently a member of), only 31% of tenure-line philosophers in Canada are women and the majority of them are able-bodied white women. Visible minorities make up only 5.5% of the profession and only 0.3% of those surveyed identified as having a disability. And Canada is actually doing pretty well comparatively; as of 2011, less than 125 of the 11,000 members of the American Philosophical Association were black and less than 30 of those were women. Of the 14,000 professors employed in all disciplines in the UK, only 50 are black and none of those 50 are philosophers. So, yeah…as an out queer fat woman of colour who, at times, presents as physically disabled (I occasionally walk with a cane), I have always stuck out in philosophy like something of a sore thumb. As you might imagine, my experiences thus far in institutionalized philosophy (I’m a PHD student just less than a year away from completion) have been pretty mixed. I have both borne witness to and experienced sexism and racism and have seen close friends deal with both macro and micro forms of sexual aggression which, if the blog What is it like being a woman in philosophy? is any indication, seem to run rampant within our discipline.However, I have also had a lot of wonderful experiences which have sustained me and help keep my passion for philosophy alive. I’ve met many wonderful, thoughtful, passionate people through philosophy who have become cherished friends and mentors and the support i have received from these folks over the years has been essential to my continued dedication to my work. But, I think like many other “unicorns” working in fields where our mere presence is “important” and worth noting, I have something of a complicated, sometimes fraught relationship with philosophy.”
Go read the rest of the interview here, http://heart-beats.ca/HDB/exhibit/catotaylor/