Campaigning for gender balance in textbooks

If like me, you teach first year intro courses in a department that makes a big deal out of being analytic, you know that it’s not very easy to find a textbook that works from the point of view of gender balance. Two that were recently advertised here and here didn’t quite make the cut as far as mainstream analytic philosophy was concerned for us.  So what can we do ? Well, textbooks that sell tend to be revised regularly. This is the case with the one I’m using : Perry, Bratman and Fischer’s Introduction to Philosophy. Although they have been adding work by women over the last few editions, there is still a great imbalance. So I wrote to the authors, directing them to this report.

They all three responded very positively, saying they agreed that this was an important matter and that they would strive to include more women in future editions. Let’s see how that works out (watch this space !)

But here’s a thought : ‘mainstream’ textbooks do tend to be edited regularly. So why not get in touch whenever we’re not happy with the gender balance ? Sounds like campaign to me.

12 thoughts on “Campaigning for gender balance in textbooks

  1. OUP recently asked me to provide feedback on the sixth edition of the Perry Bratman Fisher reader for OUP in preparation for the next edition. I made sure to mention, at several points in my feedback, the need for improved representation of women philosophers.

    Given that they are prepping a seventh edition, now is probably a good time to lobby for improved gender balance, for that reader in particular.

  2. Thanks for this post – it seems a good suggestion. I’m an interloper from English Literature (albeit one with a first degree in Philosophy), but I’m interested in – although more or less completely ignorant of – the state of play when it comes to female philosophers in the canon and textbooks, largely for how it might compare with developments in my own discipline. There, there seems to be a slight turning away now from women who have become canonical, or almost, over the last twenty or thirty years. An interesting case is that of Lady Mary Wroth, who I’ve worked on myself – Christopher Warley has an interesting post on the Stanford Arcade site about this, explaining why he’s cut her from his syllabus: . He connects this with a turn away from historicizing approaches (back) towards the formal/aesthetic (to put it in very crude terms). Has something similar happened in Philosophy (the argument at root being, I suppose, ‘the philosophy just isn’t very good/interesting, other than because of its having been written by a woman’)? Or are there still so few women included in introductory textbooks that there’s not yet room for that kind of reversal (and I think it IS a reversal, within English Literature, and, for the record, think Wroth is a ‘better’ poet (however that’s defined) even in purely formal terms than Warley allows, although I have a degree of sympathy for aspects of his argument).
    Sorry for the overly-long and perhaps not particularly relevant intrusion, and thanks for getting me thinking about this in my own field again.

  3. I think there’s something wrong with one of the links; both of them lead to the OUP catalog entry for the book.

  4. Sorry, wrote in haste: that should have read:
    I think there’s something wrong with one of the last two links; both of them lead to the OUP catalog entry for the book.
    Shouldn’t the last one lead to a report on the book?

  5. Thanks for spotting this. I’ve changed the link: it’s to a report on gender inequality in philosophy departments.

  6. Hi Patrick, the situation in philosophy is different from the one you describe. Over here we’ve never had women really make it into the canon in order for there to be a woman backlash of the sort you describe. Current efforts are to introduce some women for the first time, as it were.

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