Gendered Citation: another case study

Following up on previous discussion, I wanted to do another brief ‘case study’ of gendered citation. So I picked up, at random, a recent issue of an elite philosophy journal. (And yes, it really was at random.) Here’s what I found.

There are three papers in the issue. All are by men.

One paper’s reference list contains approximately 30 items. There are no items by women cited.

Another paper’s reference list contains approximately 70 items. Things look better here – there are 11 items by women cited. Interestingly, though, 10 of the 11 citations to work by women are citations to women employed in linguistics departments. There is only 1 cited item by a woman employed in a philosophy department. This citation is in a footnote, pointing the reader to a separate debate.

The final paper’s reference list contains approximately 20 items. There is 1 item by a woman cited. When you examine the reference in the text, however, the reader is actually being directed to a male philosopher’s discussion (‘see Mr. X’s discussion of Ms. Y’), and the work written by a woman is simply cited in passing.

There is nowhere in any of these (quite lengthy) papers where the work of female philosophers is discussed in any detail. In the entire issue, there are only two references to female philosophers, and these are both made in passing.

Again, there’s a limited amount we can learn from a citation snapshot like this. (Though watch this space – we’re hoping to have some more numbers about gender and citation up soon.) But it’s striking that female philosophers could be so absent from the discussion in a top journal – even a single issue of a top journal. And I wouldn’t be surprised (though we’ll have to wait for more data) to learn that the particular issue I picked up isn’t exactly an egregious outlier when it comes to gendered citation.

8 thoughts on “Gendered Citation: another case study

  1. Look, the point of the post isn’t to draw any conclusions about gendered citation. (We’ve already got data that suggests women are under-cited in philosophy. And more information is on its way.)

    The point is just to give an illustrative case of gendered citation in action. Sometimes it’s nice to supplement numbers with a case-in-point example, like this one. The examples, like this one, can be really striking.

  2. It’s a bit worrying to find someone in effect dismissing the example. There is a context to its being raised here.

  3. (I’m the person who posted the first reply.) I’m sure the conclusion is correct, but as you’ve more or less acknowledged, three articles from one issue of one journal provide next to nothing in the way of support for it. If the point was to illustrate a general claim rather than make a case for it, then I have no objections.

  4. Yes, exactly.

    The point of a post like this is to give an example of a high profile conversation from which women are excluded, since sometimes examples can help to illustrate and make salient the points *that have already been made* with numbers (and like I said, more numbers are on their way). And the nice thing about doing individual examples like this – as I’ve explained before – is you can go beyond just the numbers of women cited. You can look at *the way in which* the women are cited.

  5. On some level it doesn’t even matter whether a case for a general problem has been adequately demonstrated. The important fact is that a student interested in finding out more about cutting edge research in philosophy can pick up the latest issue of a top journal and see almost nothing but men’s work, even in the footnotes. Nobody expects that to be a bizarre exception to the rule, either, even if overall results of a more systematic study weren’t quite so severe.

  6. You are quite right. The tone of my post (now removed, along with your comment and the original remark from “Anonymous” to which I was replying) was certainly sarcastic, and for that I must apologize. Regarding the post itself, however, and the decision to delete it, both you and/or the editors might, with all due respect, find it useful to re-read comment #16 by jewels (August 2009), posted on the “Our policies” page.

    Best wishes,

    Gregory Velazco y Trianosky

Comments are closed.