Query: all-female reading list?

A reader writes:

I’m wondering if there’s an ethical problem with setting only texts by women as the required reading in my third-year course (there would be men in the recommended lists).

I myself would not want to do that in a feminism class, because I think it’s important to show people that men can be feminists, but the class in question is not a feminism one. Thoughts?

9 thoughts on “Query: all-female reading list?

  1. I think you could set an all-women reading list in either a non-feminism class or a feminism class, so long as doing so did not force you to leave out something essential to the topic (i.e. if a women hadn’t written on a particular area or hadn’t written well on it). If you’re not leaving anything out topic-wise I can’t see the problem (god-knows there are enough men-only reading lists).

  2. […] Return query, replace “all women” with “All men” or “all fans of Charles Dickens” “all prefer pink to purple” (to which you’d should object). If the criteria isn’t germane to the topic using it is a criteria is bigotry or race/sex/whatever-criteria -ism. […]

  3. […] Return query, replace “all women” with “All men” or “all fans of Charles Dickens” “all prefer pink to purple” (to which you’d should object). If the criteria isn’t germane to the topic using it is a criteria is bigotry or race/sex/whatever-criteria -ism. […]

  4. I agree with what E said about not leaving out anything essential to the topic. Beyond that, I suppose the key question is: “am I harming men by not having any men on the syllabus?” And in most plausible scenarios, I think the answer is “no,” though I could imagine cases where the answer would be “yes.”

  5. i discussed this with a colleague, who made the following point (which seemed right to me): if the list is *all* women then students might assume that the list was as such just to make a point, rather than that the papers written by women were the best / most relevant on the subject. with that in mind, it might be better for a person who wants to create an all-female reading list to actually create a reading list which is predominantly but *not* exclusively female.

  6. I’m inclined to agree with ayt.’s colleague: I don’t think it’s at all unethical, but it’s likely to be bad strategy.

    I must say that I look forward to the day when it would even be possible for me to construct a syllabus all of whose readings are by women.

  7. I am sorry if this is slightly off-topic but what about an all-female lineup for a conference where men would be easily found to fill the speaker slots. A friend and I once mused about the possibility of hosting a workshop on a specific topic (naturalism in philosophy of mathematics), where it would be possible to have an all-female lineup of 5 speakers (assuming they’d all accepted).
    We have no funding for this currently, but I’m wondering if that would be a good thing, or if it would, as suggested above look like we were trying to make a point. Btw, our choice was motivated not by having an all-women lineup, but we were just speculating on a conference on naturalism in philosophy of maths, throwing around names and then noticing, “hey, they’re all women. If we can invite so-and-so we’d have an all-female lineup”.
    If we one day organize a conference with all women (chosen for their contribution to the topic), would it be awkward or objectionable?

  8. I think people are going to think stupid thoughts (oh, they’re just trying to make a point) no matter what. That can’t be avoided, and so I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

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