If not allied, at least attending

My name is Kate, and I don’t always do the right thing.  It is misplaced, at times, to even call myself an ally, when I reflect on the statement reposted on The Queer Proletariat: “the term ‘ally’…presupposes you are doing a good job.”

I can’t say I offer “solidarity” to those who take risks and speak out. “Solidarity” implies I’m right there with those who take risks, but I rarely am.  I was not a member of the APA’s CSW Site Visit team who did the work they were asked to do and took poorly informed, public criticism in the blogosphere, including the questioning of their basic capacities for fairness, as Peggy DesAutels, Carla Fehr, and Valerie Hardcastle did.  I was not here on this blog when Current Student was recently told she should not join the profession.  Worse, most of us published nothing the next day when Rachel McKinnon, a junior scholar not yet begun at her first tenure-track job, was described on the highest-traffic blog in philosophy with adjectives that included “unhinged” and “crazy.”

Colleagues, we don’t have to debate whether we are allies or in a position to offer solidarity.  When philosophers take risks, and suffer from highly personal and individual criticisms, we can at least attend. These things happened. They were bad and wrong.

I’m keeping comments closed, as the function of this post is to attend and not to debate the bearing of witness. But I’m a tenured philosopher in the job I’ll probably have until I die. So I can attend.

UPDATED: Wendy Donner (Carleton University) writes to request the following addendum of support:


Kate, thank you so much for this post, which I support wholeheartedly. And thank you also to many others. I am now an Emerita Professor. My blog comments are few and far between and I am not entirely comfortable with this medium of communication. But I am much more uncomfortable with senior philosophers expressing themselves so critically to junior and vulnerable members of the philosophical community. I am searching for what I could say that would add to the courageous and eloquent stands that have been taken by others. Thank you for saying it: “When philosophers take risks, and suffer highly personal and individual criticisms, we can at least attend”. Yes, yes, yes, we can attend and we can bear witness to their efforts, and hopefully find the words to say more. Thank you Peggy DesAutels, Carla Fehr, and Valerie Hardcastle. Thank you Rachel McKinnon and Current Student. Please don’t be deterred by the criticisms, and please know that so many of us stand with you and value you as the future of our profession. Hopefully all of this upheaval signifies a long overdue sea change in academic philosophy. Hopefully it marks a serious challenge to the culture of sexual harassment that has devastated so many members of our community.