A lot of people don’t like feminist philosophy. And, more strongly, a lot of people think feminist philosophy is somehow bad philosophy. There’s been a fair amount of discussion of these kinds of sentiments on the glorious internets lately, and this blog has largely ignored them – mostly because we’re busy doing our own thing, but also because there’s a worry that in addressing these kinds of criticisms of feminist philosophy we implicitly give them more weight than they deserve. But I’m going to take the opportunity to talk about them. Over a short series of posts I’m going to look at what I think are the major or most common criticisms of feminist philosophy. What I say will be entirely my own opinion – I don’t speak for the other bloggers, let alone other feminist philosophers. But I wanted to address this topic because I used to think feminist philosophy was bad too. So think of the posts that follow as the reflections of a former hater.
For myself, though, I don’t actually think any of these criticisms were ever the main reason I didn’t like feminist philosophy – even if they provided some post hoc justification. Not liking feminist philosophy was just sort of something I fell into, and stuck with because it was cool. I read some stuff in feminist philosophy early on in grad school that wasn’t my thing. The philosophical methodology that I love is the methodology of contemporary analytic philosophy, and the stuff in feminist philosophy I was directed toward was probably best described as phenomenology.* I quickly assumed the whole field was like that. Why did I assume that based on a few articles? Who knows. But it felt like I had to choose between liking feminist philosophy and liking David Lewis, and I chose David Lewis. (I feel the full absurdity of this in retrospect, given that, e.g., David Lewis and Rae Langton wrote papers together. But it didn’t seem absurd at the time.)
What’s clear is that hating feminist philosophy was easy. It was encouraged, even. Feminist philosophy was a fun thing to laugh about in the bar after a talk. And making fun of it was a good way to try to prove I could be ‘one of the boys’.
These days, my love for David Lewis and my love for feminist philosophy have found a way to happily co-exist. I share the upcoming series of posts in case they’re helpful for anyone feeling the sort of tension past-me felt.
*Just to clarify, I don’t mean to suggest there is anything wrong with phenomenology! And it’s something I’ve gained an increasing appreciation for over time. But especially in grad school, it just wasn’t the style of philosophy I felt most at home with.