Some important observations about achieving gender diversity in philosophy

Paula Boddington has an important paper on achieving gender diversity in philosophy.  She looks at features of philosophy in order to argue – or suggest – that efforts at achieving equity may be undercut either by themselves or by the features of the discipline.  A few examples:

  1.  Efforts at helping young women in philosophy through mentoring, awards, etc., may reinforce the busy-ness of philosophy that distracts from serious attention being paid to underlying moral issues.
  2. The same efforts may distract us from examining the incredible load of credential gathering that a philosophy career now involves, and the resulting competitiveness that means the upper ranks are all the harder to get into.
  3. The same competitiveness may effectively marginalised the important voices of people with different values and abilities.
  4. People who write on moral issues, evidence suggests, may excuse themselves from important moral action; i.e., they are good enough to allow a few transgressions.

I am aware I haven’t done justice to the wonderful richness of Boddington’s paper.  Or to its real sparks of humor, such as the idea that the current proliferation of credentials might have been planned in a meeting of the Vienna Circle and Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts.  Excellence doesn’t exist unless it is measured!

PS:  a few of the ideas I didn’t mention above:  the impact that philosophy’s not having a good exit exerts; the fact that philosophy’s failure at diversifying neededn’t be due to one or a few big awful things; it can be lots and lots of little things, picking off one or a few at a time; the ways in which rules and regulations can dehumanize, etc, etc.


Calais – situation still desperate

The situation in Calais is still completely desperate. Some refugees have been housed in good conditions, but there are a lot still left behind, and no-one is taking proper care of them except the volunteer aid agencies staffed by ordinary folk who’ve gone to Calais to try and help. Day 6, and there are still children sleeping rough, children sleeping in shipping containers being fed by volunteers, with the only government authorities present being the police.


If you would like to help, the volunteer groups have asked for people to tweet about the situation.

We are about to take to twitter (Starting at 12.30pm GMT) to highlight the tragedy that is still unfolding before our eyes. Below are 5 tweets we are asking you to tweet out, you can retweet and share as much as possible by searching #refugeecommunitykitchen I have also included 2 photo’s here if you could attach them. Many thanks.

1500+ children spent night no3 in cold containers no news no help Broken promises. #actnow #AmberRudd #DubsNow #refugeecommunitykitchen

1500+ children in shipping containers #Calais & we are the only ones feeding them. #actnow #AmberRudd #DubsNow #refugeecommunitykitchen

We are still feeding people who have nothing. The situation is beyond cruel. . #actnow #AmberRudd #DubsNow #refugeecommunitykitchen

We are working all night to feed those left behind. Call your MP RT #DubsNow #AmberRudd #Calais #refugeecommunitykitchen

Urgent 1500+ forgotten in Calais. Govts act now. Working all night to feed them. Write to your MP & Amber Rudd #refugeecommunitykitchen

Albert Atkin, at 3AM

Fascinating interview.  A couple of high points for me…

Despite being someone who wants to explore potentially specific problems in philosophy. I think there’s a lot of truth in this:

 I honestly think claims that there is something intrinsic to the discipline that means it attracts a particular type of person (who tends to be male and white and wealthy) is weak tea. Philosophy has a problem, but it has a problem because the world is a shitty place, and the most comfortable and interesting jobs tend to be populated by the most privileged. As much as people complain about academia, it’s a pretty cushy gig. Why are there so few black academics? Because for the most part, society is racist. Why do we struggle to get gender equality? Because for the most part, society is sexist. Why are working class people underrepresented in academia? Because for the most part society makes it easier for the privileged to succeed. Why are people of disability made invisible in academia? Because for the most part society is ableist. Philosophy may be a particularly troublesome and resistant pocket of that society, but it’s hardly the last or biggest hold out.


I think readers of this blog will be especially interested as well to read Albert’s thoughts on philosophy of race and the importance of definitions with respect to Roma identity, a perspective that is (to put it mildly) not often discussed.

I use a particular approach of saying that careful definition and clarity are important, that these are what analytic philosophers take themselves to be good at, and that they should get involved in this project. I can understand why people might not find that approach useful, especially in the current context in America where there needs to be a real focus on the differences in lived experience between races. From my point of view though, understanding what we can do by getting involved in projects of definition are important and do have a role.

To illustrate, I have a paper included in a collection of articles on the condition of Roma in Europe. The collection “We Roma“, is edited by Daniel Baker and Maria Hlavajova and has contributions from both Roma and Non-Roma. In my paper, I try to make it clear that there are official definitions of Roma groups which are designed to identify us with properties that can be (and are being) removed — its definitional genocide. I argue that we need to be involved in defining ourselves, to own the definitional project, otherwise we, as a group, are doomed in Europe. Given the surge in far right sentiment across Europe I worry that we may already be doomed, but while ever someone else controls whats defines us we can simply be erased by fiat.

Read the whole thing.