This morning I was excited to see a posting regarding a new anthology in my field, Chinese philosophy. But then I looked through the table of contents only to have one more of those too-familiar moments of deep discouragement.
In my area of philosophy, it remains commonplace for women scholars to be underrepresented in the typical fora of scholarly conversation. Edited volumes, conferences, and such will often include a woman, but too often it is just that: a woman, one woman among a roster full of men. That by itself is discouraging given the number of talented women philosophers and scholars in the field, but what I want to address here is something I have found far more discouraging. Some conferences and edited volumes with this pattern or low representation of women also include a particular man – David Tien – whose presence among the “elect” selected for these projects something that renders the scarcity of women not just discouraging but an affront.
David Tien is trained philosopher. However, he left philosophy some years ago to begin a new career as a pick up artist. For the uninitiated, pick up artists are paid consultants who train men how to “attract” women. In this career, Tien has, by his own account excelled. He has gone from feeling like the “odd one out,” as a young Asian man growing up among the largely white population of his community, to being the “odd one out” owing to how many women he has fucked and indeed building a career on training other men to achieve this “success.” But why explain this myself? Tien can speak for himself:
I guess in the land of men, I still am the odd one out. But this time, it’s in a good way, at least if you consider something like 10% of the men in this world have been intimate with over 90% of the women, and the top 1% have been with even more.
Some years ago, he resigned his job in philosophy because he “could make a much bigger difference in this world if I could continue to help more men meet, attract, and date the women of their dreams.”
He made stumbles along the way, most of which involved having to work harder than he wished to get laid:
I still had to approach women. I still had to “game” women. I still had to get past their bitch shields, deflect their shit-tests, come up with witty banter and brilliant conversation. I still had to get on the phone and text girls constantly, trying to convince them to meet up or to come to my party. I still had to get girls on dates and endure brainless conversations…just to get her in bed… I still had to WORK for it. And it sucked… I rarely saw my friends and family because I was spending every night…with girls…on dates, in bed, or just “gaming” new girls.
Mercifully, he discovered that he could apply the insights of Chinese philosophy and discovered that
Armed with these ancient secrets of the great Kings and Emperors…I went crazy with my newfound power…drowning myself in women… threesomes… foursomes… fivesomes… moresomes… so many beautiful women… I didn’t know what to do with them all…
One thing he learned how to do, apparently, was “training the new girls at a Chinese brothel (and experiencing massive Viagra headaches).”
And now he trains other men.
Other philosophers have expressed better than I how invitations to contribute to conferences and edited volumes confer esteem and prestige. The presumed presumption for organizers of such endeavors is to find the best to represent the field and subject matter. How demoralizing then to find these professional goods not only denied women but awarded a man who, by his own testimony, not only sees women as little more than fuckable objects to accumulate but who trains others in this very attitude, boasting of his acumen in helping others perpetuate the misogyny of it all.
It might be useful to explain how I know all of this about David Tien. A few years, I read an article, by Philip J. Ivanhoe, on “Confucian” approaches to abortion. I considered the article itself wildly out of step with contemporary work on the subject, but more particularly found its comments on the “causes” of pregnancy bizarre. Ivanhoe argued: “I draw a line that separates the material or proximate causes of an unwanted pregnancy (sexual intercourse) from efficient or ultimate causes (e.g., flirting or foreplay, which might lead to or carries a high risk of leading to sexual intercourse).” Ivanhoe credited Tien with clarifying his thoughts on this. So I looked Tien up. And discovered who he was, though I remain appalled that he should be cited as any sort of authority or inspiration in a paper on abortion that cited almost no professional literature on the subject and yet said much about the “bad behavior” of women.
Since then, I have been freshly appalled every time I see yet another conference or volume of work that includes vanishingly few women – talk about the odd one out! – but includes Tien. Such as this one, or this one, or this one, or this one. I have largely kept silent about this myself. My only professional interaction regarding Tien has been to withdraw my own contribution from an edited volume that was to include him, explaining why to the editor, and, I admit, a snarky footnote in my own published critique of the Ivanhoe essay I describe above. But I think I’ve finally hit the limit for keeping quiet about this.
To my colleagues in Chinese philosophy, this is an embarrassment. At a time when the profession is getting far more alert to they myriad ways it discourages women philosophers, our field continues along with little alteration. Worse, so many in our field agonize about finding legitimacy in the wider philosophy community, missing one rather obvious thing we might do: not confer professional prestige on a misogynistic pick up artist over women, as well as men not so minded.
To those who might protest that Tien’s academic work is good and that we should not connect his professional academic work to his actual career as a pick up artist, I would offer that he does this himself, using his PhD in philosophy as conferring some special extra something to his ability to train men to be like him. He cites Chinese philosophical materials as guides in formulating his “seduction secrets”: Bet you didn’t know that the Sage Kings understood that “it was every girl’s dream to be chosen for the Emperor’s harem.”
And I likewise protest the suggestion that his work is so far superior to that of the myriad women in the field that spare slots in professional fora should be given him rather than them. If anyone critical of my attitude would like to make the argument that David Tien is just so very much better at philosophy that he needs to be in these outlets in a way that trumps the legion other goods and values he violates, then have at it. If you want to argue that he is just that much better at philosophy than the dozens of women who could be given those slots instead, then have at it. It would give me great pleasure to entertain these arguments since they would be far more potent than I can be in exposing how backward the practice of Chinese philosophy can be relative to other areas of philosophy.
To my fellow women in Chinese philosophy or indeed other unsuspecting women philosophers who may be invited to contribute to broader work that includes Chinese philosophy, I offer this suggestion. If you are invited to contribute to a volume that includes Chinese philosophy, ask the editor or organizer about whom they are inviting. If you do not wish to be alongside David Tien, make that clear to the editor or conference organizer. I would hope that men in the field could do the same, but I confess I don’t know what to expect there. Many male colleagues I know continue to ask David Tien to contribute to professional fora. Perhaps some are ignorant of his current job and career, but not all are. They are just ok with it all – ok with including him rather than more women, ok associating their professional profile with his, and ok with his enjoying some credibility and prestige in the field, credibility and prestige they help to confer on him. And that has just, finally and at long last, made me angry enough to post all this publicly.