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Sally
Cambridge, MA
Professor of Philosophy and Director of Women's and Gender Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
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The comment below was submitted to me before I changed the option to allow for anonymous commenting. Here it is, anonymized, as requested (the option for anonymous comments is now activated; apologies for the delay): I am a woman in the advanced stages of my PhD. (I am also a member of a minority community in philosophy). I cannot speak to definitive institutional approaches to PhD overflow, like eliminating PhD slots, but I can say a thing or two about advising. As an undergraduate, I was very aware of the risks of pursuing a doctoral degree, and initially met with a lot of (mostly gentle) resistance when I declared that I wanted to pursue graduate school in the field. The resistance came from many places: parents and family, instructors, and even peers. The information those individuals were anxious to transmit was much like that which Bar On provides in his thoughtful discussion. They meant well, they wanted to ensure my safety and happiness. I also found spaces where I was encouraged to pursue graduate school, among them a summer recruitment program for minorities pursuing higher education. What I learned in those spaces was not that I was better placed than anyone else to succeed (if nothing else, it became abundantly clear how harsh an environment everyone thought graduate school was, and how unlikely it was whenever anyone did succeed in attaining a tenure track job), but rather, that the need for more minorities in higher education to join the conversation on educational policy and ideology was so dire that we were encouraged to steel ourselves for a tough road ahead, while not taking opportunities that would be truly crushing in the long run. We were given financial advice: do not pursue a PhD with no funding; do not take out loans. Try to invest while in graduate school. Network. If all of that fails, there are other places where we are needed, other places where we can do good work. However, in spite of the acknowledged difficulty of the pursuit, no one was told, "This is too risky for you and I will feel responsible if I send you out into that environment; go do something else with your life." I think the latter approach (financial advice, enCouragement, a handful of alternative options) is the better approach to the recruitment problem. College students and young professionals can nowadays quite easily find out how risky choosing graduate school in the humanities might be: there is, in my mind, little threat of misrepresentation. I think few minority and women students have problem of being kept in the dark about these issues. If nothing else, it is white male candidates who seem to have rarely met with resistance to their desire for what Bar On calls a "lifestyle degree". (Oh, you have money? Oh, you look like current professors do? Then I guess do whatever you want, it's your life.) And I do not think instructors need fear that they will be misleading students if they offer positive guidance towards pursuing a graduate degree, as long as they remain ready and available to provide guidance toward alternative paths if the primary path becomes inhospitable. One of the things we have to get past as a profession is the shame we associate with a failure to remain in academia once we have completed a PhD. The shame speaks volumes about our own ability to find value in alternative pursuits, and thus our ability to transmit this value to students who find themselves leaving academia. One of my undergraduate advisors, who is very dear to me, has continued to offer advice and guidance even years after he helped me apply to graduate school. He never gave me any guarantees, but he also never said 'don't do it'. And now that I am facing a difficult job market, he has reached out and looked out for me to make sure I can still find some scaffolding if the main plan falls through. That is, I think, what the APA should advise faculty to do when faced with an enthusiastic minority student. Turning vulnerable students away, or overemphasizing issues of concern, as in the "radical rejection" strategy advocated by Bar On, is doing a disservice to their ability to assess their own evidence and make their own decisions. It presupposes that there are no other forces that have already been beaten town trillions of times before getting to the point where they express a desire to pursue a PhD. On the contrary, many (successful, professorial) women I know have spoken of their indebtedness to one kind professor who noticed their aptitude for philosophy and directly encouraged them to pursue graduate education. Imagine if, instead of encouraging the few who might be incredibly interested and very likely to succeed, we discourage those who finally get up the courage to express an interest. We'll be a white male profession for several more excruciating decades. Don't forget that there already are women and minority individuals in the profession who would love more colleagues from their social groups around to mentor, support, and commune with.
Thanks, Nathaniel! I think your post also raises important methodological questions about how we identify and discover "philosophy." Angela Davis has urged us to consider "alternative" sources of philosophical/feminist ideas and arguments, e.g., in the blues (See her book: Blues Legacies and Black Feminism.) African philosophers and those who have been racialized as Black have written philosophy in many forms - from treatises to poetry. As Audre Lorde says: "Yet even the form our creativity takes is often a class issue. Of all the art forms, poetry is the most economical. It is the one which is the most secret, which requires the least physical labor, the least material, and the one which can be done between shifts, in the hospital pantry, on the subway, and on scraps of surplus paper. Over the last few years, writing a novel on tight finances, I came to appreciate the enormous differences in the material demands between poetry and prose. As we reclaim our literature, poetry has been the major voice of poor, working class, and Colored women. A room of one's own may be a necessity for writing prose, but so are reams of paper, a typewriter, and plenty of time. The actual requirements to produce the visual arts also help determine, along class lines, whose art is whose. In this day of inflated prices for material, who are our sculptors, our painters, our photographers? When we speak of a broadly based women's culture, we need to be aware of the effect of class and economic differences on the supplies available for producing art." (Lorde Sister/Outsider, 116) The same is true of philosophy. "Poetry is not a Luxury," (Lorde) but neither is philosophy, and we need to get beyond our preoccupation with form to hear voices that have been silenced. (I tried to link to the Lorde piece, but the links don't work here. Just google ["Poetry is Not a Luxury" Audre Lorde] and several pages come up. Sorry!)
In addition to other possible explanations, it is plausible that the data from 1993-2013 is going to be biased towards papers that were published earlier - starting in the 80s, since there are more years to cite them. I would find it interesting, for several reasons, to have the data chunked into smaller segments, e.g., 1993-2002, 2003-2012. It would allow us to see whether citations of women have increased and how the field has shifted, e.g., to place Williamson, Hawthorne, et al in their own dandelions.
One of the things that kills me, too, is that the paper of mine that appears in the co-citation data is stupid little Analysis thing that I wrote under duress in 2 weeks. I also published an article in Nous that was included in the Philosopher's Annual and I believe has had a much more significant impact. But does it appear? No. This shows two things, I think: (1) What gets cited isn't always what's good or important, and (2) the field focus of the "Core 4" distorts what the citations tell us about quality OR impact.
The problem isn't just lying. The behavior is insulting. It is insulting to Brit, and to all the women who work in the area in question. The action expresses a lack of respect for merit and the talents and accomplishments of women. It is profoundly sexist. It is insulting to those of us who are working to make the profession more fair and equitable. I'm insulted!
The Symposia started with a focus on Gender, Race and Philosophy. There were many reasons why we focused on those. In my last post about this, I added "sexuality" because I had just come from an interdisciplinary retreat that included a long discussion on the various new names for "Women's Studies". At MIT we changed our name to "Women's and Gender Studies" a few years ago; many people at the retreat felt that it was important for Women's Studies to include - in the name, not just in the work - 'Sexuality". It was with this discussion rolling around in the back of my mind that I included 'sexuality' in my original post, but not other categories that, of course, are worthy of attention. But I did this without consultation with the other editors. I now think it was a mistake. I am already worried about this blog keeping up with the literature on gender and race; adding disability and sexuality, class and various other categories will be impossible for me. I also believe that it is permissible to have different focus groups that take some social categories as a primary concern, although others are always going to be important and relevant. So here is my proposal. This blog, being connected to the SGRP, will work to list articles and books in philosophy and closely related subjects that take up gender and race. Articles and books on sexuality, class, disability, nationality, ethnicity, religion, etc. should be included if they also deal in some way with race or gender. There isn't going to be a sharp line here. We'll have to play it by ear. If we get to the point where there's a lot of controversy about whether something should or shouldn't be listed, I'm going to opt out. Life is short, volunteers are few. This is a service we are providing, and if others can do it better, I'm happy to let them. It would be fabulous if others put together a blog or blogs that list work entirely on other related topics (disability, class, sexuality...) as it appears. Sorry if this sounds insensitive. We all do what we can, and I'm doing more than I can at the moment and can't do more.
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Mar 15, 2010
So many come to mind. I'm including more than one or two because the areas I find most interesting are not well-represented in the suggesions so far. A few in reverse chronological order: Rae Langton's *Sexual Solipsism* (Oxford, 2009) brings together and expands her work on feminism and philosophy of language, showing how each enriches the other. Tamina Stephenson has a paper called "Judge Dependence, Epistemic Modals, and Predicates of Personal Taste" Linguistics and Philosophy 30:4 (2007): 487-525 which is a valuable contribution to intricate debates in philosophy of language. Liz Anderson's "Integration, Affirmative Action, and Strict Scrutiny," NYU Law Review, 77 (2002): 1195-1271 is impressive and is the basis of an important forthcoming book on integration. As always, Anderson is brilliant in incorporating social scientific research into philosophical argument. Bernard Boxill's *Race and Racism* (Oxford, 2001) is a fantastic collection on the issues bringing together core readings that define the debate. Cheshire Calhoun, Feminism, the Family, and the Politics of the Closet: Lesbian & Gay Displacement, (Oxford 2000) remains significant and timely. Calhoun works hard to present her opponents arguments clearly, and they are much stronger in the form she gives them than they were in the original. The result is a meaningful and insightful discussion. --Sally Haslanger