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Philosophy and Sexism

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There has been a great deal of discussion of the removal of the chair of the Philosophy Department at Colorado University  based upon the recommendations of the American Philosophical Association’s Committee on the Status of Women whose report has been made public

I find it particularly interesting that the report claims that “the department uses pseudo-philosophical analyses to avoid directly addressing the situation,” and “their faculty discussions revolve around the letter rather than the spirit of proposed regulations and standards. They spend too much time articulating (or trying to articulate) the line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior instead of instilling higher expectations for professional behavior. They spend significant time debating footnotes and ‘what if’ scenarios instead of discussing what they want their department to look and feel like. In other words, they spend time figuring out how to get around regulations rather than focusing on how to make the department supportive of women.”

To  my mind, this sounds exactly like the thing philosophy academics would do, and then other philosophers can argue over what exactly constitutes “pseudo-philosophical analyses,” but without further evidence this as with most other commentary on the matter is pure speculation.

Feminist Philosophers have tried to add some context to the debate surrounding the report and its release and decided to disable comments, explaining “We don’t have time to give moderating those discussions the attention they require.”

Taking a look at the comments threads at Insidehighered.com and Newappsblog.com this seems like a prudent decision. There are those that immediately claim skepticism in the face “victim politics in the era of PC,” and question the definition of sexism and harassment used by an all female committee. Others interpreted what may have been a quote taken out of context as evidence of ‘Nuremberg style prosecution’ of the committee and seeking to “engage in what they must have seen as the equivalent of denazification: tear down and exterminate everything that exists of the present culture and demand the re-edification of all members until the puppet government has decreed that the school has been properly sterilized.”

Such hyperbole might be interpreted as evidence of the intransigence of views of men. Men who are very quick to judge such a report as evidence of what they regard as a stubborn feminist victim worldview. Stubborness and sexism is not new in philosophy nor academia generally, however the popularity of a blog like What is it like to be a woman in philosophy? points to the worrying juxtaposition of a discipline committed to principles of fairness, reason and equity and the reality of many male dominated faculties with cultures toxic to their female colleagues.

I hope there is open-mindedness on both sides, but particularly on the side those in power to understanding the facts before pushing a particular barrow.

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