Over the last several years, I’ve been disheartened to read so much about how philosophy is hostile to women and that there simply aren’t enough women doing philosophy. While I’m not a philosopher, I care deeply about the discipline, hold it in high regard, and want to see it flourish.
Part of such flourishing is increasing diversity in both undergraduate and graduate programs, and, of course, women are a big part of that. But, the current approach of blame and shame, though it certainly has its place in a broader dialogue, is absolutely tone deaf in trying to recruit young women to philosophy.
Let me share my perspective with you via the Google search of “Women in Philosophy.”
- The rather grim What is it like to be a woman in philosophy
- Women in Philosophy, which is a misnomer since it doesn’t talk about particular women in the discipline.
- This none too encouraging NY Times article, Women in Philosophy? Do the Math, which will certainly entice readers, but won’t draw more women to the profession.
- This piece: Name Five Women In Philosophy. Bet You Can't, but then only names one, Louise Antony.
- And, finally, the APA’s Data on Women In philosophy
Not a single one of these Google search results is encouraging to young women who may be thinking about a philosophy degree. Why would any woman consider joining philosophy if she reads through these links? Google search results indicate more attention has been paid to publicly shaming the discipline than trying to publicly and actively recruit young women.
The first link that discusses the work of female philosophers (#9 on the results page) is Women in Philosophy: a reading list. The opening paragraph on that page says: To celebrate Women in Philosophy as part of Women’s History Month, we have created a reading list of books, journals, and online resources that explore significant female philosophers and feminist philosophy in general.
The page focuses almost exclusively on feminist philosophy, and certainly there are young women interested in things other than feminist philosophy, aren’t there? Maybe epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, aesthetics, political philosophy, ancient, logic, science, mathematics, or some other area of specialization?
Then this link (#10) SWIP, that I had high hopes for, but appears to be mostly a collection of links on its front page for the status of women in the profession or links to feminist philosophy.
Finally, on the second page of results (#19), there’s this wacky article by Camile Paglia, Ten great female philosophers: The thinking woman's women. Ayn Rand makes her top ten. Really? C’mon.
I didn’t look beyond the 2nd page of results. I gave up trying to find information about women philosophers and their work. Most young women will do the same.
So, I’ll do my part for a discipline that has given me so much, by listing a few female philosophers here that young women may be excited to learn about:
Comments are open, so please add to the list of women philosophers and describe their work or provide a link. Perhaps some bright-eyed young woman interested in philosophy will happen upon our list and see the possibilities.
Update: I’ve linked to five Google searches in male dominated fields, starting with philosophy, so readers can compare the different strategies being used to attract girls and women to the professions.
Update: Hi Folks, I won't be publishing comments about McGinn. There are other places with open threads where you may do that. As for critical comments about Leiter. This isn't his post. If you want to make critical comments of Leiter do so on his open threads using your name. I will, however, continue to publish critical comments that don't include McGinn or Leiter.