First, she felt that any discussion of sexist incidents in philosophy should focus on _solutions_, not simply on endless, depressing reports of problems. For instance, there was the story of the woman who, after presenting a paper, had a male audience member apologize to her for asking such difficult questions and then _kiss her ear_(!!). If that sort of thing is going on, then (my girlfriend said) what is most important is for people to sort out good methods for _dealing with_ that sort of thing. What should one do if that happens? What sorts of ways of acting and presenting would make it least likely for that to happen? How should other people present react? Discussions of these things would be extremely useful; but she finds them almost nowhere. And that, she said, seems really defeatist: it's as though people are saying 'hey, this crap happens, so I guess it's better to leave the profession', which of course plays into the hands of the truly sexist.
Second, she really wanted to see more dialogue between those who believe that there are problems facing women and those who don't. Part of the reason was that she wanted to know whether all the negativity she was feeling was really justified; but much of her motivation was so that strategies could be developed for dealing with doubters if there are good grounds for despair in the present climate. She felt that a closer engagement with these doubters would have the dual function of helping to persuade them of the extent of the problem and of removing their ability to feel their views are being censored or attacked merely in the name of political correctness.
And third, as I mentioned before, she thought a positive way to move forward would be to break the association in people's minds between philosophers who are feminists, women philosophers, and people doing so-called 'feminist philosophy'.
I pointed out that the What It's Like blog has a sister blog about What We're Doing About It, which has been far less successful. They've had a much harder time getting people post constructive strategies for dealing with the kind of shit on display in the what it's like blog.
I also mentioned that I suspect that these difficulties are, at least in part, a result of the fact that the kinds of sexism that seem to be most commonly experienced nowadays is subtle rather than overt, and this makes it especially difficult to combat. People do a bunch of little things that serve to belittle and exclude, where the individual impact of each thing is potentially minuscule, but where the overall impact of them, taken as a whole, can be very significant.
I also admitted that I don't have what I would regard as a concrete helpful suggestion.
CrabbyAbby posted a helpful list:
Philosophical boyfriend (and affiliated philosopher) -- I think there has been some really fantastic things spring out of the discussions of the sexism that is rampant in our discipline. A few things off the top of my head include:
(a) the proposal that philosophers known to be sexist be shunned from participating in conferences. (An Inside Higher Ed article here)
(b) an on-going campaign on the Feminist Philosophers blog to call out conferences and anthologies that under-represent women in the discipline. This is, I take it, meant not only to show how women are under-represented but is also meant to be an act of social shaming for those organizing those conferences and anthologies. (Here's one such blog entry)
(c) A discussion, again on Feminist Philosophers, about how to make conferences parent-friendly. (Here's one such blog entry about it)
(d) A new mentoring program in place for untenured women in philosophy.
And I think there is also a renewed awareness that we need to come up with other solutions to the sexism. While I'm a young philosopher, it seems like the discipline is, more than ever, recognizing that there is a problem and thinking, collectively, about how to respond. Which is itself an important development. (Actually, I worry that I'm being overly optimistic about this.)
But all of this needs to happen alongside the accounts that we see on 'What it's Like' and other such blogs. We can't stop telling our stories of sexism and being open to hearing the stories of others. Why? Well, (1) because there are still people who doubt that the discipline is sexist at all; (2) because those sorts of stories offer a level of solidarity and support to other women (and men) in the discipline; (3) because they can be cathartic for those who submit stories, as an important way to work through traumatic events is discussing it with others; (4) because the accounts also help us think about new ways to combat the sexism in our discipline. Indeed, it is also useful so that those who think about going into philosophy have a clear idea of the state of the discipline.
What would you add, Smokers?