Changes in the way philosophy is taught may be alienating some women, says Brian R. Leiter [...]
"Philosophy, in the English-speaking world, has migrated closer to the sciences, and places a high premium on technical skills, logic, and dividing problems into lots of small pieces," Mr. Leiter says.
And while many science and mathematics disciplines have been working to attract women, "philosophy hasn't been particularly self-conscious in developing measures to counteract the problem," he says.
Sally Haslanger, a professor of philosophy at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says the factors that may hold women back include "implicit associations linking philosophy with masculinity, both in the minds of instructors and students," not enough good mentoring, and "cold and alienating environments" in many philosophy departments.Given the way it was reported, the obvious inference to draw (but keep reading) from BL's quote is: "Women can't do these hard things that philosophy has migrated towards. So, there's a gender problem." Of course, this is the exact inference that SH tries to block by calling our attention to "implicit assumptions linking philosophy with masculinity," which in turn lead to lack of "good mentoring," and "cold and alienating environments."
After noting the somewhat shoddy reporting at the CHE, BL makes efforts to block this inference too. He notes that:
My point also wasn't that changes to how philosophy is taught have driven women away, but rather that as philosophy migrated closer to the sciences in the Anglophone world over the last fifty years, it acquired the same kinds of problems those disciplines have had with gender equity--but unlike many of the science fields, philosophy has not, until recently, been particularly self-conscious about this or pro-active in remedying it. (As Ms. Mangan and I discussed, why the sciences had these problems is a topic unto itself--no doubt sexual harassment, gender stereotyping and other explicit and implicit biases have all played a role. But philosophy would do well to emulate what many science fields have done to try to rectify the inequities.)BL's parenthetical remark is right, of course, and his story holds just as well for philosophy as it does for the sciences. I just wish he had said it more explicitly.
So let me clear up any confusion for readers of the CHE article who might not read BL's addendum. I'm going to try to be as clear as possible here, hence the caps:
PHILOSOPHY'S GENDER (AND RACE AND SOCIOECONOMIC) PROBLEMS ARE NOT MERELY BECAUSE SOME PARTS OF IT ARE TECHNICAL OR ANALYTIC OR USE LOGIC OR THAT WE TRY TO RESEMBLE THE SCIENCES. PHILOSOPHY'S GENDER (AND RACE AND SOCIOECONOMIC) PROBLEMS ARE BECAUSE OF EXPLICIT AND IMPLICIT BIASES AND GENDER STEREOTYPING.Let's flesh out the story a bit more. I see a threefold problem the parts of which all sustain each other.
First, there has been a campaign or - less conspiratorially - a tendency to delegitimize sub-disciplines of philosophy that do not resemble or use the same tools/concepts as the so-called analytic "core." So, if you do something that's further away from - oh, why not just say it? - metaphysics and epistemology, (like, say, history of philosophy or care ethics or feminist philosophy or philosophy of race) you aren't doing REAL PHILOSOPHY. (To be fair, this isn't anything new. Do a little history and you'll quickly discover that if there's any characteristic definitive of philosophers it's a tendency to tell other people they aren't doing philosophy the right way.)
Second, these fields tend to draw a more diverse pool of philosophers than the "core." Because of this, those who do research at the peripherhy of REAL PHILOSOPHY (which looks like science) are assumed to not have the analytic chops to do REAL PHILOSOPHY. I mean, if they did have the chops, then obviously they'd do REAL PHILOSOPHY rather than whatever pseudo-philosophy they concern themselves with. (Hence comments like, "She does feminist epistemology (or history or ethics), but she's also a really good philosopher.")
Third, these two sociological facts feed our implicit and explicit associations between masculinity and the methods and problems of the so-called "core" of analytic philosophy. They feed the oft-unquestioned stereotype that there are girly (soft) ways of reasoning and girly (soft) problems that women love and men hate and manly (hard) ways of reasoning and manly (hard) problems that women hate and men love. And, it just so happens that the girly ways of reasoning are used in disciplines far away from the core of REAL PHILOSOPHY, which uses manly ways of reasoning.
Wash. Rinse. Repeat.
To reiterate: philosophy's gender problem is not due to the fact that it employs "technical skills, logic, and dividing problems into lots of pieces." Philosophy's gender problems has to do with "sexual harassment, gender stereotyping, and other explicit and implicit biases."
-- Jaded, Ph.D.
(Unrelated: A few of you have e-mailed me questions in the past week. I haven't forgot about them. I hope to post them soon.)