The Problem(s) of Women in Philosophy: Reflections on the Practice of Feminism in Philosophy from Contemporary Aotearoa/New Zealand

By Bowell, Tracy | Women's Studies Journal, December 2015 | Go to article overview

The Problem(s) of Women in Philosophy: Reflections on the Practice of Feminism in Philosophy from Contemporary Aotearoa/New Zealand


Bowell, Tracy, Women's Studies Journal


Introduction

Philosophy has always had, and continues to have, a Woman Problem. Women remain underrepresented as students, as scholars, in journal publications - especially in 'top' journals - and as philosophical subjects. In what follows, I discuss recent feminist philosophical scholarship on this issue, differentiating what I identify as three related but distinct Woman Problems. I consider each of these, focusing in particular on what I label 'The (Anti) Feminist Problem'. I continue by analysing the marginalisation of feminist voices in philosophical discourses as a case of what Miranda Fricker (2007) has called epistemic injustice . Employing elements of a feminist standpoint approach to enquiry, I go on to consider the way in which experiences and reflections that start from lives lived on the margins of the discipline can be a rich source of philosophical insight that is neglected because of philosophy's problem with feminism. Working from within epistemology provides a means of offering a discursive analysis of all and any thinking and knowledge production, thus enabling me to offer insights into philosophical practice itself. Further, as I discuss later, epistemology is one of the sub-fields of philosophy in which feminist work has managed to gain traction and in which there is at least some intersection and cross-fertilisation between feminist discourses and more centred discourses.

Women in philosophy: The current state of play

For women, philosophy is the least welcoming of the humanities disciplines. Women's underrepresentation as scholars, as students and as subjects of enquiry is unsurpassed by any other of those disciplines. It has a gender profile more similar to (though sometimes worse than) disciplines in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) areas1. A gender gap exists at almost all levels, with men outnumbering women from undergraduate students to professors. Until this year, across philosophy departments in New Zealand universities, men outnumbered women by 3:1. Further, as Rini (2013) discusses in depth, only one woman has been appointed to a permanent (but part-time) position in a New Zealand philosophy department since 2005, while 20 men have been appointed2. In Australia, women hold 28% of continuing positions in philosophy departments, in the USA, the percentage has remained at around 21% for the past decade, while in the UK, it stands at around 25.4% (Hutchinson & Jenkins, 2013, Appendix 1).

In her seminal article on the situation of women scholars and students in philosophy, Haslanger writes of her 'rage' about how she and others have been treated and how many women and others who are marginalised in philosophical discourses and in the professional, academic practice of philosophy, continue the struggle to be recognised and respected as philosophers (2008, p. 210). As she and others note, many simply give up that struggle, some scholars are lost to more welcoming intellectual homes - to disciplines that are more outward looking - while others are lost to the academy altogether. Unsurprisingly then, a persistent theme in contemporary feminist scholarship in philosophy brings philosophical resources to bear in offering critical analyses and reflection on this situation and the reasons for it, as well as explanations of why philosophy has, thus far, proved so resistant to change. In this literature, roughly two types of hypotheses are present: one cites factors external to the practice of philosophy as such, but part and parcel of the way in which women in philosophy are thought about and evaluated (factors such as stereotype threat, evaluation bias and implicit bias), while the other cites factors internal to the practice of philosophy, such that philosophy feels like a game that is alien to many women, because the ethos with which it is pursued feels unwelcoming and the questions that it raises often seem irrelevant3. As Margaret Urban Walker writes,

The presence of concerns, texts, and images that acknowledge women within undergraduate classrooms, graduate training, and professional media allow women students to feel that a discipline, literally, comprehends them, and that it is a space that they are free to enter and expected to enter. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Problem(s) of Women in Philosophy: Reflections on the Practice of Feminism in Philosophy from Contemporary Aotearoa/New Zealand
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.