The Intellectual Costs of Misconduct (guest post)

The Intellectual Costs of Misconduct (guest post)


The following is a guest post* from a woman graduate student in philosophy who wishes to remain anonymous.


Lately, I’ve been reflecting on the complicated ways issues of equity connect with intellectual and professional respect. On philosophy blogs there has been extensive discussion regarding the climate for women in philosophy, issues of sexual misconduct, what treatment we owe to the accused, and, lately, academic freedom. One issue that has not yet fully surfaced is the intellectual cost to the profession at large when our culture prevents certain social groups from flourishing within it. I want to offer a window into one woman student’s thinking as the philosophical community continues in these discussions.

Many months ago now, I received a ‘revise and resubmit’ on a paper I had sent off to a journal, but since then, I have been avoiding actually revising and resubmitting. I have three other papers that I have been hanging on to, tinkering with each occasionally, though I’ve been advised that I ought to try sending them some place too. My hesitance has nothing to do with the content or the work. After I submitted the first paper, I realized my unease wasn’t mere nervous anticipation.  I was uncomfortable because the philosophical literature is a showcase for our mutual engagement as academics. It’s a conversational exchange within a community. There is give and take; and I am not yet sure how much I want to let philosophy take from me, or how much I am willing to give. I don’t know how I could productively contribute to our joint scholarly project without questioning my sense of self-respect (in light of some of my own experiences), or without questioning my own complicity (knowing something about the suffering of those who have been, and are being, driven from it).

It may well turn out that any philosophical contributions I have to offer are of no consequence anyway—but I am not alone. I hadn’t articulated these quiet misgivings, even to myself, until a conversation with another woman philosopher who revealed to me that she is withholding her most significant work from literature on account of a similar question.  Of course, I’ll need to publish eventually if I want a job. But while I love philosophy and thoroughly enjoy teaching, there are times where I am deeply conflicted about whether or not I genuinely want to continue after I finish my degree. There are certainly many features of my experiences with philosophers to recommend such a career. I have found some wonderful friends, intelligent and creative colleagues, a place where I can pursue my interests, and mentors who give me hope that I might, someday, feel at home in the profession.

All the same, what should I think about my place in a discipline that sometimes feels like an episode of Mad Men, only with less well-tailored clothing? How am I supposed to feel about the worth of my welfare when I can no longer count the number of people I know who have been sexually assaulted by fellow philosophers on one hand? How should I respond when I am told that I ought to keep silent about such things until I have tenure? Why would I want to adapt to a professional culture where this is normal? Will it be possible to succeed without becoming part of the problem along the way?

Psychologically, I can cope with all of this. The questions, rather, are whether or not I should, and whether or not I want to. Importantly, this is not merely an ethical issue. It raises a question about how much talent have we lost because we have failed to allow all of our community members to achieve their potential, and we have failed to attract and retain so many other prospective philosophers (and of course, the fact that we are witnessing so much discussion of issues of gender at all is a testament to how far things have progressed in that respect—how much talent have we lost from other underrepresented groups?).  There is this connection, then, between misconduct and the limits of appropriate professional participation: even if someone’s behavior has nothing to do with their ideas at all, it has everything to do with who else will be willing and able to enter our conversation at all.

As Simone de Beauvoir wrote, “One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius; and the feminine situation has up to the present rendered this becoming practically impossible.” We are all worse off when we systematically prevent others from achieving, and sharing, their intellectual potential.

(art: detail from Pelican with Young by Mary Ann Willson)

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Keisha
Keisha
6 years ago

Great post. I’ve had similar thoughts about the profession. Thanks for sharing.Report

anon
anon
6 years ago

Beautifully expressed. Thank you, anon, for writing this — and thanks, Justin, for providing a safe space within which a philosopher can express this sort of concern without worrying about hate speech in the comments.

I, too, have experienced — and continue to experience, even as a tenured faculty member — a very similar unease and hesitance. I deliberately did not go on the market, and accepted a TT (now tenured) position at a university where I knew I wouldn’t perish if I refused to publish. I’d describe the emotion as more of a defiant refusal, than a hesitance. Perhaps there are stages of disengagement, much like there are stages of grief. Fuck the profession, and all the status attached to publication. I’ve been told it’s a rigged insider’s game anyhow — though I wouldn’t know, because I haven’t submitted.

As Sally Haslanger wrote back in that memorable 2008 article, “There is a deep well of rage inside of me. Rage about how I as an individual have been treated in philosophy; rage about how others I know have been treated; and rage about the conditions that I’m sure affect many women and minorities in philosophy, and have caused many others to leave.”

What would quell that rage? What would prompt me to submit the work I have been sitting on for so long?

An apology. From at least one faculty member at the institution where I was sexually assaulted by my adviser — and, ideally, from the entire fucking department. ANYTHING would be better than the silence.Report

Hannah
Hannah
6 years ago

Absolutely my thoughts as well. I’m fortunate enough now to have a secure teaching position that doesn’t require publishing. There’s nothing more rewarding to me than getting my students to philosophically engage with the world and their own selves, but they are a diverse group that struggles to see themselves reflected in the narrow confines of the discipline. I’ve never personally experienced the harassment or assault that other women have, but for all those reasons I do personally struggle with how to relate to “philosophy.” It’s only gotten harder over the years.

I like the word that anon used: disengagement. It’s how I’ve felt with respect to philosophy for a long time, ever since I first went on the market and figured out the workings of the APA smoker. There are still profoundly wonderful moments of connection for me, but the distance grows daily. I don’t think the discipline cares about nor respects the kind of work I feel called to as a philosophy teacher. What keeps me in it is the joy and freedom my students live out in some of these big questions. Maybe that doesn’t get me respect, but maybe I no longer care what “the discipline” has to say anyway.Report

anonplease
anonplease
6 years ago

To the anonymous guest poster: thank you so much for articulating what, to me, had been inchoate. I have been sitting on so much, and it was unclear why, but the reasons are beginning to emerge thanks in no small part to your post.

I have been fortunate enough to not have abuse directed at me, but I just cannot stop questioning the morality of contributing to and participating in this profession. The bare fact that this question is raised and must be taken seriously is probably evidence enough: philosophy has become a sick and sad environment, and I can no longer defend its intellectual merits in the face of blatant misconduct, oppressive culture, and hardly shrouded cronyism.

So long academia, and thanks for all the debt.Report

Cathy
Cathy
6 years ago

Yes, how much talent have we lost? How much? I think about this a lot. When a high-profile, highly privileged philosopher is ‘outed’ for sexual harassment, I see a lot of concern that his high-profile career not suffer 1% more than it legally or ethically should, but does anyone ever wonder how many (most probably female) careers have *died* from the behaviour? Does anyone ever try to find these people, and help them?Report

Bharath
Bharath
6 years ago

A great post. I left academia without publishing anything. In grad school and as a professor I avoided giving talks and was unmoved to try to publish. I felt a stubbornness within me that refused to do something I wasn’t moved to do. I think my colleagues thought it was strange, and it was personality thing, as if I was hung up on something irrelevant, or I was a perfectionist. I internalized that myself and blamed myself for it endlessly, though outwardly I didn’t let myself show it. Your post helps me see that I wasn’t irrationally stubborn or a prima donna. I felt I couldn’t express some of my deepest concerns, and so, as you so perfectly put it, I wasn’t “sure how much I want to let philosophy take from me, or how much I am willing to give.” Thanks so much for this post.Report

yeah, me too.
yeah, me too.
6 years ago

“What would quell that rage?”

I have been thinking about this very question for a long time, anon. And, fwiw, I think lately my answer has been, at least partly, “Other women’s stories.” Other women’s stories give us a way of understanding what’s happened. Other women’s stories make the unbearable tolerable. So thanks for this post, in which you point partly to your own story. It helps.Report

anongrad
anongrad
6 years ago

There is much to like about this post, but I’ll just register two points.

One reason this post feels so helpful, I’d venture to say, is because there is something refreshing about reading a woman openly admit that she is unsure about whether to continue on in the profession after completing her doctoral work. I think it’s refreshing because (as the flood of early comments makes clear) many of us feel the same way! But there’s no platform for women to openly have this conversation, because to admit as much is to impugn one’s seriousness as a philosopher, and anyway, women are *already* fighting an uphill battle over whether to be taken seriously. So we tuck these concerns away, to try to protect ourselves from one kind of harm, thereby subjecting ourselves to another.

Another reason I think this post is so helpful is because it contrasts nicely with another conversation that I think we do have, fairly readily. We often talk about imposter syndrome, and about worrying whether we belong in the sense of having “what it takes” (insight, depth, creativity, etc). What this post highlights, I think, is that a neglected part of having “what it takes” is, for a great many of us, a kind of soul-sucking acquiescence to a discipline that leaves deep scars on our friends and colleagues. Do we want to be the kind of people who have “what it takes”? What does it mean if we are? What does it mean if we aren’t?

Many thanks, OP.Report

Komal
Komal
6 years ago

I hope this isn’t too off-topic, but I think a lot of talent is also lost by philosophical orthodoxy and narrow-mindedness, which interacts with racism and sexism to make being philosophically pioneering or innovative particularly difficult for female and minority philosophers. I am worried about my own academic future (I’m a first year PhD student), and it’s not merely because I know I will continue to face racism and sexism. It’s also because as far as I can see, only a limited range of philosophical issues and approaches to their resolution are considered worthy and interesting, and I think (though I am not sure) that I fall outside that range.Report

Will Behun
Will Behun
6 years ago

As a man in academia I am always grateful for posts like this that allow me some small insight into the struggles my colleagues face; struggles to which I am blinded by my own experiences and preconceptions. Having one’s perspective widened, even if (or perhaps especially if) it makes one uncomfortable is always a good thing. Thank you.Report

Mo
Mo
6 years ago

The status quo has indeed been responsible for great losses to individuals and the discipline and it continues to cause harm to individuals and groups. And it will continue to cause harm in these ways for the foreseeable future — even though it is increasingly NOT considered normal or okay. But those harms also happen outside of professional philosophy. People generally do not cope well with victims of sexual assault and harassment and I’m not sure that philosophy is exceptional in its failures here. Workplace cultures tacitly allowing or endorsing harassment and marginalization are also omnipresent, as we are well aware.

So, perhaps the question is not “Do I want a career in professional philosophy given that it will cause me to suffer?” (Because it will. There is much suffering. But whether it causes you to suffer more than any other profession or work is an open question.) Perhaps the better question is “Where can I best exercise my strengths, even given the likelihood of suffering and the existence of obstacles?” Or “Given that obstacles and suffering are ubiquitous, what work do I most value and will be able to pursue with a full heart?” Is the work of a philosophy professor or teacher? Labour relations expert? Physician? Writer? Filmmaker? Bush pilot? Some combination of these?

The strengths of clarity of thought and caring evident in this guest post leads me to think that the author will find a place to exercise her strengths with her work in philosophy — and indeed anywhere — and will ‘be the change she wishes to see in the world.’ If the decision is to stay in philosophy, the profession contains many truly incredible caring people who are working for change and who have made enormous difference to the structures and ideas that marginalize and oppress. So, if you wish to stay in philosophy, continue to surround yourself with these strong, caring people and focus on building things with them. They make the jerks easier to bear, and lend support for dealing with the jerks in ways that leave you whole, or at least more skilled at handling jerks.Report

Barry Lam
Barry Lam
6 years ago

We need mentoring in the field that places younger people with mentors that do not and could not have some power over a person’s career. These are very important considerations during important moments in a person’s career that a dissertation adviser, senior colleague, senior member within your field, or potential hiring committee member is ill-placed to hear. But they are thoughts that are far from unique. Hopefully there can be a way to organize some form of mentoring so as to help people talk through these issues.Report

Jeff
Jeff
6 years ago

I totally agree. I’ve seen a good number of people from my PhD program fail to get jobs as they’re handed to people less qualified all around except that they went to an Ivy League undergraduate program and, probably in large part because of that, a “higher ranked” PhD program. It’s distressing.Report

anonymous
anonymous
6 years ago

“But those harms also happen outside of professional philosophy. People generally do not cope well with victims of sexual assault and harassment and I’m not sure that philosophy is exceptional in its failures here. Workplace cultures tacitly allowing or endorsing harassment and marginalization are also omnipresent, as we are well aware.”

I spent a number of years working outside of philosophy, and in my experience, philosophy is somewhat unique. It’s true that there are problems everywhere, but the way problems are handled and responded to (or not) has been (again, just in my experience) strikingly different.

One thing, though, about being internally conflicted about continuing in philosophy is that I find it (in some ways) quite freeing. When I feel like I’m faced with deciding between either pursuing my interests or doing the right thing on the one hand, and sacrificing a bit of political or professional capital on the other, that internal conflict makes risks to my career seem much less risky.Report

Anonymous
Anonymous
6 years ago

Thank you for the insightful post. I had no idea there were so many others struggling with the same things. I’ve gradually been growing more disengaged, sometimes even disgusted, and have finally decided I’ll be leaving my tenured position in the near future. It’s hard for me, though, to separate out the sources of my feelings. How much is about my crappy, sexist, racist department? How much is about academic philosophy? How much is about the ugly thing that higher education has become in the U.S.? How much is disgust with the overall political and economic situation in the U.S., and a desire just to opt out of the above-ground economy? I don’t know. What I do know is that once I started writing fiction in my off-hours, I rediscovered my voice and my passion for getting my voice out there. All the energy I used to have for philosophy, and thought I’d lost for good, welled right back up as soon as I let myself write creatively. I feel like writing fiction is just as intellectually demanding as writing philosophy, but it seems to draw on many more aspects of myself: my imagination, my emotional intelligence, my humor, as well as my logic. I don’t have to feel sort of embarrassed about those aspects of myself anymore, as if they make me less serious or rigorous. But I also think I would have been miserable majoring in creative writing or (heaven forbid) becoming an English professor, so some of my unhappiness is just coming from a dislike of institutionalization in general, I think. I like humans individually, but get us into groups and we really turn into jerks.Report

Ray
Ray
6 years ago

I’m so glad I’m not a philosopher. Your departments seem overrun with sexual harassment at a very minimum, let alone assault, yet not one of you seems to have the brass to confront it.Report

AnonGrad
AnonGrad
6 years ago

Thank you for posting this refreshingly honest and brave OP. I find myself precisely at this same crossroads. But my concern, like Komal’s (9), goes a little deeper than the present climate concerns, which are awful and fully deserving of the negative public attention they are receiving. Rather, on the question of how much talent the profession has lost and continues to lose because of it’s exclusionary practices, I wonder why these obvious deficits prompt so little attention and concern.

My worry is that many (most?) philosophers think there just is no real deficit to be concerned with. The philosophical canon, for instance, simply is what it is. It is clearly absent the voices of excluded “others.” But philosophy seems to think it has done just fine (even brilliantly) across the ages without those voices. If the recipe works, no further ingredients are needed or wanted. In which case, there is no reason for me to believe that my work/perspective/feminist flavor will ever be welcome. So maybe what will help “quell the rage” is some recognition that historic and present discrimination has had real intellectual costs (as opposed to mere embarrassment) to the discipline ?Report

Anon'
Anon'
6 years ago

“Choosing five books that have shaped the field is quite a challenge…. But I thought, in the end, it is the dead white males that have most shaped the field in which we collectively work, in Philosophy departments anyway, like it or not.”
Posted by: Jo Wolff | 01/26/2015 at 11:37 PM
http://digressionsnimpressions.typepad.com/digressionsimpressions/2015/01/some-comments-on-jonathan-wolffs-list-of-five-books.html#sthash.Azmmz2K3.dpuf

This kind of complacency and self-fulfilling influence formation does not help, to say the least.Report

Aspasia
Aspasia
6 years ago

I’ve actually almost decided to give up on journals as Helen De Cruz did a study that showed that women submit to top journals no less than their male counterparts, and yet, do not get published. There’s at least two possible answers: (a) women suck at philosophy way more than men; (b) women write in a different style that triggers unconscious bias. I’m betting on (b), in which case, I’m kinda screwed.Report

Aspasia
Aspasia
6 years ago

ps: I do and say what I want, and if that excludes me from the profession, believe me, I have plenty of other talents. The change has got to come from people at the bottom or it isn’t going to change in my opinion. And so yeah, I take risks, huge risks, because I believe in a higher good other than being a professional philosopher.Report

Rachel McKinnon
Rachel McKinnon
6 years ago

Aspasia: I know Helen’s data, and when I went looking for the available information on the breakdown on submission *and publication* rates for ‘top’ journals by gender, women were being published in close proportion to the proportion of papers we submitted. So I couldn’t easily come up with evidence that women may be suffering from implicit bias by double- or triple-anonymous ‘top’ journals. Believe me, I went looking.Report

Plouffe
Plouffe
6 years ago

Refreshingly honest and brave? At the risk of being the wet blanket, isn’t this just the story of pretty much every graduate student?Report

Aspasia
Aspasia
6 years ago

Thanks for the info Rachel. That’s a relief! 🙂Report

re-read and resubmit
re-read and resubmit
6 years ago

At the risk of being equally flatfooted, no, Plouffe, this is not the story of every graduate student. Indeed, this is not even a story (primarily) about *being a graduate student*.Report

Male Grad Student
Male Grad Student
6 years ago

I, for one, did not find the OP’s sentiments at all surprising. If anything, I’m surprised that other people are surprised. Why would anyone want to be a part of some social circle where they are treated horribly? To a far lesser extent, I have had similar feelings regarding the massive amount of dogmatism I’ve already encountered as a grad student. Worst of all are the flippant dismissals of things that are deemed counterintuitive coupled with the complete refusal to recognize that these intuitions might be the product of culture. (Though the impact of sexual harassment obviously makes this insignificant by comparison.) I understand how it could feel hopeless, and I certainly don’t wish to claim that anyone has a moral obligation to continue on in such conditions. But if everyone who feels this way quits, then the jerks win. While I can’t speak for my female colleagues, nothing pisses me off more than the thought of the jerks winning.Report

Aspasia
Aspasia
6 years ago

Hey Rachel, I’m sure there are more curious than I am, but where did you find the data. So is it that women proportionally submit as much as men, and proportionally get published as often? I don’t recall the exact details now. Maybe Helen could weigh in on this too?Report

Senior faculty
Senior faculty
6 years ago

I understand too well the sentiments expressed in the post and by others here. I, too, was assaulted in grad school by someone who remains gainfully employed in our profession and was harassed with enough frequency that my health was seriously impaired. Not surprisingly, I had moments in which I wondered why in the world I didn’t just do something else.
Part of the answer is that I don’t have a whole lot of faith that the other fields I would have chosen would have been markedly better. But the other reason I stayed is that I just really love philosophy and I’m going to be damned if some band of assholes is going to take that away from me.
So, instead of leaving, here’s another idea: This is OUR profession, too. Find allies. They are out there and if you ask them for help in a specific form, I’ve learned from experience that they are ready to rise to the occasion.
Part of the reason why our profession is in such sorry shape is because we stand by while the assholes get their way. The way to stop this is for each of us to do what we can to refuse to stand by.
Here are some concrete examples of things to do:
When you know someone who has been harassed, tell her that you believe her, that what happened to her is unacceptable, and that you are on her side and ready to do what you can to help, even if that’s only listen.
If you are at a talk and see someone well established receive credit for a comment made first by someone more junior, stick up your hand, if only to say “that’s a great point, but it’s so and so’s”.
If you see a forceful personality cut off someone more timid in a discussion, say something. “Excuse me, but I think so and so wasn’t quite finished.”
I’m sure others have more concrete examples. A list of them would be great.
Fight the status quo!Report

Ray
Ray
6 years ago

You all do know that sexual harassment at work is illegal and for sexual assault someone could be going to prison, whether they’re tenured or not? Talk to your head of department, HR or EEOC directly. If not for yourself, if you can live with it, at least for someone else, like the at least five others the OP mentioned.Report

Rachel McKinnon
Rachel McKinnon
6 years ago

It’s just not that simple, Ray. In many cases, moving forward with a harassment complaint ends up with things being worse for the victim than just staying silent, particularly in our current culture. In some cases, we’re explicitly advised not to do so because of the certain negative effects, even if we ‘win.’Report

anonymous
anonymous
6 years ago

Original poster here—thank you for the comments. It’s maddening to know that so many others have needed to think through these issues too, yet I am always heartened when a problem can be articulated, as it has been in the discussion here, as it helps enable us to develop solutions.

Just a few responses: to Komal and AnonGrad, you couldn’t be more right that the issues run much deeper. I once had a philosopher ask me seriously if I had ever considered whether my work might be more fitted to a sociology department—and I’m not sure what thought was behind the question exactly, but I found it bizarre, and so far as I could tell, the only prompt for it was that the work under discussion utilized some discussion of social dynamics in order to point out that a particular conceptual analysis did not line up with the way the concept is utilized in practice. I think the point about the canon cannot be emphasized enough. It’s quite humbling, for example, to read ancient Indian philosophy, to see that it’s so incisive and witty, that many problems under discussion today were anticipated and wrestled with in their work, and yet know that in the politically dominant philosophical communities that work isn’t give the same respect or consideration as Plato, Aristotle, etc. Sometimes I wonder how much further along we would be even if we were only more open minded just with respect to the history of philosophy.

To Barry, I agree with you about the value of mentoring from those who have no substantive power over your career—power dynamics can have such a tricky way of interfering with our ability to be honest and open at the same time. In my own case though, I would rather that my adviser know exactly how I think through these issues. There are risks to be sure (or, there would be if I didn’t have such a wonderful adviser), but if not for my own sake I would think it’s important that they understand how the ability of those they are training to professionally engage may be affected by circumstance, by environment, and so on. I have seen enough people disengage, only for others to assume that they were incompetent or uninterested, or that they couldn’t do anything to help, when that couldn’t have been further from the truth. For me, this is part of what Senior faculty said regarding refusing to stand by. If making myself just a little bit vulnerable to the faculty who teach me will enable them to better teach others, so be it.

To Plouffe, I agree with you that this post was not brave (though I appreciate the sentiment that lead others to saying so), but re-read and resubmit is right that this really wasn’t about me being a graduate student. It’s about recognizing that when we don’t create a culture in which all community members are allowed to flourish, philosophy suffers on account of having that many less voices able and willing to be party to the conversation, that many less potential objections levied, that many less suggestions offered, that many less perspectives considered.

One general comment about not letting the jerks win: I have a very difficult time figuring out who the jerks are, and want to be clear about what it means to not let them win. There’s the obvious jerk–the racist, the sexist, the harasser, the jerk-jerk–but then there’s the less obvious, too. If I know, or strongly suspect, that someone is going through something really difficult but I don’t reach out to them because I don’t want to burden myself or I would rather just focus on my work, I think I’m being a jerk. If I’m sitting in seminar and a fellow student is being treated uncharitably and I don’t say anything, I think I’m being a jerk. If I have good evidence that a prominent philosopher is engaging in serial bad behavior that’s causing others to be harmed, but I ignore it and seek the professional advantages that being friendly with them might offer me, I think I’m being a jerk. It’s easy to be a jerk–and it’s difficult to figure out how to be successful without risking contributing to the problems. As for not letting them win–yes, but let’s be sure to recognize that this isn’t a matter of individuals persevering despite their circumstances , but rather a collective effort to not stand by, to not leave those who have been harmed by bad behavior with sole responsibility for figuring out how to stay, how to protect themselves, or how to succeed.Report

Why?
Why?
6 years ago

I have but one question. Why does it feel wrong? Why are you afraid? We humans think of ourselves as more than we truly are sadly and if that does not change no matter the effort progress will always be thwarted… If you do not understand why I say this you should have chosen biology instead of philosophy… We are biological beings and not as autonomous as we’d like to think… Sexism is inherent in dimorphic species. The only difference between us and other animals is the complexity of it.

That is all I’m willing to share on the subject.

Kind regards from an anonymous academicReport

William
William
6 years ago

I found your essay baffling at the very least. I don’t even know what you are specifically complaining about. You know other philosophy students who were sexually assaulted? By male philosophers? You are talking about physical assaults; men grabbing you in the hallways; or is your definition of assault something like criticism of your papers, or philosophical debate? You don’t want to publish because you don’t want your work to be criticized?

When I went to university (and I have a BA in literature, a JD, and an MBA), I found that students, both men and women, seemed happy to be there, collegial with one another, and engaged in the learning process. Do you think that all the women I encountered in my classes or on campus or in the dorm were secretly miserable; that they were being regularly sexually assaulted, or had their work minimized? I don’t. I think they were intelligent, capable people who interacted with others, realizing that there are always difficult professors or advisors, and that classwork was challenging. They did not seek to blame everything that made them unhappy or frustrated on some patriarchical bogeyman. I had male professors, and female professors, in every discipline I studied. The Dean of my law school was a woman. About 40% of my law school class was women, and that was 30 years ago. I never heard one woman complain to me, or to another woman, about sexism, harrassment, “sexual assault,” or anything similar. Nor did any of the women in my MBA program do so. Most of the people I went to school with ended up as successful lawyers and businesspeople; I read about their achievements in the magazines alumni are sent.

But now there is this pervasive, toxic myth which gets conveniently used by too many women, as rationale for any personal issues, frustrations with academia, career uncertainty. The surprising thing is that you are afraid to publish because you don’t want your work to be criticized or scrutinized. If you want to write anti-male articles, there is a big market for those, and you are likely to be very successful in that way. If you want to write about classic philosophical issues: ethics, morals, meaning of life, then of course your work will be judged by more time-honored academic standards, and you will confront the limited rewards and constraints of the academic world, as professors have done for millennia.Report

Male Grad Student
Male Grad Student
6 years ago

^Naturalistic fallacy.^ [directed at “Why?”, above]Report

Male Grad Student
Male Grad Student
6 years ago

OP, I was basically just using “jerk” as a covering term for harassers, dogmatists, plagiarizers, obscurantists, etc. I don’t want those people to win. You’re certainly right that not doing something about what these other people do can also make one a jerk in a broader sense of the term. But what I meant to convey is that the original perpetrators shouldn’t be allowed to rule the profession and get away with all of their B.S. I completely agree that this can only happen if we collectively start acting to combat this sort of behavior. My point is that it is unlikely that there will ever be any such collective action if all those who feel oppressed by the current system simply opt to leave. We need you here to help in the fight. Please don’t leave!Report

Why?
Why?
6 years ago

“One is not born a genius, one becomes a genius; and the feminine situation has up to the present rendered this becoming practically impossible.” I’m sorry to burst that bubble… But one’s aptitude for “genius” is genetic to start with and can be cultivated through education. Oh well. Have a great day nonetheless all of you 🙂Report

anonymous
anonymous
6 years ago

Original poster again–sorry Male Grad Student, I wasn’t clear: I prefaced my comment regarding not letting the jerks win as a general one because I didn’t intend it to be specifically a response to you (and I take it we aren’t disagreeing). It was a general comment because of some things I’ve heard people say about this on facebook, in the halls, etc.

To William, I would like to kindly ask you to please try to think for a moment before you comment on something which you know nothing about in the future.

First, the less serious part: I never said I didn’t want to publish because I didn’t want my work criticized (partly because I’m perfectly open to constructive criticism and partly because–as you would know if you were a philosopher–criticism of one’s work in our discipline is a compliment). My point in mentioning having received a ‘revise and resubmit’ was not to indicate that I was unhappy with criticism, but rather that even someone who’s doing fairly well by objective professional metrics is not sure she wants to continue: I received a fairly positive response the first time I ever tried to submit a paper to a journal, and it was a paper that I wrote originally during my first semester of graduate school.

As to the rest, based on your feeling entitled to comment here on something which you know nothing about the effect that women who do speak out about their experiences are merely blaming their own personal failings on some patriarchal “boogeyman” it should be of no surprise to anyone at all that your female acquaintances wouldn’t come clamoring to let you know if they had been harassed or assaulted.

Yes, I know multiple people (most, but not all, of them women) who have been sexually assaulted and sexually harassed within my academic discipline. I don’t really care if you believe me, but for the sake of those who know you in real life, and God forbid might need your support someday, I would ask you to think twice before you question someone like this again simply because you know nothing about it yourself.Report

AnotherFemaleGrad
AnotherFemaleGrad
6 years ago

I’m critical of this post in a way that I’m (appropriately) critical of myself. Look, I’ve had moments where I’ve convinced myself that I’m some sort of tortured genius whose intellect has gone tragically unacknowledged. But over time, I became less and less convinced. Not because I came to realize my intellectual shortcomings or something like that, but rather because I just stopped caring for some reason. I’ve also noticed that it’s become a lot easier for me to contribute to philosophy now that I no longer care about how smart other people might think I might be. And from that point of view, the profession’s major attitude problems [which are described well in this post] that once seemed insurmountable to me, no longer fo. Maybe I’m projecting too much, but that’s my initial reaction.Report

re-read and resubmit
re-read and resubmit
6 years ago

AnotherFemaleGrad, your response strikes me as confused. I do not take the author to be expressing the (by know familiar) effects of imposter syndrome, or anything like that. She does not come across to me as insecure about her work in the slightest. As OP indicates both in her post, and in her response to the wildly confused William, above, her choosing to withhold her work from publication has nothing to do with any inner doubts about the value of her work — it has to do with the value of this discipline, at least insofar as this discipline is fraught with condemnable behaviour, horrible attitudes towards women and other underrepresented groups, etc.

I recommend re-reading her post, and reconsidering whether your criticisms hit their mark.Report

Aspasia
Aspasia
6 years ago

I am amazed at how far this thread has degenerated. Those of you who have gone through sexual assault hell, don’t even bother wasting your breath. Just don’t fan the flames, suffocate them. And do better things with your time. Some people aren’t worth wasting head space on. Are they paying rent?Report

AnotherFemaleGrad
AnotherFemaleGrad
6 years ago

That sounds like a good recommendation. I’m just reporting the thoughts I initially had in response to this posting, and that those thoughts have persisted for few days. What stood out to me was the idea that she doesn’t want to share her work with philosophers because philosophers don’t know how to act. That sounds like an excuse I’d give myself for not producing work. I mean it’s true that philosophers don’t know how to act. But I’d like to think that if I share my own work, then I will become a philosopher, therein increasing the number of philosophers who, at least don’t act in sexist and racist ways [I’m not going to claim that I know how to act, but I do make constant efforts to be neither sexist nor racist].

As far as survivors of assault go, I would never want to minimize that pain. I wasn’t trying to do that at all, and I genuinely regret saying anything that would come across that way.Report

anonymous
anonymous
6 years ago

AnotherFemaleGrad, OP here. I’m not sure why you read me as excusing a lack of productivity. One can write (as I have indicated I do) without being sure whether or not one wants to do anything with that writing. Maybe I wasn’t clear enough in the original post. My concern wasn’t that philosophers act badly, but rather it regards questions about what sort of community I am willing to contribute to and enable. To be clear though, while for me this is an ethical issue, I do fully believe that for others (or myself, if I were in different circumstances) this can pose psychological and practical obstacles that are entirely legitimate, justified, natural, and not excuses.

I also think the number of folks above who have commented outright that they are withholding work or have left on account of similar considerations illustrates my primary concern here, which is that there are intellectual costs imposed on all of us when we allow certain social groups to be unjustly marginalized.Report

AnotherFemaleGrad
AnotherFemaleGrad
6 years ago

Look, I guess I just think that legitimate, justified, and natural responses can also function as excuses. I mean, why are you writing? Who are you writing for? Yourself? That makes sense, and I applaud that. But are you only writing for yourself, or do you think the world would somehow benefit from what you have to say? If you also think that the world would benefit from what you have to say, do you think that it would benefit the most from you saying it in the philosophical literature, or do you think your contribution would be better made somewhere else- like as a journalist or a lawyer or a math teacher [or whatever]?

I’m asking you these questions because I don’t doubt that you have something to say, and I don’t doubt that the atmosphere in academic philosophy makes you reluctant to share it in the form of philosophical literature, but I guess I don’t want you, or me, or the people who have commented here to not share their thoughts and ideas with the world just because we came up in academic philosophy and academic philosophy isn’t very good at not unjustly marginalizing people.Report

AnotherFemaleGrad
AnotherFemaleGrad
6 years ago

One more thing: I wasn’t suggesting that any of us leave the profession when I asked if the world would benefit more from your ideas if you were a journalist or lawyer or math teacher [or whatever]. I asked that question because if so, I wouldn’t want your experience in philosophy to stop you from making your contributions to the world.

But then I realized that I never asked you how sharing your ideas within the philosophical literature might benefit you. And the fact that I forgot might very well reveal my own marginalization [I mean, sometimes I forget that what I want for myself also matters when I’m thinking about what to do with my abilities].

So, I guess I just want to say that those of us who have a background in philosophy, who have been turned-off by the profession, would still be better of by contributing our ideas to the philosophical literature than we would if we chose to withhold them. I mean, we’ve dedicated a lot of time and energy to this- and most of us probably don’t want to start over in another career. So while women, and people of color, and people who can’t afford to waste years of their lives in grad school, no doubt have more obstacles to face in this profession than “posh [whiteboys] with trust funds,” I still think most of us are better off at this point by facing those obstacles and contributing, than withholding.Report