Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Listen to the Band!

Female Grad, a, um, female grad student in philosophy who you might remember from a few posts back, has been good enough send along her thoughts about how we, as philosophers, tend to talk about sexism in the discipline. I'll have more to say about her thoughts a little later on, but for now let me just say how extremely fucking important her idea is that sexism can be--and often is--invisible to introspection. This bears a lot of thinking about. --PGS

It's nice to get a chance to steal someone else's audience for a little while, especially for this topic which is so close to home for me.

When I read PGS's (excellent, by the way) post, I thought, this comment section isn't going to be pleasant. But all thing told, it wasn't so bad. There were some clueless things that turned up. But not the really nasty and virulent misogyny one can find so easily on blogs. It seemed to me that there were a number of people who genuinely wanted to recognize a problem if there was one, and they just didn't see one; there were some false assumptions, some good old-fashioned arrogance, and the ubiquitous call for more empirical evidence. Even though there's room for improvement, I think it indicated good things about philosophers in general (or at least the ones who read and comment here). We are generally a good group of people who want to be just in our interactions with one another; the ongoing issues of sexism and racism aren't problems of bad intentions.

That's the main thing I wanted to get at in this post. In discussions of sexism, there is a tendency to get defensive because one feels like one is being attacked, being accused of being a Bad Person. The blunt truth is that, pretty much unless you are young and from a Scandinavian country, we were all raised in some kind of sexist environment. It varies from mildly sexist to rabidly so, but most of us were raised in sexist environments and pretty much all of us are, to a greater or lesser degree, sexist. There are quite few people who really do just think women don't belong in the field and should stay home and learn to cook instead or writing dissertations. Most of us don't want to be sexist, and most of us don't think we are sexist, and so accusations of rampant sexism in philosophy seem baseless.

The problem with sexism in philosophy (in my oh-so-humble opinion) is its invisibility to introspection. When the topic comes up, people reflect, Do I think women are poor philosophers? Am I doing anything that hinders the success or thriving of my female colleagues? Why, no. I see no evidence of sexism in my beliefs or actions. And conclude that the accusations are overblown. But that's the deal with having been raised in a sexist culture - these things are invisible. Until you really know what to look for, and really start paying attention to stuff you might not have before, you aren't going to notice it.

Because the sexism is there, but people don't usually know what to look for. And then they protest that they don't see it. And I think yeah, 'cause you're looking in the wrong spot. It's not something you can just introspect and discover, oops, here is my nasty greenish sexist belief pile, and now I will purge them and be sexism-free. The reason why women in philosophy just notice this stuff more is because it affects us on a day to day basis. After a while, you really start to notice how it adds up. And then someone comes along who is not affected by this stuff, who has never had to pay attention to it before, and they make a comment to the effect that maybe you are just being too sensitive (as if gee, I hadn't thought of that, thanks for pointing out the obvious).

So - if you've never had to deal with this stuff, and if you haven't put a substantive amount of thought into it (and probably some reading, too), chances are you don't know what the varieties of sexism in philosophy look like. And now that I have had to learn the hard way what it looks like, it's annoying to have someone tell me that perhaps I haven't, you know, considered the other obvious explanations. I have had to put a lot of time and thought into it, and I have now done a good amount of reading on it, and damn! it is annoying to have someone point out the mundane and obvious as if you hadn't ever thought of it yourself. It's kinda like reading one article on a topic and then deciding that the practitioners in the field have got it all wrong (and proceeding to tell them all this, while wondering why they are rolling their eyes).

Upshot is: we aren't accusing people of being intentionally Bad. The sexism left in philosophy is mostly the unintentional kind. In order to get rid of it, we need to know what it looks like (and that brief introspection will not get you there). And so when women list their experiences of sexism in philosophy, it's because this is what sexism looks like. These kinds of cases. None of us were there for what happened to her except her; and so we can rampantly speculate ad nauseam about whether or not her judgment of sexism is appropriate. We'll never know. There is never enough info that you can put in a comment to definitively make a case for sexism. But what we should get out of this is a sense of what sexism still looks like, so that we can all start looking for those kinds of things, and start recognizing it more when it happens. That's what will make it a more just profession.

--Female Grad

128 comments:

Mr. Zero said...

Thanks, Female Grad, for a thought-provoking and illuminating post.

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

As a female philosopher, I couldn't agree more.

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Word.

Anonymous said...

Well, I suppose the politically correct thing right now is to go along and say that what you have said is really important. I am honestly not sure that it is.

Human nature being what it is, there will always be injustice in the world, but individual cases of mistreatment don't automatically add up to evidence of the institutionalization of vice, which is what seems to be alleged here.

And why pick out Sweden? Have you lived there? Is there something specific that you are thinking of? As a Euro citizen, I know many other young Europeans --- including Swedes --- who would heartily disagree with you about the extent of what you allege. But that's a minor point.

I am not disputing that there are persons who discriminate unjustly on the basis of sex in every walk of life, philosophy included. But your post sounds a bit ideological to me. I guess I am just suspicious of arguments that are written in a tone that implies that anyone who disagrees with them is somehow living proof of the truth of the argument itself. That sounds a bit too much like the kind of thinking that produces conspiracy theories to me.

On the other hand, if you can recommend a specific article (or case) for us to read and discuss, that could be very interesting, and maybe we could actually get somewhere with this. Otherwise, we are left with a vague, generalized indictment of the profession, with a particular tilt at those who may disagree with you about the extent of any such problem.

Finally, please define what you understand by sexism. This term is understood in different ways. In your view, is one sexist if one distinguishes at all between the sexes, for any reason? Or is one sexist if one discriminates at all based on sex (e.g., separate changing facilities, special arrangements for nursing mothers, etc.)? Or is one sexist only when one discriminates based on sex where one ought not to discriminate based on sex (for example, with respect to philosophy employment)? Finally, is it possible for a woman to be sexist, as well as a man? (I ask these questions seriously, because they can indicate a point of departure for us to engage in a fruitful discussion).

I should add, finally, that I don't at all suspect that one's sex determines one's ability to do philosophy, and I am naturally in favor of efforts to encourage more women to enter and advance in the profession.

I am not attacking your post. Just asking for clarification. I think you could make a stronger argument if you would state your case with greater precision and perhaps by linking to some concrete evidence.

Otherwise, we are all just standing around acting enlightened because we voice agreement with a politically correct position. Your position may, in fact, be correct, but I would rather agree with it for a scientific reason.

Anonymous said...

Timely topic - I was just having a conversation about this with one of my parents. And one of the *lovely* things philosophy has given me is my first experiences of sexism.

Lindsey said...

New here, great post. (not much to add, but I completely agree!)

VAP said...

Women are underrepresented in philosophy. That's true and part of the reason is sexism. But philosophy has much less women in the discipline than most other humanities. (I think that is true, but I can't cite any numbers. It certainly seems to me there are more women in English and History.) Is the explanation of that fact that philosophy is more sexist than those other disciplines? I would be interested to know what others think.

I think when people mention things like self-selection or that men maybe more interested in philosophy they mean to explain the second fact (philosophy has less women than similar disciplines) and not the first fact (women are underrepresented). So they are in no way denying sexism. And as female grad points out sexism is everywhere, so it can not be an explanation of the second fact. That is, unless you think philosophers are more sexist than others in academia. That may be true, but it is more controversial (and depressing).

Mr. Zero said...

10:12,

Welcome. I can only imagine that you are new to the discussion. I invite you to click on such threads as "And there's a little yellow man in my head," "They have begun to shake the dirt," and "What'd you say, what'd you say, what'd you say." You will discover the context in which these remarks are being made.

Anonymous said...

FG,

Thanks for the post. I think there are some advantages to your very general treatment of the topic, contra 10:12. Let me summarize where I believe the debate on this blog has brought us with an old fashioned, early modern dialogue.

Smith: I've got a phenomenon in mind, let's call it X. X affects different types people differentially, affecting everyone of class A significantly and class B not at all. As and Bs can both observe it, if they try, but As can recognize it through introspection and then generalization from there to what they observe in the outside world, or by very careful observation. Bs can rarely identify it just by careful observation (about as often as As, in fact) or generally get knowledge of it by description. Now, here's the interesting thing: X is rampant, but if Bs systematically discount the evidence that As offer them, then they'll almost always miss it. And that's a shame.

Jones: That's interesting. I've got a similar argument. There's a property Y, such that it affects Cs and Ds much like your X affects As and Bs. But while Cs say they are affected by it, Ds tend to systematically discount their claims and ask for impartial evidence, because, they argue, C-knowledge of Y is almost always by introspection, and we know that there are all sorts of systematic bias that tend to come along with introspection. So while you are inclined to think that Bs should believe As unless they have good evidence to the contrary, I think Ds should disbelieve Cs unless they have good evidence to the contrary.

Smith: Interesting. I wonder if X=Y, etc.

Jones: Perhaps. In that case we disagree. Please define your terms. . . .

[Anon continues:] At this level of abstraction, I don't think we can know whi is right, Smith or Jones. But your post points to the basic logic of the two positions. Now here's my concern: there are some terms that you can predicate of a philosopher, and (s)he might get very upset (depending on the person's prior commitments, use of language, etc.). I'm thinking, for example, of "realist" or something like that. But there are other words, "sexist" for example, that make "realist" look positively unobjectionable. So while I'm not proposing that we stop using the s- word, I do think we've got to be strategic in our conversation when we look at the logic of our arguments, when we use particular words, when we ask for evidence (because that can be a version of the familiar ploy of trying to shift the burden of proof to one's interlocutor), etc.

Now there might be reasons to talk about sexism rather than X and Y, but that brings its own dangers because that is a charged word. Definition of terms might help, but that might not be sufficient, at least not without lots and lots of definition of terms.

As for the s- word, I'm sceptical of some uses. Haslanger's article, if I remember correctly, implies that people who don't like feminist philosophy are sexist. Whereas I, for example, think that any particular method of doing philosophy needs justification, and implicit reference to women's experience doesn't necessarily count as sufficient justification - but that doesn't mean I discount feminist scholarship. Note that in my opinion *Haslanger (asterisk to illustrate that I might err in attributing this claim to the actual philosopher of that name) is turning a matter that's open to debate to an occasion for ad hominem.

Prof. J. said...

I have to agree with 10:12 am on one thing, namely, that this sentence has a dubious implicature (maybe even implication):

The blunt truth is that, pretty much unless you are young and from a Scandinavian country, we were all raised in some kind of sexist environment.

Hmmm.
How many women Scandinavian philosophers can you think of? Yeah, me too. Philosophy in Scandinavia is very, very male-dominated. If indeed there is now no sexism in Scandinavia, that would make it very remarkable indeed that there are so few women in the profession there.

Anonymous said...

Until I went to grad school, I didn't realize that some people were unable to individuate women as distinct individuals, even a very small sample of them.

tt assprof said...

In my experience, having lived in Europe for some years, sexism is much more wide spread and institutionalized in Europe than in N. America. As a matter of fact, despite the persistent problems with sexism in our country, it's hard to imagine another country where progress has been made as far as it has been here.

Anonymous said...

"And one of the *lovely* things philosophy has given me is my first experiences of sexism."

"Until I went to grad school, I didn't realize that some people were unable to individuate women as distinct individuals, even a very small sample of them."

depressing.

on the up side, 20 years is a pretty long time to live without any experiences of sexism. so, you know, maybe society is making some kind of progress after all. used to be that sexism was part of the experience from the get-go.

at any rate, i doubt if many black americans have to wait until their twenties for their first experience of racism.

female grad said...

anon 10:12 and vap -

the scandinavian comment was tongue-in-cheek. I do think scandinavian countries are in general much less sexist culturally speaking than the US is. They also have much better participation rates for women than the US does (although still not proportional). But that is neither here nor there.

I am not going to define feminism for you, or sexism. One, calls for definitions are the last resort of philosophical scoundrels (not sexist jerks; but in philosophy in general, the discussion goes steeply downhill when someone asks you to bust out the Websters). You can do your own homework. In fact, there is an entire field of study devoted to it, so you should be able to find something without trouble. a comment section is not the place for this to get worked out.

a great resource recently came out that compiles a massive amount of empirical evidence and describes the kinds of processes whereby females are not just underrepresented in the field, but negatively impacted in a cumulative way by their gender. it was posted in a previous thread by someone from the Feminist Philosophers blog; if they could re-post that link I'd appreciate it.

as to my assuming the truth of what I say: yeah, duh, that's kinda the point. You can try and convince me that I should not think the sky outside right now is blue, and it ain't gonna work. Likewise, I would be an irrational fool if I denied something as painfully obvious to me as that there is sexism in philosophy. And yes, there is more sexism in philosophy than other humanities fields. Why this is, I don't actually know. But the last bastion of the boy's club for humanities is certainly here. Some areas of philosophy are even worse than mathematics and physics.

Anonymous said...

10:12

Since you don't seem to be up to speed on this discussion, I recommend that you read the posts that Mr. Zero mentions as well as Haslangers article and the data that Weatherson has compiled on his blog.

In response to your questions:

is one sexist if one distinguishes at all between the sexes, for any reason?

No

Or is one sexist if one discriminates at all based on sex (e.g., separate changing facilities, special arrangements for nursing mothers, etc.)?

No

Or is one sexist only when one discriminates based on sex where one ought not to discriminate based on sex (for example, with respect to philosophy employment)?

Yes

Finally, is it possible for a woman to be sexist, as well as a man?

Yes

Anonymous said...

Some more help for 10:12,

Haslanger's article has references to empirical studies that provide the evidence that you're looking for.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a lot of what 10:12 has to say. This post insulates female grad's position from criticism. If you disagree with her you're either clueless, misogynist, arrogant, or well-intentioned but necessarily blind to the truth of what she has to say because you weren't brought up in Norway.

Here's one striking thing about Female Grad's post. She writes that she was pleasantly surprised by the civility of comments in the previous post, but complains that there were still "false assumptions...and the ubiquitous call for more empirical evidence."

Now wait--a call for more empirical evidence is a bad thing? What? Imagine if the topic was different, that someone defended a position arguing for the existence of race differences that most students are blind to because of the hyper-egalitarian PC biases of most university professors. Would anyone evem suggest that a call for empirical evidence was just missing the point? Why is Female Grad's position any different? Why do epistemic standards get to be lower--you might even think hers is an unfalsifiable position, since all objections can so easily be explained away--just because her view is the PC one and because we all know some female philosophers who feel this way. I agree that Female Grad's claims may very well be accurate and I think this is a hugely important issue that needs to be addressed. But if we're going to agree with her, we should do it for the right reasons.

Anonymous said...

In support of female grad:

She is not saying that any "call for more empirical evidence is a bad thing" to quote anonymous 3:17.
Indeed she is pointing to a lot of the existing empirical evidence.

She is saying that sexism in the field is the kind of thing that someone who denies it will always be able to deny, since they can always question the basis for empirical evidence and can ask for ever more empirical evidence. It's bit like Bush and global warming. There's a lot of evidence that carbon dioxide emissions are causing global warming, but the data can be questioned. Like global warming, sexism is a very complex phenomenon. As I understand it, the issue that female grad points to is this:

1. Let's stop asking for more empirical evidence (we already have plenty) and focus on how to improve philosophy as a discipline.

2. Those of you who haven't read the empirical data, go and read it before you ask for more empirical data.

Anonymous said...

I think this post does a very good job at explaining why discussions about sexism are often so very fraught, and why there often might be something to them even when people sincerely think they're not being sexist. However, I think the discussion could also be helped by some more examples of ways in which people might be sexist without intending to be.

I know that for myself, I often find it harder to remember names of individual female students than male students. I don't know why this is, but it's a fact that I want to be able to overcome.

Much of one's impression about another philosopher comes from the way they carry themselves during a talk, during question periods, and in discussions in seminar or at the bar. Since this feeling about someone is so impressionistic, it would not be surprising if similar behaviors end up getting judged differently coming from people of different genders. (They'll also be judged differently coming from people of different heights, ages, job status, and so on - some of that is pernicious but some is not.)

Another fact, which isn't itself sexism per se (though it's almost surely in part a consequence of it), but which adversely affects women in the profession, is the relative paucity of female role models. There are several philosophers of various genders and orientations and ethnicities that I consider role models for myself as a philosopher. However, I am of a certain type of minority in the profession, and don't know of anyone in that same minority who works in the same field as me, so it's hard to know how to carry myself in socially accepted ways and the like. Of course, one doesn't just copy one's role models, but in many ways it is helpful to have a role model of the appropriate gender, orientation, and/or ethnicity in addition to one's other role models. This is something that is harder for women than for men.

Anonymous said...

In Sweden there is one female full professor in philosophy. One. There are 25 men. (My source is at http://web2.hsv.se/publikationer/rapporter/regeringsuppdrag/2005/0516R_ver2.pdf, page 128-9.) Surely even the US can improve on that statistic? Also, while I never encountered any openly sexist remarks when I was an undergrad in Sweden (and why should I have? I'm a man) there is strong anecdotal evidence that such things occur in other disciplines, not least law. I fully understand that FG's comments about Sweden were tongue-in-cheek, but the reality bears out a more serious undertone: even in societies which we regard as relatively equal and progressive, sexism still exists, and the general trend we see in academia elsewhere, namely that women may be well represented at undergraduate level, but then the men successively take over, is also well attested here. (Those who have the time and can read Swedish should have a detailed look at the report I link to. There is data about the gender distribution for graduated BA and MA students, current PhD students and every kind of faculty, divided by institution and subfield [theoretical/practical].)

Otherwise, let me just make one remark about 12:27:s interpretation of [Haslanger] (brackets are the philological way of expressing uncertain attribution) as saying that people who don't like feminist philosophy are sexist. 2:52 seems to reject [Haslanger's] thesis, and I agree. Someone (was it Haslanger or one of her commentators?) said that one reason why men don't like feminist philosophy is that they believe that it is emotional, political and subjective. Based on my (scant) experience, and since I am (or want to become, rather) a political philosopher, I deny the first claim and accept but am not bothered about the other two, at least if we are talking about feminist moral philosophy. (I don't know enough about feminist philosophy in other fields to be able to evaluate it.) It's not a problem for political philosophy that it is political. My problem with feminist political philosophy is that it often (but not always) seems to take a very left-wing stance on a number of issues, seeking solutions that are implicitly socialist/radical egalitarian/statist/whatever in their nature. I really could be wrong about this, and perhaps I am too clouded by my Swedish background, where radical feminism really is the mainstream, but listening to and reading people like Pateman and Iris Marion Young makes me feel vindicated. (When I some time ago met Carole Pateman and told her I was from Sweden she told me to my face that she would revive the so called Meidner funds, in which corporate profit is forcibly appropriated and given to the labour unions in the form of shares, which in the end would lead to a union takeover of large companies, and the money of the consumers going straight into the coffers of the all-governing Social Democratic Party, which would all but turn Sweden into a one-party state. If that is not left-wing I don't know what is.)

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:12 & 3:17:

Apparently you're in the wrong place for a genuine philosophical discussion...You must first agree before posting commentary or criticism. As has been made plain to you (over & over, in this thread and before), that sexism is rampant in philosophy is as clear as the sky's color. Acquiesce, please, acquiesce...The great herd of independent minds has spoken. There will be no discussion. None. Get over it, and let them preach to the bloody choir.

Prof. J. said...

I thought F.G.'s main point was perfectly fine, and it was kind of optimistic and a nice point to make in this context.

But parts of the posting are also rather magisterial, and it can easily be read as having a patronizing tone. I think that put a few people off. The tone and ex cathedra manner were surely unintentional... ironically!

And since FG asked, here is the link again to Sally Haslanger's paper (it's a pdf). At least I think that's the link she requested.

Anonymous said...

No such data exist which purport to show that women and men are equally suited for philosophy or that analytical skills for both are roughly equal. (This may be true for 5-year olds, but not those of age to be considered an academic philosopher.) Those who claim there are such data and that we should "go and read it" might do well to point us to it.

However, this is not to say that any difference in analytical skills is grounded in biology. It could still be a function of society and latent biases. (Just like men are less likely to become nurses and are typically less empathetic and verbally communicative.) This is not "sexist" in the usual definition but just a description of how the world or society is. And perhaps there is a biological influence.

So events that flow from this situation, i.e., male-dominated philosophy departments, don't necessarily point to sexism as the culprit, thought it may be in some or many instances.

Men and women are different physically and most likely mentally. This is not a bad thing or a pejorative towards either sex, so let's all get over it and deal with FACTS and not wishful thinking in which we want to assert strict equality across all sexes and races. This is also consistent with the belief that all races and sexes are morally equal and deserve the same consideration.

jj said...

From last week's post on Feminist Philosophers: Women, Work, and the Academy

The link above is to a pamphlet on discrimination in the academy. Let me invite people to look at the full post, which is very short. It links to a conference site that also is full of information.

BTW,in its sexism, philosophy looks much more like a science than like the other humanities. Racism seems more evenly distributed, as far as I know.

Here's a quote from the pamphlet linked to above; note the sources.

"...in the last year the National Academy of Sciences (NAS 2007) and the American Association of
University Professors (West and Curtis 2006) have published
reports [that] conclude that ... persistent gender inequities in academia ... must rather be explained in terms of the cumulative effects
of inhospitable workplace environments, evaluation biases that reflect gender stereotyping, and institutional structures and work patterns that systematically disadvantage women in academia
(NAS: S-2, 3). Outcome studies and research on the experience
of under-represented minorities document similar, persistent
structural blocks to their effective inclusion in the academy..."

Anonymous said...

To put my post in context, perhaps the following would be helpful.

In general, I sympathize with Female Grad's position. I guess I have an allergy to arguments that are framed in the general tone that anyone that does not agree with the argument must be ignorant of the facts. And, indeed, some posters have responded that I should read Haslanger's article (I did read it, and I do generally pay attention to what comes out in journals like Hypatia, although I do not find everything there convincing). I am not convinced by Haslanger's methodology (others have noted some of its flaws on this board), and it was to Female Grad's methodology that I wished to draw some attention here. (I can understand that Haslanger may have been intending to raise a question more than to resolve it, and if that is Female Grad's intention, then I would have no problem with her post, really).

I just don't believe we advance by overstating a case or by moving to shut down debate. That's where political correctness comes in, and this is a sensitive topic for me. For America, political correctness has led sometimes to extremes of overcorrection of bona fide problems in society so that innocent members of certain groups suffer because their group is perceived to be oppressive, or something of the sort. Nevertheless, these extremes are normally nothing compared to the real abuses that such overcorrection intends to address, and so they are not usually made into a major issue. In Europe, on the contrary, political correctness (on both the right and the left) has taken people's lives. I personally know people who were arrested and imprisoned in their teens for exercising free speech under communist regimes (handing out photocopies of VOA broadcasts). Left-wing thought can be just as oppressive, when it turns ideological, as its right-wing counterpart. The real enemy of freedom is ideology, of any stripe. See Hannah Arendt's discussion of the roots of totalitarianism, for example.

As regards the questions I raised about sexism: each possible position I mentioned represents the position of at least one aspiring intellectual whom I have encountered. These questions were not rhetorical. I was wondering where Female Grad's starting point is, so that we could discuss the issue.

Again, I find unjust discrimination of any kind to be utterly reprehensible and thoroughly disgusting. I just don't think that answering an ideology (sexism) with an opposite ideology (in this case, a politically correct reaction to the problem) is the answer. We need some balanced, critical thinking.

Of course, blogs don't lend themselves to that very much. Maybe we could organize a session at the APA next year to talk about this, inviting representatives of various perspectives (including, perhaps, some anonymously related papers by victims of sexist discrimination) so that we can really hear the whole story, and provoke philosophers as a whole to think about it.

I just don't believe in posts that seem to move in the direction of shutting down debate. Rather, I think we should be opening it. Once we truly reach the essence of the issue, debate will tend to end itself (as has happened with the question of the Flat Earth). There is no need to shut it down. The Flat Earthers will always be around; they just won't be relevant. If we still feel we have to shout them down and tell them to get with the program, then it shows that we haven't yet won the debate.

Anonymous said...

Blog owner, please sign that long, last post "Anon 10:12." I forgot to sign it. Thanks.

P.G.O.A.T. said...

Yeah, this is why I tend to steer clear of trying to talk sexism with philosophers--I just get too fucking enraged when the boys get so willfully stupid.

10:12 says:

"But your post sounds a bit ideological to me. I guess I am just suspicious of arguments that are written in a tone that implies that anyone who disagrees with them is somehow living proof of the truth of the argument itself."

Dude, no one is saying that this shit isn't falsifiable. But, if you'd read the other comment threads, you'd see that people are saying this shit isn't falsifiable by anyone's one pet counter-example.

So your supposedly open-minded skepticism about this is fooling no one. What are the grounds for skepticism when somebody who's in a much better position to know than you are tells you what her actual experiences are?

Still, you want even more specific examples? Fine. Read Singing in the Fire: Stories of Women in Philosophy. And until you've read it--until you've looked at the real evidence of sexism in philosophy that's out there for the taking--then STFU, because maintaining a willful ignorance of existing evidence is not the same as maintaining an open mind.

Anonymous said...

tt assprof said...
In my experience, having lived in Europe for some years, sexism is much more wide spread and institutionalized in Europe than in N. America. As a matter of fact, despite the persistent problems with sexism in our country, it's hard to imagine another country where progress has been made as far as it has been here.

I disagree with this. I believe sexism in the US and in Europe is of a very different kind -- and sexism in southern Europe is of a very different kind than sexism in northern Europe. There's also differences between western and eastern Europe. One reason for the differences is probably that feminism has focused on different issues in different countries. I'll focus on northern western Europe as a contrast since I take this to be the European region that is culturally the most similar to the US. While feminism in the US has been focused more strongly on the work place, feminism in northern western Europe has been focused more strongly on the personal realm (whatever that means). To give some examples: While there are more women CEOs and more women in leading academic positions in the US, there are more female politicians in parliaments of most northern western European countries. The laws for parental leave is significantly better in most northern western European countries than in the US. While many progressive people in the US talk about improving maternity leave, the idea of maternity leave is considered to be conservative in all northern western European countries: what people are talking about is parental leave.

Pseudonymous Grad Student said...

Anon 10:12 --

Sorry, as far as I can tell blogger won't let me change the ID of a post.

But, for anyone reading: Anon. 4:26 = Anon 10:12

Anonymous said...

Brief comment on data and definitions.

I see, on rereading the Haslanger paper, that she calls for more data. So it's not just the anti-feminist men who say that.

Second, I can actually understand the arguments that reject calls for more data, on the assumption that this can be a stall tactic from people who don't want change. I'm not sure I agree with that position, but I certainly understand it.

But I don't understand at all the two posters who reject any discussion of use of terms. They know what they think sexism is, and take it as a factual matter. re: the reference to Websters: I'll point out that it isn't the function of dictionaries to establish, or be a reliable source for, the definitions of words. Words have a variety of senses, and can be ambiguous between different possible meanings. That's basic descriptive linguistics.

Anonymous said...

Someone said: "And why pick out Sweden? Have you lived there?"

Sweden is not identical to Scandinavia.

But, yes, if you were raised in a Scandinavian country, you were most likely not raised in a sexist environment.

And, no, there is not just 1 female philosopher in Sweden (or Scandinavia). Obviously. Some examples to prove you wrong.

Stockhold and Lund:

Aasa Carlson
Claudio M. Tamburrini
Aasa Anderson
Ingar Brinck
Marie Cronqvist
Jeanette Empt
Agneta Gulz
Jana Holsanova
Victoria Hoog

Just because you can't think of any Swedish female philosophers (or Scandinavian female philosophers), that doesn't mean they don't exist.

How ignorant and arrogant.

And to figure out whether Scandinavia is more sexist than the US, maybe you should visit a department or a regular middle-class family over there and then (and only then) give us your opinion.

Mr. Zero said...

I think the point about not asking for empirical evidence is that there are tons of places in the past week where people have posted links to studies, articles with references to studies, and have shared personal experiences with sexism. Asking for more, as though there isn't any, is sort of dumb at this point. It shows that either you're dense, you haven't been paying attention, or nothing will convince you.

I think the fact that people are still proposing biological explanations for the fact that women and minorities are underrepresented in philosophy is sickening. Shut up. There is no evidence that there is any tendency for women or minorities to be less mentally able than white males. If you think the jury is still out on this one, I suggest you go back to the 18th century where you belong.

Prof. J. said...

Anonymous 4:53, those are good points. But what I think tt assprof was saying is that the sort of workplace bias and cultural discrimination against women that these threads are mainly about, is more serious in European academia than in American academia.

That's my impression, too. And it's generally supported by a number of discussions at this blog (which I used to read religiously and now read from time to time). Of course, that's testimony to the situation in the sciences, but my (quite limited) experience suggests that it is also true in philosophy.

Ralph said...

Well, I just about got sick reading Anon 4:16! Of course, you must believe you could/can out-think philosophers such as Elizabeth Anscombe, Linda Alcoff, Seyla Behabib, Martha Nussbaum, and Sally Haslanger (to name just a few). And of course this must be a matter of their inferior mental capacities to your own(!). What crap.

It kills me reading posts that buck Female Grad's comments. Instead of the upset or skeptical males whipping off blog comments in protest of ideology, dogmatism, or lack of "enough" empirical evidence, why don't you just try and listen to the viewpoint and then do a little checking out yourselves. Hopefully there are some females in your depts - talk to them, try to understand their experiences. If this is such a serious problem as Female Grad says it is (and I agree), then maybe it is worth putting in a little effort of your own instead of being immediately adversarial.

I think you owe a little prima facia epistemic privilege to the females speaking in this forum. They are speaking from their lived experiences. The males are not. And pay attention to the subtley of the claims - the case is not being made for necessarily intentional sexism, but institutionalized and systemic. SO, it means trying to find new eyes to see things - which takes time to garner and an attitude to care.

To Anon 4:26, quite the odd comment to agree in general with Female Grad and then to call her post simply ideology without critical thinking. Do you like double-speak? Her post is not ideology, but a post to reflect on, try to understand, and then engage critically and respectfully like any philosophical position.

Anonymous said...

10:12; 4:26 said "Once we truly reach the essence of the issue, debate will tend to end itself"

The question is: when have we truly reached the essence of the issue? I think what a lot of people are trying to say is that the people who ask for ever more evidence and who are dubious of any data that is based on first-person accounts are stalling the debate. When issues are as complex as sexism there will always be parameters that you can question. As a consequence, there will never be knock-down evidence. But there can be overwhelming evidence. Of course, it's good to have more data and better data. But not because we need evidence that there is sexism, but because good data can help us figure out how best to go about improving our discipline.

Prof. J. said...

Anonymous 5:04:

And, no, there is not just 1 female philosopher in Sweden (or Scandinavia). Obviously.

But Anonymous 4:00 didn't say there was one Swedish female philosopher. He said:

In Sweden there is one female full professor in philosophy.

The examples you have listed are not full professors in philosophy.

And since you called another commenter "ignorant and arrogant", I would also like to point out that
Claudio M. Tamburrini
is not a very good example of a Swedish female philosopher.

PhilosophyProf said...

The responses from the stupid-idiot philosophers remind me of a lot of my concerns about the profession generally. Do stalkers introspect and see that they are stalking? Do harrassers introspect and see that they are harrassing? Most often they don't, but that doesn't mean that they are not stalkers and harrassers. Philosophers seem to be trained to evaluate arguments, but we do not receive the training to get out into the world and see the perspicuity of premises that are obviously true. But we do have the training to nit-pick and identify possible worlds in which these premises are not true. A lot of you are assholes, though of course like harrassers you do not own this because introspection does not show it. I am a white man for what it is worth.

Anonymous said...

re: anon at 5:04. I believe that the claim was that there is only one female FULL PROFESSOR in Sweden. To my knowledge, this is true, and that person is Lilli Alanen at Uppsala (which is the oldest university in the country). The Swedish university system is quite different than the North American one, and I can't claim to understand it thoroughly, but my understanding is that you don't have job security unless you are a full professor. I might well be wrong about that, though.

As a tenured woman philosopher, I can regale you with stories of various instances of sexist behavior I have faced. (Its nothing compared to what I encountered as an undergrad physics major though -- at least I came to philosophy with a think skin.) I think almost every female philosopher in the profession can share a story or two with you. Haslanger, through crunching numbers, is trying to see whether there is a systemic bias against women. This is, of course, very hard to prove, as a collection of instances do not necessarily share a common cause. Nonetheless, one might argue that there is a simple explanation for the persistence of these instance: members of the profession tolerate instances of unfair treatment of women. If this is so, then there is a simple form of solution: (a) recognize instances of implicit bias against women or unfair treatment of women and (b) cease to tolerate it. I think surprisingly many philosophers are capable of (a) but nonetheless just let things slide. It would be interesting to see how much difference not letting things slide would make. My sense is that it would make a big difference.
So I'm with Ralph: take FGs posting not as an occasion to worry about her ideological commitments but rather as an opportunity to reflect on your own actions and that of those around you; ask some women philosophers you know about what they might (or might not) have experienced. And then, go from there.(And if you are really ambitions read some research on gender bias and equity issues: Virginia Vallian's site at Hunter College is a good place to start.

Anonymous said...

In response to Anon 5:20

You say: "To Anon 4:26, quite the odd comment to agree in general with Female Grad and then to call her post simply ideology without critical thinking. Do you like double-speak? Her post is not ideology, but a post to reflect on, try to understand, and then engage critically and respectfully like any philosophical position."

Actually, I said that I sympathized in general with Female Grad. I did not register general agreement. And in my two posts, I think I made clear what I meant by ideology.

Anon 4:26 / Anon 10:12

Anon 3:17 said...

Ralph wrote:

"Well, I just about got sick reading Anon 4:16! Of course, you must believe you could/can out-think philosophers such as Elizabeth Anscombe, Linda Alcoff, Seyla Behabib, Martha Nussbaum, and Sally Haslanger (to name just a few). And of course this must be a matter of their inferior mental capacities to your own(!). What crap."

What you should be sick or at least embarrassed about is committing a pretty basic fallacy. Claiming that there are dispositional differences in interest or ability between two groups is not the same as saying that any one membe of one group is more capable than one member of the other group. If I say: in general, men are better at tennis than women, that doesn't mean I think I can beat Venus Williams in straight sets. Obviously.

But as anon 411 says, apparently this is the wrong place for a genuine philosophical discussion. So I'll take PGOAT's advice and STFU. Enjoy your orgy of self-congratulation and righteous indignation. And don't even think of claiming that this isn't an orgy of self-congratulation and righteous indignation until you've read "Female Philosophers Tend to Motivate Orgies of Righteous Indignation and Self Congratulation on Anonymous Blogs," by Matt Parker (OUP 2008).

Philosophy Prof said...

Anon 3:17 -- we might assume that the point of Ralph's message was that if you are so obtuse as to start your investigation by exploring the hypothesis that there are differences in philosophical ability in males and females, then you would also be dense enough to think that you individually are more acute than the philosophers that she mentions. Do you really not see this, or are you just being technical and argumentative? I am starting to think that philosophers should only have a say in the question of the logical coherency of arguments, because they are so far removed from immersion in the world that they don't have the training to notice when a non-analytic premise is true.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:52: Surely you don't want to invoke the tennis analogy. I thought the Billy Jean King/Bobby Riggs battle of sexes on the tennis court settled that, um, decades ago. It is amazing to me how short collective memory is.

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:52 writes "Female Philosophers Tend to Motivate Orgies of Righteous Indignation and Self Congratulation on Anonymous Blogs"

You seem to think that only female philosophers are in general agreement with female grad's post. It's interesting that you would assume that. The majority of the posts of whose writer we can guess the gender (and which are in general agreement with female grads post) are written by men. (I'm assuming that mr. zero and ralph are male and trusting those who claim they're male. I'm counting myself as male.)

Mr. Zero said...

Philosophy Prof,

I second that emotion.

Anonymous said...

I've found the classic paper by Peggy McIntosh on male privilege and white privilege a useful eye-opener in teaching about how racism and sexism are not matters of conscious or intentional behavior, but rather, structural features that characterize a broader social setting. The basic idea is that sexism isn't the sort of thing that exists in anyone's head; thus, it wouldn't be surprising that it's not accessible to introspection. If you google her name and "male privilege" you'll find some abbreviated versions of her article, which is also often anthologized. And there is a version of it at this website (not by her, though): http://colours.mahost.org/org/maleprivilege.html

ralph said...

"Enjoy your orgy of self-congratulation and righteous indignation."

I too can play the fallacy game. Rhetorical devices: ridicule, hyperbole. Fallacy: begging the question. My guess is that it is an orgy because you disagree, but you use the term to discount the conversation.

And this serves to show that the fundamental problem here is not ideology or argumentation, but attitude. I seriously do not know why so many PhD people never grow out of adolescence and realize that possibly - just possibly - other people's experience and thoughts that go against their own may have some credibility.

The solution for these people is not to STFU, but to freaking give a care and consider that the world may be less rosy for some than you thought. Like Philosophy Prof was intimating, get your ideating heads out of your asses and look a little at the real world. Change your freaking attitudes about what many women in philosophy may go through. Put yourself in their shoes and consider forging your way through a male-dominated (still!) discipline. Imagine the affect that would have on you.

The Seeker said...

There's so much sexism here. Hmmm...seems there's a lot of anger out there. Well i'm sure we will be at 100 posts by tomorrow evening. love you to bits.

Mr. Zero said...

Ralph,

I second that emotion.

Anonymous said...

"There is no evidence that there is any tendency for women or minorities to be less mentally able than white males," says Mister Zero.

That's true. But as someone previously suggested, there's also no hard evidence that women are as analytically equipped as men. Further, there is at least anecdotal evidence to the contrary. And it is NOT sexist to think that's true, in case it is; it's only politically incorrect.

Someone also mentioned "gender sterotyping". Are all instances of this bad?? Don't stereotypes have some degree of truth to them? (Otherwise, that stereotype wouldn't have existed.) And I believe Nietzsche argued that sterotyping--or making generalizations--was life preserving and irresistible anyway. We can make generalizations about the sexes WITHOUT being sexist; we're just making generalizations. (It's when we act upon those generalization to the disadvantage of some group that stereotyping becomes harmful.)

So some generalizations are: women are physically smaller than men, on average; Latin Americans are darker than Northern Europeans, on average; there are fewer stay-at-home dads than there are stay-at-home moms; women are the more nurturing of the two parents, on average; men are more clueless in relationships than women, on average; and women are more emotional and less analytical than men, on average.

Why is all this so terrible to think, if not for political-correctness reasons? Again, I'm saying that it's ok to sterotype, and that stereotypes have some element of truth to them; but it's NOT ok to act on or be swayed by those generalizations without considering individual cases and abilities, e.g., by summarily rejecting female job candidates in philosophy.

If we look at the animal kingdom as a close relative to humankind, there are typically physical and mental differences between males and females. For some species, females are larger and eat the males. For others, the males are the nurturers and carry the eggs/babies. Males are typically more aggressive than females, a mental difference caused by a physical difference (hormone). All this happens with animals, so why would we think that such tendencies cannot possibly exist with homo sapiens?

Anyway, sorry about the rant. It was time for me to finally weigh in, after reading this and other recent threads about sexism. But I still prefer a society that errs on the side of political correctness than one that is rife with discrimination. So carry on.

Anon 3:17 said...

OK, I guess I'm not SingTFU yet. Just to clarify:

anon 6:31 writes:

"Surely you don't want to invoke the tennis analogy. I thought the Billy Jean King/Bobby Riggs battle of sexes on the tennis court settled that, um, decades ago. It is amazing to me how short collective memory is."

Except that, um, the Bobby Rigs/Billy Jean King match actually supports my point. Riggs did lose the match, and on average, men are better than women at tennis. And guess what: there's empirical evidence available for both of those claims. Please don't add to the ubiquitous calls for more.

About my invented book "Female Philosophers Tend to Motivate Orgies of Righteous Indignation and Self Congratulation on Anonymous Blogs", Anon 6:40 writes:

"You seem to think that only female philosophers are in general agreement with female grad's post. It's interesting that you would assume that."

It's interesting that you would assume that I assume that. I can't figure out why. Maybe you think that if an orgy is motivated by one sex then only members of that sex can particpate in the orgy? What kind of orgies are you attending? That seems kind of sexist to me. My firm conviction is that no matter who organizes and motivates the orgy, everyone who wants to get involved can get involved, male or female. The sign said 'All Skate.'

In other words, yes, right, male philosophers are all over this. They love it. They're bathing in it. All critical thinking is out the window. If the claim is for a good cause, who needs actual scrutiny? The sad thing is that Female Grad may ultimately be right. I think she probably is. But none of this rightthink nonsense is helping.

Anonymous said...

Anon. 4:16 ("Men and women are different physically and most likely mentally"), whom I assume most of you would rather ignore: okay, I'll grant you that men and women are different. I'll also grant you that almost every philosopher, philosophy grad student, philosophy undergrad, etc. is different from every other, and everyone is eager to pick out the smartest person in the room, the dumbest person in the room, the percentage of people smarter than they are, the percentage of people dumber than they are. This is how a competitive academic discipline works. Everyone evaluates everyone else. So we have a class in which A, B, C and D are pretty obviously the sharpest students and E, F, G and H are pretty obviously the laggards, although all these students are quite smart by comparison with the general run of humankind. This rating of intelligence is done mostly on philosophical grounds alone, with a few added points for, say, reliably good knowledge of trivia. B is female; F & G are also female. G & H are working on an obscure area of philosophy that their fellow students don't know how to evaluate well; A, B & C are working on M&E; like his research, D is pretty eccentric, although he might even be a genius. E & F are working on, respectively, metaethics and bioethics.

Every department is something like this. How do you make sense of it? The smartest students mostly seem to be guys, and mostly seem to be doing M&E, although it's a pretty small set. The bottom half of our hypothetical class is working on squishier problems and is more female. It is really, really easy under these circumstances to kinda think that the whipsmart B is an anomaly, and that generally the girls are less stellar. Maybe it's true in general, of girls, even. No one takes E or H into the account at all here (although they like E, he's a nice guy, and dislike H, who is a blowhard). No one really cares that C is not very creative, or that both A and G -- the brilliant guy and the less brilliant woman -- are painfully shy. The mind sticks on gender, and stays there.

Maybe it is true in general that men have more aptitude for philosophy than women overall -- to my knowledge, this hasn't been definitively disproven. But it remains important because we want it to be important, for lots and lots of reasons -- of all the aspects of human existence and intelligence and professional performance and creativity, curiosity, achievement, experience, wisdom, we remain intensely fascinated by the gender thing. I don't get it, I really don't.

But I doubt that sexism will go away until that fascination turns to boredom.

white male said...

This stuff is getting old. Personally, I think female philosophers rock, and I'd like to see more of them. Not only are they just as sharp as anyone else, but they tend to be nicer and more approachable, and hence easier to work with (in my experience, anyway).

Anyhow, everyone here should relax and try to smile a little more.

Lindsey said...

Okay for the skeptics, check out this old thread on CT about Sally's article. As you go down (#45), you'll see that the discussion focuses on what sort of atmosphere is the most conducive for everyone to learn, that being an open and friendly one. So, even if you don't agree that there is a systematic bias against woman, you should still be worried about the perceived systematic bias that woman feel. It ultimately affects their ability to learn/contribute within a department (and having more woman would do a great deal to help this). It's not just women who lose out either. Men will ultimately suffer as well from not benefiting from more of their (female) peers thoughts and ideas. Philosophy is a social discipline based on dialog and openness (the lone scholar ideal is a myth). If women/minorities feel threatened, then the discipline (and everyone in it) suffers.

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:31, you thought the Billy Jean King/Bobby Riggs battle of sexes on the tennis court settled... what?

If you thought it showed that women are as good as men at tennis, then I'm pretty sure you don't remember it, and I'm absolutely sure you don't pay attention to pro tennis nowadays!

fem_student said...

If anonymous whenever wants empirical evidence, here's some:

My department has more women undergrads than men, though the ratio is almost even. Yet in my year at grad school, there is only one woman (me) and five men. The year ahead of me has one woman and six men. There are no other women grads in my department, and only one woman incoming this year as far as I know.

There are two (two!) full-time women faculty, and one part time. All the rest are men (including the husband of our part-timer). The admin staff are all women, and the adjuncts are all women. There are no female post-docs in my department, all three are men.

I have been asked by another grad student why I want to get a PhD, when my husband works and I can stay home. I have been told that there is no point finishing my PhD, because by the time I have finished having children it will be outdated (I'm not having kids, thanks very much). It's always the women in our department who have to clean up after departmental events. In one undergrad course co-taught by a man and a woman of the same rank, in the woman's AOS, the man continually makes sexist remarks and interrupts with 'I think what x was trying to say is...' .

Sexism is there, implicitly or explicitly.

Anonymous said...

"The Swedish university system is quite different than the North American one, and I can't claim to understand it thoroughly, but my understanding is that you don't have job security unless you are a full professor. "

It is indeed different. In Scandinavian countries each department normally features only one full professor (it's like the distinguished chair -- except much more distinguished). In the US, on the other hand, you can become a full professor 4 years after you got tenure (and sometimes less) and the whole department can consist of full professors. Doesn't happen much in Scandinavian countries. So, the fact (if it is a fact) that there is just one female full professor in Scandinavian countries like Sweden doesn't really move me.

Also, please don't infer the gender of people on the basis of their first name. Bad strategy.

And why are you claiming that there is no job security unless you're full professor (in Scandinavian countries). That's just plainly false.

Anonymous said...

Non philosopher rhetorical observation:

One of the benefits of feminism has been the realization that claims about universals, historically, are often made on the basis of the particularized experiences of white males. The dismissal of "experience" as a mode of knowledge in favor of "hard data" is almost always invoked by people who don't acknowledge this fairly obvious claim.
Second rhetorical note: "don't assume you're right, let's have an open debate about your terms and assumptions" is a pretty lame rhetorical device simply because it circumvents the issue of whether or not the basic claim about experience as one mode of knowledge is legitimate. My own question would actually be: what is likely at stake for those persons who deny a claim like "an arena historically and currently dominated by uniform individuals with fairly uniform experiences may actually have some unacknowledged blindspots about its practices"?
--NS

Prof. J. said...

Anon. 4:52 am (today, Jan. 24th):

Also, please don't infer the gender of people on the basis of their first name. Bad strategy.

Who do you think employed that strategy?

I noted that Claudio M. Tamburrini is not a very good example of a Swedish female philosopher. I gave a link to his home page! (That was at 5:38 pm yesterday.) He is very obviously not a Swedish female philosopher.

other white guy said...

"Personally, I think female philosophers rock, and I'd like to see more of them. Not only are they just as sharp as anyone else, but they tend to be nicer and more approachable, and hence easier to work with (in my experience, anyway).
"

Word. I do wish, though, that we could affirm this (at least the first half), and affirm that more needs to be done to get women into philosophy and make it a more hospital evironment for them, without resorting to sketchy claims about personal experience trumping hard data.

For the record, when hard data are available, they trump personal experience. They are also more useful for identifying the precise sources of the problems (we are far from omnicient about these) so that we can better address them.

Anonymous said...

anon @4:52
I don't think it is correct that there is only one full professor per philosophy department in Sweden. A quick look at the Stockholm University demonstrates the claim to be false. My claims about job security applied only to Sweden and not to other Scandinavian countries. I know it is not the case in Finland (which admittedly some would deny is a Scandanavian country). Many instructors at Swedish universities have the equivalent of Post-Docs -- limited term appointments. De facto they are renewed but their continuation does need to be renewed. At least this is what I recall some Swedish philosophers explaining to me. My memory might be flawed, and equally the situation might have changed with the move for European universities to be more open to cross-country enrolments. I know that in the past few years there has been a lot of pressure to change the same old way of doing things.

female grad said...

regarding gender equity in scandinavia -

it is somehow both annoying and endearing that, having already acknowledged that this was tongue-in-cheek and nothing of importance rode on it, we all still feel the need to sort it out.

the claim was not that philosophy is not sexist in scandinavia as compared to the US. I really know nothing about that. The claim was that the *environment in which people are raised*, the general cultural environment, is markedly less sexist in scandinavia than in the US. And that, I claim, is true. I made no claims about Europe at all, I would never claim that Europe as a whole was anything because it's a fantastically heterogenous place.

note on the claim that just won't die, whether evolution has given us genders which are naturally differentially well-suited to doing philosophy. That selection has acted on *some* traits does not mean that it has acted on *all* traits. that there exist traits which are differential between the sexes does not mean that all traits are differential between the sexes. and, there is no reason at all to think that the skills that go into being a good philosopher constitute anything like a trait that evolution could even act on.

there is good evidence to the effect that different performance levels for men and women is due to deeply ingrained cultural cues; its not like grad school is the first time women encounter sexist stereotypes. Kids display these things by age 3. You have to use a shockingly simplistic just-so story to claim an evolutionary or biological basis for thinking men are, on average, better than women at philosophy.

( o Y o ) said...

Again, all I have to say about women in philosophy is....hurray for boobies!

Mr. Zero said...

Anon 8:15,

What's wrong with your bullshit generalizations about the relative mental abilities of men & women, and the bogus, speculative sociobiology that you use to back them up is this:

There is no evidence that they are true. There is no evidence that if they are true, they are caused by biology or evolution. There is plenty of evidence that, taken in their full generality, they are false. There is plenty of evidence that, in their particular instances, they have social explanations.

It's not "PC" bullshit. It's the truth. It's really strange that you didn't know that. I am embarrassed for you.

Mr. Zero said...

Anon 2:46,

Perhaps the best male tennis players are better than the best female tennis players. I don't see how it follows that men are better than women at tennis, even on average, even just potentially. Mrs. Zero is much better at tennis than I am. Venus Williams would kick the shit out of me, and I'm sure nobody here could come close to beating her.

But that's not the point. The point is, even if men are biologically better equipped to play tennis than women, that wouldn't matter if men were systematically discouraged from playing and chased out of organized tennis by latent sexism. If that happened, all the best tennis players would be women, any male tennis players who made it through would be regarded as anomalies, and it's easy to imagine that a bunch of pseudoscientific bullshit sociobiology would get cooked up to explain it.

Armchair sociobiologists: This is what you are doing. You're not scientists; you don't round up to scientists; you're out of touch with the current science, which has reached a consensus that these problems are social in nature. You're wrong, and you don't know what you're talking about, and you're using fake science to excuse bigotry.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero (addressing me),

Perhaps the best male tennis players are better than the best female tennis players.

'Perhaps'?? No woman could win a game in a match against a top male tennis player.

I don't see how it follows that men are better than women at tennis, even on average, even just potentially.

Of course it doesn't follow. Who said it follows???

Someone gave the Riggs-King match as an example that shows decisively that men are not better than women at tennis, on average. I was pointing out that this is bizarre and obviously wrong.

Mrs. Zero is much better at tennis than I am. Venus Williams would kick the shit out of me, and I'm sure nobody here could come close to beating her.

Obviously.
It's completely obscure to me what your point is supposed to be.

Mr. Zero said...

anonomous tennis fan:

Nice dodge. Keep reading, though. The real interesting stuff is in the stuff you didn't make fun of.

JimmyJimmyCocoaPuff said...

First, as some on this thread have already pointed out, the claim that "unless you are young and from a Scandinavian country, we were all raised in some kind of sexist environment" is both bewilderingly naive and false. I don't know if Female Grad perhaps made a specious connection between a country's being a welfare state and it enjoying sexual equality; but I can assure her that sexism is alive and well in Northern Europe. Indeed, if anything the States are marginally more progressive in this regard.

Second, what must be avoided at all costs in debates like these--in all debates, of course--is flaccid or outright fallacious reasoning. Female Grad has charged our profession with an unfalsifiable crime: We are sexually discriminatory, and any evidence to the contrary is only evidence of our failure to look deeply enough. It reminds me of a recent attempt made to convert me to Christianity. When I told the proselytizer that I didn't believe in God, he asked me if I had given the matter sufficient thought. I pointed to my multiple degrees in philosophy, my years as an Altar Boy, as a Sunday School student, and so on. His response? 'Well, obviously that stuff doesn't work--if it did, you would have found God by now!' Please.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

I didn't "dodge" anything. Your criticism of the tennis analogy doesn't make any sense. You wrote this:

The point is, even if men are biologically better equipped to play tennis than women, that wouldn't matter if men were systematically discouraged from playing and chased out of organized tennis by latent sexism.

That was not the point of the analogy at all.
Look back at what Anon 5:52 PM (who is not me, by the way) actually wrote, instead of making up a new point and insisting that it is "the point". The point of the analogy was not at all what you are now claiming it to be.
Did you understand the point of that tennis analogy? Can you see why Ralph's response to it was completely wrong?

Anonymous said...

It's not nearly as fallacious as the reasoning which begins with the premise "There are fewer women than men in philosophy" seeks to explain it by "Women are less naturally talented at philosophy than men" and justifies it by saying "We know this because there are fewer men than women in philosophy."

Other tennis-match-based arguments seem to presume that there is near perfect correspondence between one's philosophical talent and one's ability to land a job, which is a premise that almost no one holds when they're blaming their lack of success on the job market on the Ivy grads with the Armani suits or their committee or the silliness of the smoker.

Curious that the the claim "one's success on the job market correlates perfectly with one's innate philosophical talent" should come up only when discussing sexism.

Mats said...

10:24:
It's not nearly as fallacious as the reasoning which begins with the premise "There are fewer women than men in philosophy" seeks to explain it by "Women are less naturally talented at philosophy than men" and justifies it by saying "We know this because there are fewer men than women in philosophy."

Nobody gave that argument. It's just dishonest for you to suggest that someone gave an argument like that.

Other tennis-match-based arguments seem to presume that there is near perfect correspondence between one's philosophical talent and one's ability to land a job[...].

Nobody gave an argument like that, either.

Now leave the straw men alone and serve, dammit.

Anonymous said...

As someone who thinks that it’s pretty obvious that we need to do something about sexism in academia, I cringe at what some of the defenders of Female Grad have said. It’s true that many of you present your case so that it’s unfalsifiable, in effect saying, “And if you don’t agree with me that’s because you’re an ignorant dumbshit.” Please don’t do that. It hurts me. And it doesn’t help to try to deny obviously true generalizations based on gender, e.g., that men tend to be better at tennis than women.

But if we understand the claim that sexism is a problem in our discipline at face value so that it is indeed falsifiable, can’t we all agree that there is pretty good evidence for the claim? It’s not clear to me that anyone here has explicitly denied that there is. So don’t we (the vast majority of us) agree? And oughtn’t we turn our attention to how to fix things?

The scientific side of the street said...

Mr Zero says: "You're not scientists; you don't round up to scientists; you're out of touch with the current science, which has reached a consensus that these problems are social in nature. You're wrong, and you don't know what you're talking about, and you're using fake science to excuse bigotry."

I have to say, Mr. Zero, that there is certainly no *consensus* in the sciences about whether any of these abilities are going to be best explained in terms of social or biological mechanisms. Many philosophers tend to think that evolutionary psychology is a fringe movement, that the 'just so stories' that SJ Gould railed against are explanatorily bankrupt, and that careful science must recognize that cultural explanations of psychological dispositions are more explanatorily robust than their evolutionary counterparts.

At the end of the day, I am inclined to think that you are right that the cultural explanations are the ones that we ought to take seriously. However, your mere assertion that it's so is insufficient to demonstrate that anyone who defends adaptationist explanations for sex-differences must have quit taking science seriously in the 80s.

for anyone who's interested in reading some of the empirical literature on purported sex-differences in representational capacities, you might want to check out Elizabeth Spelke's excellent paper "Sex Differences in Intrinsic Aptitude for Mathematics and Science: A Critical Review". This paper will both show you that the advocates of sex-differences in the representational capabilities that underlie differences in mathematical competence are alive and well, as well as show you why the evidence doesn't add up for this conclusion.

for a more amusing read, that proposes a mechanism for sex-differences in the spatial reasoning abilities that underlie differences in mathematical competence, check out:

Feng, J., Spence, I., & Pratt, J. (2007). "Playing an action video game reduces gender differences in spatial cognition." Psychological Science, 18(10), 850-855.

I know that this stuff is about mathematical abilities and about the capacity to do science, but i just don't know the literature on sex-differences in the capacity to do philosophy--maybe that literature isn't there to be found in the psychology.

Hopefully this at least gets anyone who is sympathetic to the adaptationist line for sex-differences in philosophical abilities to think a bit more about the grounding for her or his claim.

Anonymous said...

If anything, this thread (along with Mr. Zero and his followers) provides indirect support for Female Grad's position. The difference in philosophical ability here is clearly not between men and women. Any ability gap is between those who blindly support Female Grad's post via an increasingly awful series of strawman arguments and willful misunderstandings, and those who have tried to raise respectful, sound, good-natured objections to it.

If you look at the quality of the posts from both sides, there's really no comparison. (Anon: 3:34 from yesterday excepted. That was the only fair-minded substantive reply on behalf of female grad that I can find.)

Mr. Zero said...

Anon. Tennis Fan,

I'll try to explain my point. Somebody used tennis as an analogy for why men are superior to women. Then somebody else used the Riggs/King match to show how stupid that is. And it is stupid.

I was trying to criticize the bogus, pseudoscientific theory according to which women are biologically ill-equipped to do philosophy, which seemed to me to be the original point of the tennis analogy. Perhaps this was unclear--if so, I apologize.

There's a problem. There aren't very many women or ethnic minorities in our discipline. Some people, (women, minorities and reasonable white males) claim that this is because of mostly latent but sometimes appallingly blatant instances of sexism. A lot of people have explained why they think this is the case.

A few unreasonable, or self-deceiving, or ignorant people have suggested that it is possible that there is an evolutionary explanation. They say, women are different from men in so many other ways in which they are inferior, such as tennis-playing ability, why is it so hard to believe that they are inferior to men with respect to the mental abilities it takes to do philosophy, too?

My point in my controversial and intentionally misunderstood "tennis" post was this: the fact that women are excluded from philosophy is consistent with women being naturally inferior to men with respect to philosophical ability, sure; but it's also consistent with their being naturally superior to men with respect to those abilities.

You can see this if you try to imagine what it would be like if there were anti-male sexism in organized tennis. Very few men would succeed at tennis, because most get chased out by sexism. The misandrists would use this fact to support their misandry, but ex hypothesi, they'd be wrong. When men said stuff like, I'm a male tennis player, and I'll tell you why there aren't more men here: it's because of sexism, the misandrists would say, are you sure you don't just suck at tennis? I think it's just that men don't have what it takes and can't hack it. They would say, can you prove that men are just as good at tennis as women? Let's see some hard data.

But this would be dumb. We're operating under the assumption that men really are better--or would be if they had access to the same encouragement and training as their female counterparts. The fact that they underperform isn't evidence of biological unfitness. It's evidence of sexism.

This is true in philosophy as well, except that there's no evidence that one gender is philosophically superior to the other. The fact that one gender produces the lion's share of philosophers is only evidence of some discrepancy or other; it is not evidence that the discrepancy is natural or biological.

Evidence that the discrepancy is biological would have to be pretty serious. You'd have to know which genes on which chromosomes are related to the characteristics that correlate with philosophical ability--which we don't know. Then you'd also have to know that these genes are weaker or are less well expressed in women--which we don't. It would also be nice to have a plausible hypothesis that explains why women evolved to be less analytical or whatever. But there's no plausible hypothesis.

The proposed "evidence" doesn't come close to this. This suggestion amounts to saying, they're smaller, they don't hit tennis balls as hard, why not dumber, too? Which is pretty dumb.

P.S. Sorry this is so long. Apparently I am not understood unless I am long-winded.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

I'll try to explain my point. Somebody used tennis as an analogy for why men are superior to women. Then somebody else used the Riggs/King match to show how stupid that is. And it is stupid.

No, that is utterly wrong. Somebody used tennis as an analogy for why an argument of Ralph's was fallacious. Nobody, nobody, used it as "an analogy for why men are superior to women." The reply involving Riggs and King was supposed to support the fallacious argument being criticized, but it didn't in any way support it.

As I said, you can read what the original point was at the 5:52 PM entry. I noted that already, but for some reason you refuse to read it and persist in your (apparently unintentional) misrepresentation. Instead of reading it, you are calling it "stupid". I find this almost incredible. The readership of this blog is, I assume, philosophy graduate students and some faculty. Do seminar participants in philosophy ever refuse to read an argument and instead call it "stupid" and misrepresent it? (No, don't answer that.)

My point in my controversial and intentionally misunderstood "tennis" post was this: the fact that women are excluded from philosophy is consistent with women being naturally inferior to men with respect to philosophical ability, sure; but it's also consistent with their being naturally superior to men with respect to those abilities.


Obviously (except for your cheap 'intentionally misunderstood' snipe).
This would be relevant if anybody had claimed that the fact that women are excluded from philosophy is inconsistent with their being naturally superior to men with respect to those abilities.

If anybody here has in fact claimed that, please say where.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero,

You write: "I'll try to explain my point. Somebody used tennis as an analogy for why men are superior to women. Then somebody else used the Riggs/King match to show how stupid that is. And it is stupid...I was trying to criticize the bogus, pseudoscientific theory according to which women are biologically ill-equipped to do philosophy, which seemed to me to be the original point of the tennis analogy. "

Could you scroll through the comments and point to who exactly used tennis as an analogy for why men are superior to women? Who exactly used the tennis analogy to show that women are ill-equipped to do philosophy? If you can find a comment that uses the tennis analogy in the ways you describe, I'll send you a check for a thousand anonymous dollars. If you can't, please admit that you did not, and apparently still don't, understand the purpose of the tennis analogy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, 11:08 - word up! There is indeed a surprising lack of respect for how a proper debate should proceed. Very sad.

Anonymous said...

ack! tennis! scandinavia! who gives a shit. sense of perspective here, people.

There is very good evidence to the effect that:
1) there is sexism in philosophy
2) if there is sexism in philosophy, we want to get rid of it.
Conclusion: we want to get rid of sexism in philosophy.

The more interesting questions (better than tennis) are: how do we do this? what are some specific suggestions? how do I, as a justice-oriented individual in this field, do my part to reduce or eliminate sexism?

Anonymous said...

"It's just dishonest for you to suggest that someone gave an argument like that."

True. I was overly charitable. That argument would be actually a step *up* from the vague handwaving just-so stories given here. What evidence is there that women are, as a class, worse than philosophy at men outside of the tenure numbers? There is none given in this thread besides pointing at Anscombe et. al. as exceptions to what "everybody knows." I can only conclude that this evidence is coming from surveying the field, seeing lots of men and few women, and concluding that this tells us something about innate philosophical talent.

And to your latter point, that jobs/positions/retention rates are granted based on talent is exactly what those arguments must presume. Here is a gender gap in philosophy; no one disputes this fact; the rush is to an explanation based on the *talent* of the philosophers, considered individually or as a gender, dismissing theories like institutional sexism in favor of handwavy theories about how the male brain is better suited for metaphysics.

Like I said, I find this puzzling given the rest of the blog, where almost no one would suggest that, e.g., APA interviews are good predictors of the candidate's innate logical capacity. Because we recognize that all sorts of factors can play into whether someone gets an interview.

Why is it beyond the pale to suggest that sexism might be playing a part?

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:31 said: "Anon. 4:16 ("Men and women are different physically and most likely mentally"), whom I assume most of you would rather ignore..."

That's great. Let's just ignore the comments of those with whom we disagree. Of course, it could be that it's *difficult* to argue with what 4:16 said, so maybe that's why it's easier to ignore it...

BeautifulBrainsGirl said...

The World Economic Forum publishes a global gender gap index based on four fundamental categories: economic participation and opportunity, educational attainment, political empowerment and health and survival.

The ranking is:
1. Sweden
2. Norway
3. Finland
4. Iceland
...
31. United States

The details are here:
http://www.weforum.org/en/initiatives/gcp/Gender%20Gap/index.htm

the index is here:

http://www.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/report2007.pdf

There is a lot of evidence that the idea that people on both sides on this debate have been floating is wrong: the US is in worse shape than almost any country in northern western europe in almost every respect what gender equality is concerned.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Zero said: "It would also be nice to have a plausible hypothesis that explains why women evolved to be less analytical or whatever. But there's no plausible hypothesis."

Try studying anthropology and sociology. There are plausible explanations (which I don't have time to go into here). You just don't want to listen to them, because you already know the Truth.

Anonymous said...

It's also probably worth pointing out that the sorts of things women often talk as exclusionary are very subtle, and do not involve any conscious sexism on the part of anyone. And the solutions may not require anyone being stretched on the rack.

An example: Philosophy departments are notoriously disorganized. In Department A, if a graduate student wants to design her own course, she needs to talk directly to the director of undergraduate studies, Joe. After that, the students submits some materials, and the department makes a decision. That's as formal as the process gets, and we'll stipulate that no one in the department is intentionally sexist.

XX and XY would be interested in teaching. But the information about how to do that isn't publicized. XY found out about it because he plays on the departmental intramural basketball team with some older graduate students and they happened to mention it. XX didn't play basketball and hence didn't apply. For her to have a chance at the position would have required her to be much more proactive than XY.

Now, should this be taken as a reason to ban basketball games or friendly discussions? Of course not! But it is a reason for there to be a formal announcement to all students eligible for teaching assignments, rather than relying on informal networks. It's the little stuff.

Anonymous said...

Anon 10:31 said: "Anon. 4:16 ("Men and women are different physically and most likely mentally"), whom I assume most of you would rather ignore..."

That's great. Let's just ignore the comments of those with whom we disagree. Of course, it could be that it's *difficult* to argue with what 4:16 said, so maybe that's why it's easier to ignore it...


Dude, I didn't ignore it! I used it as a provocation to further thought! My "assumption" was based on the fact that no one else had responded to it. And, so far, you are the only person to respond to a comment into which I actually did put a fair amount of effort and care -- I'm not sure why I bother. I do care, probably to excess, about views like 4:16's; I don't dismiss them.

Please just indulge me here for a moment: did you read my whole comment? Any thoughts?

BeautifulBrainsGirl said...

The links seemed to have been cut off. Here they are again:

http://www.weforum.org/en/initiatives/
gcp/Gender%20Gap/index.htm

http://www.weforum.org/pdf/gendergap/
report2007.pdf

P.G.O.A.T, Pseudoanonymous Grad, you guys rock. Great blog -- even if some of the comment threads are a bit sad.

Mr. Zero said...

To whomever I have been arguing with about tennis:

I have no idea what's going on. This happens to me sometimes, especially when I write fast. I've obviously made some error. Perhaps I thought I was still having a fight with some bogus sociobiologist from last week. This was no doubt exacerbated by the fact that I'm hiding my writing of these things from Mrs. Zero, who yells at me when I'm not working on my dissertation. She's a dissertatrix.

Anyways, sorry, and I'll shut up about tennis from now on.

To Scientific Side of the Street,

Thanks for posting those. I'll read them soon.

To anon @ 12:27,

Why would I want to study sociology? Especially now that I'm over 30 and am about to earn a Ph.D. in another discipline? It's a little late to start on a sociology degree.

But seriously, I guess I really do think I know the Truth. I think that there are no inherent differences between men & women with respect to their ability to do philosophy. I think that when women report latent/blatant sexism, they're probably right about it. Maybe not in every instance, but mostly. I really do think that sexism, and not evolution, is what keeps women out of philosophy departments.

I think that for a couple of reasons. One is that although I think that people might be getting it wrong once in a while, the overwhelming consensus among female philosophers is that this is occurring. They can't both be wrong, can they?

Another is that I've heard a huge number of anecdotes from a wide variety of women that are completely out of step with anything that has ever happened to me or any of my male colleagues. Anecdotes can unreliable because they may or may not be typical. But the reaction among female philosophers to such stories suggests that they are typical. Nobody has come forward on this thread to say that they're atypical.

Finally, I wonder what these "plausible" hypotheses are? Can you give me a hint? A one-sentence outline? Anything?

Can I ask another question? Sexual dimorphism is common in nature. Often, males are substantially larger than females of the same species. Male birds are often much more flamboyantly outfitted than the females. (According to the wikipedia, men have more efficient cardio-vascular systems, and women have better immune systems. So that's kind of interesting.)

Here's my question: are there any examples in nature in which there is an appreciable level of a sex-related intelligence differential? Does that ever happen? Because I never heard of it.

Anonymous said...

I should have said earlier that I absolutely agree, as well, with Anon 11:08. I am extremely sympathetic, as a matter of fact, to the general position that Female Grad articulated. But the arguments in support of it given in the comments are appalling. And you're right, too, 11:08, that the straw man is the worst of it.

For instance, 12:08 says

And to your latter point, that jobs/positions/retention rates are granted based on talent is exactly what those arguments must presume. Here is a gender gap in philosophy; no one disputes this fact; the rush is to an explanation based on the *talent* of the philosophers, considered individually or as a gender, dismissing theories like institutional sexism in favor of handwavy theories about how the male brain is better suited for metaphysics.

Give a pointer to where that argument is given here. Unless it's a straw man.

Anonymous said...

If only this much energy was spent on writing your dissertations.

Prof. J. said...

My apologies if I muddied the waters by chiming in on the ‘Scandinavia’ sidetrack.
My excuse is that I happened to be thinking about the topic recently. It occurred to me that I could think of lots of male Scandinavian philosophers but only one female one. I wondered if my experience reflected the reality, so I asked, and it does: the gender imbalance in philosophy is more pronounced in Scandinavia than it is here in the US.
Suppose (as I am inclined to suppose) that sexism in Scandinavian culture is significantly less serious than it is in ours; what, then, is the explanation for the philosophy gender imbalance there?

More important:
I think we need a new thread. Any of the bloggers want to post a new topic?

Anonymous said...

Someone said: "My claims about job security applied only to Sweden and not to other Scandinavian countries. I know it is not the case in Finland (which admittedly some would deny is a Scandanavian country). Many instructors at Swedish universities have the equivalent of Post-Docs -- limited term appointments. De facto they are renewed but their continuation does need to be renewed."

Look, the fact that there are post docs in Scandinavian countries does not tell you anything about job security. And it's simply a well known fact that you can't compare full professors in Scandinavian countries to full professors in the US. Several of the Scandinavian countries follow something like the British system. You begin as a fixed term lecturer (roughly a TT position). Then you become a lecturer (with job security). Then one and only one person (normally) become THE professor of the department. Some skip the first step and become lecturers right away (job security!).

It is clearly false that there is only one woman with job security in Sweden. I don't know about FULL professors (but again, you cannot compare full profs in Scandinavian countries to full profs in the US).

Another point. You can't just decide whether Finland is a Scandinavian country. There is a fact of the matter about this. Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroe Islands are Scandinavian countries in all senses, and Finland and Iceland are included in the cultural understanding of "Scandinavian country". Disagreeing with this fact is like disagreeing with the fact that England is part of Europe or that Wisconsin is part of the US.

Finally, Prof J. Fair enough. But there is a general tendency to infer gender on the basis of first name, and that's a bad strategy (For instance, my name could be Kim or Jan or Matti. But that fact by itself does not entitle you to infer that I am female).

Anonymous said...

Zero,

(I'm the guy.)

Cool, I get it. You have the right approach, sticking with a nickname. Some misunderstanding could no doubt have been avoided if I'd done that.

And I agree with you about the anecdotes. I'd add this: those anecdotes are so alien, it's easy for xy humans like us to be skeptical, but when you have some kind of epiphany and think, "Geez, this is for real, and it somehow never happens when I'm around," it's creepy. And it makes you wonder.

And no more tennis for me, either.

BeautifulBrainsGirl said...

I agree with Prof J. that we need to lauch a new thread.

I think it would be interesting to have a discussion about what could be done to improve the situation while drawing on the resources out there. What I mean with drawing on the resources out there is this: In the sciences the gender gap problem seems to be discussed much more clearly in terms of fishing for excellence from a bigger pool. What can we learn from them? How did they achieve this? In different regions of the world gender equality is strived for with quite different means. Whatever the means are in the US (affirmative actions seems to be one of the most important ones) doesn't seem to be working so well. What can we learn from other regions of the world?

Philosophy Prof said...

Certainly, if there were differences in ability between certain groups, we should not a priori rule out explanations in terms of biology, etc. But one of the main reasons that I would dismiss the appeal to such explanations is that in my intro to philosophy courses the women are at least as smart as the men, and in many cases are much smarter, and in some cases are better analytical thinkers, in some cases because they are patient and careful instead of rash and macho and quick to rush to judgment. (I know that that is in part a gendered response, but hey....) So I just try to encourage more women to go into philosophy beyond the introductory courses, though I can certainly understand why so many are turned off. But sure we could appeal to possible explanations in terms of biology if there were some important difference to be explained.

beautifulbodyboy said...

I agree with prof. J and beautifulbrainsgirls that the Scandi side-track raises a question of general interest. It derives from the following assumptions that are both plausible:

(1) Scandinavia is way ahead on gender equality in general.

(2) Scandinavia is not that much ahead (if at all) on gender equality in philosophy.

WHY? This may be disturbing enough to warrant a seperate thread. If both assumptions are true, considering the issue might provide some insight as to the subtle mechanisms that prevent women from succeeding in our discipline.

Anonymous said...

"Again, I'm saying that it's ok to sterotype, and that stereotypes have some element of truth to them; but it's NOT ok to act on or be swayed by those generalizations without considering individual cases and abilities, e.g., by summarily rejecting female job candidates in philosophy."

I'm just going to say very briefly exactly why this is wrong, and it's not going to be because you're being politically incorrect (I don't even see why the term "political correctness" should be used in any context ever).

The problem is that some of these stereotypes are true to the extent that they are *because people believe them*. By believe them, you are contributing to the perpetuation of their truth, and thereby to perpetuating an injustice.

For example, a lot of people used to believe, on the basis of the work of some scientists in the grips of ideologoy, that black people are biologically determined to be mentally inferior to white people. They used this stereotype to justify slavery and other practices that we now universally condemn. Now the fact that these practices were carried out led to black people being denied education, etc., and so stereotypes like "black people aren't as good at mathematics as white people" became what you would call 'true'. The fact that people believed these stereotypes to be true perpetuated the very conditions that made them true. If anyone challenged them, the people who believed them could always fall back on the findings of biologists.

You're doing the same damn thing concerning women in philosophy. You're saying that the fact that there are fewer women than men in philosophy is not just due to active discrimination, but is likely also due to biological bases or sociological currents that are beyond the control of philosophers. Now Mr. Zero has debunked the biological arguments admirably, and put them on a plane with the biologists who used to say that black people are determined to be mentally inferior. What about the sociological arguments though?

Think about this for a second: is not the fact that people believe the stereotype that (e.g.) "women are not as good at math as men" very likely to be a large part of the reason this stereotype is 'true'. That is, given that there is almost certainly no biological reason that women should be worse at math than men, isn't it likely that the social practices that lead to it turning out that women end up performing worse at it then men are largely perpetuated by the fact that people believe that "women are worse at math than men"?

That would seem to me to be a good reason not to believe these sorts of stereotypes.

Anonymous said...

In response to beautifulbodyboy and lots of others:

I think it's really tricky to compare the amount of professors in the US and Europe. Not only are the systems different within universities as many people have already pointed out. A lot more jobs count as being part of academia in the US than in continental Europe and Scandinavia. A lot of the professor jobs at SLACs in the US are probably the equivalent of teaching jobs at Gymnasiums in continental Europe and Scandinavia. (Gymnasiums are a special kind of high-school from which you need a degree to go to university). These jobs aren't counted as jobs within academia.

beautifulbodyboy said...

6:22

The Scandi/US comparison is tricky indeed.

But if we restrict ourselves to the collage/university level, the second assumption is still plausible: There are disturbingly few tenured females (often called 'lectures') in the philosophical departments of Scandinavia.

In the light of the general advances on gender issues in Scandinavia, this is at least puzzling.

BeautifulBrainsGirl said...

in response to beautifulbodyboy

There seems to be some confusion here. No one says that Scandinavia has achieved gender equality. There's a long, long way to go in every region of the world. I'm sure all places have a lot to learn from all other places.

Judging on the basis of hearsay, the US is much better at dealing with two body problems than any other place. Judging on the basis of an informal and statistically invalid survey of the Scandinavian female philosophy PhDs I know who did half their graduate work in Scandinavia and the other half in the US (I asked more than one person who falls under this category! I may have asked all, I don't know.), the atmosphere in the relevant US graduate programs is intentionally/unintentionally (and yes of course this is always to some degree subjective) much more sexist.

There are many reasons to make international comparisons. One of the best, I think, is to learn from one another.

beautifulbodyboy said...

beautifulbrainsgirl,

I don't think we have any disagreement.

To be sure, the assumption ain't that gender inequality is eliminated in Scandiland. The assumption is that Scandinavia has made some progress in a number of respects compared to the US (as the evidence you cited at 12:25 suggests).

What is puzzling and, I (we?) suggest, worth reflecting upon is why comparatively little progress has been made on the gender issue within Scandinavian philosophy.

BeautifulBrainsGirl said...

There are probably a million reason. One may be that the smartest scandi chicks realized that it's much better to get a PhD in the US and stayed. So maybe there's a EuroBrainDrain factor vs. Sexism factor going on: endure sexism but get excellent education.

beautifulbodyboy said...

beautifulbrainsgirl,

I agree that there is no single explanation to the puzzling phenomenon. But I'm not sure the (presumed) brain-drain factor is a central part of the explanation. For the smartest Scandi guys have the very same reasons to pursue education/career in the US - minus the sexist hassle.

Oopsa-daisy! We've totally side-tracked the thread ;) Sorry Female Grad - this is not to take away from your illuminating original post. I'll check out now.

a dude who reads feminist philosophy said...

Those interested in Anon. 5:39's line of argument might also want to look at this article by Rae Langton, "Feminism in Epistemology: Exclusion and Objectification".

Prof. J. said...

beautifulbrainsgirl (8:48 pm), I don't think that's an explanation. What we're looking for is an explanation for a sex differential. Why would the sexist US be more attractive to Scandinavian women than it is to Scandinavian men? And if it isn't, then how is this supposed to explain the very low F/M ratio in Scandinavian philosophy?

Anonymous said...

calls for definitions are the last resort of philosophical scoundrels

Nice. So much of analytic philosophy is just scoundrels engaging in their last resort.

It's true that dictionaries aren't always a good guide when engaging in conceptual analysis (just look at the unconscionable OED entry on 'racism'). Nevertheless, calls for definitions in philosophy are usually just an attempt to make a proper distinction and then to apply it by clearing up confusions over ambiguities in language. That's hardly the last resort of a scoundrel. It's one of the most important things philosophers do.

Anonymous said...

I think the fact that people are still proposing biological explanations for the fact that women and minorities are underrepresented in philosophy is sickening. Shut up. There is no evidence that there is any tendency for women or minorities to be less mentally able than white males. If you think the jury is still out on this one, I suggest you go back to the 18th century where you belong.

Apparently you don't seem to understand the claim that's being made. The following two claims are not equivalent:

1. Part of the explanation why group X underrepresented in philosophy is biological.
2. Group X is less mentally able than groups that are not underrepresented in philosophy.

For one thing, biological explanations aren't all about mental ability. Some of them are about what sort of things different people might be interested in.

Secondly, the claim that some people have made about women (in particular the one that Larry Summers said needs to be investigated to see whether it's true) is that men are more concentrated at both extremes of the bell curve when it comes to a certain very particular set of cognitive abilities. It's not about general intelligence (as if that could be measured), and it's not about men as a whole being better than women as a whole or about men on average being better than women on average. (If men are more concentrated on both ends, then the average will be about the same for both men and women.)

Now I have no idea what the evidence is supposed to be for these claims or if there's any merit to them. I haven't been motivated to explore it too much. I'm kind of focused on my own project, one that I think is at least as important in its practical consequences. But I don't think it's intellectually honest to throw it into the category of discredited theories by pretending it's a different claim that really has been discredited in a very obvious way. As far as I know, these more recent questions haven't been all that investigated, and I'm sure part of the reason is because of the mindset found in what I quoted above (something exhibited by the Harvard faculty when they condemned Larry Summers for asking for such investigation for the sake of figuring out how better to correct this underrepresentation). The claim that men are mentally more able than women is just as close to the hypothesis Larry Summers wanted investigated as the claim that men are mentally less able than women (because of the lower end).

Good philosophy requires understanding the claim your opponent is making, and that is certainly not being done in this discussion. Even if all such claims are false and demonstrably so, it's worth distinguishing them from ones that are much more obviously false.

The Seeker said...

I was right about this thread reaching 100. I predict 150 by tomorrow evening, and then a slow down. Let's see.

Oh, by the way, don't forget to write your dissertation. You want a job don't you?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, 7:07...tell it!

Unfortunately, it seems that some/many bloggers here cannot accept your proposition (1), which is a claim that goes against every fiber of their being. So instead of a reasoned argument against such a claim, they resort to attacking proposition (2).

Mr. Zero said...

anon 7:07,

Look, people have come on this blog and tried to argue that women are less analytical, less intelligent, and less able to do philosophy than men. I invite you to swim through the previous three threads, where you will see all kinds of people spewing this BS. I have been mostly addressing people who hold this view.

The fact that I have been attacking your #2 in particular does not mean that I didn't realize that it was not entailed by the weaker claim #1. I was actually talking about actual people who actually make the claim expressed by #2.

Furthermore, I find these "women just aren't interested in philosophy, for biological reasons" to be dubious, too. For one thing, women in my intro classes do seem interested in it. Most of them just don't seem to pursue it, for some reason.

For another thing, a lot of women have come on this blog to say that although they are interested in it, they have nevertheless struggled with whether or not to pursue it, and that these struggles are because of sexism. Granted, because this is a philosophy blog, the women who just weren't interested in philosophy in the first place aren't going to show up and tell us. But I think it's significant that every single woman who has commented here has had experiences with sexism, along with every female philosopher I know, that they all seem to have problems with it, and that only men propose these kinds of explanations.

I have a hypothesis about why people would propose these explanations. I think lots of male philosophers are not really sexists, and would feel bad if there was really so much sexism in philosophy, and that sexism was chasing women out. It wouldn't be so bad, however, if women just weren't interested in it in the first place, or simply couldn't hack it. So they cook up a cock-and-bull story about how that's probably it; women just don't like it as much, or they aren't good at it.

Nevermind that some do like it; nevermind that some are good at it; nevermind that they all seem to tell the same stories about sexism; nevermind that ethnic minorities are under-represented in philosophy, too. I think that last fact bears emphasizing: there are very few black people, asians, latinos/latinas, and native americans who choose to study philosophy. Perhaps there is a credible sociobiological explanation for the fact that white males, and only white males, are interested in philosophy. No, there isn't.

eautifulBrainsGirl said...

In response to prof. j and beautifulbodyboy

1. It's welldocummented that the EuroBrainDrain is overproportionally female. People who are go from Europe to the US for PhDs and stay are overproportionally female. Reasons for this? There are speculations. I won't side-track the discussion even more.

2. the low F/M ratio in a relatively non-sexist atmosphere, probably shows that achieving a relatively non-sexist atmosphere may be necessary but is not sufficient. Or if it is sufficient it will take a long time to reap fruits.

3. The factors such as, all the older profs being male and hiring younger alter-egos, are still in place. (This factor is probably more powerful in any system in which the hiring process is more opaque than in the US. The US hiring process may not be good, but it's probably the best that's tried and tested.)

4. One of the really interesting questions is (I think) this: Why does old boys network seem to be more powerful in philosophy than in most sciences? One reason for this may be that the criteria for judging what is good philosophy are much more opaque in philosophy than in science. This will allow negative biases to enter into judgments about what is good philosophy much more strongly.
What can be done against this. I doubt that there's much to do by way of making the criteria for judging what is good philosophy less opaque. But I suspect that making hiring processes/ paper reviewing processes etc. more strictly blind will be beneficial to the success of female philosophers.
Of course, there are limits to how blind one can make these things. Unfortunately we can't do what orchestras started doing a couple of decades ago, i.e. having blind auditions.

Anonymous said...

beautifulbrainsgirl -

there's some potential there. think about how interesting blind auditions could be. There is a big curtain between you and the SC. you walk up, sit down, they ask you questions, and your voice is passed through electronic equipment so that everyone has exactly the same middle register, unidentifiable voice. and sometimes, we could throw a senior level prof who is a bigshot in the field, to see if she or he gets the same treatment or if the search committees could tell the difference.

I really don't know what would happen if we starting quality-checking SCs with great people using blind auditions. I think lots of bluffs would be called.

Prof. J. said...

B.B. Girl:

Well, let's see.

1. I'll take your word for it that the European brain drain is well-documented. Assuming that is in fact the reason for the paucity of women in Scandinavian philosophy, it isn't a side track to explain why; it's the main track. So I'd really like to know. But I doubt that's the reason, because there don't seem to me to be a lot of Scandinavian women philosophers in the United States. I can think of one, but I can think of quite a few Scandinavian male philosophers in the US.

2. Fine, necessary but not sufficient. But what is the missing sufficient condition? That's what I'm looking for. The explanation for the sex imbalance in Scandinavian philosophy.

3. Yes, that's possible. And we've done a lot to combat that problem here.
If the proportion of female graduate students in Scandinavian philosophy is high, that would suggest that the hiring bias you mention is the effective ingredient.

4. I don't think the old boys network is more powerful in philosophy than in science. You might be underestimating the power of the science boys' network.


Hmm, we both asked for new threads, and now that they've arrived we are among the last hanging around in this one!

Anonymous said...

To second a previous post, I believe it would be good if the discussion about women and philosophy would be held more often in terms of fishing for excellence from a larger pool rather than in terms of justice. No doubt, it's unjust that women have a harder time succeeding in philosophy. (I'm going to assume that it is harder for women to succeed in philosophy and so ignore the various people who are still denying this. I'm kinda bored arguing with them.) Sadly arguments from injustice typically don't bring about much effect. This likely to be especially true if no one thinks they're being sexist, which is the case at a stage in which sexism is mostly of the unintentional kind.

I also believe it would be good to think more about point 4 in beautifulbrainsgirl's last post. Are there ways to make the job allocation more gender blind? Are there ways to make the paper reviewing process more blind in our times of webpages and internet? If there are, there are reasons to believe that this would be very beneficial to the success of female philosophers.
(Beautifulbodyboy and Prof J., I realize you mean well. But why are you saying that someone’s explanation is not an explanation if you quite obviously haven’t even bothered to check whether what they say may be based on facts that makes what they say an explanation? In this particular case, you would just have had to google: braindrain, europe, US, women. TTassprof and Prof J, I don’t think it helps our discussion if we assume (as you seem to) that we (the people in the US) are leading the world on gender issues – especially given the evidence to the contrary.)

BeautifulBrainsGirl said...

In response to Prof J.

In repsonse to 1: The explanations for female PhDs being more likely to cross the Atlantic are very speculative. The one that seems to have the biggest following is this:

a. It's more unusual for women to do PhDs than men.
b. This may imply that women who do PhDs tend to have a more adventurous personality.
c. Possibly, more adventurous people tend to be more likely to pack their bags and go to another country.

It's obviously very easy to question a., b., and c. and especially the relation between them. If there is any truth to a., b., and c., they may explain the fact that women are overproportionally part of the eurobraindrain.

I can think of as many scandinavian women in philosophy in the US as scandinavian men. I'm not going to look into the numbers. Don't mean to offend you but I think you should get into the habit of doing some internet searches before you state things so boldly.

In response to 2: 3&4 in my last post were supposed to point to possible other explanations.
I shouldn't have said that the old boys network is more powerful in science than in philosophy. I should have said that it may be more effective for the reasons I stated in my last point and will state again in the following.

We have evidence that women are much more successful cracking the glass ceiling in many sciences than in philosophy. What are the reasons?
Sexist atmosphere alone can't be one of them if the atmosphere in sciences is as sexist as in philosophy (I'm assuming this is true. Please don't ask me for evidence.) I think higher degree of opaqueness in philosophy that allows sexism and old boys network to have it's full effect may be a good explanation. That was my 3&4 from my last post put in other words.

Any suggestions, explanations for the evidence we have?

Anonymous said...

BBG and BBB,

I think the problem is the idea that there is more sexism in the US is simply wrong. I dont know scandinavia in particular, but there is plenty of it in the UK and in other parts of europe--at least as much in the US--in the academy and elsewhere.

The primary evidence cited that the US is more sexist is the World Economic Forum ranking. But this, I would venture to guess, simply reflects the fact that the US is more economically right-wing than all these other countries, and therefore has far more social/political/and especially economic inequality in general than any other developed country in the world. So, "a little sexism goes a long way" in creating more measurable inequality.

Put crudely--it may be just as hard to become a CEO in sweden if you are a woman as it is in the US, but since the CEO/secretary pay ratio in the US is much higher than it is in sweden, that same degree of sexism creates more income ineqaulity for the US women.

Prof. J. said...

Anon 6:23 pm:

(Beautifulbodyboy and Prof J., I realize you mean well. But why are you saying that someone’s explanation is not an explanation if you quite obviously haven’t even bothered to check whether what they say may be based on facts that makes what they say an explanation

I think you're confused. What B.B. Girl offered was not an explanation. Additional facts make it a potential explanation, but those additional facts weren't offered.

In this particular case, you would just have had to google: braindrain, europe, US, women.

Okay, I just did that. I don't see anything relevant on the first page of Googlehits.
Why don't you tell us what you found when you Googled those terms together.


TTassprof and Prof J, I don’t think it helps our discussion if we assume (as you seem to) that we (the people in the US) are leading the world on gender issues – especially given the evidence to the contrary.)

That is a really bizarre thing for you to say. Here is what I actually wrote:

"Suppose (as I am inclined to suppose) that sexism in Scandinavian culture is significantly less serious than it is in ours;"

Your conclusion is that I am assuming that the US is leading the world on gender issues??
I'm kind of hoping right now that you don't do history of philosophy.

Anonymous said...

Re: the original post--
Thank you! This is so true. I, like one of the other posters, have grad school in philosophy to thank for my most real experiences with sexism/gender bias. I like the phrasing that this stuff is immune to introspection. It is very hard to say these things without coming across like you're calling people Bad, and so in my experience people get very defensive (as they don't see themselves as Bad). I once heard from an advisor, after trying to be quite honest about my experience, "Well, you're the first person who has told me that," as though that weren't enough to take seriously. Implicit in that response was an automatic denial of any potential role.
Someone asked if women can be sexist, even against women--yes! Later in the same conversation with my advisor I was told (as if I didn't know!) that most of the (very few) female faculty members in our department would be unsympathetic to my concerns. Again, that somehow was supposed to minimize or illegitimate my concern. Just because they've made a career by trying to zip their pants from the other side, they now fight for the traditional team.
I think a good part of the reason philosophy continues to be dominated by men, and the reason we have to ask whether men are somehow more apt in philosophy, is a methodological reason. It's not about the subject matter of philosophy, or the kind of thought or intelligence it takes, but rather the way it progresses , both in writing and in conversation. In my experience, the biggest hurdle is the aggressiveness that seems to be required in order to be considered a viable philosopher, and I think that, traditionally and sociologically, is a trait that has been more encouraged in males and discouraged in females. In the epic conversation I've referred to, I suggested as much, and was told, "That's the way philosophy has always been done." Need I point out that this is precisely the problem?
There is a problem in philosophy, and I think Female Grad is right that a huge part of it is--ironically, given philosophy's aims--an immunity to introspection.

Beautifulbrainsgirl said...

In response to anonymous 7:09 PM

This is getting ridiculous. I take it you haven't looked at the data to which I linked. Don't you think the world economic forum is sophisticated enough to take social/political/and especially economic inequality into account? Boy you must think they're really dumb.

I was trying to get a conversation going about what we can learn from the sciences and what we can learn from other parts of the world. But there seem to be too many people on this blog who are just interested in keeping the myth alive that the US is particularly progressive what gender issues are concerned. There's no doubt, the US is really good in some respects. But there's a long way to go (as I thought most of us agree).

I'm going to opt out of this discussion now.

Prof. J. said...

BB Girl,

Don't mean to offend you but I think you should get into the habit of doing some internet searches before you state things so boldly.

You don't offend me, don't worry, I appreciate it. And likewise, I hope I will not offend you if I ask you please to read what I actually write. In that sentence above you are saying that I 'boldly' stated that there are more Scandinavian men than women in US philosophy. But what I wrote was:

"there don't seem to me to be a lot of Scandinavian women philosophers in the United States."

As you say, you disagree, but you add that you aren't going to count. I think that if you are right, that there is a greater female brain drain from Scandinavia to the US in philosophy, that would be an interesting element of an explanation. I won't count every Scandinavian-American philosopher, but I'll look over Leiter-ranked ones and see what I can find.

Prof. J. said...

Okay, I did a little homework.

I looked in the Leiter ranked departments and found seven or eight male Scandinavian philosophers, and maybe two (but maybe one) female ones, depending on exactly what counts as Scandinavian.

This is a small sample size, and furthermore my methodology is not exactly infallible. (It’s not always possible to tell from web pages whether a person was born or educated in Scandinavia.) But the information certainly doesn’t support the idea that the brain drain in philosophy from Scandinavia to the US is predominantly female. So it casts doubt on the idea that the brain drain explains (!) the very small F/M ratio in Scandinavian philosophy.


On opacity of the hiring process:
This is an interesting issue whether or not it is responsible for sex inequality. Just off hand, it seems to me that Swedish (I don't know about how hiring works in the rest of Scand.) hiring is a lot more transparent in certain ways and at certain points than ours, but perhaps less so at other points.

Anonymous said...

7:09 Here.

BBG,

Yes, as a matter of fact, I did look at it. And it SPECIFICALLY says that they look at output variables, not input variables "like culture". If you dont think that the right-wing laissez-faire political/economic climate of the US amplifies the output effects of a sexist culture on things like income, access to healthcare, access to political office, etc. than I dont know what to tell you.
Everyone has equal access to healthcare in sweden by definition. And access to political office in the US is MUCH more expensive than in most european countries, so income and wealth disparities get amplified into that too.


And no, I dont think the WEF people are stupid. I think they are specifically and self-avowadly measuring something different that what you are talking about. And they take the trouble to explain the difference--actually.


You say: "I was trying to get a conversation going about what we can learn from the sciences and what we can learn from other parts of the world." But you dont seem to want to to follow through on it.

You want to claim (or admit to) three things:

1. Sweden has a less sexist culture than the US.
2. Sexism is the overwhelming cause of the gender disparity in US philosophy departments.
3. There is as much gender disparity in Swedish Philosophy departments as there is here.

But absent weird and very ad hoc hypotheses, these three claims are incompatible with each other--and you dont seem to want to face up to that.

Since I inclined to believe 2 (and 3 seems to be a fact), I was looking for a way to challenge 1. And I am inclined to doubt 1, because I have lived in the US, and in two of the countries that rank much higher on the report, and I can tell you from my experience that both of these countries have a markedly higher degree of sexism in academia. And women in these countries have told me that they find the US to be more open.

TTprof said...

anonymous 7:09,

1.Your point (that many other people have mad) about having lived in two cultures and finding the one that isn't your own more sexist is interesting. This seems to be a very wide spread phenomenon. I know a lot of americans who have gone to the UK and find the UK more sexist and I know a lot of Brits who have moved to the US and find the US more sexist. I wonder what explains this phenomenon.

2. Your theory predicts that France does well on the wef ranking. But it does a lot worse than the US. Do you have an explanation for that? (France has one of the best parental leave programs in the world, so they're doing better than the US on that as well as economic equality.) Still they really fuck up on the gender equality.

3. If we're going to judge sexism based on the people we know, all I can say is that you seem to know different European women than I do.

Anonymous said...

709, your theory is a non-starter, sorry.

The US and Sweden do about the same on economic equality. (US score: 0.738; Sweden score: 0.761) What really drags the US down is political empowerment (US score: 0.102; Sweden score: 0.525).

Now, we're really off topic.

Prof. J. said...

ttprof, I like your question (1). That rings true to me, too. Hmmm.

Here's a somewhat depressing suggestion. The overt examples of sexism in our own culture seem 'normal' to us because we are so used to them -- they fade into the background, so to speak. But in a strange place they (different kinds of examples) are salient and fresh.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore, I find these "women just aren't interested in philosophy, for biological reasons" to be dubious, too. For one thing, women in my intro classes do seem interested in it. Most of them just don't seem to pursue it, for some reason.

By "interested in philosophy", I didn't mean having any interest in the subject. I mean the kind of interest that would lead one to pursue it as a career, other considerations be damned. I don't doubt that sexism (and its effects, both indirect and direct) are partly responsible for this. My point is that it's possible there are biological differences that partly explain it as well.

only men propose these kinds of explanations.

Not so. Maybe men propose them more often, but I know several women who are more likely to say this kind of thing than many of the men I know. In fact, I'm much more open to sexism-related explanations than my wife is.

Race is a different matter, because there seems to be no remotely plausible account of why biology would make black people, say, less interested in philosophy. There are notable biological differences between men and women, even if you only acknowledge just reproductive organs. The womb plausibly makes a difference in terms of how men and women perceive themselves and their relationship with other people, and I wouldn't be too surprised (although I wouldn't claim to be remotely sure) if it turns out that there is some biological difference that partially explains at least some of this.

ttprof said...

anonymous 536,

You're so off, it's kinda endearing. I'd love to have a beer with you. It would be a bit like having had a beer with the last dinosaur.

I won't argue with you. We want to keep you just like you are: a pure specimen of 18th century mentality.

Anonymous said...

536 serves as a great example for how far we've come. There are very few people left who think like him.
He also serves as a great example of how far we still have to go. There are still people like that out there and there are probably quite a number of more benign cases. Beware!

I can't decide whether to feel sorry for 5:36s wife or whether to think she's even more of a moron than her husband. I guess the two need not be incompatible. In any case: 5:36, I'd hold on to her as well as you can. There aren't many like her left. She probably washes your laundry and cooks all your meals.

Anonymous said...

Well, all I have to say is that Linda Alcoff, Susan Babbitt, and Sally Haslanger hold this same dinosaur 18th-century view that you're so easily dismissive of. It's not the majority view, but those three are clearly not parrots of 18th-century dogma. See here, for example. It's amazing that people who have little familiarity with the state of play in feminist theory can so glibly draw conclusions about what's outdated in feminism.

Anonymous said...

I ran across this article, and it (at the very bottom) provides some empirical evidence that women may not appear on paper to be as strong of candidates as men because of differences in recommendation letter writing practices. That is, men tend to receive more laudatory praise than women, and as a result they may appear to be better candidates to graduate admission committees or job search committees based on the recommendation differences even if there are no significant differences in the candidates. This would be particularly problematic if it is true, as it is purported to be, that recommendation letters play such an important role in the job search.