Male domination of philosophy ‘must end’

(14 Posts)
PromQueenWithin Fri 15-Mar-13 17:41:09

According to Professor Jenny Saul

The comments (for once, well it is THES!) provide the seeds of an interesting discussion about our assumptions on male versus female thinking.

Dervel Fri 15-Mar-13 18:49:24

If you'll suffer a chap posting on here, I'd say I have agree. I also feel it is worth pointing out that the word philosophy means in the Greek "friend or lover of wisdom" which is where we also get the name Sophie (and its variations), and I believe that is no accident. The Greek deity for Wisdom was the Godess Athena, so I think an argument could very well be made that wisdom itself could be feminine quality (not in the sense that only women have it, or that necessarily every woman does).

In any case I blame Aristotle whose mysogyny has dogged western philosophical (and indeed theological) thinking for thousands of years. Which I never understood as his teacher's teacher Socrates argued women should have the same rights as men and afforded the same opportunities.

PromQueenWithin Mon 18-Mar-13 13:18:13

Dervel I just wanted to say that I've read the two posts you've made on threads I started, I just haven't had time (and don't at the moment either) to make a full and considered response. I just didn't want you to feel that your contribution was being ignored grin

FloatyBeatie Mon 18-Mar-13 13:42:01

It's a valuable post, but I'd hope that people wouldn't overplay the "differences between men's and women's thinking" -- especially if it means railroading women into "practical ethics and philosophy of education" (as one of the comments has it) whilst men stick with purer, non-applied hardcore philosophy. Let's celebrate the women who do and have worked in these latter areas. How about Ruth Barcan Marcus, Elizabeth Anscombe, Onora O'Neill, and (in some of her work) Martha Nussbaum) -- and many others whose names don't come to mind just now.

Another thing that I've noticed rather a lot in the "women and philosophy" discussion is a kind of tacit assumption that being a woman in philosophy means being a feminist philosopher. I don't mean being a feminist and being a philosopher (I would hope -- wistfully and not realistically -- that all philosophers were feminists whether they are men or women!).

What I do mean is, I sometimes get the impression that women who are philosophers are disproportionately expected to be working in the area of feminist philosophy -- specifically analysing and deconstructing the idea that, e.g. traditional epistemology and traditional ethics have a systematic male bias. That is a good area to work in of course, but it is only one amongst many, and most women philosophers are likely to be working in other areas of philosophy and shouldn't feel that their gender determines their specialist field. It makes me feel a bit ranty to suspect that some philosophers might imagine that being a woman confines you to an interest specifically in gendered representations and misrepresentations of the world.

FloatyBeatie Mon 18-Mar-13 13:46:16

After all, no one says that being a man makes it likely that you are interested in the gendered nature of knowledge etc. As if being a man were not a gender at all, but the simple solid normal. <seethe>

Dervel Mon 18-Mar-13 15:35:12

Well if we're on the subject of wisdom, then I think it's unwise to not consider as many perspectives as we can. I was being kind of playful talking about wisdom as being feminine, as what is masculine/feminine is often I think an arbitrary distinction we get from our collective culture, but at the present moment I think it's wise to perhaps celebrate those traits, as I do not believe they are valued anywhere near as much as they should be (wether they happen to be exhibited by a man or a woman is immaterial).

If humankind is a recipe it feels as though the ingredients are not in balance with one another, and I think (from what little I understand of feminism, I'm only recently learning about it), that feminism has been, is and will continue to be as it evolves a step towards achieving this. It stands to reason by promoting women, we promote those traits and move closer to the day everyone is liberated enough to self determinate their own identities, with whichever mix of traits they feel best express who they are.

Even if I'm off target with that last point, and gender really is just sex based, I STILL think society benefits from promoting women, as if it turns out I as a man am incapable of possessing feminine traits, I'm being unwise to subjugate them as by definition if I do not posses them I cannot adequately judge which are superior, and may miss out on improvements that can be made to society by not having women at the table putting their cases forward.

Dervel Mon 18-Mar-13 15:39:39

PromQueenWithin I'm grateful you feel my posts contribute, no worries.

PromQueenWithin Mon 18-Mar-13 16:02:00

at the present moment I think it's wise to perhaps celebrate those traits, as I do not believe they are valued anywhere near as much as they should be (wether they happen to be exhibited by a man or a woman is immaterial)

I like this idea.

UptoapointLordCopper Mon 18-Mar-13 16:28:26

I agree with Floaty about overplaying the "differences between men's and women's thinking". Hate this stuff. And was very relieved to read in Delusions of Gender that there is very scant evidence of such a thing.

PromQueenWithin Mon 18-Mar-13 16:38:40

I think that taking different ways of thinking and labelling them as "male" or "female" (and then placing them in a hierarchy with male firmly at the top) is wrong. But I do think that different people can offer different perspectives on things and that these different perspectives should be valued for what they bring rather than the genitals of the thinker.

Similar to Baron-Cohen's flipping irritating "male brain / female brain" thing. They could have just called them "analytical or empathetic", but even then the way we are socialised would probably make most people think analytical was superior.

PromQueenWithin Mon 18-Mar-13 16:39:42

But I do think that different people can offer different perspectives on things and that these different perspectives should be valued for what they bring rather than the genitals of the thinker.

This is what I assumed Dervel was saying...?

UptoapointLordCopper Mon 18-Mar-13 16:47:52

I hope that "different people bringing different perspectives" is indeed what is being said. smile

I don't know whether this "analytic" and "empathetic" brain divide has much evidence? In any case calling it "male", "female" is the stupidest thing ever. Or maybe one of the the stupidest thing ever. Gets me frothing in the mouth just thinking about it. grin

I also agree with floaty about "railroading" people into particular areas of certain discipline. In fact I agree with floaty, full stop. At least for that post.

Dervel Mon 18-Mar-13 20:24:13

That is what I meant PromQueen, and that is what I believe, but I'm no expert. My current contention: we have taken what is potentially a "complete" human psyche and subdivided it off into masculine/feminine components (arbitrarily I suspect), over many many generations undermined the feminine, and placed undue importance on the masculine and then made women the "weaker" sex, and even derided men for exhibiting those traits to the point they are all living in fear of not being perceived as masculine enough.

It's high time we made humanity whole again, and from what I have been reading feminism is one of the tools through which this can be achieved. I only bring up notions of masculine/feminine, as I know some are not entirely sold on the principle, and believe that men and women have inherent differences in modes of thought (this may be true, I'm no expert). However I believe that point itself is somewhat moot, as even if it was the case (or only true to a degree). The fact still stands that extra perspectives often benefit us and should not be marginalised.

runningforthebusinheels Tue 19-Mar-13 07:48:43


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