“People were yelling and banging on the table to make their points,” [Macy Salzberger] says. “It was basically a free-for-all... The environment felt hostile, and often I was the only girl in the room”...
“I told women that I understood the problem, but that it was possible to balance out the combative tone if more of us came. The women who started coming were intentional, as well. They shared that goal.”...
“Macy has been an outstanding leader,” says Philosophy Department Chair Russ Shafer-Landau. “It’s absolutely vital that we enfranchise all who want to participate in philosophical discussion, and Macy’s efforts have been exemplary in this regard.”Can we get some Socratic dialogue on what "enfranchise" means here? And nice as it is to feature some hard work by a UW student, do you really believe that if only more women came in at the intake level and "shared" a "goal" of inclusiveness, then some "tone" you view as exclusionary would be "balanced out"? What do you think women are? Are we some bland ingredient to be added to an over-spiced stew to make it more palatable for everyone?
And I say that as a female who went to law school, where the Socratic Method supposedly reigns, in 1978, and who has been teaching in law school since 1984, doing something that some people might call Socratic, but which got watered down long before 1978. ("The Paper Chase" is a cornball Hollywood movie, people.) Law school discussions are facilitated by professors who dearly want the participation spread around. It's in no way a free-for-all and there's nothing hostile about the environment, and the numbers of males and females are close to equal, and still — if you go on volunteers — the males talk more than the females.
Circa 1990, there was an uprising of female students who took the position that the Socratic Method was required in order to reach gender equity. The mellow, volunteer-based classroom oppressed women, we were told by earnest advocates. They demanded an authoritarian environment as the way to make women equal. That was perhaps the most surreal experience in my 30+ years inside law schools.
Oh, but enough of my memories. I need to keep reading this article:
“I had been reading more about why women are less represented in philosophy,” [Salzberger] says. “One article documented the 'tapering effect,'which shows that even though a lot of women tend to major in philosophy as undergrads, there are a lot fewer in grad school and even less in faculty positions.”And here's UW Philosophy Professor Harry Brighouse (who spoke on a panel on the status of women in philosophy):
“It is easy for people to think this is a male discipline.... there is a degree of aggression. Philosophers don’t act in ways that others might see as polite.”Ah, so they do have a cooking metaphor. I still have the question: Why would making things friendlier at the intake level solve the problem of failure to continue on to grad school and a professional (academic) career? If you've already got — as Salzberger says — "a lot of women" majoring in philosophy as undergrads, how would lowering the heat prepare them for the fighting they'll need to do when the competition gets tough?
Adjusting the heat from “boil” to “simmer” would go a long way toward improving the climate for all undergraduates, he says.
This is a very old issue, and philosophy departments sound like they are where law schools were 40 years ago.