On the women-friendliness of epistemology: a challenge

In the past few months, I have heard several epistemologists make remarks about epistemology’s relative lack of friendliness to women (in comparison with philosophy’s other subfields).  Perhaps the most often-cited evidence was the ratio of men to women in epistemology, compared to the ratios in other subfields of philosophy; salient high-profile epistemology conferences at which most or all of the invited speakers are men; several high-profile epistemology volumes at which most or all of the invited contributions are from men; and the relative lack of women epistemologists on many epistemology syllabi.  I have not done any investigations to confirm any of these allegations (and I have not compared epistemology to other subfields).  Still, it seems to me that we have a problem so long as these are the impressions that are had by prominent epistemologists.   (I also cannot say that my experiences in epistemology give me confidence that these claims are wholly inaccurate.)

I do not post this to cast aspersions or to accuse.  Rather, in the spirit of the undergraduate women students at Northwestern who recently started the WiPhi (“Women into Philosophy”) group here in the NU Philosophy Department, I post this to challenge the epistemology community.   With these excellent undergraduates (and the many, many others like them all over the world) in mind, I challenge us to see whether, within a period of a few years, we might change our practices in such a way that, far from being seen as not particularly women-friendly, epistemology will be, and will come to be seen as, one of the most women-friendly subdisciplines within philosophy.  (Of course, this should be part of an effort to make philosophy as an entire discipline more women-friendly, as well as more friendly to all underrepresented groups; but perhaps this smaller and more focused effort can help these larger aims.)

In order to ensure that this effort has a fighting chance, I think it is important at the outset to offer proposals with which everyone working in epistemology (or near enough) might agree.  I offer the following suggestions in that spirit (and other suggestions are welcome as well).

First, there are some large-scale efforts that I would propose: (1) program chairs for epistemology conferences or workshops are urged to take all reasonable measures to ensure a happy gender representation, both among the invited sessions and among the chosen submissions; (2) editors of epistemology volumes and special editions of journals are urged to take all reasonable measures to ensure a happy gender representation among contributors; (3) those teaching epistemology should ensure that at least some women epistemologists are on the syllabus, to be read and discussed; and (4) those on search committees for positions defined to include epistemology should make sure to give extra scrutiny to all of the applications from women candidates, and also to familiarize themselves with the various ways in which such applications are dismissed prematurely, or on insufficient evidence.

But there are also some efforts which, though perhaps on a smaller scale, are ones each one of us can make: (5) let’s be aware of the phenomenon Sally Haslanger calls the “micromessages” we communicate to others, and (to the extent this is feasible) aim to address these in our own behaviors; (6) let’s recognize and resolve to address the various ways in which women get unfairly treated at conferences (raised hands not acknowledged at all, or acknowledged only late in a session; points made not acknowledged at all, or only acknowledged after a male colleague makes essentially the same point after her, thereby illustrating a form of what Miranda Fricker calls “epistemic injustice”; other, more subtle exclusions from group conversations; etc.); (7) let’s recognize and resolve to address the various ways in which women get unfairly treated in the classroom; and finally (8) let’s all attend to the empirical work that is being done by many excellent scholars regarding the reasons for the low numbers of women in philosophy (as compared to other disciplines), and let’s all resolve to act in small ways and big to address these.

I should add that I do not think it is wise to conflate the aim of making epistemology more women-friendly with the aim of increasing the visibility and prevalence of feminist epistemology.  My point here is not against feminist epistemology – not at all.  It is rather that the role of feminist epistemology within epistemology should be settled by the outcome of philosophical reflection and discussion among epistemologists (including but not limited to feminist epistemologists).  By my lights, conflating these two aims would be unfair both to women in epistemology (as it would implicitly regard them as having to work in feminist epistemology), and to feminist epistemology (as it would assume that the case for the significance of feminist epistemology requires something beyond the normal give-and-take of philosophical exchange).  It is an open question how the aim to increase the women-friendliness of epistemology bears on the aim of increasing the visibility of feminist epistemology.  I think that is as it should be.

I am well aware that I have no official standing to offer this challenge, other than as a concerned person whose research life is mainly in epistemology.    I can only hope that this challenge is understood in the spirit in which I offer it: made out of a sense of commitment to (and love for) epistemology, in the face of a concern I have with this aspect of the state of our field.  It is my further hope that many other epistemologists find themselves in the same position, and will join in the efforts to address this matter head-on, without defensiveness.


On the women-friendliness of epistemology: a challenge — 26 Comments

  1. “(3) those teaching epistemology should ensure that at least some women epistemologists are on the syllabus, to be read and discussed.”

    This is a tricky one. Sandy is, I think, right to suggest that more effort could be made to include works by women on epistemology reading lists, but for courses covering the “classics” or the intro stuff, it can be tricky to get the balance going. I can feel a paradox coming on, since until there are more women working in epistemology, there wont be such a nice balance in terms of what’s being published by whom. Would it be valuable to have set up somewhere (maybe here?) a list of good epistemology writings by women that could make it onto reading lists for courses?

  2. @Heather and Juli,
    Thanks, though as we know all too well the hard work is in the changing of our practices, not in the saying that we need to do so…

    Perhaps the best way to address this is to have a contemporary section even in “classics”-oriented courses. Then there will be no lack of excellent things to read by women epistemologists. Some time back there was a list of women epistemologists that was floated on this blog; I suspect that this list would be a good starting point for looking into good papers to have on an intro epistemology syllabus. Since I am no historian, I am embarrassed to say that I really have nothing particularly novel to suggest regarding the classical texts. I do know, however, that on those occasions when I have taught a “classics”-oriented course, I usually did have a section on contemporary work. For what it’s worth.

  3. @Stephen,
    in addition to what Sandy says: in all likelihood, the problem isn’t so much that there are no writings by female authors that are as good as (or at least didactically equivalent for the purposes of teaching) male ones on similar topics, but rather that what there is has remained underreported and hence quite unknown. The effort of a ‘parallel canon’ in which writings by women are listed and topically indexed is thus extremely helpful for a community committed to correcting the misperceptions in this regard. So, in addition to Sandy’s recommendation of a contemporary section, I would also recommend sifting through sometimes pretty unwieldy corpora in search of the gems there will undoubtedly be. (I know that in math, Emmy Noether, for example, would be such a figure; in physics, there are many, likewise in phil of sci –it’s worth a try, I’m saying) This, in turn, might, and probably even ought to result in a slight change in what the extension of the term “classics” would have to be and include, according to the experts.
    A general recommendation, though, is to not draw exaggerated conclusions like the “paradox” from such historically grown inadequacies to certain purposes, but to remove these inadequacies. Sandy’s challenge, as I understand it, is not only to think the right thoughts (that’s what, I presume, we all have been doing already for the better part of 100 years, without noticeable changes in numbers of women in the profession), but mainly directed at undertaking the work involved in changing the situation. We sholdn’t be surprised if at the outset it looks as if all worthy classics were written by male philosophers, for if it didn’t look like this, there’d be nothing for Sandy’s discomfort to detect. If we sense what Sandy says as being the right thing, and a good cause, then we will find many things not right waiting to be corrected. For what it’s worth.

  4. Great post, Sandy, and I share the cause, but I think you are wrong to separate the question of women in epistemology from the question of the status of feminist epistemology in “mainstream” epistemology, for three reasons:
    (1) If, as a matter of empirical fact, most or many women in epistemology are doing feminist epistemology, then the derogation of feminist epistemology (in conferences, special issues, departmental hires, course syllabi, etc.) amounts de facto to the exclusion or marginalization of women.
    (2) A dismissive or belittling attitude toward feminist epistemology is a dismissive attitude toward those who do it, who are mostly women.
    (3) There is a causal mechanism at work as well: Because the views typically associated with feminist epistemology, e.g. that knowledge is communal (Longino, Nelson) or depends on the subject’s standpoint (Harding), are considered as “maverick” views, and not part of the mainstream, those who subscribe to them – many of which are women – encounter more criticism in the process of peer review and find it harder to pass it. My own views lean toward such views, and I have encountered such difficulties.

  5. @Boaz,
    I am not sure I disagree with much if anything in what you say. My thought is twofold. First, that it is unfair to women in epistemology to assume that they do, or should do, feminist epistemology. Second, that it is unfair to feminist epistemology to assume that the case for its inclusion within epistemology is something other than a straightforward case that can be made from one epistemologist to another. This latter point is a special case of a more general view: any position, including a position in feminist epistemology, ought to be treated to the same sort of rigorous scrutiny we (as philosophers) are trained to bring to a topic.

    Insofar as the positions you describe above (communalism in epistemology) are dismissed without that same sort of scrutiny, that itself is objectionable. E.g., anyone who reasons, “Well, the view that knowledge is communal is a maverick view in feminist epistemology, so it must be wrong” — alternatively: “so I don’t have to read any more of this paper” — is reasoning in an objectionable way. I would hope that few reason in this way. (I may have my concerns about certain familiar versions of epistemic communalism, but that surely isn’t one of them!) Still, I guess that your worry is that, given how people do reason, it happens that views that in fact are endorsed by a majority of women are prematurely (alternatively: unwarrantedly; unfairly) dismissed. If so, I think the best response is for those with such views to continue to push back, so that eventually truth will win out in the end. I recognize that I might be accused of a sort of naivete on this score, but this how I would propose to address the worry you appear to have.

    This said, it may be that I still have failed to appreciate the force of your worry — in which case I hope (and expect!) that you will continue to push back.

  6. Sign me up!

    I can’t agree with Boaz, though, that it’s a mistake to separate questions about women in philosophy from questions about feminist philosophy. (In general, I think it’s rarely a mistake to separate questions that are distinct.) I don’t know what would be the best way to go about counting, but I think it’s just false that most women epistemologists work in feminist epistemology. Sandy’s case looks pretty compelling to me: treat people with respect, and take seriously the implicit barriers thereto, and let the adoption of epistemic views, theories, and frameworks fall where they will. (Of course, part of treating people with respect is taking their views seriously.)

    To put it starkly: I see no contradiction in caring a lot about the woman-friendliness of epistemology, and in not caring at all about feminist epistemology.

  7. Thanks for these excellent and timely considerations Sandy! Do you have an email for the leaders of the Northwestern WiPhi initiative? We are starting up a similar thing here in Copenhagen, and it’d be helpful to be able to exchange ideas with them. Also, I want to ask them if we can steal their name!

  8. @Mikkel,
    Thanks, let me ask the main student leader whether I can pass on her info to you and I will do it (via email). Great to hear that you are doing the same in Copenhagen.

  9. I’ll try to push back a bit.

    First, we should distinguish between the normative and the descriptive. I don’t claim that women should be doing feminist philosophy. My claim is that in a given situation in which many (even if not most) women in epistemology do feminist epistemology, and most of the philosophers who do feminist epistemology are women (this claim, I think, is not disputed), marginalizing feminist epistemology (in conferences, syllabi, hires, etc.) amounts to marginalizing women epistemologists. This is a descriptive claim. It follows from it that one (effective) way to prevent marginalizing women epistemologists is to prevent marginalizing feminist epistemology.

    Second, people – philosophers included – tend think that they are being objective and rational even when they are not. For example, when male philosophers hire another male philosopher, they tend to think that they did it because the female candidate was not as good as the male candidate, even if she was. As Sandy rightly argues, the way to fight this tendency is to cultivate explicit awareness of, and active reflection on such biases, for example during a hiring process.

    My claim is that similar biases operate when philosophers judge work in feminist epistemology as not as good/rigorous/important as more “mainstream” work in epistemology. Therefore, I think that Sandy is wrong to suggest that the usual adherence to professional standards is enough to remedy the situation. Here as well we should actively seek and avoid possible biases and institutional barriers, as well as giving views associated with feminist epistemology a more central place in epistemology.

    Last, I don’t think that everybody should “care about” feminist epistemology. But there are many issues we are taught of as part of our education as philosophers that we do not care about, because they are considered as part of the canon we should know something about. Work in feminist epistemology should have this status in epistemology both for the reasons I outlined, and because it independently deserves this status.

  10. @Boaz,
    Let’s agree that the biases of which we are speaking affect us even when — especially when? — we evaluate arguments that fall within feminist epistemology. You conclude that we should “[give] views associated with feminist epistemology a more central place in epistemology.” My view is that if we’re biased when we read these arguments, we should fight against these biases, and give the arguments a fair hearing. I don’t think anything regarded the determination of their place in epistemology should follow — that should be settled by doing philosophy. So it appears that we do disagree after all.

    Again, I recognize that my view is susceptible to the charge of naivete — the naivete of thinking that human cognition follows the better argument. This is not always so. (I recognize this; that’s precisely why I thought it timely to mention the large and small effects of gender stereotypes on our subfield.) Still, it remains an epistemic ideal towards which we should strive, and in any case it should be our policy when doing epistemology.

  11. I think I generally agree with Boaz, if the point is that we should give more space, attention, consideration to feminist epistemology than we currently do if we want to support the women-friendliness of philosophy. Boaz gives good reasons to think that the current esteem accorded to feminist philosophy is due not only to the merits of the work but also to the biases against women (and the fact that most feminist philosophers are women). We should not only expect that this trend will continue, but also that there is a kind of inertia here: the fact that work of a certain kind is more or less highly regarded now means that we will probably regard new instances as more or less worthy of attention in the future. And as I understand the psychology, it is not enough to know about and reflect on these biases in general and then make a good faith effort to be fair (the biases will remain in this case), but that we actively intervene in our ordinary thinking to get around these biases.

    Note, e.g., that certain methods of eliminating bias will fail in this case. Anonymous peer-review may mask the gender of the author, and this may be sufficient to get the work a fair hearing. In general we need just such structures. But if the work is a piece of feminist philosophy, the widespread association of such work with women (it’s “girly stuff” in the memorable phrase of one of my former professors) means that it is likely not going to get a fair hearing. I think it is very naive to suppose that we can, by good will and earnest effort alone, be good judges of the significance and quality of work when such biases in play.

    The conclusion is not that we should assert views that we don’t believe, but just that we should extend extra charity, attention, space in journals, readers, conferences, and syllabi, etc.

    I think this is true even if only a minority of women philosophers do feminist philosophy, since it expresses a systematic devaluation of the work of some women and of work that deals most directly with women’s concerns and perspectives. And I very much agree that we shouldn’t move in the other direction and associate women philosophers with feminist philosophy by default — indeed, I think it is highly offensive when you see a textbook whose only contributions by women are the ones dealing with feminist / gender issues.

  12. I think this is actually a really interesting case. There’s a case (that, shrug, I know about from reading Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink”) where a prominent orchestra had a pretty strong bias towards hiring male musicians over female, even though the directors didn’t have any overt biases and made efforts not to be biased. However, when they moved to blind auditions where the musician couldn’t be identified, the bias disappeared, and actually reversed somewhat (more women were successful than men). Pretty simple conclusion: we can’t conquer our biases just through knowing about them. Or at least orchestra director’s can’t, and I don’t see any reason why epistemologists should be any more immune.

    Given, as Boaz observes, that a large portion of feminist epistemologists are female, we can’t blind ourselves in the way that the directors did—the content of the work is a reliable indicator of the gender of the author. I think we’re really in a bind here. On the one hand, Sandy is certainly right that the role of feminist epistemology should be determined by the value of its content not by the gender of its authors. On the other hand, we have good reason to believe that, as things stand now, its role is not being determined by the value of its content, but by the gender of its authors. Feminist epistemology is almost certainly being undervalued because feminist epistemologists are largely female. So, since we can’t blind ourselves, it seems that we must aim to increase “the visibility and prevalence of feminist epistemology”. It’s the only way to counteract already present biases.

  13. @Sandy
    Fair hearing can be given when the play field is levelled. It is not. I am not sure that enough analytic epistemologists are currently in the position to properly appreciate the considerations, intuitions, and motivations of feminist epistemology. When a major scholar writes a paper arguing that a significant portion of the work in feminist epistemology is not “real epistemology” (not only the more radical parts of it, by the way), this sets a clear message of what – and consequently who – is and ought to be included in the field. If the field is to to be more women-friendly, its self definition should be changed.

  14. I think there’s room to include women even in a historically-oriented course. As people like Eileen O’Neill have shown us, there are loads of women philosophers who were actually taken very seriously in their own time, and who the famous names corresponded with etc, and whose inclusion adds to our understanding of the historical debates. Also, most historical courses also include secondary sources, and there are tons of women historians of philosophy.

  15. @Jenny,
    Thanks for this, and for the reference to Eileen O’Niell. It would be very helpful to have additional names, particularly of historical figures. Having a list might help those responsible for publishing textbooks, prior to publishing the next epistemology textbook, to have a sense of additional women to include in sections on historical antecedents.

    @Matt, Mike, Boaz,
    I do not mean to suggest that the correction of bias is something that one can do oneself. On the contrary, I have been quite impressed with the empirical evidence for thinking that the hope of self-correction is not just naive but deeply misguided. When I write that “if we’re biased when we read these arguments, we should fight against these biases, and give the arguments a fair hearing,” I have in mind a collective effort, involving all of us, and involving as well the policies and procedures we put in place when performing our job (double-blind refereeing, affirmative action policies, etc.). Surely the fact that many of us — you, me, and the many others who respond affirmatively to these sorts of challenges — are of good will, and that we are sensitive to these things, can put us in a position to call out those occasions when we discern stereotyping (whether in oneself or others). I have found that a renewed call to focus on the argument itself, and a hard-nosed insistence to do so when someone unfairly (by my lights) dismisses another’s argument, can have a salutory effect on a discussion.

    I readily acknowledge that this will not always work; and I also acknowledge that effecting change in this fashion will be a lot slower than one might hope. But I also think that any change that is effected in this way will be longer-lasting, and will occasion less dedicated resistance, than the call to include more instances of a certain kind of philosophical program on the grounds that we detect prejudice hampering others’ ability to assess arguments from this program. I know many good-intentioned epistemologists who would resist the latter but who would otherwise be highly sympathetic to addressing the present challenge, and I would like their help too.

  16. To add to some of the concrete suggestions, though these might seem like rather minor things, I think the small stuff adds up: be conscientious about the examples and the language you use in your own research and writing (not Sandy in particular, my use of “you” here is meant to be general). Do you use male and female pronouns? If you use examples involving persons, are your epistemic agents always male? If they are female, are they always the one who isn’t justified, doesn’t know, etc.? I haven’t done a full survey of the literature or anything, but it seems like more often than not, when I run into a hypothetical female epistemic agent, she’s confused, lacking knowledge, or headed to the tanning salon (ok, so I only saw this last one once). It’s totally plausible that this is just a coincidence and a function of what in particular I’ve been reading over the last year or so, but still it can be off-putting.

    Also, be careful about how you try and include women. There’s a line between helpful inclusion, and helpfully-intended but awkward efforts to include. If women in a seminar haven’t had a chance to speak, don’t intervene by saying something like “We haven’t heard from any of the women yet—do you want to jump in?” which can be awkward and make one feel more under pressure. Rather, call on individuals by name, or if some students are dominating the conversation, say something to them about letting others have a chance to participate. Don’t say things like, “It’s so great to see a woman at an epistemology conference; there aren’t enough of you around.” Folks who say things like that surely mean well, but it only makes the minority status more salient, and it might make one wonder whether she is wanted there because of her ideas or her gender.

  17. There are well-recognized, influential women in the Philosophy of Mathematics: Penelope Maddy, Virginia Mayo and Nancy Cartwright. Their status has been achieved by merit not quota. Can you think of a good reason why there should be significant discrimination in Epistemology, but not Philosophy of Science or Mathematics?
    Recent blog topics have referred to Bayesianism and Harty Field. Field espouses Nominalism (Fictionalism). I think it is an epistemological question, where do the mathematical objects of Mathematical Realism exist. Platonic epistemology, Innatism and Recollection, have persisted over the centuries. I think the branches of Philosophy incorporate epistemological motivations within their purview.
    However, it does seem odd Philosophy of Mind and its sub-field of Philosophy of AI has so few contributors. Only Melanie Mitchell and her women associates come to mind.

    On a brighter note, I would like to nominate Sylvia Wenmacker for the Reading List. http://www.sylviawenmackers.be/ Her doctoral thesis in Philosophy is a work of art.
    From her home page: “In 2011, I defended my doctoral thesis in Philosophy (4MB) on the philosophy of probability. My current research deals with the foundations of probability theory, epistemology (what is rational to believe?), and philosophy of physics. … Currently, I am working at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Groningen as a postdoctoral researcher on the Formal Epistemology Project (FEP) of Igor Douven.”
    I think there is less 19th century chauvinism today and more of ‘the cream rises to the top.’ through a natural segregation of inherent talent.

  18. I have been reading these comments with great interest since the question about the marginalization of feminist epistemology is of special concern to me. (I’ve recently published a paper on this: “The Marginalization of Feminist Epistemology and What That Reveals about Epistemology ‘Proper’,” in Heidi Grasswick (ed.) Feminist Epistemology and Philosophy of Science: Power in Knowledge, Springer, 2011). I quite agree that the questions about support for women in epistemology and support for feminist epistemology should not be conflated. But there are some connections as suggested above. Most (though not all) who work in feminist epistemology are women, and we cannot overlook this fact as a possible implicit bias resulting in the marginalization of feminist work. Also, it is useful to keep in mind that feminist epistemology is not a separate enclosed subarea in epistemology: most who work in the field connect their interests there with their interests in “mainstream” naturalized epistemology, pragmatist epistemology, and so on. Recent work on “epistemic injustice,” for instance, reveals important links between work in “mainstream” epistemology of testimony and feminist epistemology–the latter drawing specific attention to the role of power or status differential (such as those relating to gender and race) in determining levels of credibility in testimonial exchanges. Credibility can also influence how we read arguments (outside specific clear deductive contexts)–whether we read them more or less generously, for instance. Merit can thus be a tricky issue in these situations, especially when we are considering work that is relatively “new” to the tradition. As I note in my paper, I have been especially concerned with the sometimes less-generous, if not hostile, readings and misinterpretations of feminist arguments and positions. This surely does not serve any of us as epistemologists–feminist or else.

  19. @Kathryn,
    Thanks for these suggestions. (My sense of the literature, and of the use of male and female subjects, is very much in keeping with yours — underscoring the need for the point you make.)

    Thanks for the names.

    Interestingly, the entry you suggest into feminist epistemology was the one I took — by way of the literature on stereotype effects on human cognition, but in particular on our credibility judgements. (And here I, too, would call out Miranda Fricker’s excellent book EPISTEMIC INJUSTICE, among other work on this topic.) I think you are spot-on in your suggestion that everyone — not just all feminist epistemologists, but all epistemologists of any stripe, and even beyond that, anyone interested in the factors that distort human cognition — should attend to these considerations, and be aware of the role they play throughout our academic lives. I look forward to having a look at your paper.

  20. @ Phyllis, from your aforementioned paper:
    “Drawing in part on a standpoint epistemological perspective, I will argue that certain (meta)epistemic advantages accrue to feminist epistemology’s marginal status, facilitating, in effect, specific insights about epistemology that are not otherwise available.”

    I’d like to ask a few questions about this sentence. Unfortunately, I am one who had never heard of feminist epistemology. But I have read about feminism in both anthologies compiled by feminist writers in the fields of Social Psychology and Anthropology. I’m under the impression that both they fields aptly relate to social institutions which broker power for some group in control over other groups, the victims. The exploited include gender/sexism and race/racism, as you mention, and imo, Lord forbid, religion.
    Would you say that Social Psychology/Anthropology (SP/A) are delinquent in their inclusion and explanation of “specific insights about epistemology that are not otherwise available” or does feminist epistemology (FE) contribute some new information to consider, other than yet another Name? How does SP/A Feminism measure up to FE in terms of propounding political and moral implications? I wonder if FE would include a report that changing the hormonal balance in both men and women stimulated a different range of intellectual responses in the same person which could possibly account for different gendered philosophical pursuits. I think FE stretches to cover an area already aptly incorporated into other fields which will have the effect of marginalizing FE in terms of the more ‘proper’ Epistemology. Or so it might seem to old-timers who are used to seeing special interest groups (not inherently bad) pushing there position(s) into as many venues as can be maintained with some plausibility.

  21. @ Stephen.
    Standpoint epistemology examines the way in which people in different social locations may have access to different kinds of insights or knowledge–yielding, in certain situations, specific epistemic advantages or disadvantages. Sometimes “outsiders” may be able to notice things that “insiders” may not see–in part, because the latter take those things so much for granted. In my paper I argue that working in feminist epistemology and noting resistance to the field enables one to develop a certain kind of critical perspective–on, for instance, what “mainstream” epistemologists automatically assume are the core questions and topics of epistemology and what are “outside the pale” ( i.e. some of the questions feminists epistemologists may raise). A very helpful volume on standpoint epistemology is Sandra Harding’s (ed.), “The Feminist Stanpoint Theory Reader”, (Routledge, 2003).

  22. http://www.sagepub.com/upm-data/12936_Chapter3.pdf
    “Feminist standpoint epistemology is a unique philosophy of knowledge building that challenges us to (1) see and understand the world through the eyes and experiences of oppressed women and (2) apply the vision and knowledge of oppressed women to social activism and social change.

    Feminist standpoint epistemology requires the fusion of knowledge and practice. It is both a theory of knowledge building and a method of doing research — an approach to knowledge construction and a call to political action.”

    http://academic.rcc.edu/crasnow/docs/24 Crasnow%20adobe%20copy.pdf
    “Using the perspective of the philosophy of science both narrows and broadens the discussion of these social sciences. The narrowing results from examining the philosophical issues that arose as feminist anthropology and sociology evolved. The broadening comes from the fact that these philosophical issues run through all of the disciplines that intersect here: philosophy, feminism, anthropology, and sociology. Feminist methodology in sociology and anthropology has raised basic epistemological questions, such as what counts as evidence, what good evidence is, and in what sense these social sciences can be considered objective. These questions are contiguous with more general questions about feminism and science, feminism and knowledge.”

    I hail from an era where Feminism picked up a lot of momentum, the 1970’s. Feminist foundations were a sociological imperative, and were also influenced by Marxist anti-patriarchal political theory. .. The Philosophy of Social Science explored epistemic issues, and critical studies focused on the epistemology of oppressed groups. But history has moved on and I can see why Feminists seek a stronger voice, although the choice of epistemic interpretation basis is not unanimous. I came across Feminist Postmodern Epistemology and Feminist Empirical Epistemology. I think also that I believed that Epistemology was a more abstract contemplation and usually not “fused” with a political action agenda.
    However, your view has merit and I withdraw my objection that Feminist Epistemology is less than a proper sub-field of Epistemology.

  23. It seemed to me that there was something wrong with the problem identified in this post, so I did some research.

    http://depts.washington.edu/cirgeweb/c/wp-content/uploads/2008/04/the-phd-in-the-us.pdf (2004)
    “Presently, over 40,000 PhD.s are awarded annually in the US.
    Women’s participation in the doctoral degrees increased steadily since 1960’s. Women’s PhD acquisition surpassed men’s in education, the social sciences, and since the year 2000, is equal to that of men in the humanities…”

    SH: 406 institutions award doctoral degrees, but 50% are awarded from 50 institutions. Berkeley awards roughly 750-800 PhDs annually. It’s Philosophy Dept is rated 5th. I went to the Berkeley Philosophy web page where they have mini descriptions of each
    Professor’s interests. I read 36 blurbs, 26 men and 10 women. 4 women vs. 5 men mentioned a special interest in Epistemology. …

    This indicates to me that the problem is not so much in the field of Epistemology, but that women are underrepresented in Philosophy in general, much like in Math, Physics (STEM) etc. I found the next statistic very revealing.

    “Psychology, once a man’s profession, now attracts mostly women. Data from the 1986 APA report, “The Changing Face of American Psychology,” and the National Science Foundation show that the percentage of psychology PhDs awarded to men has fallen from nearly 70 percent in 1975 to less than 30 percent in 2008.”

    SH: Women faced the same hurdles in Psychology at that time, as Philosophy or STEM do now-> demands of child-bearing that prevented adopting the extra workload that leads to tenure, poor maternity leave and child-care policies by the host university, and lower wages. But these impediments were not sufficient to prevent women from rectifying their count in the field of Psychology. I doubt that some Entity waved its magic wand and transformed male Psychology faculty so that they suddenly became in touch with their inner feminine so that they embarked on a course to welcome new female psychologists. That means there is a different major reason why women don’t show up in Philosophy. “Almost all the respondents agreed that concern for others is an important factor in deciding whether to be a psychologist, and women rated themselves as more empathic.”

    “Half of all recent M.D.s are women and nearly half of all recent PhDs in biology are women. So are the majority of new psychologists (67%), veterinarians (75%) and dentists (70%). But why are so few women joining the ranks of mathematicians, engineers, chemists, computer scientists, and physicists?
    A team of Miami University researchers led by psychologist Amanda Diekman has come up with a different explanation. In a paper just published in the journal Psychological Science, they argue women perceive STEM careers (those in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) as largely incompatible with one of their core goals: Engaging in work that helps others.

    The researchers found the more strongly a participant endorsed communal goals, the less likely he or she was to express interest in a STEM career. Not surprisingly, women were more likely than men to endorse these care-oriented objectives.”

    SH: I was reading through parts of “A Companion to Epistemology” (19 out of 20 papers contributed by men) and read Laurence BonJour’s contributed paper. It read very much like a logical treatise traversing from Start to the End called Truth. I think philosophy is very much like Raymond Smullyan’s logical puzzles, and also efforts to create decision trees which enable a computer program to simulate human-like language responses. I don’t think Philosophy offers any short-term, and not much of long-term gratification for helping others, and I think the collaboration involved by peer review is too competitive to be regarded as a social collaborative benefit/reward to the individual who chooses that career path; I mean writing books and papers that focus on solving big questions, rather than teaching.

    Women are generally regarded as more nurturing. Whether that is actually a biological instinct or the result of socialization, women perceive themselves as more nurturing and that is a core value in choosing what field to go into after a Bachelor’s degree. It isn’t just a stereotype that boys like reclusive, virtual reality games and that girls see computers more as tools than toys, unlike the social value of a texting cellphone: Adults average 10 texts per day.; Boys (14-17) average 30 texts per day; Girls (14-17) average 100 texts per day.

    I think women have the means to access Philosophy just as they did Psychology, if they want to do that. Who has the right to decide that is what women _ought_ to want to do, philosopher kings?!

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