Do women

philosophers

receive less

recognition?

 

 

 

In an article on the blog of the

American Philosophical Association,

the philosopher Chris Meys holds

without evidence that women

thinkers are ignored,

disqualified and less cited.

 

 

 

​​Roxana Kreimer

@RoxanaKreimer

@feminiscience

@feminisciencia

 

In an article entitled "Women Philosophers Get No Agency: Elisabeth of Bohemia", published on March 1, 2018 in the blog of the APA (American Philosophical Association), the philosopher Chris Meys argues that "in general, women thinkers receive less recognition for their work." I will list her arguments:

1) "When women speak in meetings, their ideas get less uptake (unless they get hepeated by a man)." The neologism "hepeated" is defined by the Urban Dictionary as "The situation in which a woman suggests an idea that is ignored, but  when a man repeats it, everybody loves it ". However, Meys does not provide any study  with evidence that this behavior is frequent or significant today. Nor can we claim that it is not, but merely affirming it, doesn´t constitute evidence.

2) The second argument used to argue that female philosophers receive less recognition for their work is that in Scholar Google the book of letters between Descartes and the philosopher Elizabeth of Bohemia recognizes that both are the writers of the letters, but only Descartes figures where it says "author". Then she admits that when a new edition of the book was published, not only did both appear as authors, but an image of Elizabeth was included in the cover. Then she reminds us that "tiny glitches" like Google's are very significant. Are we facing a case of sexism? There are other hypotheses that could explain this: (a) since the known philosopher is him, it could rather be a quick way to find the book or (b) if her name appareared smaller than his in the cover of a book, it could have to do with marketing considerations. The book that has the letters of Freud and Fliess highlights Freud´s name in the cover simply because he is the best known.

3) Meys maintains that female philosophers are less cited than male philosophers. As alleged evidence she highlights a paper of Healy (2013), and states: "Between 1993 and 2013, a single individual named ‘David’ attracted more citations in a set of generalist philosophy journals than all scholars who happen to be women combined " Awesome, isn´it? It seems that we are facing a flagrant case of sexism. Is there any evidence that it is? Let's analyze the data carefully. The author of the article mentioned by the philosopher points out that the quotations of men and women in these newspapers are proportional to the articles that they have written. 87.5% of the articles published belonged to men, and 88% of the citations correspond to men. 12.5% ​​of the articles belonged to women and 12% of citations correspond to women. The author of the article also points out that the distance between the most and least-cited philosopher (whether male or female) is enormous, and anyone who wants to publish in one of the four most prestigious academic journals should  mention that most-quoted philosopher, because he is marking the way for future debates. But that is not a case of sexism, it is the way academia seems to work. If almost 90% of the philosophers who publish in these jornals are men, it is more likely that a man will be the leader in that area.

Someone could claim - and many do - that the mere fact that there is such a low percentage of women philosophers is sexist in itself, that they  learn in school that abstraction is not for them and therefore choose other careers. Again, is this a case of sexism? There is no evidence in favor of that hypothesis. Analytic philosophy, which prevails in the English-speaking world, is generally far removed from the analysis of interpersonal relationships and from the study of living phenomena, the sphere of knowledge in which today there is an overrepresentation of women (around  80% of graduates in psychology, for example). Women didn´t have models to become veterinarians, and today in Western countries most of the graduates of that career are women. In the areas of philosophy where the analysis of interpersonal relationships predominates - Ethics, por example - even in the English-speaking world there is a majority of women. The origin of this dissimilarity of preferences and interests is fundamentally biological, although it interacts with culture (to start investigating this topic see the Norwegian documentary "Brainwashing: the paradox of equality" on Youtube, or the book "The Essential Difference ", of Simon Baron-Cohen).

It is not problematic to explore the hypothesis of sexism in philosophy and other areas. What is questionable is the excess of victimization -a common phenomenon in feminism-, the frequency with which it appears as a default hypothesis, the fact that other explanations are not evaluated, and that disciplines such as neurosciences, evolutionary psychology, behavioral genetics, pan-cultural psychology and cognitive science are absent from the articles dedicated to gender issues.