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02/13/2014

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Andrea Woody

Eric, thanks for reminding me of that course. You are not the first among the men sitting in that course who has mentioned that the experience and/or material stuck with them. Of course I'm happy that is the case. By my recollection, the group was feisty and skeptical, but I didn't feel disrespected, and the level of argument helped me work through the material in a more substantial way. So bottom line - it was was a good experience for me. I must say that the next time I taught the course, here at University of Washington, the story was different. I had a group of really bright, capable undergraduate women majors taking the course, and knowing this beforehand, I was excited about it. This time around, however, I was confronted with skepticism that did seem genuinely hostile, and I was so depressed by the negativity in the room - directed toward both me and other students - that I didn't teach the course again for several years. It was sobering to see how vehemently the students both resisted the label of feminism and worked to declare the material 'not really philosophy'. At the time I bemoaned that the students had been educated in ways that allowed them to think that hostility was a legitimate form of argumentative philosophical stance, and that I seemed incapable of leading us to a different sort of interaction.

So it's complicated. I add this bit of biography not to contradict your assessment of what happened in that course at UofC (though I would vote for a more charitable view of most of the actions of you and your (and my) colleagues), but to suggest, as may others have, that the gendered aspects of our profession impact all of us and in a complicated variety of ways.

Today I can be thankful that given my great colleagues (including Alison Wylie, Carole Lee, Lynn Hankinson-Nelson, Sara Goering, and Ingra Schellenberg), our students can be exposed to much richer conceptions of feminism and learn from folks with much greater expertise. Also, around here it's more often than not the energetic commitment of concerned, engaged graduate students that keeps us thinking about this stuff - climate issues, how to conceive of empowering and productive philosophical engagement, etc.

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Here's a link to my past blogging (and discussions involving me) at: New APPS.

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