How to Thrive in Philosophy as a Woman

In the wake of the election results, we realize that many women in philosophy might be feeling discouraged or even traumatized at the prospect of having Mister Serial Braggart Potty Mouth Trump as president, since his ascension to power will no doubt empower all men to go out in the streets and start grabbing women by the p*ssy. It is already practically impossible for a woman to survive in the field of philosophy for very long. Early drop out rates are much higher for female philosophy students than for males. Obviously, it is much more important to change this fact than to understand why this might be the case, so we won’t waste any time on useless speculations about that here. Instead, we want to reach out to our female colleagues and give you all some tips on how to (not just survive, but) thrive as women in philosophy.

1. Be a Feminist

To thrive in philosophy as a woman, you must be strong-willed and independently-minded, and therefore a feminist. How do you become a feminist? There’s no arguments the conclusions of which are inescapable or formal induction ceremony wherein you assent to some archaic creed. Rather, if you’re a smart woman who’s not easily suggestible, it will just happen organically and imperceptibly as you hang around other feminists. But if you’re one of the many women in philosophy who don’t have other strong-willed and independently-minded female colleagues to lean on, you should at least avoid specializing on male-centric questions like the existence of God, the meaning of life, free will, the nature of truth, beauty, goodness, and ultimate reality. The proper way to philosophize sub specie aeternitatis is by focusing primarily on your own perspective as a woman. So long as you identify as a woman*, your perspective ipso facto transforms any question you might have into a genuinely deep philosophical one (more on this below), such as why vaginas resemble flowers and menstrual excretions resemble red, red wine.

2. Be Progressive

Because it has recently been discovered that 21st century progressive ideals perfectly overlap with eternal, objective truths, and all good feminists are also good progressives (and vice versa), it is also recommended that you, as a woman in philosophy, articulate and defend progressive ideals. Sadly, these ideals have not yet been revealed to large swaths of academia and culture, and have been greeted with hostility wherever they have. But the simple act of codifying them will earn you instant recognition as a novel and courageous thinker by your colleagues-in-arms. For example, treatises on socialized healthcare, trigger warnings and safe-spaces, speech codes and microaggressions, gender and identity fluidity, why white men are evil and can’t have opinions, polyamorous and non-heteronormative relationships, institutional and inter-personal power dynamics, social ontology and constructivist views on x, racial, income, and gender inequality, and other social justice causes, while they might not be popular now in the academy, all are destined to be timeless classics that will bump faddish works like Summa Theologica, Critique of Pure Reason, An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, Meditations on First Philosophy, and Being and Time from the shelves. Articulating and defending these truths despite the current overwhelming institutional and cultural resistance to them is worth being on the right side of history.

3. Get Uniformed

As a woman in philosophy, it is recommended that you don the proper uniform. Here are a few tips:

-Dye your hair vibrant, unnatural colors
-Get a butch haircut
-Wear pantsuits
-Display tattoos and piercings
-Be fat or otherwise unattractive
-Wear thick-rimmed glasses
-Refrain from shaving your legs and armpits
-Be visibly disabled†

Although how one looks cannot reliably indicate what one thinks, incorporating some subset of the aforementioned items into your appearance serves a number of important purposes. Most importantly, it signals solidarity with other women in philosophy who think like you. It lets other, equally perceptive people know that you are aware of but reject oppressive social norms. It subtly yet boldly announces your originality of thought and taste. But perhaps equally important, the woman philosopher uniform will increase the likelihood that icky misogynistic men (a.k.a. “men”) will stay away from you.

4. Control the Climate

Practically speaking, you must insist, at all costs and regardless of what the data or your or others’ experience suggests, that there is a hostile climate toward women in philosophy. A violent climate, even. Fudge and/or suppress data or fabricate stories if you have to. As long as there is a perceived hostile climate, you can take advantage of professional opportunities that otherwise would be unfairly denied you. In a hostile climate, for instance, application and hiring committees will give you preferential treatment. You will be more likely to find yourself toward the top of the list on Leiter’s jobs post. You will receive more invitations to publish and to speak at conferences. Your male colleagues will ‘hold back’ in criticizing your work out of fear of being justifiably raked over the hot coals of feminist wrath. This is not to say, however, that your subsequent success in philosophy won’t be attributable to merit. Quite the opposite, really: these are all perquisites you would have received anyway if your hard work and brilliance were justly recognized. So when publishers, conferences, and departments can boast of having an equal representation of women and men, even if only about 20% of the profession are women, this will accurately reflect the fact that women are by nature better at most things than men, philosophy being among them. And that is something you can be proud of, because you deserve it.

5. Be Passive Aggressive

An especially effective way to control the climate is to adjust your demeanor and behavior in response to the stereotypes of men. This is an art form that all strong, independent women should perfect. The best way to do this is to be passive aggressive, which counters two stereotypes at once: being aggressive counters the stereotype that women are wimpy and passive, and at the same time being passive counters the sexist stereotype that women over-compensate for their wimpy passivity by being overly aggressive. Practical tip: aggressively police men’s language and behavior, but always call them out in a disarmingly gentle and condescending manner. For instance, if a man cracks a joke that in some possible world (no matter how distant) could be construed as misogynistic, call him on it, or crack a misandristic joke in response. If a man assumes a flagrantly masculine (e.g., open-legged) posture, call him on it, or assume that posture yourself. If a man explains something to you or another woman, call him on it, or begin explaining to him how to hunt or lift weights or drink whiskey. Your heightened policing tactics may cause some men to walk on eggshells around you. If that occurs, he’s a probably a cowardly sexist in hiding. Call him on it. If that doesn’t occur, he’s probably an insensitive sexist challenged by your presence. Call him on it. Every now and again, just to keep everyone on heightened alert, submit an anonymous complaint about rampant sexism to the department chair (You don’t have to worry about the complaint being false; it is a trivial truth that there is always rampant sexism everywhere in philosophy. Rest assured, the APA’s feminist arm will march in to find it, no matter how well-hidden it proves to be.).

6. Change What Philosophy Is

As everyone knows, philosophy was invented by white men for white men only. As noted above, these men typically were interested in inquiring into matters of truth for its own sake, particularly centered around great questions such as whether God exists, what is man, is there an afterlife, what should I do with my life, what can I know, what is the best political system, and so forth. Philosophy was an intellectual endeavor that could take you to strange places if you were to follow the argument wherever it leads. But since white men invented it, there must be something wrong about it. Don’t engage in it—it’s not for you after all. Turn it into something political (remember, “the personal is political”). Don’t be afraid to use polemics, and when you do, call that philosophy. Be a political activist too and call that philosophy. Talk about “isms”. Invent some new ones. Get creative. The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways. The point, however, is to change it. Socrates was against the sophists; become the sophists and fight back! #MakePhilosophySophisticalAgain.

7. Be a Man!

If you can’t beat ‘em down, join ‘em. Some antiquarians might consider this a drastic option. Being a man involves becoming a man, and becoming a man used to involve “gender reassignment surgery” (referred to in the Dark Ages as a “sex-change”). But no more! With advances in technology and the sciences—particularly with technological advances in the science of psychology recorded in the DMS Bible—we have discovered that it is much easier to become a man now than in the Dark Ages. A sufficient condition is that you identify as one.

However, there is a caveat. Some might recommend that women in philosophy not identify as men, for that would actually make them worse at philosophy, which is a professional cost not worth the benefits of victimhood that comes with being transgendered. Forsaking your raw philosophical talent as a woman (special insights into matters of, e.g., social ontology) would not be worth the ill-gotten gains of victimhood (that is not to say, however, that gender transitions shouldn’t be encouraged and celebrated in other contexts).

But two things should be kept in mind here. First, we suggest changing the gender norms associated with being a female who identifies as a man. In accordance with the body positivity movement, have your cake and eat it too! Why should a female not have special philosophical insights qua female but not also special philosophical insights qua transgender? To think otherwise is to fall into the trap of hegemonic, colonial, Western, white, male stereotyping. Second, there is an important distinction between being a woman who believes she is a man and so thereby really is one and being a woman who merely wants to be a man but doesn’t believe she is and so thereby isn’t. And with this comes out eighth and final tip.

8. Whatever You Do…

don’t be a cuckfeminist like this self-hating woman who wrote the most disgusting, misogynistic book since the New Testament. Never be critical of your feminist peers. You should instead shower excessive praise and congratulation on them whenever you can, especially when someone disagrees with them.  Regularly gush things like “OMG you inspire me so much” “You are truly an amazing human being” “I’m so sorry someone disagreed with you. *Hugs*” “You are so beautiful. The world is so much brighter with you in it” and “Sending love.” When she criticizes her feminist colleagues, it is clear that Christina Hoff Sommers  actually wants to be a man simpliciter, not a transgender man who is a woman who believes she is a man. A woman who believes she is a man who believes she is a woman who believes she is a man is virtuous, whereas a woman who wants to be a man who doesn’t believe she is a woman who believes she is a man is a cuckfeminist, which is worse than a man who believes he’s a man because he is.

So, there you have it, girls. With these tips, you should be able to thrive in the age of the Donalds. If all else fails, just file a dubious sexual assault report against a prominent male philosopher and sue the department.

*It is unclear whether women who have transitioned from men can have a purely feminist perspective. Would they not then have a transgendered perspective? More work needs to be done on this fascinating and immensely profound question. More on this below.
†According to recent theories of identity and disability as social constructs, pretending to be disabled (transableism) can actually count as a disability. Some might protest that white women with cushy professorships are not minority enough to claim privileges of victimhood. This is understandable. Hence, it is recommended that such women also be disabled.
Though not part of the official uniform, you might also consider taking up knitting, quilting, or crocheting during classes and seminars. This is a highly non-traditional activity for women, and so helps fight conventional, patronizing gender norms and associations.
When a man explains something to a woman, that is mansplaining, and is offensive.

Federal Philosopher

Federal Philosopher is a philosophy graduate student in New Jersey. She was awakened from her political slumbers after reading biographies of Margaret Thatcher—one of her heroes. She loves philosophy, but thinks the profession has been hijacked by a bunch of leftist bullies who are little more than partisan journalists that happen to know philosophical jargon. She carries a recurve bow and quiver full of arrows at all times, so as not to trigger leftists by saying she packs a .380 in her purse.

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Former feminist turned conservative. PhD. Proud helpmeet. Teaches at a liberal arts school somewhere in the Midwest. Enjoys hunting and eating animals. Favorite musician: Hank Williams Jr.

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  1. “…becoming a man used to involve “gender reassignment surgery” (referred to in the Dark Ages as a “sex-change”).

    Nowadays it’s called “gender CONFIRMATION surgery.” Give it a few months and there will be an even more Orwellian term for “surgically removing someone’s healthy genitalia and injecting them with synthetic, opposite-sex hormones because harming a healthy body is more politically correct than trying to heal a disordered mind.”

    On a related note, it would probably be good to write a real post on how to thrive in philosophy as a conservative woman. The guild needs you!

  2. Really hilarious and biting, great stuff.

    As a side note, beyond the gender options the really creative *male or female* philosophers have avenues to offset the liability of being *human* through identification as therian or other-kin. Why be trapped in the human box, after all we’re talking about philosophy, right?

      • Hi U2, I didn’t realize you were a female, the monikers here are often gender neutral, so it’s hard to tell. As a WASP male I can’t really relate to “truth” (though that’s not to say I doubt it) of Touchstone’s missive, but it’s definitely very funny.

  3. Here is how I survive. I mentally tell assholes like you to go F-yourself. Surviving like a champ. You, on the other hand, clearly survive by trying to be “the one good woman” ie by adopting the views of the worst of the men around you, you make them like you and promote you. It works great….so long as you want to make sure there is only ever one woman who can make it.

  4. As per one of your footnotes, there’s a female grad student in my department who knits in virtually every class and guest lecture. What do you make of that?

    • What do I make of that, Pooh Bear? She must know a lot of people who need socks, quilts, and blankets if she does it in EVERY class. My suggestion is that you start a stereotypical male hobby and do it during seminars and class. Perhaps whittling.

  5. It’s not a woman in philosophy uniform. It’s a raver’s uniform. I suggest you find a way to have more fun.

  6. I agree with some of what’s said here. I generally don’t agree with positive discrimination, and I’m well aware that there are certain undesirable fashions within philosophy (like being progressive) that are far more likely to get one places at conferences, etc., than being a conservative woman. I am deeply troubled, however, by the final comment made here re: sexual assault allegations. Granting that some allegations are false, it seems to me that we have nowhere near enough evidence in this case to assume that this one was false – if anything, the limited evidence we have leans more strongly towards her story, and the evidence is absolutely compelling that the Professor in question is guilty of grave sexual misconduct. In light of this, the potential harms of raising this case in this way seem very serious (that is, the relevant harm is that of mocking a rape victim), and in the absence of good reason to disbelieve the person involved, the comment should have been avoided. I hope a similar mistake will not be made in future.

  7. Thanks for the comment, Calum.

    As a victim of sexual assault myself, I take allegations of sexual assault very seriously and did not intend to mock a rape victim, but to mock feminists who sometimes seem—to me, anyway—not to appreciate the seriousness of such allegations. I followed the case linked to fairly closely when it first broke, and remember thinking it was clear that both Ludow and the student made foolish decisions, and that there was insufficient evidence to think the student was predatorialized. If there have been new developments that you think make that judgment unreasonable, I’d be happy to be apprised of them. Or if you are aware of another story that may make the point more effectively, since you grant that there are some such stories, I’d be grateful for the link; I’ll happily replace the current one with it.

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