Mansplaining in the philosophy classroom over at Crooked Timber

If you are an academic interested in politics, and you are not reading Crooked Timber you really ought to be. I tend to binge-read the entries as I go along.

My favorite piece here recently came from Harry Brighouse on Gender dynamics in the Philosophy Classroom, in echoing a piece that originally appeared on Leiter Reports.

It’s worth reading both, including the comments that Harry directs you to, and I like the use of the word “strawmans” as a verb.

I am inspired by the idea of having pre-planned round-tables where students expect to discuss the ideas in play. That eliminates some terror of cold-calling, and similar terrors of undergraduates huddled around podiums with boring, soul-destroying powerpoint presentations, but still requires participation. However, it does not decrease the likelihood that the male students dominate the discussion or strawman what their female counterparts say.

I am consistently surprised by my colleagues’ inability to see the role that mansplaining and strawmaning (and gaslighting) play in male speech in the academy, and it’s dangerous as all hell. With my recent confrontation of it, I’ve had to deal with one type of undermining behavior after another, from telling me I’m making a “big deal” out of nothing to calling it a “personal misunderstanding.”

No, goddamn it, no.

Being smart and having scholarly capabilities–like launching a credible argument or using basic social science skills–are the currency of the academy. They are also the cornerstone of value in the knowledge economy more generally. It is how people assign value and status. Thus, my greatest financial asset is peoples’ perceptions of my abilities and intelligence. When women’s capabilities and intelligence get downplayed and undermined, it has financial consequences. It affects your ability to pay rent, let alone your ability to build the confidence you need in order to offer the world the products of your intellectual work in the first place. Not standing up for your skills, capabilities, and record in the knowledge economy is the financial equivalent of allowing kids with graffiti spray paint your house (and not painting over it afterward).

If you fail to confront it, you allow people to represent your capabilities as less than they are, or if you correct it, you will be endlessly nagged for being “not nice.”