Women in Philosophy

Radical Philosophy Radio Station

“Why should we care whether women participate in professional philosophy in roughly equal numbers to men?

Would philosophy be better for it? Would women be better for it?
Philosophy has not always been regarded in a favorable light. Nietzsche, for one, regarded philosophy and philosophers “half suspiciously, half mockingly”   and suggested that philosophers lied about the deepest matters ( 1966 :12).
What each philosopher presented as truth and the result of logic and reason, wrote Nietzsche, was “at bottom” nothing more than “an assumption, a hunch, indeed a kind of ‘inspiration’—most often a desire of the heart that has been  filtered and made abstract” and defended “with reasons they have sought after the fact.” Despite pretensions to the contrary, “in the philosopher . . . there is nothing whatever that is impersonal; and above all, his morality bears decided and decisive witness to who he is —that is, in what order of rank the innermost drives of his nature stand in relation to each other.” All was not lost, in Nietzsche’s view, for philosophical deceptions might be a foolishness 1  that was “necessary for the preservation of just such beings as we are.” To grasp this, it might, Nietzsche suggests, be useful to suppose that “not just man is the ‘measure of things’ ” ( 1966 :11–14).”

(2013-10-23). Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change? (Page 21). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

In 2013 I was reading a book titled “Women in philosophy, what needs to change”, edited by Dr Katrina Hutchison and Dr Fiona Jenkins and it really encouraged me to do something in a practical sense to raise the profile of women philosophers. At that time I was a volunteer co-host on a breakfast show on 3CR community radio, I not only enjoyed the broadcasting and panelling immensely, but also editing interviews as well. So I decided to put forth my proposal to do a solo radio program, ”Radical Philosophy”. As part of my proposal I stated that women in philosophy would be given preference to be interviewed on my program, because women in philosophy do not have as strong a voice as men in philosophy. In fact, I did a small survey myself to prove my point: I asked 10 people if they could name a philosopher and they could, but when I asked them to name a woman philosopher, none of them could, so I submitted this data with my program proposal. Included with my proposal was an interview that I conducted with Dr Fiona Jenkins on the subject of women in philosophy, and what needs to change. I discussed various concepts with Dr Jenkins connected to the under representation of women in philosophy such as stereotype threat, unconscious bias and micro inequities. Also the concept of how it is just assumed that women have to change to fit into the existing philosophical institutions. This combined with a program planner for the first month which included interviews on happiness, existentialism and who was the first woman philosopher? My program proposal was approved.

Over the last six months I have unearthed an incredible amount of talent in the topics I have sought interviews for: these topics have ranged from logic and reason, two-dimensional semantics and personal identity. I have also thought outside the standard philosophical box and have aired interviews about the philosophy of female football fans, feminist geography, the sexualisation of young girls and feminist bioethics; I think that these topics are of great philosophical importance because it’s important to discuss these topics if we wish to avoid making “man the measure of things” (as Nietzsche says) and if we wish to acknowledge greater diversity of thought in philosophy. If we are to look beyond stereotypically masculine philosophical concerns and prospectives, then it’s important to recognise gender diversity as well as diversity in class and race in a spear of philosophical enquiry.

In fact, for every topic that I have wanted to cover in my program, I have been able to find an Australian woman philosopher to interview who has the required amount of expertise in the given research area. Often philosophers have many interests and areas of expertise, so it can be quite difficult in choosing one topic for an interview. I begin each program with a quote from an insightful woman such as Emma Goldman, Helen Keller and Iris Murdoch. The quotes are from “The Beacon Book of Quotations by Women”. The quotes appear under headings ranging from ‘absence’ to ‘youth’ so I have a quote to suit every interview I do.
I have studied philosophy and gender studies at the University of Tasmania and was fortunate enough to have Dr Lucy Tatman as one of my lecturers. Dr Tatman introduced me to many female philosophers such as Luce Irigaray, Hannah Arendt and Julia Kristeva. I had little knowledge of these women before, so this made me quite curious about current women philosophers particularly in Australia. Women who I have spoken to who have studied philosophy 20 or so years ago have said that they did not study any women philosophers.
3CR is a community radio station based in Fitzroy, Melbourne, there are mainly talk-based programs that have political themes, there are over 130 programs. 3CR was established to give a voice to various groups within the community that would not normally have a voice within the mass media. These groups include women, people with disabilities, indigenous people and the working class. 3CR is a financially independent organisation that does not have commercial advertising therefore relies on donations and membership for financial support.

“Radical Philosophy” is live to air every Thursday between 3.30 and 4.00 pm on 3CR Community Radio, 855 on your AM dial. If you’re not able to listen to the show live you can go to the 3CR website: http://www.3cr.org.au/radicalphilosophy also facebook has all the podcasts, https://www.facebook.com/radicalphilosophyradioshow?pnref=story The current program will be available on audio on demand for seven days and some previous programs will be available to listen to on podcast. Even though “Radical Philosophy” has only been on the air for six months, at the 3CR awards night I was thrilled to receive an award for the best new program. My main aim with the program, apart from giving women in philosophy a voice in the media, is to make philosophy more accessible to a generalist audience. So rather than just focusing on academic questions, I always ask the interviewee what was it that inspired them to study their particular topic. I think this also gives listeners a snapshot about who the interviewee is on a more personal level.

Beth Matthews

Artwork “School of Women” by Megaera   http://megaerart.amazonwarrior.org/about.htm