Before I delve into the main focus of this piece, I would like to briefly address my personal thoughts regarding The College of Wooster’s philosophy department. As a senior philosophy major who feels a deep loyalty to her area of study, I do not want there to be any ambiguity throughout this article regarding the way I think about my professors and peers. For me, the philosophy department has always served as somewhat of a “home base” amidst all the chaos during college years. I consider myself very lucky to have professors who continue to challenge me yet meet any of my concerns with the utmost support and insight. Furthermore, when in the company of my peers (male and female) I feel a unique sense of pride in the coalition of wildly sharp minds I have the privilege to debate and collaborate with on a daily basis. Have I still been faced with sexist remarks and experiences akin to what Melissa Griffith’s article tackled? Absolutely.
Sex-based discrimination from male peers in the philosophy classroom is something I have struggled with alongside many of my female peers, and what is important to note is the professors’ urgent desire to end it. Following the publication of Melissa’s article, “Female Students Disrespected in the Philosophy Classroom,” the department held a meeting led by two professors for female philosophy majors/minors to discuss their individual experiences with these sexist issues as well as to create a plan to combat them. Unfortunately, the opinions expressed in this meeting are strictly confidential, so I am hesitant about how much of the meeting I actually want to address; however, I think it is appropriate to acknowledge this meeting’s productive outcome. Because of this meeting, a pact was made among female students to reinforce an ethic of sex-inclusive classroom etiquette.
To give an example of this practice at work, let’s say I would raise my hand and, upon getting called on by the professor, begin to give a lucid account of Cartesian skepticism, only to have a male peer raise his hand after me and reiterate what I said. With the ethic of classroom etiquette in mind, one of my female classmates would then politely speak up and remind this student that I had already made that point and perhaps try to direct the discussion in a more time-efficient direction. This is not to say that the philosophy classroom will turn into an intellectual bar-fight, with people arbitrarily taking sides based on gender; rather there will simply be no tolerance for disrespectful participation. Hopefully by having each other’s backs even more than we already do, my female peers and I can reestablish Wooster’s philosophy classroom as an equal playing field and enlighten our male counterparts on what constitutes sexism.