I feel the featured image on this post is particularly appropriate. When I wandered my way into the university where I did my MA, and promptly knew it was the wrong course for me, but still stuck with it because – well, it’s a long because and it’s already rooted in the depths of this blog somewhere, I gained what one might call an understanding.
The understanding was that, once again, I would be learning, reading and have the language of my mind shaped by, mostly, British translations of Germanic or French thinkers.
Which is fine, and wonderful if it’s what you love. But if it’s not…and a whole system rests on the shoulders of about 10-men…
It’s actually quite odd, when you think about it.
After 4-years of study, one of which solely dedicated to human rights, an itch began somewhere in my right-hemisphere, which wondered…why have I only read about female philosophers in ‘Philosophy and Sex’ or through English?
It’s one of those thoughts that make you shudder a little as your whole world tilts, and a (guy) friend you’ve sat beside since first year philosophy lets you know how wrong you are, that, ultimately, female philosophers, had not much to give to the field of philosophy.
A lecturer, then, when I grew rather tired of Nietzche being the intelligencia’s reason for excluding women (largely, that his argument against female-thinkers rested on the fact that it was his opinion, and, of course, you didn’t need to agree with it…) reminded me that I simply ‘didn’t get it.’
I read a Forbes article recently, while I was doing some research about communication. And then I clocked it. There is a subtle gaslighting that happens for any woman who decides to go into a male dominated field – quite simply, the argument (in academic Philosophy) is that the domain of philosophy is dominated by white, Eurocentric, male figures, or white, Eurocentric, female figures (but mainly the latter,) because their arguments are simply better.
Therefore, you’ve made it into an exclusive field where you have some bragging rights, but not all, and where you are reminded that you must sit and listen, and if you disagree, you simply don’t understand. Maybe you haven’t done the research. Maybe you spend too much time on make-up and love-interests.
I gave up in my Masters, people, it’s true.
Yes, I was grieving, and in a really truly terrible relationship, but there was another wider issue – my whole world view was crumbling, and the one place where I thought my new, baby-born thoughts could be held, was not as safe as I thought it was.
Quite frankly, I’m surprised I passed the year – and it’s interesting also that no-one wondered why an A student descended into C’s and D’s. (It doesn’t happen in a vacuum, kids.)
But, there is also only so much teachers and educators can do, particularly in higher education, and while I will get to this later, at some point, you have to buck-up and do what you can with what you’ve been given to change the game one imperceptible step-out-of-line at a time.
Nevertheless, this particular rant has been a long time in the thinking, and now it’s time to write it out. So, to continue:
It’s interesting for a field concerned with some level of scepticism, the art of argument and logic – the art, in many ways, of learning how to think first complexly and then simply – to all of a sudden withdraw into a corner of either/or when the question of ‘WHY HAVE I BEEN STUDYING THE THOUGHT PROCESSES OF ONE HETEROGENOUS GROUP FOR FIVE-YEARS?’ comes up.
It’s not just about male or female. It’s about a lack of education in modern philosophy, in science, in gender fluidity, in queer philosophy, in diverse thinkers – just because eurocentrism has dominated fields of intelligence and beauty, doesn’t mean it should. And by that, I mean we need to start building in full courses of philosophy that deal with thinkers from many backgrounds, and cultures. A module every other semester or year just doesn’t cut it.
A base level of inclusion, in 2021, is (quite frankly) insulting.
I’m angry because this is PHILOSOPHY, the field that is supposed to allow us to take the bounds of our social norms and mores and question them, to argue for or against systems, to come up with original thought and which is now CONCERNED ONLY WITH THE THOUGHT PROCESSES OF ONE HETEROGENOUS GROUP. At least, in my experience.
And yes, I am extremely pissed off that the one look-in female philosophers gained in Philosophy 101 was centred on sex and love. Let me just rip of my clothes and then maybe you’ll listen, hmm?
And that’s not to say that topics of sex, sensuality or love are in any way lesser subjects, they’re vastly important – my issue is that this is the one area where women are seen to have some clout? Talk about insidious objectification.
Quite simply, folx, Philosophy stopped holding my interest. And I stopped trying. It played out like someone continuously walking into a bad relationship, where you funnel time, money, energy, and not a small amount of sanity to the alter of bad decisions that has about ten red-flags saying NOT FOR YOU, TURN BACK NOW, IF YOU CONTINUE DEBT, HEARTACHE, AND EGO DISILLUSION ARE WAITING (ignorance is bliss, as they say…)
And yet…(you knew this was coming)
My mind loves to unfurl around the strange discipline that teaches history, rhetoric, biography, politics, economics, spirituality, science, art – all in one. I couldn’t let it go. It’s my co-dependent thought-lover, because when my mind unravels through new words, hidden witticisms, and overall – new perspectives with which to digest the often bitter taste of all of the subjects above (when you learn about Nazi experiments, and the propaganda of war-art) I feel something in me wake up.
It’s this waking, this rising, that makes me feel as if I can’t let Philosophy go – not quite yet.
Philosophy is the bedfellow to the neurotic side of me – when I question, I very often forget to fear. And yet, it’s the neurotic side of me that helps me get to certain questions in the first place. It helps me collapse arguments – like the time where I jumped into an argument in a lecture hall packed with 250 people, and dismembered every aspect of an argument simply because it was stressing me out to waste time (which, is not the point, but I feel Diogenes would have approved…)
It’s time to re-educate myself. De Beavoir, Solnit, Sontag, Nin, Wollstonecraft – all await.
I’m not going to excuse a system that perpetrates the myth of ‘rightful’ Eurocentric dominance, (because, although it may be a strong claim, you can’t tell me that you don’t champion male, European thought dominance, and have a history and continued practice of priortising them in curriculum across the globe, if you tried to, that would be gaslighting) but, I am going to take what control I do have (rather a lot, actually, as it happens) to re-educate myself.
I’m going to fall back in love with philosophy – starting with Solnit’s ‘Wanderlust’ – a book given to me a year ago which I have barely opened, (intellectual apathy will be the death of me, not actual death…)
Stay tuned to see how my new philosophical adventure goes…
Oh, and while it’s no longer in the news, please don’t forget to check in on AAPI communities, co-workers, and friends around you. Educate yourself, be brave and reach out.
If you’re reading this, my thoughts and prayers are with you, AAPI peoples.
Stay safe, wonderful humans.
Let’s make the world a better, more inclusive place, yeah?