Monday, 13 April 2015

Inaugural Issue of the Journal of the American Philosophical Association: 10 of 11 Authours Male, as Gender Imbalance Issues Are Shaking Up North American Philosophy Academia

Today, I received the announcement that the inaugural issue of the brand new Journal of the American Philosophical Association – JAPA as it will doubtlessly become known – is available. A nice touch of the editors and the publisher (Cambridge University Press) is that the issue will remain freely accessible the year out. Also, the issue features many a fine contemporary American philosopher, and displays a wide smorgasbord of tasty topics.

By ten (10) men and one (1) woman.

This in a time when North American academic philosophy is ridden by internal problems with regard to gender imbalance (also afflicting Europe, as well as Australia, Asia and Africa) and, allegedly (I say, as I watch these things from a distance), an academic social culture particularly hostile to women. For this reason, APA has instigated special codes, e.g. on sexual harrassment, and a task forces on inclusion and codes of conduct, and even a special committee on women in philosophy. Meanwhile, at blogs such as What Is It Like to Be A Woman In Philosophy and Feminist Philosophers, the documentation of the various aspect of this problem continues, as constructive actions, such as the Gendered Conference Campaign, attempt to push the situation ever so little forward.

This is when the JAPA editors decide that there is only one (1) female philosopher who may do for the eleven (11) authour line-up for its inaugural issue. And, to really ice the cake, in the editorial presenting the journal idea and the issue, editor in chief John Heil, does not touch on the subject with one word, albeit going through several other important value and ethics matters to secure a splendid journal and a splendid future for American philosophy. A powerful signal if there ever was one; if nothing else, of how strongly the JAPA editorial management simply doesn't care.

Now don't get me wrong – all of the contributors are certainly top of the line colleagues, no doubt about it, and their topics are relevant, engaging and, I'm sure, very well handled in their respective articles. But, of course, many other colleagues could very well have done as good a job (in their special areas) – and across North American philosophy academia, quite a few of those are women. Granting, to be sure, that not everyone is necessarily available, even for such a fine commission as inauguring the JAPA, I would still conjecture that a sizable portion would remain to take your pick from after such practical issues have been sorted.

But given the roaring silence on the topic from the JAPA editorial management, I suppose that they have simply not even reflected on this side of things. Thereby, they are actively promoting those very problems that the APA has been appearing to attempt to address the last decade or so, and which many academic philosophers witness about as increasingly serious. They are acting in support of perpetuating the image of the female philosopher as second rate and obscure; as perhaps capable, but not really that brilliant (*nudge, nudge, wink, wink*), at least not for this particularly splendid occasion.

Except for one (1).
Of eleven (11).

I do wonder why Martha Nussbaum has accepted this role, although I leave it to my US colleagues to sort that one out. Is it, as Mary Midgley dryly suggested recently, only when men go away to die in wars, that room can in practice made for the philosophy excellence of women? The inaugural issue of the JAPA certainly suggests as much.