As Asian and Female, Why I Am Studying Philosophy
I read an article today on women in philosophy and how there are so few of them and that they are very likely to experience sexual harassment in their department. The article is located at http://www.salon.com/2013/08/15/philosophy_has_a_sexual_harassment_problem/ if anyone is interested.
Colin McGinn was a professor of philosophy at the University of Miami. Earlier this month, he was forced to resign from this position because a graduate student that he was working with reported him to the school for sexual harassment. We don’t know all the facts, but what we do know is that this kind of thing happens often. Philosophy has been a field of study that was only for White Men for a very long time. Now that women and other minorities have stepped into the field, the people that have dedicated their lives to philosophy are not sure what to do about it when they encounter someone who is physically different from them.
When I was taking my first philosophy class, I wanted to explore some Eastern philosophy, particularly some well-known Eastern philosophers. The only ones I could really find were the Asian sages that lived thousands of years ago (e.g., Buddha and Lao-Zi), and they are not even considered real philosophers (because everything Western is always better, right?). I also wanted to find names of African, Hispanic, or other Asian philosophers. There were not really any. Well-known female philosophers were also pretty scarce, although I would consider philosophers of other races more so, particularly female racial minorities. Let’s face it; philosophy has always been something that White Men dealt with.
After reading the article cited above, and being an Asian female aspiring philosopher, I became hesitant to go into such a field. Sexual harassment, and basically anything else sexual, is a weakness for me, particularly with the way I was raised. If I go into graduate school studying philosophy, then why should I go into it expecting to experience sexual harassment, invitation, molestation, or rape? I should not have to expect such things from my own colleagues, should I? The article made me hesitant that I am making the right choice at all for myself. Knowing that my field is not only rude but disrespectful toward women, why would I knowingly go into such a thing, a thing that would probably be torture for me?
If I knew that I would never be able to handle whatever my department would dish out at me, being Asian and female, I would probably go into something like English, and lose all chance I have to learn about something that I love. Right now, I can never imagine studying anything other than philosophy. So what should I do? Should I give up my dream in order to protect myself from all of those disrespectful and insensitive men that might hurt me one day?
No, I shouldn’t. Here are some of the reasons I, A. R. Vapor, am not giving up on my major:
1) I have spent too long figuring out what it is I want to study, since I am interested in too many things and I can never pick out just one. Philosophy studies and asks questions about everything that I have ever been interested in.
2) There are probably many more women, and other minorities, out there like me, unsure of whether to study philosophy, even though they love it, because they know that they will probably be harassed in their own department. The more women and other minorities come into the department, the more comfortable it will get, until finally there will be no harassment or weird stares at all at any future philosopher, no matter what their gender or race.
3) I decided long ago that I would never let another man control me, no matter who they are or how many there are. I have decided to study philosophy, and nobody is going to stop me except myself. I am going to stick to it, no matter how tough it gets. If I ever leave the study of philosophy, it will be because I have found another thing to pursue, not because I found a man or group of men intimidating.
Those are the reasons I am still studying philosophy after reading the article.