Jonathan Wolff*1 “How can we end the male domination of philosophy?” http://www.theguardian.com/education/2013/nov/26/modern-philosophy-sexism-needs-more-women
Philosophy remains the most male-dominated discipline in the humanities, both in its population and its combative methods. Instruction in philosophy often consists of being reprimanded for mistakes so small you need a magnifying glass to see them. At its worst, philosophy is something you do against an opponent. Your job is to take the most mean-minded interpretation you can of the other person's view and show its absurdity. And repeat until submission. Certainly the method has the merits of encouraging precision, but at the same time it is highly off-putting for those who do not overflow with self-confidence.
One tutor of mine, the very talented Hidé Ishiguro, who broke through many barriers to rise to her position as reader in philosophy, had a different approach. Sitting on the edge of her chair to pay full attention to what we said, she would take our stumbling comments, tidy them up, give them back, and tell us how they related to the history of the subject. She would observe that the views we were advancing, even if wrong, had been held by great philosophers of the past. Instead of feeling that we had embarrassed ourselves once again, we came away with the feeling: "I can do this!". Rather than a pedantic scrap over the details, her tutorials were a model of politeness and encouragement. Which makes me wonder: if philosophy is to be more "gender friendly", do philosophers have first to act, well, if not in more "ladylike" fashion, then at least with greater decorum?
What was it that produced such a superb cohort of female philosophers, unmatched, I think, by anything we have seen since? Of course with small numbers it could be pure chance, but Anscombe, Foot, Murdoch and Midgley were all born in 1919 or 1920. They arrived in Oxford as undergraduates at the outbreak of war. Warnock came up a few years later, in October 1942, and she reports that Oxford felt "empty". Many of the male dons and students had left, either to join the army or crack codes at Bletchley Park. Could it be that these women were able to start and root their academic careers simply because they received the level of attention their talents deserved? When the men returned, these women were already more than their match. If they had been born 10 years earlier or later, would they have still received the support needed to break through a male-dominated field?
Brannon Hancock “Mary Warnock” http://www.giffordlectures.org/Author.asp?AuthorID=240
Wikipedia entry on “Mary Warnock, Baroness Warnock” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_Warnock,_Baroness_Warnock
G. E. M. Anscombe
Jane O'Grady “Elizabeth Anscombe” http://www.theguardian.com/news/2001/jan/11/guardianobituaries.highereducation
Jane O'Grady “Philippa Foot obituary” http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/oct/05/philippa-foot-obituary
“Mary Midgley” http://www.giffordlectures.org/Author.asp?AuthorID=223