We report with sadness, We are sad to report…

Doing Public Philosophy

As we announced April 23, Feminist Philosophers is shutting down. This is one of a series of posts by FP bloggers looking back on the blog and bidding it farewell.

I was invited to join Feminist Philosophers in December of 2007, toward the end of its first year. I had written a report to the APA Committee on the Status of Women about the numbers of women in philosophy in the United States, which seemed to be about 21% of postsecondary instructors in philosophy according to the National Center for Education Statistics (up from 1992 stats suggesting we were 13%!). Jennifer Saul emailed me and said that at FP, I could bring attention to the status of women in philosophy to a wider audience. I didn’t realize how true that was. I didn’t know that the blog was already getting 20,000 views a month, that it would eventually reach closer to 200,000 views a month.

I learned in short order that contributors to the blog were spending enormous amounts of time and emotional labor on nights, on weekends, between classes, before dawn. They were writing each other massive amounts of emails to each other about posts, about comments, about what future topics to discuss, about their responsibilities. Jennifer Saul read everything, replied to all. I engaged gradually, not publishing very regularly until a couple of years in. I entered those vast and earnest oceans of conversation.

Effort didn’t always translate into success. But the correspondence of the women and men who blogged here was an honor to witness. They demonstrated courage when I was hesitant to be so public. They demonstrated receptivity to each other’s points of view when I was still sorting out what I thought. And they kept working, raising to awareness topics that might otherwise be overlooked.

The overlooked can easily include the passing of feminist philosophers. I started volunteering to write our obituaries more often. Jean Harvey. Sara Ruddick. Claudia Card. Sandy Bartky, so soon after Claudia. Vicky Davion, who was just nine years older than me. My write-ups fell into a pattern: We report with sadness. We are sad to report.

I think it’s right to wind this blog down. Many of us are doing so much elsewhere and doing less here. I agree with Jenny Saul and Audrey Yap that the Internet has changed so much that a lot of the purposes this blog used to serve are served well in other places. Public discourse is different now. But I find with some surprise that I regret the shutdown means ceasing these recognitions of lost feminists. I don’t know if there is a better place to pause and say, to those willing to attend, that a feminist philosopher has died, that she gave us her time and labor, that she was courageous, that she was receptive, that she kept working.

And of course, those are just the tenured, well-published individuals that we notice. Feminist goals and philosophical aims are realized by prominent individuals sometimes, but far more often require the work of unknown and countless people, in solitary and collective,unrecognized effort. I realize that’s how most of the work of life gets done.

Individually, we each need some recognition, some acknowledgement that we’re here, if only to continue broad-based struggles. The nicest thing about joining a blog called Feminist Philosophers was that its very title said, with some presumption but with puckish impunity, that we’re here and that we are numerous. A blog asserting the presence of feminist philosophers is a declaration of our existence, and our commenters and contributors pushed us to more and better forms of recognition. Readers have taught me to pay attention more deliberately, even to differences, especially to differences.

I notice you, feminist philosophers who pour invisible hours into efforts. I bet that you are giving, wherever you are. I hope you take vacations. I appreciate some fraction of how much you’ve done. I know you keep working. Take turns and take breaks. Be courageous. Be receptive. Recognize each other.

We support with gladness. We are glad to support.

(Thanks, Jenny.)

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