Three Cheers for the Token Woman

by Harry on September 16, 2013

Anca Gheaus has a really nice paper up on her website (I think you need to join, but it is easy and free) called “Three Cheers for the Token Woman”. She observes that lots of people feel uncomfortable, or think that something is wrong with, being the token woman (at a conference, as a contributor to a volume, etc), whereas many of those same people think that it is important that positive steps be taken to ensure that, for example, conferences and volumes not have exclusively male participants and contributors. Her discussion is not exactly philosophy-specific, but is written in a context of the Gendered Conference Campaign, which, if it works, should result in more women being invited to conferences that they would not have been invited to in the absence of positive self-conscious measures. Here is how she poses the central question:

Now imagine that you, a woman, are invited to speak in a conference whose organisers openly subscribe to the gendered conference campaign. The mere fact that some people decided to do something about women’s inclusion in the profession has of course not changed the profession overnight; you may still be one of the very few women around, whose presence is primarily meant to signal an intention to change things. In less happy cases, the organisers may be motivated by an intention to conform to mounting social expectations of female inclusion; often you cannot be sure whether this is the case. And you may not be taken as seriously as you would should you be a man. In these senses, you are a token woman.

Moreover, you know that in the absence of the GCC you would probably not have been invited. Someone else – most likely a man – would now be speaking in your place. Your sex most likely played a causal role in you being invited and in this sense, too, you are a token woman.

Should you feel embarrassed, humiliated or otherwise unhappy with this situation?

Gheaus’s answer is a straightforward “no”. and she makes lots of interesting points – its really well worth reading, especially if you have ever been or expect to be in the situation she addresses.

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Trivia Question For Classicists

by John Holbo on September 16, 2013

Wikpedia says: “What is now the orthodox view of the piece [the Parthenon Frieze], however, namely that it depicts the Greater Panathenaic procession from Eleusis to Athens …”

But is that right? The Panathenaic procession ran … 20-some kilometers?

From Jon Mikalson, Ancient Greek Religion: “[participants in the Panathenaic procession] would go in a large procession from there [the city gate] one kilometer along the Panathenaic Way, through the Agora, and up to the Acropolis to Athena’s Great Altar. The priestess of Athena and the priest of Poseidon-Erechtheus would no doubt lead the way. They would be followed by others who served Athena’s cult, and then by a host of religious and government officials.”

Just curious if anyone knows if there was some marathon Panathenaic parade all the way from Eleusis to Athens. There was, I think, a procession from Athens to Eleusis for initiates into the Mysteries, so it’s not like Greeks weren’t prepared for a good trudge in a good cause.