The Problem with Egalitarianism
Jonathan Wolff is confused. In The Guardian, he states that he wants to end “the male domination of philosophy” because it is sexist. He then seems to assert that one benefit of having more women in philosophy would be that it would make it a kinder, gentler discipline:
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?
In short, he wants to fight against sexism while at the same time propagating a gender stereotype that is probably false. Are women “nicer” than men? I’m not so sure.
This happens a lot in these sorts of articles. On the one hand, it is asserted that there are no differences between men and women; therefore, every vocation, every position type, should reflect the country’s gender ratio. If the ratio is not reflected, it is the result of some injustice, again because there is no reason other than discrimination for fewer women in this or that vocation. On the other hand, it is asserted that having more women in a certain profession or vocation would make it better because it would add something that was missing. But if there is no difference between men and women, what could possibly be missing?
What about writing—a vocation that is one of the most naturally egalitarian and in which there should be the same number of men and women? The current obsession with gender—how many women won this prize, contributed to this magazine or newspaper, and so forth—has the effect of encouraging quotas and replacing the lauding of literary accomplishment with the lauding of moral dogma. As Matt Hunte tweeted in response to a recent article in The Nation, “I may be passing judgment (!), but I suspect a lot of stuff gets celebrated more out of moral fashion than genuine appreciation.”
This is bad for both men and women writers because it’s bad for literature.