My professor always wanted to talk about why women hadn’t been writing philosophy for most of the history of philosophy. I thought this was a stupid topic of discussion because it was obvious to me why this was the case: they were busy doing the cleaning, cooking, and sexual servicing necessary to reproduce the lives of men so that they would have the time to philosophize.
But he brought this topic up during several of our one-on-one meetings, as if it was a mysterious puzzle to be solved. I felt his bringing it up in the first place was patronizing; he saw me as only interested in ‘women’s issues’ and thus felt obliged to cater to my special womanly needs. Moreover, by obsessing over the lack of women writing philosophy, he was erasing a long history of the women who do write philosophy by suggesting they don’t meet the threshold of ‘proper’ philosophy.
He brings up this subject again, this time in class. Many students shift uncomfortably in their seats; like me, few see the point in talking about it. We’re supposed to be talking about Spivak — the one female writer on the syllabus for our course in postcolonial theory — and we wish we’d stick to that.
My professor is obsessed with the Greeks, so like he does every lecture, he brings up Socrates. He asks what he imagines to be a poignant question: “why did Socrates hate his wife so much?”
A male student in the class says, “it’s because his wife was ugly!” Given that his comment had about as much intellectual rigor as a “yo mamma so ugly” joke, it should have been shot down, or at the very least ignored. But the professor takes up the comment seriously, and he and the male student begin discussing the matter.
Rightly outraged, a female student points out the ridiculousness of their reinforcing the idea that women exist to be beautiful, and that those who are not deserve to be hated, or at the very least relegated to the sidelines of history.
The male student responds by saying, “no, no, but Socrates’ wife was ugly – there’s historical evidence!” as if we’ve misunderstood his initial comment.
Later, I find the same male student at a sandwich shop. He says, “why do you girls get so angry in class? It’s unproductive for the discussion.” I lose my shit.