Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Scruffy Philosophers, with and without neckties

In Philosopher’s Carnival #55, Thom Brooks links to Crooked Timber’s post about the relative scruffiness of philosophers, particularly analytic philosophers.

I just completed an unscientific poll of the folks hanging out near my office, and all agree that, yes, a good number of analytic philosophers are scruffy. And most of the remaining are dapper or natty. (Maybe sartorial language is different in the UK, but here in the States, we pretty much only speak of guys as being "scruffy.")

The few who are neither scruffy nor donning neckties—are the women.

Yes, there are actually some women who are analytic philosophers! You’d think that our scruffy colleagues had not yet noticed. We’re the neat and tidy ones wearing skirts and two shiny earrings—because studies of student evaluations show that students respect us less if we don’t.

It's nice that the guys can joke about their scruffy image, but as long as we're still get tenured at lower rates --grasping at straws--we publish and try to dress well, too, just in case it helps.


Sharon Crasnow said...

This reminds me of a story a friend of mine used to tell about when she was in graduate school. Apparently, a well-meaning male professor commented to her that if she spent less time on her hair and more on her philosophy she might just be a good philosopher. Apparently, the scruffiness of philosophers is due to a deeply held belief that looking good and doing philosophy are incompatible! Or to put it more succinctly: good hair or good philosophy? Make your choice!

Anonymous said...

In my experience, male philosophers tend to very self-conscious about their style. They tend to cultivate a specific costumed appearance before they take their lecture stage, be that natty or scruffy. I don't know as many female philosophers, so I can't make fashion genralisations about them. I suspect, like most women working in predominantly male contexts, they are dressed up and fairly conservatively.