Monday, August 22, 2011

What Does a Philosopher Look Like?

I'm at a philosophy conference outside of the US. I think there may be even fewer women in philosophy in this country and its neighbors than in mine. The conference hotel is small, and philosophers don't look quite like most of the other guests. There are no nametags, and the conference just started today.

I got on the elevator this morning, on the 6th floor, to go down to breakfast at the designated time. On the 5th floor a young man got on, sporting a ponytail and sport coat (i.e., our uniform). On the 4th floor, a white-haired man got on. The young man turned to the older man before the doors were even closed and asked him "Are you a philosopher? Are you here for the conference?" (the lingua franca is English) and introduced himself.

I may as well have well been wallpaper. Female, and visibly pregnant to boot. No chance of my having deep thoughts or being someone worth knowing. Or--maybe I'm just overly sensitive, and it was the white hair that made the young man snap to. Someone 10 or 15 years older than me might be someone worth schmoozing with. Then again, I don't often see my white-haired female colleagues getting that treatment, either.

2 comments:

Jason Hills said...

The general problem is enough to justify being sensitive, and you shouldn't begrudge the sentiment in the particular case.

E Strickland Au said...

Sometimes, I also wonder if I am just being sensitive.