Mothering and Philosophy

Noelle McAfee has a post at Gone Public on Women,Children, and Philosophy. She speculates that there are fewer women with children in philosophy, perhaps because philosophy is modeled more closely after the sciences than the humanities. Is the question whether women in philosophy have fewer children than other women with academic careers or is it that they have fewer children than women in general? If we are going to draw a conclusion about women in philosophy we need to see if it is true that women in philosophy have fewer children than women in the academy more broadly. I do not think we have evidence for that claim at this time. I am not even sure that we have anything that would qualify as anecdotal evidence. What we do have evidence for is that women in the academy are less likely to have children than women more generally and that having children is correlated with less professional success, if we equate success with academic rank. The primary source for this is research done by Mason and Goulden (references below).

I was the guest editor for the most recent edition (Fall 2007) of the APA Newsletter of Feminism and Philosophy in which several women philosophers share their thoughts on combining philosophy and family. I was motivated to put together this collection of papers because I am fascinated by the ways that philosophy and the other parts of life intertwine. This is a different sort of enterprise than searching for generalizations however. I think that one of the things that these papers show is the great difficulty of generalizing. Mothering and philosophy may not go together particularly well, but this is probably primarily because mothering and any demanding career is challenging. But I would love to investigate this in more detail. I have been dying to do exactly this sort of research about women philosophers particularly. Any ideas on how to start?

Mary Ann Mason and Marc Goulden. “Do Babies Matter (Part II)? Academe 90.6 (Nov. 2004a): 10-15.

Mason and Goulden. “Do Babies Matter? The Effect of Family Formation on the Lifelong Careers of Academic Men and Women.” Academe 2002.

Mason and Goulden. “Marriage and Baby Blues: Redefining Gender Equity in the Academy.” Annals, AAPSS 596 (Nov. 2004b).

Mason and Goulden, “Do Babies Matter?” 2002.

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2 Responses to Mothering and Philosophy

  1. There is a collection of essays about academics and making families which I really like: The Family Track by Constance Coiner and Diana Hume George, 1998.My memory fails with the details but I know that one piece cited a study which compared how many female full professors in the humanities had children with how many of the males did. The difference was astonishing.

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