Louise's Feminist Musings

Notes on feminist news & issues

Philosophy: The Case of Colin McGinn

It is difficult to make up one’s mind about something that is so out of reach. The whole story makes me sad. It is worthwhile to read McGinn’s blog. He comes across as simply narcissistic: narcissism would also be the only thing that could explain why he is blogging about this case in the first place (in the sense that a narcissist would do anything to not lose face publicly, including lying and being poetic about it). But I have never met the man, so I can’t judge really, I have just tried to make sense of this whole thing (you will see some comments by me on McGinn’s blog). McGinn paints a picture of there just being ‘banter’ between him and the female student…..and by saying that he has managed to make it sound as if women would not know the difference between banter and harrassment. That is what mostly makes me sad.

I like to joke around with men and I would not be opposed to student-supervisor/adviser relationships (it is risky because of the power-dynamics but if they are both responsible adults they would be aware of that and I know of examples of such relationship evolving to living happily ever after together). So the suggestion that joking around with female students is dangerous because the student might sue the supervisor over nothing…. is just nasty. It feeds the MRA-type argument that men are the victims here because they do not dare to say anything anymore out of fear of being falsely accused. In fact, as the NYTimes piece shows McGinn has sent stacks of unwanted sexual emails to the student which is nothing like ‘banter’. Even his initial supporters have changed their minds it says in the NYT (at least Steven Pinker has, just read the NYT piece).

Women do know the difference between a bit of joking or flirting and men are certainly aware of when they cross the line (if the woman is not participating with joy…well….). Yet, some men do cross the obvious line between fun and harrassment and that is what makes them guilty.

The NYTimes has picked up the story and manages to give a clear summary of what has been going on. They also touch on the whole discussion about the status of women in philosophy, a discusseion that has been going on for long but over the past few years got much more attention.
It has sometimes become ‘the’ topic of discussion nowadays, which is great.



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