The Future of Feminist Philosophy and Opportunities Squandered

When I recently said “goodbye” to someone whom I’m wild about, I screwed it up. Come to think of it, on that occasion, I didn’t do a great job of “hello” either. But the farewell was certainly a missed opportunity. I said something like “It means so much to me to have your friendship.” Which is true, but still.

Is there a correct way to say goodbye? Probably not. But some ways are surely better than others.

Goodbyes offer a host of opportunities, including opportunities to tie up loose ends; to open doors for future, perhaps more intense, engagement; to reflect upon and acknowledge one’s mistakes; to make amends for these mistakes and other transgressions; and to offer promissory notes with which to start afresh. Some goodbyes avail themselves of these opportunities; other goodbyes squander them. Some goodbyes leave one wanting to say, “I can reschedule this afternoon’s meeting;” alternatively, other goodbyes leave one wanting to say, “Enough already!”

Over the past week or so, the Feminist Philosophers blog has produced a series of posts (tendentiously designated as “not new” posts) to bid its farewell to the philosophy blogosphere. In my view, these farewell posts comprise (among other things) a series of missed opportunities.

The initial characterization of the group’s goodbye(s) was part of the problem insofar as it framed the blog’s departure as a regrettable consequence of the changed nature of the internet itself rather than as a result of the changed nature of feminist philosophy in particular and of philosophy in general. Indeed, a more apt characterization of the blog’s denouement would seem to be that although the internet changed and (feminist) philosophy changed, the Feminist Philosophers blog did not or at least not adequately in ways that mattered.

The Feminist Philosophers blog was always ableist. The past week offered opportunities for the Feminist Philosophers blog to address this ableism, including opportunities to:  

acknowledge that the blog undermined efforts to increase the accessibility of the APA;

admit that the blog’s apparently official position on ableist language was uninformed;

concede that the analytical work on implicit bias and stereotype threat that the blog persistently advocated and promoted is misguided and even counterproductive and, in addition, systematically excludes the forms of bias that disabled people (among others) confront in employment, housing, education, and so on;

own the fact that the Gendered Conference Campaign that the blog initiated was implicitly structured in ways that would predictably serve the interests of nondisabled white women philosophers almost exclusively;

offer apologies to the disabled feminist philosophers who were repeatedly attacked and publicly humiliated on the blog and even blocked from it when they pointed out the ableism of various posts;

and, in general, critically reflect on how the overarching feminist analysis of the blog—including, and perhaps especially, its feminist analysis of sexual harassment and other forms of sexual violence—completely ignored how addressing ableism and the rampant sexual abuse of disabled people required reconfiguration of, or at least significant adjustment to, that feminist analysis.

So far during the past week, almost none of the Feminist Philosophers bloggers has done any of these things in their nostalgic posts. In other words, the Feminist Philosophers blog has squandered opportunities to make amends to disabled feminist philosophers (especially disabled feminist philosophers of disability) and disabled philosophers more generally by acknowledging its own mistakes and transgressions. Indeed, by effectively ignoring and rendering inconsequential the work of this blog (and others) in its initial characterization of its own demise, the Feminist Philosophers blog has chosen to end its run on a note of self-importance and denial, the same note of self-importance and denial that guaranteed its obsolescence.

Enough already.

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