When the historical baseline is unjust you should avoid appealing to it to justify your objections to changing it. That's a simple moral maxim.
After more than 700 professional philosophers signed the call to action and petition to support the GCC, Brian Leiter weighed in against it. First, the good news is Leiter now supports the GCC, whereas before he seemed more reserved about it. The bad news is he criticizes our call to action by violating the simple moral maxim. For he writes, "About 16% of senior philosophers (i.e., likely keynote candidates) are female, and in some sub-fields, the numbers are worse. I am not going to decline invitations to keynote based on such a standard, and I imagine many others feel the same way."
Even so, Leiter's post is worth reading because he quotes from an eloquent letter from an unnamed "female philosopher:"
The causes of all-male conference lineups are various: age distributions, topic areas, social networks, self-promotion, salience, implicit bias, chance. I personally don't really care what the fine detail of the causes is—I actually think the effect of implicit bias specifically is vastly overplayed, whereas the weight of both conscious sexism and more institutional or structural facts about the field play a much larger role. Be that as it may, and aside from sheer bad luck, most of what's happening is in the general ballpark of unjustified exclusion-by-default, whether due to active malice or passive entitlement. That culture needs changing.... The ingrained sexism of professional philosophy is real. It is a problem that I (and women like me) have experienced directly, in small ways and large, at almost every point in our careers. I am tired of waiting for it to magically go away by itself....The GCC has been great for women in [my fields].....[Philosophy has terrible problems with institutional sexism, and I think the GCC has proved itself unexpectedly effective in shifting the balance of expectations in a positive way.
Strangely enough, after quoting this passage Leiter then immediately goes on to claim
"the petition noted above...goes well beyond the GCC in committing signatories to a bizarre quota:We call on all senior male philosophers to refuse invitations to keynote at conferences with two or more keynotes none of which are women.
So a male philosopher should decline a keynote if the other keynote at the conference is not female (unless he can get the organizers to invite a woman as the other keynote instead)." [The italicized part is Leiter quoting us.]
Let's leave aside that we are not proposing a "quota;" the petition puts a voluntary obligation on signatories. The context of the sentence quoted by Leiter helps explain what is at stake:
*One non-trivial way in which the status quo replicates and reinforces itself is through conferences and edited volumes that have only male, invited keynote-speakers and contributors
*Keynote speakers are visible examples of recognized leaders in the field. Among the functions of keynote speakers is to confer prestige on events and topics, and to provide a model for younger philosophers of how philosophy is to be practiced as a profession.
*In light of these considerations, we call on all senior male philosophers to refuse invitations to keynote at conferences with two or more keynotes none of which are women. (There will sometimes be extraordinary circumstances in which accepting an invitation may do more to respond to various dimensions of exclusion in philosophy than refusing, and there is no way to codify every possible circumstance. What we are calling for is a strong defeasible commitment not to participate in exclusionary conference line-ups.) The aim of this call is not the refusal, but the deployment of leverage, where it resides, so that inclusiveness becomes an integral part of conference-planning. Further, we ask senior male philosophers to carefully consider refusing invitations to conferences and edited volumes in which the line-up is disproportionately male.
The crucial sentence of the petition is this: "The aim of this call is not the refusal, but the deployment of leverage, where it resides, so that inclusiveness becomes an integral part of conference-planning." Leiter, however, wants to put the burden of change fully on conference hosts. That is, in effect, a plea to continue our shared complicity in collective negligence.
Mark Lance & Eric Schliesser