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18 June 2013


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John Protevi

I am reminded of the proverb, "Hypocrisy is the tribute vice pays to virtue." At least A knew that he was expected to provide a good gender balance in the volume.

Jenny Saul

Eye-opening. Despite helping to run the GCC and having recently published a book on lying!

Irem Kurtsal Steen

I wish you would expose A's identity. What's the argument against doing that?

Peter Devereaux

If your "friend" (hopefully not considered by you a friend much longer!) was willing to lie so blatantly in this case, then I worry that if he was ever confronted, he would most surely say: "What? I never said I invited those people!" To which you could respond that there is a special place in hell for those who enshroud a lie with a further lie.

Rebecca Kukla

I am generally really against 'name and shame' tactics but this is such a concrete, objective, clear-cut norm violation that I totally wish you'd just say who this was. So I am with Irem above.

Julie Klein

Not surprising but certainly depressing.


"I wish you would expose A's identity. What's the argument against doing that?"

I suppose Berit is concerned about retaliation?

Eric Wiland

I also think it's unwise to expose A's identity. But I do want to know the name of the Hollywood actress!

Kate Norlock

I suppose Berit is concerned that the lie a particular friend tells over drinks will become a viral internet news item in philosophical networks. There's something to be said for maintaining relationships even when one of the relata lies. The anonymous anecdote does a relevantly similar, near-enough job. And the friend has already published the collection, so this isn't like the GCC, insofar as public discussion won't change the results of the biased behavior.

This anecdote depresses but does not surprise me. Usually, no matter how gently or roughly, pointedly or subtly I ask a man in philosophy if he's invited women to participate in [project of all men], I get a response that amounts to "the problem is other people." The women all turned him down, or there are NO women in the subfield, or they need my help finding women in this highly specific area. In the past, when I've gotten the last one about conferences not too late to change, I always used to drop everything, locate women for them, and then watch them spectacularly fail to invite any of those identified. Now I just tell them, "Try harder."


I'm not in favor of publicly shaming this person for lying to Brit. That would be disproportionate to the offense done. Haven't you ever lied about something you were embarrassed about? It happens, it's human, it's not great, it's not morally ok, but really -- you want to name and shame someone about *that*?

Reviewers of the book should and hopefully will call attention to the terrible gender imbalance of the contributors. The GCC could do a post highlighting this as well. The editor of the book has produced a public product that fell short in an important way, and the book and the editor are appropriate objects of public censure for *this*.

But for a private indiscretion made in a bar. I dunno. If Brit thinks that the offense warrants to ceasing to be this person's friend, that is her business. But I don't see the value in publicly humiliating someone for this.

Eric Brown

I do hope that Brit sends this person an email, noting the number of questions he answered incorrectly and expressing concern about his hearing. She might add that he should see an audiologist lest his incorrect answers in the future be reported as lies to cover up sexism.

Dustin Tucker

I'm not sure whether I think it's right to name the editor--I agree, for instance, that it's a clear-cut norm violation, but I'm not as sure that uncertainty is the main reason to refrain from revealing a person's name--but I also don't think we have any reason to think he was lying due to embarrassment. It could, for instance, have been simply because he thought that the topic was a waste of his time, and that the quickest way to move past it was to lie. That would change the transgression to failing to recognize (or perhaps recognizing but failing to act on) the importance of gender balance in published volumes. But it's still a failure that was revealed in a private conversation in a bar, and that might be important.

Dustin Tucker

Well, over drinks, at least.


The problem isn't just lying. The behavior is insulting. It is insulting to Brit, and to all the women who work in the area in question. The action expresses a lack of respect for merit and the talents and accomplishments of women. It is profoundly sexist. It is insulting to those of us who are working to make the profession more fair and equitable. I'm insulted!

Anonymous Grad Student

Last year I was asked to review an edited volume, that was put together by a fairly well-known philosopher (A) in my own core area. The publisher sent me a copy of the book and I immediately noted that there were no female authors included in the volume. This is extremely common in my area (indeed, in philosophy more generally, but my area is among the notoriously unfriendly fields). I resolved rather quickly to say a bit about this shortcoming in my review. My advisor, when consulted, suggested that I might do some asking around to a few prominent females in the area, to see if any of them had been invited. So I emailed a few folks, and received the same reply from each of them: "I do not know why A did not invite me to contribute to his volume. I have been working on _______ for some time. Perhaps A did not feel my work relevant to his project." Later in the year, while still working on my review, A came to our department to give a talk. He and I were chatting in the hallway just afterwards. He mentioned his edited volume, and I commented that I was reviewing it. How great! he said. He invited me to contact him should I have any questions at all about the volume. I did have a question, I replied. I noticed that there were no female authors included in volume. Was there an explanation?

"I contacted a bunch of folks, but all of the women were just too busy."
"Really? Like, what about B or C?"
"B declined. I don't think that C ever got back to me."

But of course, this is a lie. I had emailed earlier in the week with B, and she had given the reply I noted above. She did not know why she had not been asked to contribute. Perhaps, she speculated, A felt that her work in the relevant area was somehow not ... relevant? to the volume.

Catarina Dutilh Novaes

Moral of the story: next time a conference organizer or volume editor plays the 'I invited every woman in the field' card, we WILL check! Also, I think it would be totally appropriate to ask them (in public fora such as blogs etc.) which women they invited and who declined the invitation. (Although there might be worries concerning the privacy of these women? I don't know, just brainstorming here.)

Michael Kremer

I am not sure I understand the law here... but were Brit to name and shame the individual, and were this to substantially affect the individual's professional reputation, given that she does not have a tape-recording of the conversation or other proof that it happened, would she not be liable to some sort of lawsuit? (Defamation of character, perhaps?)


What a shameful story Brit. But thanks for sharing it--stories like these need wider airing for the good of the profession. I agree with Michael Kremer though that it's best not to wade into potential legal territory here by "outing" this guy.

Roberta L. Millstein

We can debate about shaming vs. not shaming, but let's not lose sight of the real lesson here: We should not accept "I invited women but they all turned me down as an answer," either because it might not be true or because even if it is true it's not sufficient (keep trying -- there are resources out there to help. Ask others).


I 100% agree with Roberta.

Aaron Garrett

This is really depressing. And what Sally says is important -- its not just a lie but an insult. Thank you Berit for posting this and "Anonymous Graduate Student" for your post and for checking up on the lies.


There was a conference with an all-male lineup. When confronted with this, the conference organizers apologized, saying they had contacted every woman in the subfield, but they had all declined. They even specified they had looked at the category in PhilPapers and invited every woman who had published in the field (as indicated by the PhilPapers results), but all turned them down. Now, my name was in this list in PhilPapers, even on the first page of results. Yet they did not contact me, so I know for a fact this was a lie.

Aaron Garrett

That's even more depressing and insulting, that they would think so little of the work of their colleagues that they would claim to have just gone down a list with no further thought, and then lied about it. I'm switching to a history department.

Dan Haybron

Agree completely about the shamefulness of the editor's (and others') behavior and the gravity of the problem it illustrates; really discouraging. But offhand, the idea of publicly naming him does not seem to me a good one, and not mainly because it might be imprudent or disproportionate. It strikes me as, or in the vicinity of, a high-tech form of the stocks and pillory--punishment by public humiliation and ridicule. Except that the internet makes it easy for anyone, not just the community or gov't, to do the shaming. I'm not certain exactly why that sort of thing is wrong, but it seems to me disrespectful and unbecoming. And while I think I'm a pretty decent guy, I'd rather not live in a world where my jerkiest moments are liable to be broadcast to the crowd.

Diego Machuca

I'll just tell you about my own case because I've been asked about this by at least two persons. So far I've edited three volumes. In one volume (I), there's only one paper by a female scholar and in the other two (II & III) none. Regarding I, there was another female scholar involved but her paper wasn't accepted. Volume II was a collection on ancient skepticism and I invited four female scholars and they all turned me down (one had accepted and told me she wouldn't contribute a paper at the eleventh hour). Volume III is on disagreement and skepticism and I invited the only two female scholars who I knew had worked on the topic and both turned me down. I could give the names of the seven female scholars in question and I think I still have their emails. Now, I'm not denying that there are male scholars who behave this way; my point is just that this sort of thing does happen and that people usually assume one is a bullshitter, which really pisses me off.

Diego Machuca

Why on earth isn't that enough? Does one have an obligation to do so? Is one responsible for the decision of those who were invited and turned one down?

Cathy Legg

I've had the same experience with appointments. Once in a professional meeting where the delicate topic came up of why so few women had been hired in Australasia in the previous few years, one Head of Department jumped in and said "We would have really *loved* to hire a woman but none applied." I was thinking, "Hang on, I applied for that position...." But felt that jumping up and saying that would be viewed as SO UNCOOL, so I didn't. I think what the Head really meant was, "No women who had the 'right' characteristics / were working in the 'right' areas applied". But that is a whole different proposition and should be stated honestly.

Kate Norlock

Contra Diego Machuca, I don't think people usually assume one is a bullshitter. If that was the case, then the anecdote in the original post wouldn't be surprising so many who are writing in.

I would add that inviting those one thinks of is understandable, and I have done that too, several times, but we're not doing enough when we only invite those we think of. Biases are not up to us, and they are affecting the list of whom we think of.

I say this not as a reply *to* Diego in particular, since his reasons may be complex and sundry, but I would say, after reflecting on his contribution, that "I invited all the women" (or both) may unconsciously, unintentionally, really reflect the belief that we have invited all the women we thought of -- and if that's the case, that is a problem. If this is justified by a further assumption that the women we think of are, e.g., the most influential in the field, this can be circular and self-fulfilling. Again, I've done the same thing, so I'm not wagging my finger at bad people here. I'm saying we need to do more.

Jeff Bell

Yes, one has an obligation to do so. If you sincerely try hard enough you will end up with a balanced volume. There are no excuses otherwise in my opinion.

Neil Levy

Diego, no one is suggesting you are responsible for the decision of those who turn down invitations. It may be true, for a variety of women, that one needs to try extra efforts to get women to contribute than men (possible explanations: being in a minority means the bigger name women get more invitations, women may take family, committee and teaching commitments more seriously than men and a result have greater burdens, women may less confident about letting work be published before they have polished it longer... I have heard anecdotes along these lines, but I don't know if they are true). That entails that people like you who make some effort to invite women will end up with unbalanced volumes. The solution: try harder! Invite more women. If you can't think of more women (as you say) ask other people if they know any. There are helpful list of women working in various areas which a quick google will turn up. There is philpapers as a resource to find people. Why isn't it enough to do what you did? Because women are underrepresented in philosophy and that's a burden for those women who are working in it and a problem as a whole, and we all have an obligation to do something about that.

Helen De Cruz

Diego: I do not underestimate the problem you are facing, but I think that we do indeed have a duty to make an extra effort for 2 reasons. Recently, I surveyed a bunch of handbooks/companions/readers for philosophy of religion, and found that the figures there were even worse than for philosophy of mind. Typically, there was only one female author per volume. What struck me was that the majority of these female authors were very well-known, famous people like Eleonore Stump or Linda Zagzebski. Most men were also senior, but some male authors were more junior.
I think 2 important heuristics operate when we invite authors to an edited volumes: who's famous and has written about this, and who is in my network? The first heuristic favors famous men and women. Because of implicit biases, it might even favor men disproportionately, as men come easier to mind than women. The women that do come to mind are then often very well-known. Of course, if you invite those women, chances are many other people have done so too, and as a result senior women are overcommitted, probably for the same reason as senior men are overcommitted. Anecdotally, I find that both senior men and women are very likely to reject an invitation to contribute to a conference or write in a volume.
The second heuristic, 'who's in my network' favors men disproportionately. Women are less likely to be part of networks for a variety of reasons. This might explain why there were junior men, but not junior women, in the volumes I surveyed. (With junior I do not mean grad student, but any form of untenured person).
So the solution is that one could invite women who are not senior, but more junior. One could of course also invite more junior men. This would be good for many reasons: it would help the disadvantage that women experience in terms of networking, and it would also provide us with some fresh perspective. Famous authors often do take care to write/present something truly novel, but one can already have a fairly good idea what their take on a given issue will be. Inviting junior women who published in the field of your volume would avoid this problem.

John Protevi

Yes, though "junior" might also include just tenured Assoc Profs too, I think. IOW, "junior" can be relative to the other invitees rather than an absolute like "non-tenured."

Helen De Cruz

You are right, John. Tenure doesn't automatically come with renown, and I was thinking mainly about the non-renowned, non-super-famous philosophers who have something interesting to say. Indeed, even full professors can fall under this category (for instance, those who are members of unprestigious, teaching-oriented or very small faculties).


I am not at all surprised. For some this has become standard lip-service talking point.

"Of course we invited a bunch of women. Of course we looked for minority candidates. We tried ever so hard, but it's close to impossible to find them, and if you do the refuse!"

That's the myth being promoted. It makes it easy to claim diversity as a priority and then not actually do anything.

Rebecca Kukla

This is such a depressing thread.


“I invited every woman working in the field. They all turned me down.”

'This is the typical “excuse” editors and organizers of all- or almost-all-male conferences and volumes present in lieu of a defense. On previous occasions some of us have argued that this is a bad excuse.'

Aside from the alleged lying incident which is (understandably) the main point of this post, what are some of the arguments that it's a bad excuse to claim to have invited every woman working in the field and been turned down?

Thank you for your time.

Berit Brogaard

Hi Brad, The problem is that "every woman working in the field" is a restricted quantifier, which means that the domain is contextually determined. So, the excuse ends up being equivalent to "I invited every woman I happen to know is working in the field", "I invited every woman who is a full professor and who is working in the field", "I invited every woman who is working in the field and who is always invited to these things", etc.


I suspect funding might well be conditional on discrimination according to race, creed, sex, etc, and violations might put the funding at risk?

That might be one useful avenue to pursue.

And I agree that such sexism is reprehensible. Even if the lie about it was less than fully public, why not identify them just as publicly as the sexism they perpetrated?

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