Hi, here comes another question about feminism and philosophy and feminist philosophers. I am 30 years old and was a student of philosophy in Germany for 6 years before graduating to Master of Arts. Recently I read a book about 19th century's feminists and stumbled over a small notice concerning John St. Mill's "Subjection of Women". Although I would describe myself as a quite diligent student of philosophy (even in high-school) and also very interested in feminist topics, I never knew about this well known philosopher being a feminist as well. Now I ask myself three questions and hope you can help: 1) How can it be explained that even at university level the discussion of a classic philosopher like Mill never touches the bad F-word (i.e., feminism)? And who is to blame? 2) If even students of philosophy do not touch these topics if not accidentally altough it should be their genuine field of activity, how will other people, to whom the matter is quite distant, ever find out? 3) How many other important thinkers have written to this topic and I never found out? Thanks for your opinions.

Your experience may be more reflective of philosophy in Germany than of philosophy more generally. There are at least three relevant factors. German students specialize early while students in the US, say, take a broad range of courses in diverse fields during their undergraduate studies. In particular, they take broad (often mandatory) Western civilization courses that focus on philosophical materials that (i) integrate well with non-philosophical materials produced at or around the same time and (ii) are attractive and helpful to students through their relevance to present society. This relates to the second point, that universities in the US tend to reward (often quite directly) teachers and departments for attracting students; and it's rather easier to attract undergraduates to feminist themes than to, say, the philosophy of language. All this in turn reinforces the third point that German academic philosophy tends to be a bit narrow and conservative.

While feminism certainly has a presence in US universities, it tends to be segregated. We have women's studies departments, for instance, and the occasional philosophy course on feminism. Yet gender issues are still not well integrated into courses on moral and political philosophy, professional ethics, and the like. And likewise for philosophical publications. There are some very good feminist writings, but virtually all the major books on moral and political philosophy, professional ethics, and the like ignore the very interesting issues raised by the systematically differential life chances women and men have in virtually all existing societies.

For an accessible discussion of who else has written on this topic, I would recommend Susan Okin's books Women in Western Political Thought and Justice, Gender, and the Family. The former deals with some older, the latter with some more recent treatments of the subject (both feminist and anti-feminist). You can probably also find out a great deal through the internet. One easy way to start is with the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (plato.stanford.edu/entries/feminism-topics/ with various subentries). But I also found a lot of interesting stuff through a google search for (jointly) feminism and philosophy.

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