Sally Haslanger is a philosophy professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She has published on topics in metaphysics, epistemology and feminist theory, with a recent emphasis on accounts of the social construction of race and gender. Her talk will be on Feminist Epistemology, and is based on the text Women and Public Housekeeping by Jane Addams.
Abstract: The point has been made repeatedly by feminists that women, because they were largely denied access to the academy and burdened with household chores and childcare, were not in a position to write tomes. As a result, their contributions to our intellectual history may come in different forms, e.g., in poetry, song lyrics, essays, pamphlets or broadsides. (Rich 1966, Lorde 1984, Davis 1999). Contemporary analytic philosophy’s focus on argument allows us to displace the valorization of systematic treatises by great men to recognize the import and beauty of such short works, sometimes consisting of just a few lines of text. As an example, I will focus on a short essay by Jane Addams (winner of the 1931 Nobel Peace Prize), “Women and Public Housekeeping,” (1913). The piece is only 740 words and yet provides a compelling argument against the exclusion of women from civic life and leadership positions in a city. On Addams’ view, knowledge that women gain in those very everyday tasks that keep them out of the public realm is devalued, and yet it is exactly that knowledge that would enable them to do a better job than the men considered eligible for the role of city leaders. I will argue that the argument is an important exemplar of and early contribution to feminist epistemology.