Men, Families, and the Academy: Doing Our Part

by Kevin Timpe

To reaffirm a statement made by Kristen Irwin (whose excellent series on women and family in the academy appears on the APA blog),

This is not to say that fathers do not also face such issues, but rather to acknowledge that the socialization of American women often has the effect of shifting the burden of caregiving to the mother.

I know that I have benefited—as a father, as a husband, as a male academic—from a system that unfairly advantages men at the expense of women. I in no way intend this as a “Yeah, men have it rough too” post, but rather I want to talk about concrete ways that men can help work toward equity in the profession. And I want to hear, in the comments, of more ways that those of us that speak in favor of inclusion can take active steps to practice what we claim to care about.

In order to achieve gender equity, we need to think about a wide range of our practices. Here I want to focus on a few that I think could contribute to the larger climate change needed. I’m going to try to highlight issues across the spectrum of our professional duties, but I do not intend the list below to be exhaustive.

  • Advocate for, and spread awareness of, paternal leave policies when spouses, partners, or colleagues have children or when they adopt. If you’re a faculty parent, take that leave! When you’re on paternal leave, actually use that leave to be with your child and help your spouse, rather than as an excuse to get more research done. By doing this, we can not only take some of the pressures off our spouses regarding childcare, but also make it more socially acceptable in our universities to see parental leave as an opportunity for equity rather than a version of the “mommy penalty.”
  • Take an active role in helping various university power structures become aware of what are often structural inequalities. To use some of the language that Irwin introduced, work to change the “ecosystem.” Raise the issue that female faculty’s course evaluations show evidence of different standards. Start a discussion, within your department and with your school’s rank and tenure committees, about how women faculty often are subject to higher service expectations.
  • Get involved with a university committee where you could help improve the campus’s ecosystem, even if this comes at the expense of your own writing time. Be willing to serve the guild and your female colleagues by refocusing some of your time to efforts to improve campus climate.
  • Think about the way your department’s or school’s schedule might make things more difficult for those faculty (men or women) who have children. Don’t only schedule talks, for instance, in the late afternoon or evening when they’re more likely to conflict with childcare responsibilities, which currently fall disproportionately on women but also affect faculty fathers.
  • When organizing a conference, workshop, or speaker series, make sure to be inclusive. Get the societies that you’re involved in to take similar steps. Use the UPDirectory.
  • Pay attention to potentially problematic patterns in your own scholarship. Make sure you engage and cite the work of female philosophers, as well as the work of other underrepresented groups. Be inclusive as an editor. My first edited collection was, unfortunately, horrible in terms of inclusiveness. Don’t be like that temporal stage of me.
  • Be willing to learn from your own mistakes, even if they were well-intentioned. I’m reminded of a conference session that I organized at an APA meeting a few years ago. While I was attempting to be inclusive, I was unintentionally contributing to stereotype threat. I’m thankful for those friends that pointed it out to me and then helped me organize a better session without the problems of my original efforts. Diversify your syllabi. Co-author with your female colleagues and students.

I think that most of these scholarly dimensions have been discussed a fair bit in the past few years in the discipline’s blogosphere. But don’t merely become aware of these steps that you could take. Follow them. I hope that other male faculty will join me in working to promote justice.

 

Kevin Timpe works primarily on issues in the metaphysics of free will, philosophy of religion, and philosophy of disability. He recently started an advocacy company, 22 Advocacy, for improving the inclusion of children with disabilities in local schools. Find out more about Timpe on his website here.

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The aim of this series is to provide APA members with a forum to discuss issues in philosophy from a variety of sources and perspectives. If you would like to submit a contribution, we’d love to hear from you. Please contact us via the submission form here.