The Sex of the Text

I am honored.  I am mystified.  And I am amused.  I have just discovered that this blog has been listed by ZenCollegeLife as the fifth best philosophy blog out there.  Surely that’s overblown, especially given my sporadic posting.  But the best part is the description:

5.       Gone Public – Noelle McAfee is an associate professor of philosophy at Emory University and the associate editor of the Kettering Review.  His blog on philosophy, politics and public life is both insightful and touching, and rarely will you come across a public blog on these subjects with such inner sensitivity.

Given that the author of this listing has clearly never met me in person, I won’t be offended to have been mistaken for a man.  At least I am being mistaken for a sensitive man.  But I wonder what I should make of this mistake, which, having come across it, I investigated and found recurring elsewhere in the blogosphere.  Is it that the feminine name “Noelle” recedes behind the language of the blog, or is it the very fact of a blog that makes it seem written by a man?  Especially since often I can go on the offensive and tackle and take down bad statistics and logic and nonsense?   Or do we just presume that philosophy bloggers are men?  Or what?  What?

Style.  Okay, it’s a matter of style.  In reading a magazine or a news story I often, half-way through, think to myself that I can sense whether it is written by a man or a woman, so I flip back to the front to read the byline to confirm my sense, and I’m usually right.  So do I write like a man?  What would that mean?  Especially in philosophy?

I’m reminded of graduate school where one semester on Tuesdays the  analytic tradition seminar met, run by Ed Allaire, and on Wednesdays the continental tradition seminar met, run by Kelly Oliver. Now, I am not going to say that these two traditions are gendered; no, not at all. But the professors and their own training certainly were.  Allaire would often seize on a point and stand up and thrust his finger across the table and right into the face of  anyone who uttered something he deemed too stupid for words.  On the next day, Oliver would grant good points and make gentle suggestions.  Was this the same room?  The same chairs?  They seemed utterly different.

Years later I gave a talk at Ohio State in a cultural studies seminar.  At the end of my talk, I waited for the attack to begin, the philosophical method of looking for any weakness and tearing down the speaker.  But none was forthcoming.  They just don’t do that.

So I’m not sure what this all adds up to — and what it means for my writing to be mistaken for manly, even sensitively manly.  I’ll take it as remarkable enough to remark upon and leave it at that.