Dressing Freely Is Important For Women, But It's Even More Vital To Respect Their Thoughts

15/09/2016 13:58

Nicola Thorp, a former employee who was dismissed because she wasn't wearing high heels , created a petition and successfully persuaded the Parliament to launch the High heels and workplace dress codes inquiry. This is a significant call to end sexism on the physical side. However, I think it is the perfect time now for us to reflect about what "she" thinks.

I launched a petition because as a philosophy enthusiast after I discovered that there aren't any female philosophers on the "Religious Studies" syllabus, which is usually taught at schools under the name "philosophy & ethics". Sure, some people may think that I'm being "picky", but answer me this, can you name at least 5 philosophers? Yeah, I know, it's easy right? Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Descartes (I think therefore I am) and Nietzsche (God is dead)... You don't have to do 5, but can you name one or two female philosophers? Hmm... Awkward. Now some people would use the argument that female philosophers simply haven't achieved much. That kind of opinion is exactly what philosophy is not about - ignorance and taking things for granted.

Paul Jump from Times Higher Education appealed that male domination of philosophy 'must end'. The University of Cambridge dedicated a page for "Cambridge Women Philosophers". In the book "Women in Philosophy: What Needs to Change?", Sally Haslanger phrases it forcefully:

"There is a deep well of rage inside of me; rage about how I as an individual have been treated in philosophy; and rage about the conditions that have caused many other to leave."

Positively encouraging girls and women to take part in this subject is vital if they are to experience full intellectual freedom, to have their voices heard and to have a greater influence in today's world. However, how does the under-representation of women in the philosophy course help to achieve this?

Today, I'd like to tell you about the theory of Hannah Arendt, one of my favourite philosophers. In her report of the 1961 Eichmann trial in Jerusalem, Eichmann in Jerusalem, Hannah Arendt presented the story of Adolf Eichmann as a Nazi chief architect and executioner, who was kidnaped by Mossad agents and was brought back to Israel for trail. After the subsequent widely televised trial, he was executed.

In this example, there was a significant conflict between ethics and performing duties. During his trial, Eichmann defended himself: he was 'just following orders' for what he believed would produce a good outcome of 'racial purity' (ethnic cleansing); i.e. he was doing his duty. Philosopher Hannah Arendt put forward the concept of "the banality of evil ". She proposed that Eichmann had ordinarily accepted the final solution due to his oversimplification of the whole situation and his false thinking. He thought he was carrying out a duty which caused an unprecedentedly immoral outcome. Arendt further reinforced the idea that "desk murderers" such as Eichmann himself, were not motivated by evil or the desire to do bad things. Rather, it was a result of "sheer thoughtlessness--something by no means identical with stupidity -- that predisposed [Eichmann] to become one of the greatest criminals of that period". "Terrifyingly normal" people like him committed horrific crimes as a result of falsification, rather than the desire for bad things.

Arendt went further. In her Holocaust analysis, Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt developed Kant's idea of radical evil to describe evil done under totalitarian regimes which dehumanised people to living corpses without spontaneity or freedom, not for reasons such as self-interest but rather to reinforce totalitarian control.

This is just one fine example illustrating the thoughtfulness of what "she" thinks. There are so many more astonishing thinkers who have been contributing to our cause of pursuing Eudaimonia - the ultimate, purpose-fulfilling happiness which Aristotle argued can only be achieved by immersing oneself into philosophy. Of course, as a philosophy student, I would also like to thank Simone de Beauvoir, for laying the foundation of existentialism; Christine of Pisan, for refuting "the false conception" of Aristotelian understanding that "woman is nothing else than defective man ", a mutilated male (vir occasionatus) and to show that "the compliment given to her by Gerson, femina ista virilis , is applicable to her sex "; Mary Wollstonecraft, for reinstating the importance of education on gender equality in her work, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, among many others.

John Stuart Mill, 19th Century English Philosopher, famously said in his work On Liberty, that

"all the moralities tell [women] that it is their nature to live for others; to make complete abnegation of themselves, and to have no life but in their affections "

Time has changed but the struggle is still on. I would say the most important thing philosophy has taught me is to fight for the justice. It is our intrinsic duty to think from a different perspective and to remember half of the philosophy spectrum established by those we have relatively little knowledge of.

Sure, I don't want to remove Augustine, Aquinas and Kant etc from the syllabus, but I'd like all of us to have the opportunity to appreciate philosophers such as Simone de Beauvoir, Ayn Rand and Anscombe. I did not start this campaign because I am some kind of disgruntled left wing progressive who defends politically correctness at all cost. But at this time of political turbulence, young people are very aware of the importance of hearing views from more than one perspective. Together we should use collective human knowledge to build a more harmonious and tolerant future. It is essential that women's voices are heard as part of that process.

If you would like to sign the petition, the link is