You probably thought this was about some other sexist academic, but it’s actually about Vincent Hendricks, a philosopher who posted this on his website. Unlike that other sexist academic, Hendricks at least had the decency to retract the fruit of his poor judgment and issue a formal apology. But this raises an important question: what’s the problem with displaying photographs of scantily clad undergraduate-aged women on a site affiliated with your name? One of Brian Leiter’s readers seeks to enlighten aggressively ignorant sexists like the one whose name I won’t mention:
I think it is easy for people to forget how intimidating professors can seem to undergrads. It’s interesting: I took a degree in a science field as an undergraduate, and I was a very successful student. But I left the field, and one reason was because of a required class I had with a male professor who used to make mildly inappropriate jokes about women in class and had cheesecake posters on the wall of his office. I found it deeply unsettling—the message was unequivocally that women, especially women about my age, were viewed in a sexual manner. This meant, to me as a young scientist, that I was not being viewed in the first instance as a promising intellectual star scientist. But this (being viewed as a promising intellectual star) was the only way I wanted to be viewed by my professors, and so I felt totally alienated from him, his class, and from the profession he represented. Since I had plenty of opportunities elsewhere, I left.
So it’s a basic failure to see that the world as we view it is not the world as undergrads view it–what some would see as a joke or as just a bit of boy-culture virtual masturbation, is what female undergrads can see as a rejection of how they want to be classed as students. Are they sexy schoolgirls? or are they smart, or even brilliant, potential logicians? (Or maybe they just want to be taken seriously as logic students?)
Why is it so hard for people to understand this?
Most likely because the people who don’t understand it don’t consider women to be people.