UPDATE: The University of Edinburgh’s Philosophy Society have now distanced themselves from the event. It is still going ahead, however, it will no longer be hosted by the Philosophy Society directly. The original Facebook event (linked in this article) will be deleted shortly.

Throughout history, white men have successfully marginalised every other demographic. As a privileged, London-born, privately educated, heterosexual Caucasian male, I can understand why readers may dismiss the following out of hand. Regardless, a serious conversation needs to be had about a society event taking place later this week.

On 6 April, Edinburgh’s Philosophy Society is hosting a discussion on feminist theory. But there’s a catch; men aren’t welcome. In fact, not just unwelcome, but banned outright.

Edinburgh University Philosophy Event

I fully respect the need to create spaces where everyone feels comfortable and able to speak freely, but the solution should not be rooted in barring men. Inclusion and diversity are to be celebrated, encouraged, and in 2018, expected. Institutions like the Royal Burgess Golfing Society still forbid female members, and I disagree with that entirely too.

This is a university event. Members of the Philosophy Society, irrespective of gender, pay £8 for annual membership. It may not be a fortune, but it should guarantee the right to attend any society meeting in a given year. If there are fewer events for men then perhaps they should pay less. Interestingly, both the new and outgoing presidents are men. I wonder if they are banned too.

Clause 3.5 of the Philosophy Society’s Constitution (as required by EUSA) states, ‘The society believes that discrimination…based on a person’s gender…is detrimental to the society, the university and wider society, and will not be tolerated.’ The Philosophy Society is clearly breaching this, not just tolerating but encouraging gender-based discrimination. Importantly, this exclusion is indicative of an issue that goes far deeper than the subversion of a clause buried in EUSA’s rulebook. It encapsulates the, ultimately unhelpful, ‘echo chamber’ culture developing at universities.

The Philosophy Society’s Feminist Conference description raised the fact that women in the UK hold only 29% of full-time academic positions in philosophy. This needs to change, but the role of men is crucial in finding a solution, as movements such as Emma Watson’s HeforShe have highlighted.

Diversity, in terms of gender, race and opinion is so important. The best ideas are formed after the dialectical process of debate and disagreement. As Picasso wrote,

‘there is only one way to look at things until someone shows us how to look at them with different eyes.’

I genuinely applaud the efforts of the society to raise awareness about feminist issues within philosophy, but in this instance, they have really missed the mark. My intention in writing this is not to single out the Philosophy Society, but despite serious effort, I couldn’t find another student group hosting such a brazenly exclusive event.

As much as I am interested in feminist and womanist philosophy, I won’t be attending the event. Excluding men from conversations about feminism is counterproductive, but unfortunately, my penis and I will be staying at home.

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