A few days ago, SWIP-NL, together with other researchers, sent protest letters to the organization and speakers of the G10 of Economy and Philosophy 2017. The program presents a predominantly white male line-up. In response, the spokesman of the organization, Boudewijn Richel, clearly states that he does not share our concern with gender equality and diversity practices:
“To say we need more women or we need more coloured people or whatever is not our aim and unfortunately not a priority.”
Since, so often, these important discussions remain in the private realm, we decided to respond publicly in hopes of starting a broader discussion. We also cite passages from Richel’s letter in order to clarify our response and comments. (The citations in our text are literal quotations from Richel’s response to our protest letter. We chose not to publish the entire response.) Feel free to contribute to the discussion in comments to this post.
Here’s how Richel’s response started:
“Dear feminists! Again We are confronted with strange voices and obviously you have not learned from the detailed letter our *** coorganiser of the G10 has written to you Last year!”
Dear Mr. Richel – These “strange voices” are merely the voices of people who share their concerns. In our view, it is you who did not learn from last year, when we raised the same problem about the all male and all white line up.
In defense, Richel exclaims:
“You are attacking a basic female organisation, I am the only man!“
The fact that Richel is the only male organizer in the apparently tripartite organization is of course by no means an excuse for the lack of diversity and gender equality in the program. The presence of women in an organization does not imply concern for diversity or knowledge of implicit bias in selecting speakers.
Richel explains that gender and diversity practices are not a concern, nor a priority of the G10: “The G10 is not a political vehicle to promote or disagree with any political ideas whatsoever . It is founded for the investigation of new ideas and follows the rules of science not the rules of gender politics So to say we need more women or we need more coloured people or whatever is not our aim and unfortunately not a priority.”
He seems unaware of the fact that, in looking for new ideas, people tend often to overlook those written by persons who are not white, male, heterosexual – and our list could go on.
Mr. Richel – Since you bring up the subject of “science” we would invite you to take some of these scientific tests on implicit bias: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/selectatest.html.
According to Richel, our criticism is not realistic:
“I think one has to face also a bit reality. There is only one Zizek and one Sloterdijk and they are not from Holland unfortunately . and their is only one Siedentop and we choose the two best dutch commentators to be part of the discussions unfortunately for them they are males.”
“One has to face a bit reality.” Indeed, Mr. Richel. The reality is that women and non-white people are generally not on a person’s radar when selecting speakers for an event, especially in the fields of philosophy or economics. The reality is that this also impedes the process of choosing “the two best dutch commentators”. We would have gladly assisted you in finding speakers, as we offered to do last year.
Generally, the topic of the G10 is the Future. Most philosophers and economists write and speak with an eye on the future. We are convinced that, if one would want to present an actual panoptic of what philosophers and economists have to say about the future in 2017 – and, therefore, give your audience what they are coming for – this can only be done if the criterium for selecting speakers is inclusive.
Mr. Richel furthermore suggests that we can discuss gender politics with other women philosophers:
“We booked for next year already an american Female ***, with her you can discuss all gender politics as you might know she does that much better as i can do.”
In all honesty, we think that in his response, Mr. Richel clarifies very aptly why he himself might want to discuss gender politics with someone more knowledgeable than himself – whether or not a “Female”.
Finally, Richel brings in a financial argument. He writes that diversity practices are a concern for students who go to funded universities; not for privately funded organizations such as the G10, which after all not supposed to worry about equal representation:
“Young dutch students go for almost free to university and therefore you might think it would be nice if we could promote a bit more coloured people from Africa or so since in case. The G10 has no funds anymore Government will donate money as she does with your university and the payment of your study. The G10 is a privately funded forum…”
In the same paragraph, he also reiterates the point that the selection procedure has been based on what, earlier on in the letter, he called “scientific” criteria, rather than political support for “minorities”: the organizers have looked for “quality” only.
Richel signs the letter with the request to share it with others: “Thank you very much for your consideration and it would be most helpful and honest if you send my answer attached to your letter to for instance to *** whom you addressed already on saturday evening without asking for our answer and to others you might consider !
sincerely yours ,
The only man in The G10 organisation who was awake on saturdayevening
Despite the petition and signatures, the organization G10 clearly states that gender equality & diversity practices simply have no priority. Please take this in consideration when deciding to attend this event as speaker or participant. Feel free to share your thoughts and continue the discussion!