How #ikschrijf started out

In 2015, 2 out of 10 books selected for the long list for the ‘Socratescup’ , the price for the best book in public philosophy in the Netherlands, were written by female authors. At the time, this seemed remarkable: aren’t there more good female philosophers around? Things seemed worse than we thought. Out of the 64 submitted books by publishers, only 6 were written by women. Furthermore, the price has never be won by a female philosopher. Did this have anything to do with the price? Not likely. Apparently there are just not that many women who publish popular philosophical work. 

Implicit bias

A father and son are in a horrible car crash that kills the dad. The son is rushed to the hospital. Just as he’s about to go under the knife, the surgeon says, “I can’t operate—that boy is my son!” How is that possible? Think about it for a second before you continue to read further.

Alright, here we go. The doctor was a woman. She was his mom. This riddle was actually not that hard. Yet, Mikaela Wapman and Deborah Belle, two psychologists at the Boston University, found that only 14 to 15% of the psychology students found the right answer. Curiously, even students with mothers who were employed or who were even doctors, struggled with the question. Self-described feminists did slightly better, but still 78 percent did not get the answer right. Unconsciously, we tend to associate a surgeon with the male sex - as we do with most professions that are considered ‘difficult’.

This is an example of an implicit bias. One that we are often not even aware of, but that unconsciously shapes our view of the world. It may be one of the most persistent challenges that feminism have to deal with.

But gender inequality is about more than implicit biases. It is about real numbers and measurable inequality too. Let's have a look at the Netherlands, where:

  • Over 66% of the journalism students are female, while only 35% of the working journalists are. (This hasn’t changed over the last ten years according to Mark Deuze, professor Media Studies at the University of Amsterdam.)
  • Only 8% of the editors-in-chief are female.
  • 75% of the guests invited in talkshows are men. 

The field of philosophy

Like described above, the situation within the field of philosophy is pretty similar. In 2015, only 6 out of 64 published books in popular philosophy were written by a woman. Yet, there are no less female than male students who start their philosophy bachelor at the university. Where do they go after they graduate? 

The main publishing companies told us they are not biased - at least not explicitly - when they receive a manuscript written by a woman. They believe, they read it with the same amount of interest, enthusiasm and trust. However, in many cases they do not sit back and wait for manuscripts to be sent in. Rather, they approach writers actively. These are authors they know, people who have written for them before -  predominantly male and white.

#ikschrijf essay competition

Talking about the matter will not make a change. If we want more women to be involved in philosophy and the public debate, we need to go and get them involved by taking action. We need to find an alternative to the ‘old boys network’. This is how the essay competition came into being. Our goal: to discover and encourage new female talents and introduce them to some of the best publishers and media outlets in the Netherlands.

We are certain that this issue is not limited to the Netherlands only and are happy to connect internationally. Please feel free to contact us!