Toutes les femmes célibataires
by jemma margaret
In French, if you aren’t married, divorced, widowed, or PAXed then you are célibataire. I assume the word is left over from some good old Catholic wishful thinking.
Before moving to New York, my father uncharacteristically warned me that there is an excess population of 1 million single women to single men in that city (a statistic I never bothered to verify). According to Men’s Health (because who else would bother taking such statistics), San Francisco, where I was moving from, ranks just below (or above, depending on your viewpoint) New York.
In all honesty, I do not think this blog has any single women readers, but if one happened to pass by and wanted advice on being grossly outnumbered by the opposite sex, I would give them this piece of advice.
The disparity of women in the sciences gets a lot of press, and I have heard so many times about girls and mathematics. However, in practice I haven’t noticed so much of a gender gap. Yes, all the mathematicians I study are men, but I can spout off a good list of five dead female mathematicians (and I know a few living ones), while I cannot think of one female philosopher EXCEPT for Simone de Beauvoir, and she was a feminist to boot (one can see why).
Why is no one up and arms about this? Maybe because we all know philosophy is, ahem, useless? That’s not to speak poorly of philosophy. If I am not completely misinterpreting Aristotle, he thought the uselessness of philosophy was one of it’s strengths. Practicality was for the proles. Also the women, apparently.
I’m sorry, what does any of this have to do with Paris?
A week ago, I attended my first of probably many seminars. This one was at Paris 7 on the philosophy of category theory as part of the group on 19th and 20th century mathematics. I managed to arrive just barely late and found myself in a rather small room with about a dozen French students or postdocs and an English professor (I mean his nationality, he too studied philosophy). So I casually sat down and proceeded to have absolutely no idea what was going on for the next two hours. I could somewhat follow the written logic, but as soon as the conversation left the blackboard my mind drifted away and I practiced “interested” faces. The worst was when someone told a joke, everyone would laugh, and I would belatedly shift my “ah, I know what you mean” face to a “my, my isn’t that clever” face. Or, try to.
By the time it was or was not the coffee break, I decided it might as well be over and walked as quickly as I could out of there back to the comprehensible comfort of my mathematics office at Jussieu.
Moral of the story: If I were Mrs. Bennett, rather than teaching my daughters piano and dancing and polite conversation and good table manners, I would read them bedside stories of Critique of Pure Reason and Leviathan, thus ensuring their inevitable ineligible status.