Women and Rationality
About 1986 the University of Adelaide was visited by Dale Spender who was at that time the most prominent Australian feminist writer on education. Many of the University staff attended the lecture she gave. I was asked by a female colleague if I thought her talk would have any important effects on the University. I said ‘No’.
I accepted almost all Spender’s criticisms of the existing system but she, and, I thought most other feminist writers, did not seem to offer any way of escape.
“Men know so little,” she said. “You don’t even have to get beyond first grade to know more than them. Men have such a limited view of the world.”
One does not have to be Socrates to admit that men’s knowledge is very limited. What Spender and most other feminists have not done, so far, is to demonstrate the distinctive and essentially feminine ways of understanding women are said to possess. Indeed they defeat themselves before starting, because, they insist, male ways of thought, are so utterly dominant that feminine knowledge is always suppressed, denigrated and dismissed so thoroughly that not even women take it seriously.
My purpose in writing The Rational Woman, which was published in Educational Philosophy and Theory in 1989, was to see if any escape was possible, not only for women but for men who would like to know what they do. I was disappointed, not because the response was hostile, but because there was no response whatever from anyone, even from Dale Spender to whom I sent a copy of the paper.