Precarity is a Feminist Issue: Gender and Contingent Labor in the Academy

Hypatia 33 (2):235-255 (2018)
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Feminist philosophers have challenged a wide range of gender injustices in professional philosophy. However, the problem of precarity, that is, the increasing numbers of contingent faculty who cannot find permanent employment, has received scarcely any attention. What explains this oversight? In this article, I argue, first, that academics are held in the grips of an ideology that diverts attention away from the structural conditions of precarity, and second, that the gendered dimensions of such an ideology have been overlooked. To do so, I identify two myths: the myth of meritocracy and the myth of work as its own reward. I demonstrate that these myths—and the two-tier system itself—manifest an unmistakably gendered logic, such that gender and precarity are mutually reinforcing and co-constitutive. I conclude that feminist philosophers have particular reason to organize against the casualization of academic work.



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Robin Zheng
Yale-NUS College