My Journey as a Woman in Philosophy

“You don’t look like a philosopher”

Juliette Ferry-Danini
9 min readJul 16, 2020


I do not know why I started writing this story in English. As you may not know, I grew up near the Mediterranean sea in France and I mainly studied in Paris. Yet, for a large part of my philosophical education, I read and wrote in English and many of my peers do not speak French. Perhaps it is emotionally easier to tell a story in another language. Or perhaps I hope some of the characters of the story I am going to tell will be less likely to read this text if it is in English. I don’t know.

I write this just before the turn of my professional life. I do not know what I will turn to, though. Right in the middle of a pandemic, it is unlikely that I will land an academic job. I will try just a little bit more before giving up.

My journey in philosophy began a few years back during my master degree in the UK as part of the Erasmus program. It’s there, in the friendly atmosphere of the department and chatting with other PhD students, that I thought of doing a PhD too. I can be a quiet person and I really liked the perspective to be paid for reading and writing philosophy, maybe teaching it too. I still do. I was also eager to become financially independent and earn my pay. In retrospect, joining academia for money was not super smart.

Me at my first and only graduation ceremony (they don’t exist in France).

“Shut up you bitch! You know nothing.”

I remember moving back a few steps, shocked. My friend James intervened to take me out of harms way and asked me if I was alright. I just had my first encounter with a long series of sexist events in philosophy. This scene took place during a philosophy public event called the Night of Philosophy which was held in London that year. After a roundtable, I had gone to one of the speaker in the hallway to ask a bit more about what he meant on stage. I was not agreeing with his reading of some philosophical work. The man shouted with such an aggressive voice it got my friends alarmed and they rushed to help me. I remember I was shaking. Since then, I learned that public philosophy, on top of being a man’s world, can be quite violent. I soon forgot about this event and continued my studies with great success.

“Aren’t you too young to do a PhD, mademoiselle ? Focus on your master thesis, first.”