International Women’s Day: Introducing ‘Cool Gabe’

March 08, 2020

Move over Cool Aristotle; SFU Philosophy has a new avatar.

It seems only appropriate to introduce Cool Gabe, our new avatar, on International Women’s Day.

If you’re a ‘fan’ of SFU Philosophy on Facebook and Twitter, you’ll be quite used to catching a glimpse of the old (dead) white guy in the toga and shades. Instantly recognizable, Aristotle has been announcing events and selling our Philosophy courses since late 2017.

(With apologies) Cool Aristotle was the result of a non-philosopher fresh in the communications hot seat looking for an instantly recognisable avatar; Cool Gabe is a slightly more educated and experienced attempt for balance, to #diversifythecanon now that the comms hot seat is a little more knowledgeable about the subject she’s trying to communicate (huge thanks to faculty, grad students and others for their many generous explanations, conversations and guidance about philosophy).

By Gabrielle Suchon, Edited and Translated by Domna C. Stanton and Rebecca M. Wilkin - A Woman Who Defends All the Persons of Her Sex (extracted from File:Gabrielle Suchon Portrait.pdf using pdfimages), Public Domain

Gabrielle Suchon—born 1632 in France, died 1703—is described as “the first philosopher to produce a significant body of work dedicated solely to the topic of women”. Moreover, her writing was directed solely at women rather than the contemporary primary audience of men, a somewhat radical direction at the time apparently. Through her work she moved that keeping women deprived of knowledge could be construed a form of slavery, arguing that education and giving women the right to knowledge gave them agency in public life.

As a ‘dangerous philosopher’ Suchon “analyses and responds to the arguments that have been used over the centuries to justify women’s inferior position…[putting] forward the stories of women of note from antiquity to her own time and enjoins her female contemporaries to educate themselves in order to fight their oppression.”  

As noted by Walsh (2019), “Suchon’s aim in her works is to inspire women so that they might, as she puts it, ‘protect themselves against servile constraint, stupid ignorance, and base and degrading dependence’ [from the preface of her Treatise on Ethics and Politics, 1693]“  

An early feminist? A neglected woman in philosophy.
And she did all this without a male intellectual mentor or husband….

H/T Lisa Shapiro and the New Narratives project for bring my outsider attention to the existence of long neglected women in the history of philosophy.



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