Five badass female philosophers I'd never heard of

Five badass female philosophers I'd never heard of


I've become an amateur philosopher in my free time ever since I was considering studying it at university. What I've learnt is that in the UK and Canada very little emphasis is placed on Philosophy, where as elsewhere in Europe - France in particular - it's seen as an important stepping stone in education. Being able to contemplate on life and the world around us without the lens of religion, politics or historical rhetoric is an exciting prospect that everyone could benefit from. Studying in Belgium this year, I had the opportunity to be flexible with my module options and got to choose two Philosophy ones! That being said I'd be naive to say academic philosophy isn't still white male dominated - let's shine some light on some of my new-found heroes.

Here are five female philosophers you might not have heard of:

1) Simone de Beauvoir, French (1908-86) (pictured above)

Probably the most well known on the list, for those who haven't read Le Deuxieme Sexe (don't worry I only read it for a module) you're probably familiar with her philosophy. Put simply, she assets "we are not born women, we become them". This might sound weird, but what she's articulating is the belief that gender is a social construct and to start unpicking societal bias it's important to understand how heavily our perception of the world has been influenced. Everything from being put into a pink baby grow to being sexualised in da club (well knowing De Beauvoir she'd probably be all for it as a proudly sexually liberated person).

Want more? Check out HuffPost's argument for her relevance today.

2) Teresa of Ávila, Spanish (1515-82)

I love my Philosophy student friends because they seem to be always on the verge of an existential crisis. That being said, Christina who was on the Intersectional Fem Soc exec with me last year opened my eyes to a lot of underrated philosophers I'd never heard of - one of them being Teresa of Ávila. You've probably heard of René Descartes' cogito ergo sum (I think therefore I am), but did you know he stole it from a Spanish nun? It's all too easy to erase these female revolutionaries from the history books. Despite the conservatism of her religion I would've loved to have dinner with this rule-breaker who considered herself a mystic.

Want more? Check out how Descartes stole Teresa's thunder.

3) Christine de Pizan, Italian/French (1364-1430)


S/o to Laura in the Durham French department for getting me excited about the 14th century for the first time in - well basically ever. Christine managed to write about politics, love and being a woman all in medieval France that was surprisingly supportive of her writing. She used allegories to hide behind her radical views, but despite her contemporary sexist climate she was making dolla and telling the quibbling leaders what to do. Incredible.

Want more? Check out McGill prof on her relevance today.

4) Hildegard von Bingen, German (1098-1179)

Way back in the 11th century Hildegard was founding modern natural philosophy, making waves in philosophy and even being consulted by the Pope. Considering the secondary status of women in this period she was really kicking ass. Not only was she an exciting scholar in everything from botany to morality, she managed to write a drama as well. Awe-inspiring.

Want more? Check out Classic FM's tribute to her multi-talented life.

5) Judith Butler, American (b. 1956)


Transporting us right up until contemporary life, arguably the wave of transgender acceptance started with Butler's seminal work Gender Trouble (1990). I've studied Butler a fair amount mainly through sociology and feminism where she's well-loved. Her articulation of the redundancy of a gender binary ie man vs woman through deconstructing essentialist arguments (men are biologically superior to woman) makes her one of the most influential philosophers alive today. Throwing out the rulebook what Butler gives us is the opportunity to determine our own future beyond what our birth or society tells us. Could not recommend her enough.

Want more? Check out Butler's explanation of why gender is a performance.

I hope you're feeling inspired to dig into more philosophy, if so I'd recommend The School of Life on YouTube and In Our Time BBC's podcast. This list is just a reminder that individuals can make big waves even if their achievements have been minimised by their gender. Keep fighting for your beliefs badasses.

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All my love, Sam

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