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The women of CF: Élise Rouméas

Date:12 May 2021
Élise Rouméas as a 23-year old student
Élise Rouméas as a 23-year old student

I am a political philosopher, and I teach and research at the University of Groningen/Campus Fryslân. What I like most about my work is how teaching constantly rejuvenates my philosophical fervour—I tell my students that there is one choice I never regretted in my life, and this is philosophy. I am inspired by the many fellow researchers, friends and colleagues, I have encountered in academia who tirelessly think, re-think, and overthink a simple conceptual distinction, and generously give their time to read and comment on each other’s writings. I value work ethics and cooperative spirit. 

If you ask me what I would say to my younger self, I am ambivalent. On the one hand, I would like to say: “Don’t work too hard! Get yourself a life”. As a student I mostly led an ascetic life, completely dedicated to work, a bit like a nun who sacrifices everything for the sake of God—I sacrificed a lot for the sake of knowledge. On the other hand, I would like to say: “Well done you, you did well!” My relentless pursuit led me to where I am now, and there is one crucial thing that I didn’t sacrifice along the way: I cultivated many close relationships. I already knew that we need both work and love. 

It is difficult to say what is my experience as a woman in academia, as it is hard to disentangle different layers of my identity and know what would have been different in my trajectory had I not been a woman. One struggle that perhaps other women would find relevant is learning how to speak up in intellectual settings. I was socialised in a way that incited me to tame my intellectual appetites in front of my peers, to hide them to look more "normal" and probably more "feminine". I have this tender memory of myself, aged 12, taking thorough notes of a pop-music radio channel to try to catch up on teenage culture, whilst my interests had led me instead to learn Vietnamese (unsuccessfully) and read 19th-century French novels (with great delight). I developed the habit to be silent in class to hide my "abnormality" and it is only as an adult that I have begun to find a voice as a woman philosopher.