You'll notice first, I hope, that in the image above Prof. Hendricks is prominently and authoritatively situated amidst a bevy of scantily-clad and thoroughly-infantilized "schoolgirls," who appear to be (from right to left) either affectlessly bored, technologically preoccupied, mysteriously vacant (possibly afraid?), and perfunctorily seductive. Behind all these good-looking girls, not incidentally, there just so happens to be some symbolic logic on the whiteboard. These photos were an advertisement for Prof. Hendricks' Logic course. I'll leave aside for the moment the many problems associated with "advertising" courses, a practice that I think unfortunately reifies the idea that learning is a commodity and, more unfortunately, reinforces the commonly held presumption that best analogue for the the teacher/student relationship is the server/consumer relationship. (My department "advertises" courses as well, though the images associated with our courses are decidedly less provocative.) In Hendricks' (semi-)defense, as he notes on his own blog, his images were originally photographed for a magazine that intended to feature him as the "Man of the Month." (Exactly which magazine that is has not yet been made clear.) I'm not sure what Hendricks' caveat means to excuse, really, since I imagine that anyone who's ever taught a Philosophy course (or taken a Philosophy course, or taught or taken ANY college course, for that matter) can easily surmise from these images that they could NOT EVER be appropriate for a syllabus or course-advertisement. Nevertheless, they were utilized as such, and the images have created a bit of a maelstrom in the professional philosophical community, as evidenced on the two most widely-read Philosophy blogs, The Leiter Reports (relevant posts here, here and here) and NewAPPS: Art, Politics, Philosophy, Science (here). Professor Hendricks' response to the backlash on those blogs, in full, is as follows:
To the Philosophical Community
A recent picture on my website has caused some debate. The intention was that the picture, as cover on a forthcoming magazine, might be used to view logic from a somewhat humorous and untraditional perspective appealing to a larger audience which the magazine covers. However it had the opposite effect offending various parties in the philosophical community. I truly apologize for this and I stand completely corrected. I have removed the pictures from the website.
Vincent F. Hendricks
Alas, as they say, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.
I really want to give Professor Hendricks a fair shake here, but I also feel obligated to get the facts (in this case, the pictures) of the matter out there for your consideration first. So, you can see throughout this post the other images included in Prof. Hendricks' original advertisement for his Logic course. None of them, I hope we all can agree, mitigate the overtly sexist depiction of women in the first picture posted above-- by which I mean, all of them capitalize on the sexual objectification, infantilization, subordination, submission and de-intellectualizing of women. All of them represent Prof. Hendricks as authoritative, powerful, intellectual and autonomous-- which, of course, I think we can safely assume he is-- but Prof. Hendricks' authority, power, intellect and autonomy are represented via explicit contrast with archetypical representations of women as passive, submissive, deferential and (reductively) sexual. All three images are, in fact, pretty much standard for what in the U.S. we might consider typical Maxim fare. (I have no idea what the Danish equivalent of Maxim might be, though I presume, because I live in the real world, that there is an equivalent.) I'd like to think that any philosopher worth his or her salt would know better than consent to participation in images like these.
I would, unfortunately, be wrong.
If you want to read what working professional philosophers are saying about this whole issue, I would direct you to the links in the first paragraph above at The Leiter Reports and New APPS blogs. I've been following those conversations, and I think that most of the key critical points and counterpoints have been articulated there already. Instead of repeating what's been said about the matter, and since I seriously doubt that Prof. Hendricks himself is still reading those exchanges, I've decided instead to direct my commentary to a different audience. I'm directing this to those of you female students at the University of Copenhagen who might have been considering enrollment in Logic with Prof. Hendricks next term. What follows is the email that I think you should send to Prof. Hendricks explaining why you have decided to decline that option. Feel free to copy-and-paste it verbatim, or to make whatever editorial amendments you wish. For what it's worth, I think that male students at the University of Copenhagen could/should send something like this, too, although that would definitely require some editing.
Dear Professor Hendricks,
I recently saw the advertisement for your 2012 Logikkursus. Before seeing it, I considered enrolling in the course, as I understand philosophical Logic to be (like mathematics and physics) one of the core disciplines through which we come to understand the fundamental truths of our shared world. I find it especially curious that you would post an advertisement utilizing images that preemptively undermines the intellectual merit of more than half of the possible students in your course. So, I am writing now to inform you that, because of your advertisement, I will not enroll in your Logikkursus.
I assume you are aware that the images you posted in your advertisement were manifestly and overtly sexist. Those images simultaneously objectified, infantilized, depersonalized and dehumanized the women depicted in them. Although I am aware that such images are standard fare in the larger world of advertisements, I am deeply disappointed to see you appropriate them so uncritically.
I assume you are also aware that the profession of Philosophy is grossly underrepresented by women. Less than 1 in 5 tenure or tenure-track professional Philosophers are female. If you wonder why students like myself-- i.e., female undergraduates interested in Philosophy-- depart from the discipline in statistically significant numbers, I suggest that you take a critical look at your course advertisement.
I take from the apology that you posted on your blog that you understand your chief offense to have been employing (in your words) " a humorous and untraditional perspective." Let me be clear: the perspective depicted in your course advertisement was unambiguously sexist, which is neither humorous nor untraditional.
I would congratulate you for your achievement of Copenhagen's "Man of the Month" designation if I did not at the same time regret so deeply that you congratulate yourself for the same. Because you have authorized the representation of that honorific in the most traditional (and non-humorous) manner possible, I find myself deeply suspect of your capacity to teach me the basic skills of critical thinking. You elected to extend that representation into the Academy, a world in which it should be (and is) most roundly criticized. I can only see in that decision a deeply flawed capacity for illuminating the shared truths of our world.
If you find yourself so inclined, I would be interested to hear your understanding of the issue upon which you "stand completely corrected." In the meantime, I am and remain personally insulted by your Logic course advertisement.