Mary Kate McGowan
Mary Kate McGowan is the Luella LaMer Professor of Women’s Studies and a Professor of Philosophy at Wellesley College. Her B.A. is from Wellesley and her M.A. and Ph. D are from Princeton University where she completed a dissertation in metaphysics with the late great David Lewis. Her more recent work lies at the intersection of philosophy of language, philosophy of law and feminism.
McGowan is especially interested in the subtle ways that speech alters normative facts and how this might be implicated in the perpetuation of unjust social hierarchies. She has done work in conversational kinematics in which she argues that conversational contributions enact normative facts in an especially hidden manner. In more recent work, she argues that this phenomenon generalizes. In particular, she argues that sexist speech, some pornography and some racist hate speech are considerably more harmful than currently recognized; such speech (sometimes) constitutes (rather than merely causes) such harms as oppression, subordination, silencing and discrimination. She also argues that these results have important legal consequences regarding the free speech status of these categories of speech. McGowan is also interested in what makes something count as speech in the technical sense of a free speech principle.
McGowan participates in the Workshop in Gender and Philosophy at MIT. This is a group of Boston-area scholars interested in work on gender and philosophy. She is the co-editor (along with Ishani Maitra) of Speech and Harm: Controversies Over Free Speech (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012) an interdisciplinary collection of essays on free speech and the various connections between speech and harm. McGowan is a member of the APA Committee on the Status of Women; she has served on the Program Committee of the Eastern Division and she chaired the Program Committee for the 2013 Eastern Division Meeting held in Baltimore.
McGowan is also a wife and mother of two. In addition to doing philosophy and teaching the smart motivated women at Wellesley, she enjoys spending time with her family, traditional Irish music, playing the flute, running in the woods, walking the beach, eating chocolate, blowing bubbles, baking, laughing with old friends, and her antique island home.