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Biography: The Most Important Attributes

Posted by Viktoria Michaelis on May 28, 2015 in Publishing |

I grabbed my usual copy of Philosophie Magazin from the kiosk while waiting for the bus and leafed through it with great expectations. The June / July issue is about food, and food, while not something I write about a great deal, is one of my interests. It is fair to say that I, along with many other Europeans, Americans and other First World citizens, consider the subject of food three, maybe even five, times a day if not more. We are confronted with images of food, with the smell of food, with food itself – in all its forms – everywhere we go, from the hotdog stand on a street corner to the display of rolls and muffins in our coffee shop of choice. Fascinating to read in this issue that there are nearly eight million vegetarians in Germany, and eight hundred thousand Vegans – which would suggest to me that a few more shops and supermarkets should offer food in this direction.

Amongst all the philosophical articles on food, our character according to what we eat, Marxism and the quantification of luck, there was a small thing which bothered me right at the start of this issue. The biographies of some of those featured. My illustration shows the page, and you might just about be able to read some of the text.

Philosophie Magazin 04/2015

Screenshot Source: Philosophie Magazin

Yanis Varoufakis is the Greek finance minister and taught at Cambridge. David Harvey is a geographer and philosopher. Nils Markwardt is a new editor at the magazine who studied the science of literature, as did Philipp Felsch, who also teaches in Berlin. Frédéric Gros is a professor in Paris teaching political theory. Have I missed anyone out? Sarah Wiener, the only woman in the list, who is fifty-one years old and was born in Vienna.

You can imagine what my first impression was: all the men listed have their qualifications in the first sentence of the biography, but whoever wrote these short introductions notes the age of the only woman listed first. I must admit, this threw me. I don’t know a great deal about five of these people – who doesn’t know Varoufakis at the moment? – but felt that the fact of Wiener’s age alongside the qualifications of the men was completely out-of-place. Why mention it at all?

I went further through the magazine and discovered that no other biography handles age in the same way. Tomi Ungerer is noted as being born in 1931. Juan Carlos Monedero as being fifty-two, but not in the opening sentence. Is Wiener’s age of such importance that it has to be noted before her qualifications?

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