Important questions about sexual misconduct in philosophy, being asked by Heidi Lockwood over at Daily Nous. Go join in the discussion!
How one college handled a sexual assault complaint July 15, 2014
There is a really important look inside how one school (not atypically) handled a sexual assault complaint at the New York Times:
At a time of great emotional turmoil, students who say they were assaulted must make a choice: Seek help from their school, turn to the criminal justice system or simply remain silent. The great majority — including the student in this case — choose their school, because of the expectation of anonymity and the belief that administrators will offer the sort of support that the police will not.
Yet many students come to regret that decision, wishing they had never reported the assault in the first place.
The woman at Hobart and William Smith is no exception. With no advocate to speak up for her at the disciplinary hearing, panelists interrupted her answers, at times misrepresented evidence and asked about a campus-police report she had not seen. The hearing proceeded before her rape-kit results were known, and the medical records indicating trauma were not shown to two of the three panel members.
Good news, bad news June 10, 2014
The bad news is that the Washington Post has been up to some sexist shenanigans. The good news is, it’s under fire for doing so. Read about it here.
New law on sexual crimes in Turkey June 5, 2014
Women’s associations in Turkey are fighting a new law which looks like it will result in reduced sentences for criminals:
The platform underlined seven main objections regarding the law:
- The draft law contains new arrangements providing “reduced sentences” for violence during rape and sexual abuse.
- It lacks a legal provision that could prevent the reduction of sentences on the grounds that a victim may have allegedly “provoked” her assailant.
- It also lacks a provision that will consider the testimonies of the victims as fundamental and ascribes the obligation of proving the contrary to the assailant.
- It limits the time for filing a complaint to a barely six months after the attack.
- The draft law also accentuates the risk of harsher sentences for teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 engaging in consensual sexual intercourse.
- It brings a separation between “attack” and “abuse” in cases of sexual crimes against children, which leads to potential reduction of sentences.
- It also mentions the possibility of a “cure” for assailants, which constitutes according to the platform an attempt to define sexual crimes as a disease, rather than a crime.
This should be read in the context of a large increase in reported sex crimes in Turkey over the last nine years:
Some 32,988 files were reportedly opened on sex crime charges in 2011, while the number of files was just 8,146 in 2002.
Not long after a UC Santa Barbara student went on a killing spree last Friday, his homicide-suicide message surfaced on the internet. “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it,” he complains, “I’m the perfect guy and yet you throw yourselves at all these obnoxious men instead of me, the supreme gentleman… I take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you. You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male.”
While we can hope that the killer’s misogyny, narcissism, and fascination with revenge are signs of an unusually demented mind, it is a mistake to dismiss the killings as a lone incident or freak behavior of an isolated miscreant. There is no such thing as isolated violence. Misogynists, sociopaths, even psychopaths are a product of a cultural illness – an illness that tells us that we should mind our own business; that boys will be boys and hopefully they’ll grow out of it when they become men; that we need to keep the silence and refrain from naming our fears and our perpetrators because, well, you know, we’ll be branded as crazy. Or worse.
In response to the UCSB killing and the murderer’s misogyny, women around the world are adding their voices to a Twitter stream, #YesAllWomen. As I write this, it is the top-trending hashtag, with 49,541 tweets and an average of 20 tweets per second.
Here are just a few of those almost-50,000 tweets:
One of the tweets most likely to resonate with all or most female philosophers (thanks, S.E.!) is this one:
I’m not the tweeting type, but it occurred to me that if I were to tweet, it would be to a #YesAllPhilosophers hashtag. Here are just a few of the tweets I’d probably write:
#YesAllPhilosophers because the accused was given a golden parachute to another better position, and the survivor, who got nothing, tried to commit suicide.
#YesAllPhilosophers because I can name four philosophers who read or gave copies of Lolita to the students they desired.
#YesAllPhilosophers because when I asked a provost whether the university would keep a known serial predator and pedophile on the faculty, she didn’t immediately say no.
#YesAllPhilosophers because I can name 34 philosophers who have been accused of sexual misconduct, ranging from “mere” drunken groping, to first degree sexual assault and child porn.
#YesAllPhilosophers because I was a student in a department where four faculty members were accused of sexual misconduct in five years.
#YesAllPhilosophers because I’m currently helping complainants at 10 different universities who have been adversely affected by the misconduct of 8 different philosophers.
#YesAllPhilosophers Because I can’t solve this problem alone.
Comments are closed on this post because I don’t have time to moderate – but those who want to comment can of course tweet using the hashtag #YesAllPhilosophers.
Great minds and ignoble deeds May 21, 2014
It is appalling to read about philosophers sexually harassing/assaulting vulnerable people, but is it surprising? An article in yesterday’s New York Times argues that we should not expect better.
The life of an intellectual, Mr. Ignatieff [Michael Ignatieff, the Canadian academic-cum-politician] claims, provides a petri dish for the universal human experiment of thinking, being and doing. It’s a lovely idea. The trouble is that intellectuals seem no better at it than anyone else. They often think great thoughts, while being ignoble characters. Maybe Mill and Berlin and John Dewey were noble characters. But Marx was a serial adulterer, Karl Popper was a pompous narcissist, and Heidegger was a fascist. Elite thinkers, maybe: but as amateurish humans as the rest of us.
I’m not so sure, but there are a lot of issues that need clarification before we’re in a good position to accept or reject the article. Still, there are some points we can make. Great achievements typically require concentration and caring. The idea of caring that extends to what one says and not at all to what one does is puzzling. One expects a great scientist to care very much about the truth of his words. But then what does that care look like if it allows lying in letters of reference to reward sexual compliance?
And isn’t philosophy, at least when it is about human life, different? On the other hand, maybe moral behavior requires more than morally apt thinking. For example, perhaps a capacity for empathy. And a love of truth in one area may co-exist with a capacity for self-deception that enables a lot of borrowing from others. E.g., plagarism.
Perhaps, then, we need to recognize that there are many character flaws that can disconnect behavior from thought. I myself would still, at least at this point in time, like to think that at least for some areas really vicious behavior will mean one does not have the capacity for some great intellectual tasks. But is that really true?
What do you think?
A remarkable example of disconnect was explained recently by Bob Dylan. I thought of him as the voice (or a voice) of a generation of protestors. But, as he has said, that’s not at all what he was doing. He was just a musician. So where did those wonderfully apposite lyrics come from? It was, he says, simply magic.
In fact, many people report a similar experience (I think). As Feymann put it, suddenly boom, boom, the answer is there. Ownership may seem tenuous, and connection with character very problematic.