Emily Graslie of The Brain Scoop talks about creepy, sexist, internet comments, what it’s like to be a woman in STEM related internet content creation, and what we can (begin) to do about it.
I don’t actually agree with everything in this, but there’s a lot that’s really good and it’s sure as hell pithy:
if you think you have said something stupid to me, you can ask. You can say, “Did I just say something stupid? If so then I’m sorry.” Then – and this is the tricky part – don’t say that particular thing ever again.
Over at NewAPPS. Read it all.
But I will show you why your “The Philosopher and The Student” piece in Slate was despicable, ignorant and mean-spirited. I will show you how a power differential can twist reality. I will show you how your refusal to see is the product of creating a narrative in which you yourself are victimized.
You see, Katie Roiphe: this much I know.
I know that one of my daughter’s friends drew a picture — when she was 17 — of her father, with hearts around it. A picture of her father and herself, in bed. He “loved” her. But the hearts didn’t mean that she loved him. The hearts were there because she was afraid of the consequences of making him angry. The hearts were there because what he thought of her mattered to her. The hearts were there because what he thought of her depended on whether she professed her love for him. The hearts were there because there was a power differential.
Katie Roiphe (who made her name by insisting that most victims of ‘date rape’ just had bad sex) is now arguing in Slate (you can find it) that we’ve all badly misunderstood the complexity of the McGinn story. In particular, she quotes lots of emails out of context, tells us she’s read much more, and asks us to trust her interpretation: that there really was a consensual if sometimes fraught romantic relationship.
Katie Roiphe is the same person who responded to sexual harassment accusations against Herman Cain by writing “After all these years, we are again debating the definition of unwanted sexual advances and parsing the question of whether a dirty joke in the office is a crime.” The accusations included this: “Sharon Bialek says Cain groped her and shoved her head towards his crotch with the words, “You want a job, don’t you?”
So, headline news: Noted sexual harassment-denier denies claims of sexual harassment. YAWN.
(But somebody should be looking into the privacy violations involved in showing those emails to a reporter.)
The Tumblr. I don’t know that you can ever be ready for this, but, try and mentally prepare yourself for some serious racism and sexism before you click. (And, apparently, avoid OkCupid, Match, and POF because they seem to be regular sources for material.)
Soraya Chemaly argues that violence is a natural end-result of the same principles which operate in what we ordinarily refer to as street harassment:
Earlier this week a man in a car pulled up next to a 14-year old girl on a street in Florida and offered to pay her $200 to have sex with him. [. . .] The girl said no. So what does this guy do? He reaches out, drags her, by her hair, into his car, chokes her until she blacks out, tosses her out of the car and then, not done yet, he runs her over several times. Bystanders watched the entire episode in shock. He almost killed her, but she lived and ID’d him in a line up and he’s been arrested and charged with Attempted Murder, Aggravated Battery with a Deadly Weapon and False Imprisonment. What was the Deadly Weapon referred to in the charge I wonder? Given our normatively male understanding interpretation of what is threatening, does a man pulling up to a girl like this and talking to her in this way constitute imminent harm?
This was an incident of street harassment taken to extremes.
You’re thinking, ”He’s crazy! You can’t possibly put what he did in the same category as street harassment!” Yes, I can.
He stopped and talked to a girl he did not know and he told her what he thought and what he wanted her to do. Clearly, he felt this was okay, or he wouldn’t have done it. This isn’t insanity, it’s entitlement. This is, in principle, the same as men who say, “Smile,” “Want a ride?” “Suck on this” and on and on and on. And, that’s all before the public groping that might ensue.
OK. No big deal I’ve been told. But, he went further, as is often the case. When she said no, he just took her. He crossed a red line that seriously needs to be moved. ”Taking someone” should not be the “red line” for public incivility and safe access to public space.
You can read the whole piece here on the HuffPo Blog. About a year ago or so, I went to the store — I pulled into the parking lot, and I noticed that in the space next to me, a man was sitting in his car. When I came out of the store, he was still there — except now, he was masturbating. In his car. In broad daylight. He smiled and waived at me. I called the police about it, but effectively, they do didn’t do anything (when the police came, he wasn’t doing it anymore, and by the time I requested specifically that the police allow me to file a witness report or press charges, they had already let him go without taking his name or any information, so there was no one to press charges against). Certainly this experience is no where near the sorts of extreme cases mentioned in Chemaly’s piece, but I have wondered since, if this is the sort of thing that’s effectively permissible in public space, where is the line? When I voice discomfort over my inability to go to certain gas stations without being cat-called, hit-on, etc., my less fervently feminist acquaintances think I’m being over-sensitive, or give me the usual “You ought to take that as a compliment” (which I think is a ridiculous response for a million reasons that are probably obvious to all of our readers) and yet, my run in with the public-masturbator seemed like it ought to be a predictable escalation of that same sense of entitlement to women’s bodies.
Is physical violence likewise on that same spectrum?
Very few careers had been ruined; what had been, or could be, ruined was the atmosphere that had existed before, where all the squirming was done by women, or some other vulnerable minority, and where all the smirking and grinning was done by men.
Referring to the university’s threatened disciplinary action against McGinn in response to complaints from a female student, Pinker wrote that “such an action would put a chill on communication between faculty and graduate students and on the openness and informality on which scholarship depends.”
What I want to say about this is: Really? For a university to treat lewd conversation as a serious offense threatens scholarship as we know it? Aren’t we being just a tad apocalyptic?
Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) has an obligation to keep its students safe from professors who sexually harass, so why are they keeping Professor David Chevan on staff?
In 2011, SCSU found one of its music professors, David Chevan, in violation of its sexual harassment policy for verbally and physically sexually harassing a former student, Wendy Wyler. Watch news coverage here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zwdD1AwA__s But SCSU has not taken meaningful disciplinary action.
This is alarming considering Professor Chevan propositioned Wendy in a storage room, not allowing her to leave:
“There wasn’t a single window, and when he shut the door behind him, everything about him changed. I wondered if anyone would hear me if I screamed. I repeatedly told him no.”
Wendy was afraid for her safety because of the persistent sexual harassment of Professor Chevan. Not only that, but several other young women have since come forward to report similar behavior.
For more information and a petition, go here.
of what it’s like to be a woman in philosophy, from The Guardian.
One of the things I found most disturbing was this:
This was, in some ways, a more prototypical harassment experience. Perhaps not coincidentally, my harasser was a tenured philosophy professor, like McGinn. Physical contact of the sort this fellow engaged in – hand on thigh/small of back and repeatedly trying to kiss me – has been ruled to constitute a hostile environment. He also mentioned possibly being able to get me funding, which, in the context of physical advances, is a classic quid pro quo. (And I don’t need the funding: I have a great academic fundraising track record, and had no problem securing it myself.)
A few other professors observed some of this professor’s inappropriate behavior toward me. They filed a complaint bundle with the university’s equal opportunity office, ostensibly about a much broader pattern of sexual harassment. Against my express wishes, they included in their complaint the inappropriate behavior they had observed toward me as an “anonymous graduate student”.
Anonymity was not meaningful in this context. I asked to be left out of the complaint for fear of retaliation and in the knowledge that it would distress me to be involved because of my previous bad experience with the complaint process. The other professors disregarded my preference. With the decision thus made for me, I eventually talked to university investigators as a “witness”, and then filed a one-page form to become a complainant myself, in order to better secure my access to outcome information.
I’m wondering if the professors filing the complaint were legally obligated to mention the behaviour they had witnessed, even thought the student told them not to. I’ve recently learned that, at least for many members of a department, there is an absolute legal obligation to do this. This shocked and appalled me– the last thing a victim needs is to feel even less autonomy; it strikes me as incredibly important to respect victims’ wishes. The Guardian story makes me even more convinced that this requirement is a problem.
I’m leaving comments open on this, but please be especially careful in comments– for all we know, the victim and/or the professors who filed complaint are reading this.