Philosopher Janice Dowell (Syracuse) has spoken out publicly in her ‘What is it like to be a philosopher?’ interview about her experiences of sexual harassment and assault in philosophy:
Although this is very unpleasant, I’d like to say something about my grad school experience, on the hoped-for chance that if folks can put a name to someone who has experienced some of the problems with harassment and sexual assault our profession has just begun discussing, it might dampen some of the truly damaging speculation about the motivations survivors have in coming forward that we see on some professional blogs.
There are too many bad experiences to list them all. I’ll mention two, as well as the effect they had on me. Early in my grad career, I was the object of a surprising amount of disturbing attention. Someone put a plastic erection in my mailbox in the department common room and a male grad student followed me home. He let me know that he had done this when I arrived home, telling me gleefully that he was glad to know where I lived so he could come see me whenever he wanted. As I said—disturbing.
The cumulative effect of this attention was pretty bad: I began to experience intense pain in my arms whenever I went to campus. Not surprisingly, I avoided campus as much as I could; no reading groups, student lounge conversations, no socializing before or after class. Also, not surprisingly, it was very difficult to concentrate on my work, particularly to follow lectures in class, given that they included some of the students I was having trouble with. In retrospect, it’s astonishing to me that I finished any of my classes.
Unfortunately, that was not the worst of it. I was subsequently raped by another philosopher, someone who is still in our profession and whom I occasionally see at APA meetings. I’ve already written about this experience anonymously, here.
You can read the whole interview here.