We have already published one reflection from a woman of colour on the Pogge letter and discussions surrounding it. Leiter has published another., by women of colour from developing countries. Here’s what it says:
They had originally planned to make this a signed statement (which I had offered to post), but as one of the authors explained to me:
At each step, we were discouraged by friends and colleagues, who said we would be viewed as apologists for Thomas, and that we could kiss our feminist reputations goodbye. I’m very disappointed with where we are in academia, and I’m also disappointed with myself. We’re going to have to think of another way of expressing our views, or perhaps we will just need to wait a few months until the storm blows over. I’m sorry for having wasted your time, though it’s been good (for me) to connect with you. I read your blog regularly and appreciate your courage on many issues very much.
In the end, they decided they could share the statement they drafted, but without their names. Here it is:
We write to express some concern about the widely circulated Open Letter condemning Thomas Pogge. We clarify, first, that our aim is not to cast doubt upon the allegations upon which the letter is based. We are all too familiar with the institutional ‘cultures of silence’ that try to muzzle women who speak out against sexual harassment and sexual assault. We stand, always, with such women of courage in their quests for justice.
Our intention, here, is to advocate for the women, including ourselves, whose academic achievement, commitment to social justice, and personal integrity have been unjustly brought under a cloud due to Prof. Pogge’s alleged misconduct and also some efforts to condemn it. In particular, our concern is with what is said and yet left unsaid in the open letter. Among other things, Pogge is accused of violating professional norms by making “quid pro quo offers of letters of recommendation and other perks,” presumably in return for sexual favours. In no way has this been our experience with Prof. Pogge. Nor is it that of many other women whom we know to be professionally associated with him. In our view, the open letter should have been more discriminating in its choice of words rather than painted with such a broad brush.
Furthermore, while it is commendable that concern for the well-being of women, “notably women of colour,” associated with Pogge features prominently in the open letter, we are saddened that there is no corresponding language that recognizes our talent, merit, and integrity. This is a serious lapse, given the potentially harmful impact of the letter on women, notably young, professionally insecure women of colour from developing countries, who have worked with Prof. Pogge.
It is distressing that any of this needs to be said. But in a world where women still struggle to be taken seriously in their professional lives, and where women of colour are all too easily eroticized and portrayed as lacking agency, dignity, and integrity, we speak out of concern that the open letter’s categorical language on Pogge’s women of colour victims, along with thoughtless social media discussions about his corrupt, nefarious relationships with them, will only reinforce sexist and racist stereotypes. Our unease is amplified by the fact that the letter was shared hundreds of times across multiple online platforms, i.e., well beyond the academic “philosophical community” to which it is originally addressed. We ask for more caution, care, and compassion moving forward.
As one of the feminists who’s been very involved in trying to reform our discipline, I’m really saddened that people are hesitating to speak under their own names about this, for fear of losing their feminist reputations. I think the myth of the monstrous feminist cabal is a very damaging one. But I know that it’s out there (the myth, that is, not the cabal), and I do understand worrying about it.
But I’m glad that they’ve shared their concerns, so that we can discuss them. To my mind, the real damage to the reputations of women with references from Pogge comes from his behaviour, not the behaviour of those criticising him. And public criticism is important. But yes, that criticism makes more people aware of the problem, and that awareness is then likely to undermine the force of all of his letters. And this IS damaging– damaging, as the post notes, to philosophers of great integrity, talent, and merit. I’d welcome suggestions of how to deal with this immensely difficult dynamic in comments. (Would the post’s suggestion be the best way to do this? Are there other ways this could be done?)