Pogge, ‘Remarkable’ Conduct, and Greedy Women

Others have already remarked on parts of Pogge’s response to the recent allegations outlined at BuzzFeed (with additional information at Huffington Post), e.g., here, here, and here. Daily Nous reported that the response had been updated with email correspondence, so today I read through it. Two themes in particular stuck out.  First, the “remarkable” nature of Lopez Aguilar’s showing up at Yale for the purportedly fake appointment, and second, the (nearly explicit) insinuations that the allegations against him are coming from greedy women looking to profit. After reading the correspondence Pogge has provided, Lopez Aguilar’s conduct not only fails to be remarkable — Pogge’s appears even more so. And while references to greedy women may play well to sexist stereotypes, the trope is not borne out in the evidence we’ve been given.

From Pogge’s reponse:

“There are other familiar phenomena that can explain false allegations: we know of law firms going after rich institutions for the sake of winning large financial settlements, which can often be obtained through the extreme embarrassment of a media frenzy even without court proceedings in which the evidence could be carefully and critically examined. And we know that false charges and rumors can be highly effective weapons in the intensely competitive worlds of academia and university politics . . . I would welcome the opportunity to challenge her allegations in a proper judicial forum. But I fear that such talk of legal action is no more than a cover for legally extorting a financial settlement . . . On 30 August 2010, Lopez Aguilar presented herself with my fake job offer letter at Yale. This was remarkable for four reasons. First, she had never accepted the position by signing and returning the offer letter as the text of this letter clearly prescribed. Second, she showed up for work two days before the starting date specified in the offer letter, just before I would return from Latin America as she well knew. Third, she had a concurrent full-time job at Brookings Institute and thus was not available for a second full-time job. Fourth, she obviously knew that she had asked for this letter to secure an apartment lease and had offered to ‘rip it to shred’ (21 July 2010) after it had served that purpose. On the basis of Lopez Aguilar’s conduct and subsequent communications, I inferred that her plan was to force me into paying her a second full-time salary for the 2010-11 year. My alternative to somehow finding the money to pay her was to confess to Yale that I had provided her with a fake offer letter.”

I’m going to reproduce portions of the email exchanges here, but the full text of Pogge’s response and the correspondence is available here.

Regarding Lopez Aguilar appearing at Yale, when Pogge alleges she knew full well that she was not actually employed by him, in an email sent to both Pogge and Lopez Aguilar on August 29 (from page 20 of the PDF), someone (I don’t know who; the sender’s name is redacted) writes:

“Fernanda, [redacted] usually gets in around 10. I usually get in around 9. Let us know when you plan to come. If you’ve gotten your ID card authorized for 230 Prospect, then you can get in the front door. You would do that either at the ID place on Whitney, or at the MacMillan Center. If not, you should call me or [redacted], and we’ll come down and let you in. My cell is [redacted]. Looking forward to meeting you!”

Lopez Aguilar responded that day to both Pogge and the sender,

“Also [redacted], I was wondering if you happened to know whether I should go to one place first, either the ID place on Whitney or MacMillan Center, in my quest for building access tomorrow. Do you know if my name is already listed as qualifying for access approval?”

If Lopez Aguilar’s appointment was never genuine, why, exactly, is she being advised on how to show up for work? Moreover, what’s remarkable about showing up in advance of one’s start date to get her ID card authorized, if that’s what you’ve been instructed to do?

On August 30, Pogge wrote:

“You got me into a huge amount of trouble Fernanda, as I am not authorized to give out jobs to people on my own. I sent you that letter, as drafted by you, strictly for the Tafts Apartment because, so you said at the time, you could not get a letter from Brookings fast enough to secure the apartment you wanted. This was strictly as a favor to you so you could get this apartment. . . I am just amazed. You manage to destroy in an hour as much as I manage to build in months. For what? To get into the building with your own card on Tuesday?”

In a reply dated August 31, 2010, Lopez Aguilar wrote,

“I can swear to you, honest to everything that I hold dear, that I do not understand this sorry state of affairs. . . You have trivialized me and my actions Monday, under the false claim that I ‘just wanted to get into the building with my own card.’ No! I was instructed to report to MacMillan as per [redacted] request (which you read), and after I had asked if you or anyone else knew about my status/if I had permission to obtain access, to no avail. Once there, I tried to prove that I was at Yale legitimately, and not utterly delusional. I showed [redacted] the letter of employment I drafted for the Taft because I honestly believed that you would be employing me; and had you told me that my presence at Yale was to be clandestine, I would have never, ever done so. I would have asked you why, certainly, but I would not have shown them the letter. I only used it to prove that you and I had been in correspondence about my working at the Global Justice Program.

And yes, I sincerely thought you would be employing me, by way of a monthly stipend. I thought the only thing that was indeterminate was the monthly amount, which is why I had specified that this document would be worthless in September, when we would determine an amount that you thought more appropriate.”

In an email dated September 3, 2010, Pogge confirmed that there was nothing wrong with her showing up, working on campus, or asking about access, but rather it was showing someone the offer written for the purposes of securing an apartment that was unappreciated. Which is to say, the very email correspondence Pogge has provided the public seems to undercut each of the reasons we are meant to find Lopez Aguilar’s conduct “remarkable.” According to the correspondence, she didn’t sign and return the letter because she did not believe that the stipend amount offered in it was definite.  She showed up before the start date because she had been instructed to arrange building access for herself. Whether or not she had another position, Pogge himself seemed to be expecting her to work with his program at Yale, and moreover, expected her on or around the letter’s start date.

Regarding the notion that the alleged victims are after him, or Yale, for money, and always have been, on page 24, from an email dated September 6, 2010, Lopez Aguilar writes that she would like to be paid for the work she did for ASAP (“at whatever price you think fair, although, as I have already made clear to you – my estimates (of time, energy spent) place that assignments work value at $2,000), but that she will continue her work for the Global Justice Program without pay. She requested that she be granted the appropriate unpaid status so as to obtain access to campus, and particularly the building she would be working in. Again, on September 7, she reiterates that from this point onward, she would prefer not to be compensated for her work with GJP, but she that intends to serve as a volunteer throughout the year. Pogge replied both that he does not want the Global Justice Program to receive further help from her, and moreover (in an email dated September 7), the sort of unpaid status that would allow her access to the building and campus does not exist (which, in turn, raises questions about his account that she was not meant to be paid).

I find it perplexing that Pogge inferred “her plan was to force [him] into paying her a second full-time salary for the 2010-11 year” when in the correspondence he’s provided, she explicitly says multiple times after their dispute that she does not want to be paid for work with the GJP going forward, and yet she is still willing to do said work.

More generally, if she were after financial gain, going to the media before having filed suit in court would be an irrational thing to do, as it is keeping a university’s name out of embarrassing media in the first place that would typically make for the best leverage in terms of a settlement. Complaints filed with the Department of Education do not result in financial settlements for victims like many lawsuits do, and so at least with respect to that legal action, a financial motivation makes no sense (indeed, having not yet filed such a complaint, again, would make for better leverage if one were merely seeking financial gain).  And, of course, none of that is to mention that six years is quite a long time, and a significant amount of energy, to spend pursuing a settlement. If one were really after easy money, there are better uses of one’s time.

Finally, with respect to the claim “that false charges and rumors can be highly effective weapons in the intensely competitive worlds of academia and university politics,” it is worth remarking on that the one woman who was willing to identify herself publicly is the same woman who has left academia. This isn’t surprising. Indeed, I am sure that Pogge is quite familiar with the difference power, politics, and dependence can make. And while in some ways, I appreciate that he acknowledges that there is generally a high price to pay for reporting harassment, I am also sure that he is familiar with how liberal rhetoric can be used to distract from the persistent inequalities of the status quo. In fact, I think he wrote the book.

UPDATE: The link to the response doesn’t seem to be working right now. A copy of the response and appended correspondence is here.

Gender stereotypes and the gender gap in higher education

There’s an interesting op-ed on the role of gender stereotypes in gender differences in college participation and performance in the New York Times today by Andrew Reiner who teaches a course on masculinity at Towson University, and I thought our readers might be interested. Here’s a snippet of it:

In many ways, the young men who take my seminar — typically, 20 percent of the class — mirror national trends. Based on their grades and writing assignments, it’s clear that they spend less time on homework than female students; and while every bit as intelligent, they earn lower grades with studied indifference. When I asked one of my male students why he didn’t openly fret about grades the way so many women do, he said: ‘Nothing’s worse for a guy than looking like a Try Hard.’

In a report based on the 2013 book “The Rise of Women: The Growing Gender Gap in Education and What It Means for American Schools,” the sociologists Thomas A. DiPrete and Claudia Buchmann observe: “Boys’ underperformance in school has more to do with society’s norms about masculinity than with anatomy, hormones or brain structure. In fact, boys involved in extracurricular cultural activities such as music, art, drama and foreign languages report higher levels of school engagement and get better grades than other boys. But these cultural activities are often denigrated as un-masculine by preadolescent and adolescent boys.

. . . By the time many young men do reach college, a deep-seeded gender stereotype has taken root that feeds into the stories they have heard about themselves as learners. Better to earn your Man Card than to succeed like a girl, all in the name of constantly having to prove an identity to yourself and others.

HRC’s bathroom break

There was a five minute break in the Democratic Debate on Dec. 22nd. HRC was late in returning, and the debate started without her. That struck me as a bit outrageous, but it wasn’t high on my list of things to think about. Maybe I should have felt differently as the comments by the conservatives started up. But now I can be glad the Huffington Post has done a great job and saved me the effort.

Everything in the article is worth reading. I’m picking out a snippet that seems to me quite rich with observations, and I hope others will want to read more.

The author is Soraya Chemaly:

I write and talk about controversial subjects all the time – violence, rape, race – but I have never received as vitriolic a response as last summer, when I wrote about the disparity in public facilities for men and women, The Everyday Sexism of Women Waiting in Bathroom Lines; it was a piece about norms and knowledge. Angry people mostly men, by the hundreds, wrote to tell me I was vulgar, stupid, ignorant and should learn to stand in order to pee, because it’s superior. It continued for weeks, until I wrote a follow-up piece on the ten most sexist responses.

People may think that women no longer face sexism in media or politics when they speak, but that ignores the very obvious fact that even before women say anything they have already, in split seconds, jumped through hundreds of “what if I said something about sexism” hoops. Can you imagine the backlash and media frenzy if Clinton had actually, in some detail, pointed out that the women’s room was farther away or that there is often, especially at large public events like this debate, a line that women patiently wait in while men flit in and out and makes jokes about women’s vanity? That the microaggressive hostility evident, structurally, in so many of our legacy public spaces is relevant to women every day. “Bathroom codes enforce archaic and institutionalized gender norms,” wrote Princeton students Monica Shi & Amanda Shi about their school’s systemic sexism this year.

The male Gaze in retrospect

From CHE (Open access).

In 1975, the avant-garde filmmaker Laura Mulvey published her landmark essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” in the journal Screen. Bringing feminist theory to bear on a new wave of psychoanalytic film criticism, the essay set out to demonstrate how the structure of Hollywood films — camera angles, lighting, editing — foisted a masculine point of view on audiences watching passive, eroticized female objects. Mulvey’s notion of the “male gaze” made waves not just in film studies (four members of Screen’s editorial board resigned in protest of it and other psychoanalytic criticism) — but also across much of the humanities.
Forty years later, mainstream journalists casually toss off the phrase “male gaze” and it’s the name of a San Francisco post-punk band. But much has changed: Successive generations of feminists have debated women’s agency — for example, as not just subjects but also consumers of pornography. The notion of the lesbian gaze has gained currency. With the rise of social media, both men and women participate in a self-presentation that makes them the objects of the gaze as often as they are the gazers. Even the neat division of people into male and female seems, to many people, archaic.

Is Mulvey’s theory still relevant? How has it been most productively applied? How does it need to evolve? Here, four scholars reflect on those questions, and Mulvey responds.

Sex/gender and the brain: addition.

Gendered genes, gonads and genitals line up quite strongly.  That is, if you have a female version of one, the odds are very high that you will have female versions of the others.  Similarly for male versions.  Rebecca JordanYoung has argued in a number of venues that behavioral traits do not line up anything like as neatly.  Rather, bits of behavior and parts of character traits seem mixed up in comparison.  We may think that being nurturing and compliant go together in women and aren’t present in men, but in fact there are compliant and nurturing men, non-nuturing and compliant men, and so on.  Similarly for women.

This picture should lead us to suspect that the brain, in which our bodily movements originate, should manifest the same diversity.  And if female genes, gonads and genitals aren’t matched with a fairly uniform set of female character traits, we should wonder whether there is much like “a female brain” or a male one.

The topic of the gendered brain is widely discussed, but a new view is opening up, and it is much what one would expect, given the information above.  Using MRI imaging, researchers have looked at regions of the brain in which there are zones more reactive in men and others more reactive in women.  But the percentage of individuals possessing only the male zones or only the female zones is extremely small.  The women possessing only the womanly features – nurturing, compliant, more artsy than scientific, and so on and on – form a tiny group.  Ditto for men.

As a somewhat dense, but really exciting article in the Guardian puts it:

[What we expect is] Not a “male brain”, or a “female brain”, but a shifting “mosaic” of features, some more common in females compared to males, some more common in males compared to females, and some common in both.

This is exactly what the new study found for the first time, with colleagues from Tel Aviv University, the Max Planck Institute, and the University of Zurich. They tested this prediction by analyzing magnetic resonance images, which directly capture structural properties of the brain, from more than 1,400 human brains from four large data-sets. They identified in each data set the regions showing the largest differences between women and men. Next, they defined a “male-end” (males more prevalent than females) zone and a “female-end” (females more prevalent than males) zone for each of these regions, based on the range of scores of the most extreme third of men and women, respectively. They found that between 23% and 53% of individuals (depending on the sample) had brains with both “male-end” and “female-end” features. In contrast, the percentage of people with only “female-end” or only “male-end” brain features was small, ranging from zero to 8%.

Cordelia Fine is one of the authors of the article above; the other is Daphna Joel, a scientist on the study reported.  Cordelia Fine should be familiar to our readers as a splendid researcher on issues about sexism in neuroscience.

Addition:  I’ve just seen the somewhat dismissive NY Times report

Overall, the results show “human brains do not belong to one of two distinct categories,” male and female, the researchers concluded.

Larry Cahill, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Irvine, who didn’t participate in the new study, said he agreed that brains contain varying mixtures of male and female anatomical traits. But that doesn’t rule out differences in how the brains of the two sexes work, he said.

There’s “a mountain of evidence proving the importance of sex influences at all levels of mammalian brain function,” he said.

That work shows how much sex must matter, “even when we are not clear exactly how,” he said in an email.


Though we are not told about it, Cahill most certainly has a dog in this fight.  He concedes that we don’t have male and female brains, but he wants to emphasize what he’ll see are some important differences.  He may well have in mind, among other studies, “Sex differences in the structural connectome of the human brain,” from PNAS, vol 111, no 2.  The study claims to show the familiar idea that “male brains are optimized for intrahemispheric and female brains for inter hemispheric connections.”  It would take at least one book to sort out the history of this claim, but let me note that the research in the study is hotly contested.

Cordelia Fine, writing in Slate, summarizes challenges to the PNAS study, and notes that a subset of the study’s authors have published contradictory research.  She suggests the original paper may be the most neurosexist report of the year.

I’m not claiming to settle the issue, but rather to make it clear that agreement that there aren’t in general male and female brains is significant, given how fraught the research in this field is.

Shame/blame/guilt: a good way to produce nurturing, helpful women

Please note:  I suspect that the passage shown below is in fact drawn from studies of cis white women.  One difficulty in telling how ethnicity and gender queerness interact with the prevalence of depression in woman is that the facts discussed in the quoted passage below are not even well-recognized in the quasi-popular literature.  It’s as though continued assaults on the souls of young women aren’t medical enough.

(I am not saying that the passage below is correct; rather the point is the kind of explanation that it provides and that needs to be considered. Also, please excuse my occasional lapses into hyperbole.  I’m really, really pissed off.)

I think the passage below can be said to say the following:  continual criticism of girls and women for not being good enough in caring about others has an upside and a downside.

The upside: We get better mothers and more nurturing people in the society.

The downside: a lot of them become mentally ill.

And another shocker: this is way post Betty Friedan.  That is, it was released in 1997.


From Guilt and Children, ed by Jane Bybee.

Reader Query: “The Science of Sex Appeal”

A reader writes:

Has anyone seen the documentary “The Science of Sex Appeal,” and if so, could you please recommend academic sources that counter the claims made by this video?” While Cordelia Fine’s book is great for arguing against this evolutionary psychology bullshit more generally (sorry; maybe it isn’t all bullshit, but THIS stuff is), I’d really like to be able to point to specific claims made in the video and offer specific, scientifically supported claims to the contrary. I haven’t found anything through database searches.

UPDATE: This post has been a nightmare to moderate.  Do to many requests, I tried to confine comments to ones that really address the reader’s query, rather than dealing in big generalisations about whether feminists hate evolutionary psychology, etc. I’m now closing comments.


FURTHER UPDATE: This is being briefly re-opened.

The FEM Bible: feminist critiques of social media

The FEM Bible is a new initiative set up by some undergraduates in philosophy, and it’s great. Here’s their description:

“We are a feminist community fed up of the offensive posts being shared via Facebook & the internet. Our mission is to de-construct these posts by offering factual reviews on their damaging and oppressive nature.”
– FEMBible

The way the site works is simple: users submit a post or article of the kind often shared on social media that they found offensive, specifying who was harmed by it, how, and why it matters. . Posts intelligently discuss issues of sexism, classism, heterosexism, and shaming of survivors of sexual violence, among other issues. Websites purveying self-described ‘lad’ humour come in for a lot of justified criticism, as do various ‘clickbait’ type articles. Examples of material criticized includes facebook posts that sexualize breastfeeding, articles that applaud boys who have been sexually abused by female teachers as ‘lads’, and a Christmas card that offers ‘ten reasons why Santa must live on a housing estate’ (sample reason: ‘he only works once a year’ … yes, I know).

This initiative seems to sum up a lot that’s great about the kind of feminist activism that I’m seeing around my university at the moment: engaging, inclusive, intersectionally aware, media savvy. It’s fantastic to see such smart pushback from young activists against oppressive online material – check it out!

Ladybird drops gendered book branding

Since we frequently point out the occasions when toy manufacturers and the like make depressingly gender-normative gestures with their products, it’s a pleasure to also point out the occasions when they get things right. So: three cheers for Ladybird, the popular publisher of childrens’ books, who have undertaken to remove any gendered labelling from their collections of stories, since “we certainly don’t want to be seen to be limiting children“.

In the interests of editorial impartiality, it should be noted that other publishers have made the same pledge: Dorling Kindersley, Miles Kelly Books, and Chad Valley have also undertaken to refrain from publishing new titles with gendered branding.

This is a result of pressure from the Let Books be Books campaign, a subsidiary of the Let Toys be Toys campaign, worthwhile enterprises both.