Kate Manne on Kavanaugh, and how women’s testimony is received

Excellent article by Kate Manne:

As has emerged in vivid and often harrowing detail via the #WhyIDidn’tReport hashtag trending on Twitter, there are many different reasons why women don’t report, and no one situation is exactly like another. A woman oppressed along multiple axes — due to her race, class, sexuality, or being trans, for example — may face barriers to speaking out that are especially or even uniquely formidable. That is a crucial reason why Tarana Burke, a Black feminist activist, founded the #MeToo movement over a decade ago: to center the experiences of abuse suffered by Black and brown girls who were and remain disproportionately vulnerable.
But while we shouldn’t universalize, we can identify some patterns that keep women who have been assaulted conveniently quiet — especially when the assailant is a privileged boy or powerful man, whom many people will rush to defend on instinct. There will be hand-wringing even among the people who judge him guilty, with women very much included, over the loss of his bright future — as if its derailment were not his fault, and the envisaged path were his birthright.

Read the whole thing.

Harassment and Academic Freedom

Lady Day has been running a wonderful academic freedom blog for some time. But today’s offering is especially important for FP readers, I think.

One final provocative point. Academic freedom isn’t a zero-sum game; so we really do not need to choose which threats to academic freedom we are most concerned about. That said, there is way more anger in the media and among the public about the purported threat to academic freedom when students oppose campus talks by controversial non-scholars like Milo Yiannopoulos or Faith Goldy (something that happens a handful of times each year) than there is about the ongoing, predictable, system-wide harassment of scholars — scholars! — like me, and the detrimental effect that harassment has on our scholarship. That needs to change.

Read the whole thing!

Freedman on Galloway, Boyden and Implicit Misogyny

In recent months, the Canadian literary and academic worlds have been rocked by sexual harassment allegations against former UBC Creative Writing Program Chair Steven Galloway. In brief, UBC fired Galloway, whereupon CanLit golden boy Joseph Boyden published an open letter to UBC  deploring what he saw as a breach of due process in the case. The letter was signed by 88 luminaries of Canadian literature (including, most notably, feminist author Margaret Atwood). A Twitter war ensued.

As Canadian feminist philosopher Karyn Freedman observes, the complainants in the case have been effaced from the public discussion.

Today is Canada’s s National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women — a day, it bears observing that marks the anniversary of the so-called Montréal Massacre, in which 14 women Engineering and Science students were murdered for being women. To mark the day, Freedman has published a piece on HuffPo Canada, decrying the implicit misogyny that led to the effacement of Galloway’s accusers, and urging Boyden and his fellow signatories to retract the letter.

You can read Freedman’s post here.

Kate Manne on Misogyny

With replies from Susan Brison, Imani Perry, Tali Mendelberg, and others.  Definitely check it out!

 

Think of misogyny, then, as the law enforcement branch of a patriarchal order. This makes for a useful if rough contrast between misogyny and sexism. Whereas misogyny upholds the social norms of patriarchies by patrolling and policing them, sexism serves to justifythese norms, largely via an ideology of supposedly natural differences between men and women with respect to their talents, interests, proclivities, and appetites.

Sexism is bookish; misogyny is combative. Sexism is complacent; misogyny is anxious. Sexism has a theory; misogyny wields a cudgel.

Sexists subscribe to sexist ideology (albeit often unconsciously). Misogynists engage in misogynist behavior (again, often unwittingly). A sexist believes in men’s superiority over women in masculine-coded domains—such as intellectual endeavors, sports, business, and politics—or that men are less suited to feminine-coded activities, such as domestic work, emotional labor, and caring for children and other dependents. Misogynists may hope that sexists are right, while fearing just the opposite.

Mattress Performance

See the NY Magazine:

23 students have complained that Columbia University fails to take proper action when students file complaint about sexual assault. They include the senior art student, who says she was raped in her sophomore year. She has created a performance art work, which consists in her carrying around the mattress on which she was raped.

Readers may well have seen posts about this situation on Facebook. But there are features of the story that are worth highlighting. Because I want to get this up reasonably soon, I am making really pretty obvious observations. Please add in if you want.

One thing to notice is that the situation offers the victim no good resolution. Emma Sulkowicz experiences a conflict between self-care and persistence in prosecuting her rapist, and she has dropped the latter. Such a reaction is very common. It has long seemed to me a mark of abuse that it leaves one with no good alternatives, but in saying this I am envisaging having to act pretty much alone, as is so often the case. And is the case here. Maybe close friends believe a victim, but a lot of people don’t. And who wants to go up against such an institution on a friend’s say-so? Because we still can’t count on institutions to act on the preponderance of evidence.

The preponderance of evidence seems clear here. Two other young women have accused the same man.

Another pretty awful feature is how some people react. If you can bear it, read the comments to see what you can expect.

Who’s fed up? Part II

Below you’ll find Part II of a letter FP was invited to post. There are several elements in this post that are worth explicitly distinguishing:
(1) Sexual harassment, which we can understand to include drawing particularly attention to a women’s gender.
(2) Demeaning one or more female colleagues and creating a hostile environment for her/them.
(3) The author’s tendency to link (1) and (2) to things like bruised masculinity and “personal or professional frustrations.”

I think that (2) and its link to (1) and (3) form a very important topic. As one Affirmative Action officer put it to me, “there’s no law against being a jerk.” That can make it seem as though women, despite their being a protected class, have no legal recourse when they are demeaned and their reputations are assaulted. However, I’ve argued in much earlier posts that we can discern elements of the demeaning which are gendered. I’ll shortly repeat some of those points and open the discussion to our readers. The current post, however, is closed to comments.

I’m repeating the last para of the previous post, since it provides a context for what follows it.
_____________________

Complaints of harassment are complaints of lack of professionalism in ways that hinder women’s professional advancement in philosophy. They include complaints that men are sexually predatory, aggressive, hostile, that they abuse their position, that they alternately prey on women sexually or spurn them for perceived rejection, that they systematically exclude women from philosophical conversations, downgrade their contributions, ignore them or respond to them with overly hostile reactions. Men in the field often take out their personal and professional frustrations on their female colleagues with sexual aggression. They do so overtly, by making overt sexual advances towards women that bear no relation to meaningful attempts to enter into a mutually respectful and caring relationship, and have everything to do with reasserting their feelings of power and control in personal and professional contexts. Or they might do so less overtly, with ad hominemm attacks on women’s femininity or sexuality and attractiveness, or their quality as a philosopher, made either directly or behind women’s backs to other members of the profession. These are also ways of reasserting their power and bruised masculinity and enlisting other members of the profession in their diminishment of their female colleagues.

Junior and senior philosophers alike are guilty of these behaviors. Offenders are your friends, colleagues, co-authors, co-organizers, esteemed rivals, and mentors. They are also husbands, fathers, and boyfriends. You might even have unwittingly crossed the line on occasion as well.

An exalted atmosphere of collegiality and sociability exacerbates these problems, and provides cover for these attacks on women. The informality and sexual permissiveness that pervades many professional philosophical environments (conferences, graduate departments, and so on) masks aggression and abuse, making them seem like gossip or harmless flirtation. Well-intentioned colleagues can unknowingly contribute to a climate of abuse by participating in and encouraging this fraternal banter, out of a misguided sense of friendship, loyalty in rebuilding bruised egos, or simply attempts to curry favor, gain inclusion, or seek professional advancement by more powerful members of the profession.

Make no mistake about the seriousness of the abuse and the depth of the damage that this kind of behavior wreaks, however. Bias thrives in unstructured environments, where objective excuses for hostility are available, and where stakes tend towards doling out in-group rewards rather than punishing out-group exclusion. When professional rewards are discretionary, distinction between in- and out-group membership is heightened, the perceived flaws or weaknesses of out-group members are exaggerated, members are blamed more harshly, weaknesses are attributed to the person (“she’s not very smart,” “she’s crazy,”…) not the circumstances, excuses are less available, and punishment is swifter and more severe. Withholding professional respect, excluding women from philosophical conversations, refusal to acknowledge their contributions or minimizing their significance in favor of those of male colleagues, are all examples of discretionary rewards that even the best-intentioned philosophers are prone to deny women in informal settings. The presence of a male philosopher displaying overt hostility or aggression towards a female philosopher licenses further in-group hostility towards her, and where an objective rationalization is available for explaining this behavior (he has an objection to her argument, say, or she behaved somewhat inappropriately, etc.), it is often taken to justify this response. Women philosophers thus also suffer judgments that are harsher than their male colleagues’, more hostile, quicker and crueler dismissals of their views, and these judgments are multiply-reinforced by even their well-intentioned peers.

Countering complaints about sexual harassment by pointing to the hazards of dating life and noting women’s consent to affairs ignores the nature of the wrong being committed and diminishes the seriousness of the complaint. Sexual harassment isn’t sexual assault. Consent is irrelevant. The concern lies with a vitriolic professional atmosphere which allows virtually untrammeled sexual access to women, including the diminishment of their professional status, under the guise of “dating,” and in which women bear virtually 100% of the professional costs of relationships gone wrong. Pointing out the adulthood of the complainants and alluding to the fact that some relationships succeed is belittling, beside the point, and, frankly, a bullying tactic aimed at embarrassing women complaining of the over-sexualization of the profession into silence. It is no part of a meaningful conversation about the climate in philosophy.

What’s a well-intentioned single guy to do when he meets a likeminded female philosopher with similar interests and with whom he makes a “connection?” Hold back. This isn’t OKCupid. A thoughtful philosophical conversation is not flirtation, however titillating it might be, and following it up at the bar or wherever the rest of the professionals go after the formal encounter has ended is not an invitation for sex. Imagine this woman was your advisor/letter writer/dean, and then ask whether your interest is strong enough to risk the professional relationship.

I don’t know how to rid philosophy of sexual harassment or what an ideal outcome would look like, but I am certain that no progress can be made without genuine and sincere attempt to come to terms with the full breadth of the problem, and a meaningful way of holding wrongdoers accountable for their actions. Women are failing by virtually every measure of success in philosophy. Responses like those listed are defensive and deflecting, and serve more to silence conversation and stifle understanding, than they are attempts to make meaningful progress on an important and pressing issue.

I am writing anonymously because of the overwhelming risk of professional retaliation. I hate doing this. The indignity of not being able to defend myself in my own name is outweighed only by my frustration with these “conversations” that I have to keep having.

Fed Up

#YesAllPhilosophers

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:

#YesAllWomen capture 1

 

#YesAllWomen capture 2

 

One of the tweets most likely to resonate with all or most female philosophers (thanks, S.E.!) is this one:

#YesAllWomen capture 3

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

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.

If you’re wondering how wrong university procedures can go…

[Trigger Warning]

This story from Brown University will give you some idea. I encourage anyone who is confused about why victims may not come forward especially to read it. But of course, this isn’t just about Brown.

Students were outraged in 2013, when Yale University disclosed in a semi-annual report that only one of six people found responsible for sexual assault had been suspended, and the rest were punished with reprimands, training or probation. A subsequent report showed one student was found guilty of sexual assault and was given a two- term suspension, and the rest of the assault cases hadn’t concluded or did not lead to a formal investigation.

From the 2008-09 academic year to 2012-13 at Harvard College, five students were required by the Administrative Board to withdraw from the undergraduate school due to “social behavior – sexual.” Two students were punished with probation for “social behavior – harassment/sexual” and the college took no action against six students for “social behavior – sexual.” Harvard College was hit with a federal complaint last month for, among other grievances, forcing sexual assault victims to live in the same residence halls as their attackers.

Documents provided by Dartmouth College show that from 2010 to 2013, sexual violence cases resulted in two students being “separated or resigned” from the college, two students suspended, two placed on probation and four found “not responsible.”Dartmouth may implement a policy that would make expulsion the preferred sanction for students guilty of sexual misconduct.

Colleges are not required to disclose how many students are investigated or punished for sexual misconduct. Columbia University, for instance, has so far declined to release such statistics.

Three women accused the same male student at Columbia of sexual assault. Still, two of the reported victims told HuffPost that the male student was found not responsible and was allowed to stay on campus.