Let’s Try a New Experiment: Self-Awareness

I was enrolled in a seminar about experimental literature where the Prof. encouraged the students to share their own experiences and feelings. During a class discussion on a novel described by its author as a ‘feminist’ text, the female students criticized the novel for the lack of attention the author paid to the everyday experience of sexism. The Prof. admitted he did not know what the term ‘everyday sexism’ meant. After an explanation from an articulate student, who also noted that this form of sexism was particularly present among the ‘educated’ male academic, the Prof. proceeded to angrily tell the women in the class, “I know there is no sexism in this department.” He then made it clear that he would never teach this particular text again as it had not offered “productive” discussion.

Not only is this Prof. the departmental liaison for the University’s anti-discrimination body, he also–repeatedly–engaged with the female students over the course of the term in creepy, almost predatory ways: such as offering one student liquor to ease her nerves before a presentation (which his research assistant told us he did indeed have in his office), and commenting on the physical characteristics of another, saying “I was just imagining you as a blonde,” when she shared an anecdote about not being recognized after dying her hair.

I’m sad to report that this attitude is also present among the male students in the department.

Story signed by : AlienatedinAcademia

The story happened to me as a Master student in the year 2014 around an academic institution in North America

Cakes and Hugs

In a meeting with a head of the department, a female professor was told that she should be Senior Tutor as she is ‘all cakes and hugs’ while a male colleague should be in charge of strategy. There is no evidence that this male colleague has any previous experience of strategy.

Story signed by : another lecturer in the UK.

The story happened to a friend of mine as a Dr. Prof. in the year 2014 in the UK

Teenage Angst

My 17 year old daughter is studying Archaelogy, Environmental science, Geology and history at A level and will apply soon to University. She is beautiful but very humble. She is also clearly spoken and minds her punctuation largely because of me nagging over the years. She is repeatedly beeped at by young male students driving past her as she walks to college. They think its a compliment its made her so embarrassed she gets very nervous each morning and if I can or her dad we will drive her there. She knows she will have to just grin and bear it but is that right? Today someone said she was posh and probably snobby as she had never had a boyfriend she must think she is better than everyone else! Luckily she is just about self confident enough to get on with life but she is nervous about university as she has heard the news lately about how sexist they are. When I posted something on facebook about people beeping their horns was making my daughter nervous. They said she should be happy when she is older she wont get the attention anymore. Do they not get it? She hasn’t asked for it and she doesn’t want it. She was lucky enough to born with looks that other people admire but she is just trying to study hard and make her way.

Story signed by : tezgwood1

The story happened to a friend of mine in the year 2014 around an academic institution in ‘Not in Belgium’

Casual sexism at Oxbridge

I’m in my thirties with a PhD and several years’ professional experience. During a meeting with all male colleagues, I was referred to by a senior professor as “a clever girl.”
I felt too humiliated to retort, and besides I don’t think he even perceived it as insulting so I would’ve felt awkward “making a fuss.” It’s played on my mind ever since though.

Story signed by : Doc Brown

The story happened to me as a Post Doc in the year 2013

More Sexism in Medieval Studies

I was attending a major national conference at the end of my MA year. In the evening, I was standing around chatting with several faculty members from my undergraduate institution. As we spoke, an eminent professor (hereafter Professor Seahorse) at my current institution, with whom I had taken several classes that year, walked behind me and ran his palm across my shoulder blades and down my arm to my elbow. He kept walking, and after a moment of puzzlement I convinced myself that there was nothing to it– after all, he was married, tenured, and several decades my senior. Surely he didn’t intend to be inappropriate.

Several years later, I’m now a PhD student at the same university, sitting with Professor Seahorse in a booth in a pub near campus (his “other office,” as he liked to call it), discussing a term paper that I’m writing for his course. By this point I’ve learned that Professor Seahorse has a reputation for inappropriate behaviour, and sometimes more, with female students. He blatantly objectifies the server to her face, addressing her as a “pouty-lipped love-goddess.” On another occasion where office hours took place in a pub, I was treated to a long account of how drunk he had been at his wedding, and how he had recoiled upon seeing his bride at the altar; she did not usually wear make-up, and her application of it on her wedding day was unskillful. This was an uncomfortable discussion, to say the least. Students should not be party to their professor’s marital dissatisfactions. What does one even say to a story like that?

One afternoon I was sitting with a classmate on the patio of a cafe next to the same pub. Professor Seahorse, who has clearly had a few, emerges from the pub and brazenly looks me up and down. “Oh… helloooo. Looking good. Oh, [classmate’s name], I didn’t even see you there. I was too busy looking at [my name].” Professor Seahorse blatantly checks me out one more time, pays another ‘compliment,’ and finally stumbles off.

Story signed by : Buddug

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year(s) 2005-2009 around an academic institution in ‘Not in Belgium’

Ignoring female professors

At a beginning of the year reception, our chair was introducing all of us to the new dean. We were all standing around loosely in a circle. We have several couples in our department, and when the chair got to the first couple, he said ‘This is Professor X, who works on Y, and his wife, Z.’ He did the same thing when he got to the next couple. In other words, two female professors were introduced only as the spouses of other professors–their titles and fields were not mentioned. A third female professor was skipped over altogether.

Story signed by : Hecate

The story happened to me as a Dr. Prof. in the year 2013 around an academic institution in ‘Not in Belgium’

Sexism in Medieval Studies

I’m posting this today because, one of my communities, medieval studies, is in a bit of an uproar as sexual harassment cases are being shared publically for the first time. I’m currently looking for resources for creating safe space and building community culture around respect, support and safety. Because ultimately I think what needs to be built is a culture of intervention and support. Most of the time, bystanders don’t step in to help and the victim is left standing alone and told it’s not worth their time or energy or risk to their career to advocate for themselves.

This happened to me in 2006. Friends, family members, mentors told me to be quiet, that this senior professor, a man I was going to ask to be my supervisor, was probably drunk and didn’t remember the horrible things he shouted about me to a patio full of people, in front of an amassed group of colleagues when I was a 21 year old, first year Ph.D. student. I sat there and let him make fun of me and speculate about me sleeping with the male student I happened to be sitting with, and then worse, go on to accuse me of being no good at my work, tell me that I shouldn’t start a reading group because my language skills – in a class he had never taught me – weren’t good enough. He publicly humiliated me and plenty of people, male and female colleagues alike, sat there and said nothing. And afterwards, skepticism, excuses, apologia- phrases like ‘I wasn’t there, I can’t comment’ or ‘oh but he’s such a good scholar’, and , the worst, ‘but you should still work with him because he’s such a big name.’

This needs to stop. We need to tell students, junior faculty, all faculty that this behaviour is unacceptable. That if someone verbally attacks you, threatens you, touches you, assaults you, tries to sleep with you, it’s not okay. And there are people you can go to who will help you file the necessary paperwork and stand beside you when the perpetrator is handed their consequences.

I am angry, almost 10 years later, that I never filed a complaint. I had more than enough reason and more than enough witnesses and I didn’t say a damn thing on record.

And it is so much worse for so many women I know in medieval studies who were harassed by this man and many others.

If you have any suggestions, or just want to connect, please reply in the comments or e-mail SASSY to get my contact information.

Story signed by : Giselle Gos

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year(s) 2005-2009 at an academic institution in ‘Not in Belgium’

Sexual harassment by postdoc – no support of boss

We got a new postdoc in his middle thirties in our lab from an eastern European country. From the beginning on, he was disproportionate friendly. He especially chummed up with the female part of the work group and always suggested going to a concert together. At first we all were very friendly, invited him to join in to go out for a beer together with the whole group after work. Since most of us didn’t like him too much from the beginning on, the girls always said no when he asked them out. However, he kept on asking even if you told him you had a boyfriend and preferred not seeing him in the evenings. After some time I got angry when he kept on asking. Especially since he on the one hand wanted to see you after work but didn’t respect you as an equal colleague during work (although we were both postdocs). One had the impression that he felt like the better scientist because he was a man. He never accepted my advice in genetics although I was clearly the expert whereas he never really had worked genetically before. He also started discussions about that in his opinion girls and women exclusively dress up and use make up to please men. One of our male PhD students told us that the postdoc and a postdoc from a Persian country (around 40 years old) came to him one day to ask him if it is true that German girls are easy. When the postdoc started to harass even our young female student helpers (although always with words, never physically), I became worried about letting them work alone in the culture rooms in the cellar on weekends. The more he harassed the girls and the less respected I felt, the more angry and unfriendly I became. Interestingly, every time I had a quarrel with him in the evening, I would find some lose tubes from my culture flasks the next morning. I cannot prove that he pulled them out but there was a high correlation. I know that several girls went to our boss to inform him about this postdoc. We also begged our boss to do something to stop the postdoc bothering the girls. However, I got the answer that we must understand that this postdoc – originating from an eastern European country – has another cultural background and therefore it might be that we misinterpret his behavior. Interestingly, I also originate from an eastern European country and I am absolutely not used to such a behavior from men. This story happened in a university in one of the bigger cities in Germany.

Story signed by : Angry female postdoc

The story happened to me as a Post Doc in the year 2011 around an academic institution in ‘Not in Belgium’

Burnt-out Feminist

As the only female in my department, I am often the only member of staff to notice certain obvious problems regarding scheduling (after-school/evenings), female doctoral students too afraid to talk to their supervisors (but comfortable sharing concerns with me), exclusion of women from lectures and other events hosted by our faculty etc. After so many years of expressing these concerns, I had hoped others might begin to notice – especially since they are not being required by external bodies (university regulations, funding bodies etc). Sadly this is not the case and I am burnt-out. I want to be able to talk about my research, my projects, etc and not about problems that we should all be combatting together? Any other burnt-out feminists experiencing a similar reality?

Signed: Burnt-out Feminist

The story happened to me at an academic institution in Belgium

An Academic Witch Hunt

My faculty is very conservative. As an unmarried mother, my partner and I were never able to feel ‘at home’ when interacting with other colleagues and their wives (there were no other women on staff). At first I just thought people were being a little unfriendly but slowly I realised that I was the victim of a witch-hunt. It began with constantly having to justify everything I did, both my research and teaching – I was clearly being observed and evaluated by all. But it got much worse. I was harassed by students on a website organised by a fellow professor and when I asked for action to be taken to stop this site nothing was done. This made them feels safe and they went a step further. They published a satirical magazine on a website calling me a lesbian, accusing me of sleeping with my female students and spicing things up with pictures of witches. I couldn’t believe my eyes and again no one stopped this, people just pretended nothing was happening and I was beginning to feel crushed and hopeless. Finally I decided to take legal actions but I was totally on my own. Eventually I fell into a depression and had to take time off of work. After a while I started looking for other jobs, I could not go back there. While I am now back at work this experience really destroyed my sense of self and career.

Signed: Pocahontas

The story happened to me at an academic institution in Belgium