Harassment, and unsupportive colleagues

Posted: December 8, 2010 by Jender in sexual harassment

This happened in the early 1990’s at an international conference.

When I was a young assistant professor working in a very male dominated field of philosophy (I only knew of 4 other women in the field at the time), I went to an international conference. In the first plenary session I asked a question. One of the very high profile men in philosophy who works in this field (among others) responded to me directly — even though he was not the speaker — with an answer to my question that seemed totally out of left field about mating and evolution. At first I was pleased that I was getting any uptake from the audience. Then he cornered me at the break and began to press his point. The conversation then turned to what I find attractive in men. He told me that his female graduate students like to sleep with high status professors. He kept getting closer to me and as I backed away gradually I found myself literally in a corner. Since he is at least a foot taller than I, it made me feel extremely small. I avoided him for the rest of the conference. I have
since left that field. Although I have related this humiliating experience to my colleagues (all but one of whom are male) at my home institution, they nevertheless chose him, over my protest, for our internationally known lecture series in ethics.

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