But you can’t work with *him*

Posted: April 11, 2011 by Jender in sexual harassment

When I was an undergraduate, I was dead-keen on Big Name Philosopher. His work was brilliant! I decided I wanted to apply to do a PhD in his Big Name Department so I could work with him. I was advised that, actually, he wasn’t at Big Name Department any more. ‘Well, where is he?’, I wanted to know: ‘I want to work with him!’

‘No really, you don’t want to work with him,’ was the reply. ‘He’s a perv. He was forced out of Big Name Department on account of serial sexual harassment.’

Oh.

So, this Big Name Philosopher that we all read in our (required) undergraduate philosophy class is off-limits to me, because I am female. He’s big and important, and if the boy next to me in seminar works really hard in undergrad, he might one day get to work with Big Name Philosopher; but I can’t, no matter how hard I work, because, in addition to being arguably the most important philosopher in his sub-field, he’s also a serial harasser. Brilliant!

To my mind it goes to show that ‘formal’ mechanisms for dealing with this behaviour simply can’t be adequate (even if they did regularly work): what does Big Name Philosopher care what department he’s in, if every philosophy student in the country is still required to read his work?

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