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.’


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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