Comments on: Resigning Women, or, should you tell them what you really think? http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/ History and sexual politics, 1492 to the present Mon, 29 Sep 2014 21:14:56 +0000 hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.2 By: Satsuma http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/comment-page-1/#comment-196588 Sun, 25 Jan 2009 00:21:52 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/#comment-196588 hard to say about the truth in the letter sending. but you might want to consider it just the truth. Institutions write off people all the time and get away with it. Mary Daly didn’t call it Academintia for nothing.

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By: Nicole http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/comment-page-1/#comment-135 Sun, 27 Jan 2008 01:39:55 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/#comment-135 I’m bummed that the letter didn’t go to everyone on faculty. I find that bullies are ineffective (or at least less effective) once they are “called out” and from the sound of it, this individual is an experienced bully who is likely doing it to others. If for no other reason than to start a paper trail, this person’s actions need to be documented.
Regarding the single women issue: I think they are targeted because they are often more vulnerable financially speaking. As a “partnered” person who could rely on my partner’s income for a time, if necessary, I would probably be more likely to stand up to such a bully. If I were paying my bills on my own I’d probably take a lot more crap from my boss. Beyond that, I think women are are given messages when they complain like that they are overreacting, or being too sensitive, or worse- when it is a woman bullying them- that they are jealous and/or being catty.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/comment-page-1/#comment-130 Sat, 26 Jan 2008 14:59:29 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/#comment-130 Hey, Rad–thanks for weighing in. The question of formal or legal action has been raised by other commentors. My friend went through all of the usual channels to try to get redress, and then when she got nothing out of that, she filed a grievance–all of this was according to the manual. She found that when she went through the institutional channels, instead of relief, she was retaliated against. She lawyered up but lost a Civil Rights claim. Because she wanted to move on with life, she had to abandon a civil claim against her employer. Her lawyer was not a crusading lefty, but rather an average middle-aged midwestern kind of guy who grew increasingly horrified at the way the “liberal” university was steamrolling my friend.

These are facts I should have included in the original post, because I think it highlights that people caught in situations like my friend’s feel like a primal scream is the only thing they’ve got left to use. Susan’s first comment alluded to an important truism: once someone is promoted to an administrative position, the university’s reflexive defense is to justify that decision, no matter what kind of a rolling disaster he or she is. I have seen (and, sadly, experienced) this to-the-barricades attitude used to defend indefensible administrators before.

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By: Radreadr http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/comment-page-1/#comment-129 Sat, 26 Jan 2008 06:36:00 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/#comment-129 The letter is nice, both in terms of personal catharsis and in that it hangs the institution’s dirty laundry and possibly embarrasses the main antagonist. But to get them to pay attention, consider a complaint of some sort. If something was done that violated a law or at least the university’s code of conduct, then you should seek avenues for redress. If something went too far, why stop at a letter?

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By: Wendy http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/comment-page-1/#comment-128 Fri, 25 Jan 2008 18:53:16 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/#comment-128 Historiann,

I find my self giving much thought to your friend and her situation. She has now decided to write to her former supervisor. I am not sure I agree but I am assuming that by now, revenge will be eaten cold. Did she have an avenue of complaint to pursue? Presumably that was a dead end.

I am intrigued that nobody has addressed your aside about single women and their economic vulnerability. Has feminism not progressed far enough to overcome this? I was about to make a remark about precious pricks (a term I usually reserve for men) when I realized that your friend’s supervisor was a woman. I do not wish to imply that all women need partners to “protect “them; an insurance policy, someone to pay the bills temporarily, a shoulder to lean on.What about emotional vulnerability? This should apply equally to men and women. I am left wondering if there is a solution.

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By: David http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/comment-page-1/#comment-127 Fri, 25 Jan 2008 16:53:19 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/#comment-127 Well, I’m happy to hear about the specifics. Stick it to her! I totally agree. In this case, Fuck civility.

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By: squadratomagico http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/comment-page-1/#comment-126 Fri, 25 Jan 2008 16:07:41 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/#comment-126 Thanks, Said Friend, for the clarification. I initially envisioned the letter as a catalogue of more systemic abuses, which struck me as likely to alienate everyone associated with the system — i.e., any and all former colleagues. But if it is chiefly concerned with the abuses of a specific person, then such a letter does have an achieve-able goal, e.g., irritating, humiliating, and enraging the former superior, and possibly (if she’s that type of person) causing her to think twice before abusing a subordinate again. And as Historiann surmised, it also seems more palatable if the audience is more limited.

On the other hand, I would not call this act courageous. You yourself point out that it is, in fact, an exercise of power. Now that the power has shifted in your favor, there is no risk to you, and hence no courage in the confrontation. It’s just an act of revenge that will make you feel good.

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By: Susan http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/comment-page-1/#comment-125 Fri, 25 Jan 2008 15:23:01 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/#comment-125 Oh, sorry for my sloppy writing. I mean your friend has a great “FIrst Person” article.

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By: Historiann http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/comment-page-1/#comment-124 Fri, 25 Jan 2008 14:35:23 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/#comment-124 Hi all newcomers–David, Frank, and NK–thanks for weighing in. Said Friend has totally changed the game if the letter is only going to the former supervisor. I think most of the squeamishness reflected in the comments above had to do with the reach of the correspondence across the faculty and university.

True confession: I’m invested in questions of fair play in work envirnoments not just as Said Friend’s friend, but as someone who once had a Very Bad Job. (So bad that the tenure line had existed for 17 years and no one had ever been tenured in it!) I gave a F. U. speech to my soon-to-be former department when I resigned–and it felt great! People were angry–how could they not be, to have an assistant professor get up in their faces? Even my friends and supporters were angry, because they thought that my speech made it difficult for them to justify supporting me. But I was sick and tired of playing by the rules of an alchoholic family–don’t ever confront the problem, just pretend like we all get along. but I’m pleased to say my speech was prescient about all of that department’s problems, and the biggest jerks are still there, and still making each other miserable. Schadenfreudelicious!

That said, my decision to spout off was a calculated one. I had already secured another tenure-track job, and I worked in a department with no other experts in my major fields, so I’d never have to see them again, nor would I need to fear retribution (in reviewing grant proposals, peer review, etc.) They could bad mouth me at my former institution–but they were doing that anyway.

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By: Said Friend http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/comment-page-1/#comment-123 Fri, 25 Jan 2008 08:34:13 +0000 http://www.historiann.com/2008/01/24/resigning-women-or-should-you-tell-them-what-you-really-think/#comment-123 I am Historiann’s letter-writing friend. I wrote the letter and will be sending it because it is always important for the truth to be told (whether received by deaf ears or not) and because sending this truth-clarifying statement will cause considerable emotional damage to the person it is addressed to–my former supervisor, the director of a university honors program who bullied me to the point that I was diagnosed with PTSD and colluded with administrative officials in successfully running me out of my job. No one unconnected to this institution understands how this could have happened to such a successful and popular teacher and administrator (I was the associate director of the program). Even my lawyer was driven to expletives.

The letter is not a gratuitous rant; it is measured and based on facts. It is, however, aimed at undermining and humiliating this person. Because I know this person well, I am sure that she will be extremely disturbed. And while she may only be undone for a finite period of time, still, she will never again be able to dismiss me with easy relief and satisfaction.

I have also named names in the letter–of colleagues and students who concurred and supported me–and I make clear that those named have read and authorized the letter (which they have done). I have done so because bullies or abusers are only successful when they isolate and marginalize their victims (as happened to me). Abusers thrive on silence. Victims come to power when they assert their voice. Institutional oppression/repression, in turn, thrives on “civility.” Justice or truth, in such a situation, requires subversion. Because I no longer have any ties to this institution (other than my good friends who support me in what I am doing), and thus will suffer no consequences (nothing I wrote is actionable–it is just damning), I actually, for the first time, have some power. I am eager to exercise it.

This letter is meant to fuck things up. And yes, it is an act of revenge. I have yet to hear why seeking revenge is such a bad thing. I no longer want to hear that “living well is the best revenge.” This is a category mistake. Living well is living well (which I am doing). Causing pain as payback to someone who ruined your life is something completely different. I have heard that I should take the “high road.” My response is that being direct, exposing, and even destructive in certain situations is the responsible and even courageous thing to do.

The plans for the letter have changed, and I will be sending it only to my former supervisor because one person mentioned does not feel comfortable with me sending it to faculty colleagues, and I am happy to respect this person’s wishes. It should nonetheless have a negative impact on my former supervisor’s life and this knowledge, in addition to living well, will help me move on.

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