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There have been a number of good posts ’round these parts recently that have continued discussing bullying and harrassment in academic work environments, especially as they affect women faculty members. (Not so happy trails today, friends–but be good to your horse anyway.) See for example Clio Bluestocking’s appalling stories of harrassment: part I, part II, and part III. She makes the observation in Part III that “[T]he focus in harassment cases is upon the “sexual,” which is not the source of the abuse. The source of the abuse is in the “harassment,” which is not always sexual in nature. While most universities and workplaces have a policy against sexual harassment, they do not have policies dealing with simple harassment or bullying. . . . unless provable damage had been done, and unless the hostile work environment rested upon sex, the subordinates had few options for recourse.” The result of this failure to police or prevent harrassment is that in her case, “the colleagues of these [harrassers] did not see objections to their behavior as anything other than a personality conflict. When I brought my problem to the chair of the department in the third case, he told me, ‘you can’t file a complaint against someone for being an a**hole.’”
Why not? Isn’t creating a “hostile work environment” part and parcel of being an a**hole? (I wouldn’t have minded working with a**holes so much if they left it at home.) Tenured Radical posted last year about a book by Robert I. Sutton that argues that keeping a**holes out is an important precondition to creating a healthy and happy work environment. She writes, “What is great about The No A**hole Rule is that Sutton’s examples help identify the a**hole behavior that is particular to one’s own workplace, how to identify it in oneself, and how to resist it. He also demonstrates the damage caused by a**holes, several of which seem particularly relevant to academic institutions, in my experience. One is that a**hole behavior is contagious: if effective interventions are not made, people who are not certified a**holes become more prone to temporary a**hole behaviors as they try to resist domination and seizures of power.” (By the way, go ahead and type in the esses if you’re looking for Sutton’s book–Historiann doesn’t like to work blue.)
Prof. Zero makes a related point about abusive environments in her recent post, I Object, in which she meditates on domestic violence and victim-blaming. She writes, “I find it very interesting that [women] are expected to escape physical abuse and are heavily criticized if we do not, but [we are expected] to absorb verbal and emotional abuse. We are to say it is happening because we have a ‘communication problem.’ Had we phrased things just right, we would have avoided ‘misunderstandings’ and would not have been abused. Now that we have been, we must be quiet and wait for the next episode. In the meantime we must still function at a high level.” She’s absolutely right–why do we blame the victims if they don’t leave after being physically abused, and then blame victims again if they don’t just shut up and take it when being bullied and abused emotionally? If we accept that victims of physical violence have no control over their abusers’ behavior, why do we tell people who are being bullied that they should “try to get to know people better,” and suggest that if they took people out to lunch more often, the harrassment would end?
Finally, Ann Bartow at Feminist Law Profs has put together some useful links in Data on Women and Men in Academia. Note in particular the link to “Women, Work, and the Academy: Strategies for Responding to ‘Post-Civil Rights Era’ Gender Discrimination,” a report by Alison Wylie, Janet R. Jakobsen and Gisela Fosado at the Barnard Center for Research on Women.
Whew. Historiann has got quite a few stables to muck out now, doesn’t she? Giddyup.