Women on Top: The (Not So) Changing Nature of Power in a Capitalist Postfeminist Academe

By T. Nikki Cesare Schotzko

Women on Top: The (Not So) Changing Nature of Power in a Capitalist Postfeminist Academe[1]

When Irigaray posits that the role of men in exchanging women seemingly excludes woman from this role, this is not necessarily the case. Women need not be excluded per se from being exchangers if they likewise exchange women according to male desires/needs. If women remain commodities, a role man does not instantiate, then a masculine economy can operate successfully, and our capitalist postfeminist era is living proof.

—Tegan Zimmerman, “Revisiting Irigaray’s Essay ‘Women on the Market’” (2016:433)

 

Patriarchy has no gender.

—bell hooks, Teaching Critical Thinking: Practical Wisdom (2010:170)

 

i.

In Luce Irigaray’s essay “Women on the Market” (1977), the burden of late capitalism fully rests on women. “The society we know, our own culture,” she writes in the opening sentence, “is based upon the exchange of women” (1985 [1977]:170). Expanding from Marx’s Capital: Critique of Political Economy (1867), Irigaray argues that a woman’s exchange value as property is necessarily realized or reconstituted as use value through her reproductive labour. “The economy—in both the narrow and the broad sense—that is in place in our societies,” Irigaray argues, “thus requires that women lend themselves to alienation in consumption, and to exchanges in which they do not participate, and that men be exempt from being used and circulated like commodities” (1985 [1977]:172). Though it is woman’s “socially valued, exchangeable body” (180) that makes possible modern social order within the capitalist patriarchy, a woman herself is only ever recognized as a “social object”—never a subject (189).

Tegan Zimmerman, recuperating Irigaray’s essay within a more contemporary capitalist structure, asserts the role class implicitly plays in Irigaray’s argument, proffering that to more explicitly engage class “redefines patriarchy as not only a hierarchy between the ontological sexes—men and women—but also economically as a class hierarchy” (2016:427). Zimmerman further makes more evident the conflation between capitalism and patriarchy necessary to either’s ongoing socio-structural stability, as well as to both capitalism’s and the patriarchy’s mutual reliance on a postfeminist ideology—an ideology whereby it is not only men who are the “perpetuators of a masculine economy” but women as well (427).

Drawing on Gail Finney’s understanding of postfeminism as a dialectical juxtaposition of “traditional femininity with masculine privilege” (Finney 2006:123; in Zimmerman 2016:432), Zimmerman renders explicit a complicity between the capitalist patriarchy and a postfeminist ideology—one predicated on a “masculine economy” that is both synonymous with patriarchy and reinforces not only male privilege but a systematic devaluation of women and, by extension, of women’s work. For Irigaray’s argument not only to remain relevant but also strategic, Zimmerman argues, women must first be positioned “as both a gender and a class” and, second, be held accountable when they engage in active participation within the masculine economy (2016:432).

Following Zimmerman’s argument, postfeminism erodes avenues of progress and change eked out by previous generations of women, men, and trans people; it undoes channels of connection forged through intersectional feminism; and, as such, it “obscures or makes invisible the many ways in which women are connected, such as transnational projects and organizations, production of goods, labor exploitation, sexual health, education, poverty, spousal abuse, rape, and sexual harassment” (433). Further, in its collusion with the capitalist patriarchy, postfeminism affords certain (read: necessarily privileged, likely white) women the illusion of power within a masculine economy while dismantling relationships between women in the global and local, socioeconomic, –political, and personal spheres. Or, as Zimmerman notes, “woman as exchanger is a false power, a power that turns women against each other, whereby the exchanger earns capital gains at the cost/exploitation of another woman” (433). A postfeminist politic may present itself outside the neoliberal domain of the capitalist patriarchy—misogyny peeking out from beneath the equating of workplace parity (that is, power) with a traditional (that is, submissive) femininity; but its impact only becomes something more than speculative when it is operative within the capitalist patriarchy, and this is where its effectiveness becomes most honed.

ii.

Laura Kipnis argues in Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus (2017) “that policies and codes that bolster traditional femininity—which has always favoured stories about female endangerment over stories about female agency—are the last thing in the world that’s going to reduce sexual assault” (8). In February 2015, Kipnis, a tenured professor in Radio/Television/Film at Northwestern University’s School of Communication, published, in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Sexual Paranoia Strikes Academe,” a critique of US universities’ adoption of stricter policies in relation to Title IX—“a federal statute originally implemented in 1972 to address gender discrimination in universities, but which has since extended […] into such areas as gender identity and sexual violence” (Cooke 2017; see Kipnis 2015a). Kipnis took issue with the policy’s limiting of even consensual relationships between faculty or staff and students. (According to the Northwestern University Policy/Procedures statement [2014], consensual relationships between faculty or staff and graduate students are limited depending on the faculty or staff’s supervisory or evaluative capacity to the student and subject to administrative intervention; relationships of any sort are strictly prohibited between faculty or staff and undergraduate students.[2]) Shortly after publication, Kipnis learned that, amid protests over the article during which students carried Emma Sulckowicz–inspired mattresses[3], two graduate students had filed a Title IX claim against her “on the basis of the essay and ‘subsequent public statements’ (which turned out to be a tweet)” (Kipnis 2015b). One of the graduate students was acting “on behalf of the university community” (Kipnis 2015b); the other was an unnamed subject in Kipnis’s article, having filed a Title IX claim against philosophy professor Peter Ludlow, who ultimately had two sexual misconduct claims against him before he resigned (see Cooke 2017). Though Kipnis was exonerated after a 72-day process, and wrote about it in both a second article in Chronicle and in her book, the conflict continued when the second graduate student filed a defamation suit (still pending) against Kipnis and HarperCollins over publication of Unwanted Advances (Gersen 2017).

Kipnis’s premise in Unwanted Advances is that increasingly puritanical if arbitrary definitions of sexual misconduct and assault on US university campuses infantilize women while progressively more strident and yet obfuscatory disciplinary processes and actions on the part of university committees responsible for upholding Title IX policies compromise professors’ academic freedom, not to mention their reputations and livelihood, when accused of misconduct or assault. That she herself could be subject to a Title IX claim because of a vetted scholarly article (and a tweet) not only broached an incursion into first amendment principles but also placed what Kipnis refers to as “intellectual disagreement” on par with sexual misconduct and assault (139). “[T]he more that colleges devote themselves to creating ‘safe spaces,’ that new campus watchword,” Kipnis writes, “the more dangerous campuses have become for professors, and the less education itself becomes anyone’s priority” (140).

The way Title IX was enacted in Kipnis’s case was, based on her account, nearly Machiavellian, and it is in no small way demonstrative of the institutional exploitation of the individual—quite often both the Complainant and Responder—for its own protection and benefit. However, Kipnis’s constant battery of women in university, undergraduate and graduate alike, for not holding themselves accountable for what she considers “sexual ambivalences or awkward sexual experiences” and thus becoming agents of their own passivity is increasingly difficult to read, no matter how many times (and there are not so many) she reasserts that “[n]one of this is to diminish the reality of sexual assault” (17) or “[t]here are clearly sexual assaults on campus” (202)—especially when the latter is immediately followed by her indictment of “hyperbolic accusations, failures of self-accountability, and a crazy expansionism about what constitutes rape and assault” (202). Kipnis forfeits the benefit of her otherwise effective assessment that universities need to confront more directly the role alcohol has to play in accounts of sexual assault on campuses and the value of providing self-defence and –assertion classes for potentially at-risk students when she describes rape culture as “code for the demand that men suppress their (apparently boundless) sexual aggression and operate according to newly imposed (perhaps more ‘feminine’) standards: asking for permission to move forward at each stage and so on” (219)—though she may be being ironic about that; it is difficult at this point in the book to tell. She erodes her own argument even further when she waxes weirdly nostalgic for an era, recounted by her own mother, when being chased, “literally,” around a desk by a professor as he was “trying to kiss her” was funny, not belligerent (155). “[I]t seems worth asking why a woman of the pre-feminist 1950s felt so much more agency than grad students of today,” Kipnis ponders, “so much more able to see a professor’s idiocy as fodder, not an incapacitating trauma” (156).

Kipnis’s summing up of her mother’s experience over a half-century ago in relation to that of women filing Title IX claims on U.S. campuses now is especially cringe-worthy and exacerbates the undercurrent running through Unwanted Advances of a general hostility she directs toward women who speak up and out about sexual assault, construed by Kipnis as an evacuation of their own accountability and agency. The hazard of Kipnis’s book is, as performance-as-research scholar Özgül Akinci writes, “that it renders every act of speaking back to […] rape culture futile, non-productive, and accusatory” (2); and further that it strategically perpetuates the silencing of survivors and their allies under the guise of returning women’s agency over their bodies and sexuality to them.[4]

After excoriating the graduate student who, two years after their relationship ended, accused Ludlow of rape (and then, with another student, filed the Title IX and now lawsuit against Kipnis), Kipnis pauses to consider what the student’s relationship to Kipnis might be, or what the student might be looking for in her claims against Kipnis. “She wanted something from me (to tell her story, to be on her side) […] It still doesn’t mean that Title IX offices should provide the settings to act out psychodramas better dealt with through introspection or therapy” (138). Yes, I believe the student did want something from Kipnis, and I imagine—though I am hesitant to speculate, given how damaging Kipnis’s own speculation may prove to survivors and allies—that Kipnis’s portrayal of the student, and the reduction of the student’s allegations of sexual assault to a “psychodrama,” felt like a betrayal by someone who could have been a feminist mentor, even an ally. Felt, perhaps, like a different degree of assault.

iii.

In addition to the injury Kipnis’s book risks to sexual assault survivors coming forward, and especially those in academia coming forward against professors, it also shifts the attention from the act to the process—away from any alleged assault (and its perpetrator) and toward either a vague institutional critique or, more pointedly, critique of the survivor. As one of the more, if not most, virulent proponents of this particular argument (or, rather, as one of its more, if not most virulent feminist proponents), Kipnis makes evident those circumstances wherein it is our feminist colleagues “on top” whose knowingly or not postfeminist agendas not only support but enable and perpetuate academia’s inequitable and misogynistic practices.

Attention paid specifically to policies regarding how sexual assault allegations are handled (which is, importantly, distinct from attention paid to the allegations), however, also distracts from a broader disparity marked intersectionally within the academy—that of “women’s work,” inclusive of but not exclusive to that concerning sexual assault. The assumption of women’s work does double duty in both its gendering of particular tasks within academia—tasks that, it is important to note, do not carry the authoritative heft or paycheck of those assigned to men in advanced administrative positions—and of gendering entire fields and disciplines. As English and American Studies professor Wai Chee Dimock writes of the inequity in promotion of women in university faculty to Full Professor in “We Need Another Hashtag: Beyond #MeToo” (part of Chronicle in Higher Education’s April 2018 feature, “The Awakening: Women and Power in the Academy”), “while #MeToo might seem all-encompassing, it is in fact narrowly focused on one specific category of misconduct: deviant behavior by predatory men. Nondeviant structural hurdles that go into the making of gender inequity aren’t on the front burner” (2018). I might argue that the odds stacked against women, and especially against women of colour,[5] are deviant structural hurdles as well—at least socially if not sexually; but, deviant or not, the point, like the statistics, remains the same.

With that in mind, I would like to end with an anecdote from last year’s CATR conference. It may, for some, be a bit of a non sequitur, but I think, rather, that it offers a place to pause, and a place to begin, again, to reexamine what we and our colleagues understand to be “women’s work” in academia, and who we are supporting in our view of, and from, the top.

During the closing ceremony at the conference, a scholar, a man, having just received an award for his new book, thanked first his mentor, also a man, and then his wife for their support. After rootling around in his sport coat pocket for a crumpled piece of paper, the feted scholar announced that he had some words his wife had written for him to say. He took a deep breath, smoothed the paper against his belly, then proceeded to read out the beginning of a grocery list.

The room howled.

 

 

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[1] This provocation, if you will, is part of a larger project that puts into conversation recent debates in mainstream (and otherwise) feminist discourse concerning sexual assault, specifically within academia. Though an easy dismissal of the growing antagonism between various self-identified feminists has been to attribute it to generational differences (see Tremonti 2018; Merkin 2018; LeMonde 2018), factors other than or in addition to age—in particular, race and class—contribute notably to the dynamics of power and access afforded celebrity mentors: for instance, Margaret Atwood, whose recent case of fickle feminism threatens her long run as matriarch (or as “Supreme Being Goddess”? [Atwood 2018a]) of feminist CanLit (see Atwood 2018b; Kent 2018; King 2018; and McGregor 2018). I experience these debates as especially painful, and baffling, when the same women taking on the brunt of the responsibility of this work—which remains, as ever, “women’s work”—find themselves sparring with their feminist colleagues, who, too, have done the work, who may even have achieved being “on top”: but who are working from opposing sides.

[2] Northwestern University’s Policy Statement on “Consensual Romantic or Sexual Relationships between Faculty, Staff, and Students”—the first version of this policy Kipnis became aware of before writing the initial article for Chronicle—reads, “When individuals involved in a consensual romantic or sexual relationship are in positions of unequal power at the university, there is the potential for a conflict of interest, favoritism, and exploitation. In order to protect the integrity of the university academic and work environment, this policy outlines limitations on consensual romantic or sexual relationships between faculty, staff and students at Northwestern University.” The specifics of relationships involving graduate and undergraduate students are indicated under “Policy/Procedures” (Northwestern University 2014).

[3] For more information on Emma Sulckovicz’s yearlong performative action Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight) against Columbia University’s handling of her claim of sexual assault by a peer, see Smith 2014; Hess 2014; and Marcotte 2015.

[4] Michelle Goldberg writes an excellent review of Unwanted Advances in Slate (2017), putting pressure on the ethical quagmire Kipnis skips too lightly over between scholarly methodology and journalistic rigor, and augmenting Kipnis’s delivery of information about the Peter Ludlow case with the graduate student’s (known as Jane Doe) suit.  Goldberg also wrote about Kipnis for the Nation when the Title IX case first emerged (see Goldberg 2015).

[5] A 2016 report from the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America [US] Institute (TIAA Institute) indicates that the majority of minority faculty hires, though demonstrably increasing from the early 1990s, have not been tenure-stream. According to the TIAA Institute, in 2013, women held “just 37.6% of tenured positions”; underrepresented minorities “held only 10.2 percent of tenured positions” (TIAA Institute 2016). See Flaherty (2016) for an extended analysis of the TIAA Institute report; see also Agathangelou and Ling (2002); Navarro et al (2013), and Duncan (2014).

10 comments

  1. I am currently re-reading this provocation while taking a break from the picket-line at York University. Will respond when I get home. As I am sure you can imagine, being embroiled in 11 weeks of strikinge has necessarily coloured my opinion of the academe as a technocratic institution and as a space where where the possibility of anything outside of the neoliberal logics undergirded by the masculine economy can occur.

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    • I have so much respect for the labour you and your cohort are doing on the picket line, and the labour that will come no matter the eventual result. Have you read Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s The Undercommons? (I’m sure you have, but just in case…) It may be… helpful and hopeful of the type of university we wished we were a part of…

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  2. My fingers automatically snapped in support when I read: “I might argue that the odds stacked against women, and especially against women of colour,[5] are deviant structural hurdles as well—at least socially if not sexually; but, deviant or not, the point, like the statistics, remains the same.”

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  3. I appreciate the interwoven arguments that are built in the various stages of this paper – on their own and together they produce a valuable argument with many entry points. The link made by Zimmerman between earlier texts (like Irigaray’s) on women as site of exchange and our contemporary postfeminist moment are important. I would add the role of the feminine masquerade within this configuration as it points to earlier scholarship as well as recent manifestations. I am thinking here of Mary Ann Doane’s discussion of the masquerade (building from Joan Riviere) and women as “Ur object of exchange” and how this is revisited by Angela McRobbie in her writing on the postfeminist masquerade (“The Aftermath of Feminism” 2009). This gets back to my recent comments on Brian’s essay around the role of aesthetics and the power inherent within the ‘palatable’ white woman who ‘succeeds’ at her brand of perfect femininity. This I believe plays a crucial role in how women attain and wield power in a masculinist economy against those who do not fit this image well.

    The second stage of the paper articulate so well the chilling sites of friction between women with power and those experiencing the negative effects of other people’s power as enacted on them often in bodily and violent ways. The trope of established women in various industries (academy, literary scene, art world, etc) admonishing an (often younger) group of women for speaking out against abuses of power that have personally impacted their ability to be in their chosen public spaces would be tempting to dismiss if it wasn’t so troubling and destructive. I am thinking here of two connected pieces I read yesterday – one, a heartbreaking and detailed account of the aftereffects of abuse from a former partner of Junot Diaz, the other, an open letter cautioning against the media’s demonization of the author signed by many prominent feminist scholars. [https://www.chronicle.com/blogs/letters/open-letter-against-media-treatment-of-junot-diaz/] [http://therumpus.net/2018/05/in-the-wake-of-his-damage/]

    So in addition to acknowledging the violence of postfeminist alliances with patriarchal white supremacist capitalism, what can we do now? Naming these alliances is crucial. As is amplifying and supporting voices of those whose experiences are being dismissed in so many different ways. What I would like to talk about more is what are the specifically feminist practices, methods, pedagogy that can be used presently to have necessary and difficult conversations about how and when our feminism veers into postfeminist enactments of a masculinist, patriarchal economy?

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    • Thanks for the references to Mary Ann Doane and Angela McRobbie–and to the ties to increasingly frequent and relevant calling outs–on both sides–in popular culture. Thank you also for asking the absolutely relevant question: What can we do now? One thing I have learned, repeatedly, in the past year that I’ve been working on this and working on how to put it out into the world, is that even finding a place (a site, a cite…) for these conversations can be predicated on or determined by “postfeminist enactments of a masculinist, patriarchal economy.” So, I find myself thinking toward Laine’s contribution to this seminar, and about ways of dismantling the master’s condos, but also of where else to find a structure, even–please, actually–a temporary one, to hold for the time being these words and to help form these gestures into action.

      In re specific feminist practices, methods, and pedagogies: yes, these are tangibles that would be fantastic to share. I find that I’ve adopted what may be an especially radical pedagogy (?? it doesn’t seem so to me, but…) wherein I almost never cite ‘dead white men’ (sorry to be reductive)–which is not to say I NEVER do… just, very rarely–and I have stopped including them on my syllabi. I also rarely include living white men (scholars, at least; I am more lax with performers, depending) on my syllabi, especially if their work is not, in large part, collaborative. I bring this up because I think it is something different than including more diverse and inclusive scholarship and work in one’s courses (which I also strive to do), and different too from attempts to ‘decolonize the syllabus,’ which is a complicated at best, though useful, endeavour.

      I also have found myself, quite coincidentally, supervising only women at the moment. This is not especially unexpected, given the nature of performance studies scholarship and given my particular focus, but it is something I have been thinking about quite a bit, as it has allowed for conversations as a group of a different nature than what we otherwise might have. I consider quite frequently how supervision and mentorship do not end when a candidate has defended their dissertation, but rather begins anew in the context of the job market and may even continue as our newest colleagues navigate the complicated waters of sessional and of tenure-track positions–waters that will inevitably be different for each person within them.

      I am digressing here, and I wish I was going to be able to participate in person tomorrow — email to come shortly about that. But thank you very much for these thoughts, and I hope we can continue this in some fashion either online or at future conferences!

      Warmly,
      n

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  4. I wonder if Kipnis is lauding Betsy DeVos’ and the White House’s decision to rescind the college sexual assault guidances laid out in Title IX. This is perhaps an overt/crass generalization on my part, but Kipnis’ arguments against Title IX read like a slightly more nuanced version of DeVos’ claim that, “If everything is harassment, then nothing is.” (this comment can be found here: https://twitter.com/NBCNews/status/905834870106013696).

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    • I’ve been thinking about this too… and needing to elaborate on this history of Title IX, and its most recent, unhappy shifts.

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  5. Nikki,

    Your framing of the discussions around discourses of sexual assault within academia as coming from multiple opposing directions – whether they are generational differences or as you note differences from being “on top” versus whatever is not “on top” is interesting. The idea of an “on top” is always already predicated on hierarchy and what your discussion does quite productively is outline the ways that this hierarchy manifests across your three discussion points.

    This past school year I had the pleasure of teaching Caryl Churchill’s Top Girls to students. Well, I didn’t teach – I TA’d the course (Thea Fitz-James served as the “Course Director”). And more accurately I served as a tutorial leader – these are important distinctions to outline when discussing issues related to class, labour and the academe. The play of course deals with the question of what it means to be a “top girl” within neoliberal market logics and asks what women’s success looks like, historically and fictionally, as well as contemporarily in Thatcher’s Britain. It only strikes (hah!) me now that Marlene is the leader of a placement agency – a temp agency? – referencing the casualization of work in neoliberal gig economies, including universities. Top Girls is also an interesting play in that it points us to ask at whose/what’s expense do people reach their top positions.

    It would seem that for Zimmerman, the cooption of feminism by neoliberal logics re-entrenches the ontologic and economic class and labour divisions between men and women, even as it affords some people (the illusion of?) power within this masculine and patriarchal system. Zimmerman’s critique of post-feminism and power aligns productively with Deleuze’s understanding of power as operating more diffusely and messily across “societies of control” that seek to perpetuate and reify capitalism. For me, this conceptualization becomes an interesting way to think through Kipnis’ takes on Title IX injustices. It seems to me that her book serves in some capacity then as a manipulation of power that seeks to reassert the University, and the discursive processes it represents, as a masculine economy patriarchal system that silences and exploits people therein.

    I have a hard time not reading Kipnis’ article, “My Title IX Inquisition,” and Unwanted Advances as highly exploitative and extractive of the people who had filed Title IX claims against her. In reading your summary of the debate and discussions around Kipnis’ book, I was struck by the invisibility, the lack of voice, of the people in these discussions. In a way, it reminded me of how often, in campus sexual assault cases, the voice of the accused often overpowers and silences the voices of the survivors. However, in this case the accusers’ claims against Kipnis became the raw material for her article and book. I really appreciate your hesitation to speculate as to what these students wanted from Kipnis in their Title IX claims, since such a speculation would serve to further obscure and silence their voices; as you rightly point out, Kipnis’ own speculation does nothing other than further violence against them. Can we define her behavior as predatory? Your hesitation to speculate too I think refuses to buy into a neoliberal academic logic that states we must understand and write and create discourse about these events. I wonder, then, in what other ways can we refuse/disavow and hesitate to follow this logic, particularly when dealing with issues related to gender, class, and labour? In thinking about how the academe sees people as resources and (in the case of sessional instructors, cheap) labour, how can we connect the rise of casualized academic work with Kipnis’ use of the Title IX claimants as fuel for her own work? More importantly, what are the ways that we can, in your words, be a “feminist mentor, even an ally” to sexual assault survivors in a way that rejects and/or operates outside of masculine economies and neoliberalism’s cooption of feminism?

    Your anecdote at the end is a painful reminder of how entrenched patriarchal thinking is from people “at the top” of Canadian Academe; it also reflects on who is maybe absent from these discourses (the wife, I assume, was not in the audience). It also leads me to a series of questions that run across your response. In what ways, then, is deviant predatory behavior by men in the academe connected to nondeviant structural systems of inequality? How does this relate to questions of labour and casualized labour? How are masculinist economies and neoliberal logics reflected in the bureaucratic entities and policies enacted in the academe (such as Title IX)?

    I sadly don’t see a way out right now – being embroiled in a nasty strike and seeing the mental and physical toll it has taken on my student and contract worker friends and colleagues probably informs this opinion. One of the main sticking points of the strike is better support for survivors of sexual violence, which the union would like more oversight of given York’s previous mishandling of survivor support. I am reminded of Frederic Jameson’s adage, “Someone once said that it is easier to imagine the end of the world than to imagine the end of capitalism.” This is where I am at with the Academe. Is there an alternative to, burn it all down?

    I want to end on a more positive note. I want to call attention to two items that I think are relevant:

    1) Karen Kelsky’s (from The Professor is In) list of sexual misconduct on campus. An article about it as well as a link to the list itself (and how to add to it if you are interested) are here: https://theprofessorisin.com/2017/12/01/a-crowdsourced-survey-of-sexual-harassment-in-the-academy/
    2) This recent Twitter thread from Aimée Morisson, an Associate professor of Enlgish at the University of Waterloo. https://twitter.com/digiwonk/status/996375636942958592

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  6. Hi Nikki,

    I just want to add this twitter thread here, as a connection between our papers:

    Aadita Chaudhury reminds us how the academy, undergirded by processes of white supremacy, provides a safe space and cover for “badly behaved men.” While I agree to some extent that maybe JP will go away if we ignore him and stop evoking his name (even if it is to critique is toxic ideas), this doesn’t address the ways in which this sort of thinking is cultivated, producing environments where it is safe/ok for men to reduce women to writers of grocery lists.

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    • Brian,

      This is all so helpful. And, as loathe as I am to give Peterson any more time, I expect that he will become an important part of the next steps of this project.

      You ask, slightly earlier, “Can we define [Kipnis’] behaviour as predatory?” I think, yes, absolutely. Not only in the lack of agency she applies structurally and metaphorically to the women whose voices she absents or misrepresents from her essay and book, but also in the self-gain of publishing she accrues–especially outside the rigour of academic presses (as untrustworthy as such a notion can sometimes be…). And Kelsky’s list and Morisson’s tweets, in general, provide necessary counters to Kipnis. In an even longer version of this piece, I have included Kelsky’s list, putting it in context with Kathleen Kelley Reardon’s “Memo Every Woman Keeps in Her Desk” https://hbr.org/1993/03/the-memo-every-woman-keeps-in-her-desk. Trying to compile a precis of ‘women’s work’ in academia, if you will, in the context of #MeToo has been especially challenging not because of a lack of information–there is SO MUCH INFORMATION published about the inequity of labour in academia, dating back to the early 1990s at least–but, frankly, because of the risk such publication presents to those who aren’t protected by academia’s ‘higher echelons’ of tenure and administration. So, while Kipnis has free reign from her press to conjecture disparagingly about these students who have filed Title IXs, it would be more difficult for a student or an ally to publish a piece in support of students’ rights to speak out against the embeddedness of sexual assault and misconduct in academic organizations–especially if they were to hold those in positions of authority accountable. Another instance of neoliberal logics and masculinist economies that only serve to maintain rather than to challenge, and hopefully make better, the institution.

      The award winner’s wife was in the audience last year. I congratulated her after the ceremony (before congratulating him), as I understand the labour one does in supporting one’s partner’s work– academic or creative or however it plays out. But, wow, it was hard to have organized a conference that strove toward something better, and then to be in that room…

      I’m so very sorry I won’t be there in person tomorrow to talk through these things — email to come shortly — but thank you so much for pushing me to think further though this! I hope we can continue this either online or a future conferences!

      Warmly,
      n

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