When a Woman Is Accused of Sexual Harassment

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Are feminists who defended a female professor who was found to have harassed a male student being hypocritical?

Nimrod Reitman, the accuser.CreditCaitlin Ochs for The New York Times
Avital Ronell, the accused.

To the Editor:

Re “A Female Professor, Her Male Student and the Limits of #MeToo” (front page, Aug. 14):

Nimrod Reitman’s very credible accusations against Avital Ronell point to what many women and men know firsthand: Women, too, can be abusers, and can inflict as much pain, humiliation and shame as any man.

The #MeToo movement has clearly been instrumental in surfacing the grotesque sexual misdeeds of men. However, it has utterly failed to reckon in any serious way with the reality of female-on-female and female-on-male sexual abuse.

Women are not angels, and men are not sadists; predator and prey are not gendered roles. And until #MeToo acknowledges and grapples with this, it will remain open to the fully justified charge of hypocrisy.

Emily J. Macaux
East Greenwich, R.I.

To the Editor:

I was grateful to read “A Female Professor, Her Male Student and the Limits of #MeToo.” At the same time, I was personally and professionally disappointed by many prominent academics’ responses to Nimrod Reitman’s disclosure of Avital Ronell’s misconduct, including a letter sent to New York University in defense of Professor Ronell.

As an academic and anti-violence advocate, I believe that universities must take such reports seriously. Holding women accountable for sexual misconduct is consistent with the historical aims of Title IX and does not twist its feminist logic, as some critics have suggested.

Personally, as a transgender man, I have experienced sexual violence while embodying different genders, perpetrated by people of different genders. It concerns me to imagine that my colleagues might have supported me as an adolescent female survivor, only to doubt and discredit me (or someone like me) as an adult male survivor.

Building an inclusive anti-violence movement means recognizing that sexual violence and harassment can occur within feminist and social justice spaces.

Ethan Levine
Philadelphia

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