Sexism and abuse are not a male preserve

November 16, 2017

Re “The Weinsteins of academia can no longer be tolerated” (Opinion, 7 November).

As a woman in academia, I must say that I am becoming tired of this gendered debate and blaming of abuse of power on the silly notion of “toxic masculinity”, casting men solely as perpetrators and women as in essence good and innocent and, thus, incapable of abuse. This is not to say that sexism does not exist in academia – just as it does in society at large and at other workplaces as well – but it is also not uncommon that senior women abuse their power vis-à-vis both women and men in more junior positions, and in the case of young men using the same strategies as Harvey Weinstein, only we do not talk about that (when it comes to men, many think, “Why did he not just enjoy that?”). In my experience, it has been precisely higher positioned women who have made life hell for my lower-ranking female colleagues and also for me at a certain point.

In my whole career, I have experienced only supportive and very decent men. Women, on the other hand, have been often jealous, insecure and threatened when women they perceived as “competition” moved up the ranks. For me, experiencing female solidarity has been a rare exception, rather than a rule. It was women, who, when I was supported by a man, were the first to insinuate that I must have “done something with him”, which was never the case.

Let’s talk about abuse of power irrespective of gender instead of seeking out “male perverts” only. If we look at the statistics on female sex offending, many will be surprised that the numbers are fairly high, and abuse of male students by female professors and teachers is not uncommon. Let’s stop painting one gender as inherently innocent and the other as inherently abusive, and instead focus on abuse in all its forms.

Tessa V8

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Reader's comments (1)

Hello Tessa V8 I'm one of the journalists at THE and I was really interested to read this letter. I wondered if you would be willing to talk to me for a piece that I am writing? If so, please get in touch

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