Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Silence Is The Enemy

I am one of the lucky ones. On the grand scheme of things, considering I lived in a society where one in three women are raped (I don't have UK references but I can't imagine they're too much lower), I did quite well to escape with "just" being sexually assaulted[*]. But I know another American academic who wept when I told her why I was leaving my PhD programme, because she had done exactly the same after being raped on fieldwork by her advisor, and she saw just another generation of professors behaving the way her advisor had done ten years previously.

Women in the UK and US are used to being leered at by tradeys in their vans, cat-called at by builders, groped in pubs and bars and followed home at night. It's part of the daily grind. More women than the casual reader might think are used to highly inappropriate behaviour on the part of other students and faculty, and fieldwork has a whole set of perils that the average male academic will never have to worry about. And this is in White-Middle-Class-Ivory-Tower Land.

Yesterday, Sheril Kirshenbaum launched Silence Is The Enemy. Because what happens in White-Middle-Class-Ivory-Tower Land is extrapolated, enhanced and meted out on thousands if not millions of women and children all over the world on a daily basis. If this isn't okay with you (it certainly isn't okay with me), then there are a number of things you can do. The simplest thing is to click on the blogs who have pledged to donate their blogging revenue to Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières. I get no revenue from this blog, but these people get it on theirs:
The next simplest thing is to donate money yourself, and/or to write your own blog post to highlight the campaign and keep the momentum going within the blogosphere. And if you can write a blog post you can write to your friendly government representative.

Which would all be a start.

[*]I have become increasingly reluctant to talk about all of this. Unfortunately it is an essential part of my narrative, and ultimately less damaging than any fabrication I could come up with for failing to complete a PhD. What I overwhelmingly feel after talking about it is a sort of emotional uncleanliness, as I tell the story on autopilot while a voice inside my head screams at me to shut up. This is an occasion where I didn't need to say anything if I didn't want to. However, isn't it rather the point of the campaign, to stand up, say something that is uncomfortable to say, put some weight behind it and get others to do the same?

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