Creepy old man, supported by the department, ruins my life

I’m a non-binary person, but a combination of the gender I’ve been assigned at birth and my gender presentation, most of the people assume that I’m a woman. My PhD supervisor sexually harassed me for two years, and none of the faculty (all men) took me seriously or helped me. Fortunately, I had a breakdown at one of the conferences, where an academic from another university (a woman) took me seriously and helped me get a new supervisor. One would hope here’s where the things end, but NO. My department punished ME for it. My former supervisor spread all sorts of lies about me – that I’m a lesbian (I’m bi), that I ‘hurt his feelings’ and that I wrote “you’re stupid” on a student’s work. He was believed, my teaching got taken away, and many of the faculty hate me. I’ve put in a complaint with the university, suggesting that my department have Zero Tolerance to Sexual Harassment policy and make sure this never happens to anyone again. Waste of my time – the reply was that the department has the policy anyway, and that my supervisor ‘didn’t mean’ to harass me. It sucks to the moon and back. I am suffering with depression and anxiety and will quit academia as soon as I can.

Story signed by : kk

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year 2014 and took place around an academic institution not in Belgium

Implicit bias?

Two stories:
1) for the group email he sends as recipients the male professor always lists all men first, followed by females… When there are presentations every week , he schedules them, so men go first and then the ladies. Small sexism, but still!

2) when there are undergrads in my lab they always ask me “are you a master student?” The truth is, I’m a PhD student and just because I am pretty and dress well I am taken less seriously !

Story signed by : Iggy

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year 2014 around an academic institution in ‘Not in Belgium’

More Sexism in Medieval Studies

I was attending a major national conference at the end of my MA year. In the evening, I was standing around chatting with several faculty members from my undergraduate institution. As we spoke, an eminent professor (hereafter Professor Seahorse) at my current institution, with whom I had taken several classes that year, walked behind me and ran his palm across my shoulder blades and down my arm to my elbow. He kept walking, and after a moment of puzzlement I convinced myself that there was nothing to it– after all, he was married, tenured, and several decades my senior. Surely he didn’t intend to be inappropriate.

Several years later, I’m now a PhD student at the same university, sitting with Professor Seahorse in a booth in a pub near campus (his “other office,” as he liked to call it), discussing a term paper that I’m writing for his course. By this point I’ve learned that Professor Seahorse has a reputation for inappropriate behaviour, and sometimes more, with female students. He blatantly objectifies the server to her face, addressing her as a “pouty-lipped love-goddess.” On another occasion where office hours took place in a pub, I was treated to a long account of how drunk he had been at his wedding, and how he had recoiled upon seeing his bride at the altar; she did not usually wear make-up, and her application of it on her wedding day was unskillful. This was an uncomfortable discussion, to say the least. Students should not be party to their professor’s marital dissatisfactions. What does one even say to a story like that?

One afternoon I was sitting with a classmate on the patio of a cafe next to the same pub. Professor Seahorse, who has clearly had a few, emerges from the pub and brazenly looks me up and down. “Oh… helloooo. Looking good. Oh, [classmate’s name], I didn’t even see you there. I was too busy looking at [my name].” Professor Seahorse blatantly checks me out one more time, pays another ‘compliment,’ and finally stumbles off.

Story signed by : Buddug

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year(s) 2005-2009 around an academic institution in ‘Not in Belgium’

Sexism in Medieval Studies

I’m posting this today because, one of my communities, medieval studies, is in a bit of an uproar as sexual harassment cases are being shared publically for the first time. I’m currently looking for resources for creating safe space and building community culture around respect, support and safety. Because ultimately I think what needs to be built is a culture of intervention and support. Most of the time, bystanders don’t step in to help and the victim is left standing alone and told it’s not worth their time or energy or risk to their career to advocate for themselves.

This happened to me in 2006. Friends, family members, mentors told me to be quiet, that this senior professor, a man I was going to ask to be my supervisor, was probably drunk and didn’t remember the horrible things he shouted about me to a patio full of people, in front of an amassed group of colleagues when I was a 21 year old, first year Ph.D. student. I sat there and let him make fun of me and speculate about me sleeping with the male student I happened to be sitting with, and then worse, go on to accuse me of being no good at my work, tell me that I shouldn’t start a reading group because my language skills – in a class he had never taught me – weren’t good enough. He publicly humiliated me and plenty of people, male and female colleagues alike, sat there and said nothing. And afterwards, skepticism, excuses, apologia- phrases like ‘I wasn’t there, I can’t comment’ or ‘oh but he’s such a good scholar’, and , the worst, ‘but you should still work with him because he’s such a big name.’

This needs to stop. We need to tell students, junior faculty, all faculty that this behaviour is unacceptable. That if someone verbally attacks you, threatens you, touches you, assaults you, tries to sleep with you, it’s not okay. And there are people you can go to who will help you file the necessary paperwork and stand beside you when the perpetrator is handed their consequences.

I am angry, almost 10 years later, that I never filed a complaint. I had more than enough reason and more than enough witnesses and I didn’t say a damn thing on record.

And it is so much worse for so many women I know in medieval studies who were harassed by this man and many others.

If you have any suggestions, or just want to connect, please reply in the comments or e-mail SASSY to get my contact information.

Story signed by : Giselle Gos

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year(s) 2005-2009 at an academic institution in ‘Not in Belgium’

Professor in Hypocrisy and Arrogance

The professor I would like to call a master in hypocrisy and arrogance, is respected everywhere except on his own workfloor. Spit out by his colleagues, male and female, but especially by the female. His improper behavior more than once had sexual connotations, going from calling women ‘pussy cats’ to real sexual intimidation and assault. He’s getting promotion soon.

Story signed by: Anna

My language preference : English

The story happened to me as a PhD in the year 2013 at an academic institution in Flanders

“Lieve meid, lieve schat”

Mijn promotor noemde me een volledig jaar ‘lieve meid’ en ‘lieve schat’. Mijn mannelijke collega’s kregen geen ‘koosnaampjes’. Deze bejegening was erg betuttelend en paternalistisch. Ik ben vertrokken en dit was een van de redenen.

Story signed by: L.

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year 2012 at an academic institution in Brussels

Vrouwen kunnen ook nooit zwijgen

Zoals elke week had ik een vergadering met een thesisstudent in het labo. Het labo is een ruimte waarin studenten en onderzoekers samen werken en discussiëren. Plots komt een professor binnen en kondigt aan dat er zo dadelijk een presentatie zal doorgaan (vermoedelijk omdat hij een vergaderzaal was vergeten te reserveren). Beleefd zetten we onze vergadering met een aangepast praatvolume verder. Een kwartier later komt een eerste vermaning: “Kan dat niet wat stiller, ja?”. Een beetje geschrokken gaan we door met de vergadering op fluistertoon. De volgende dag kruis ik de professor in de gang. Tijdens het voorbijgaan zegt hij “Vrouwen kunnen ook nooit zwijgen”.
Ik was zo ontdaan dat ik niet wist hoe te reageren.

Story signed by : Tinne

The story happened to me as a PhD student in the year 2005-2009 at an academic institution in Flanders

Moeder vs Vrouw

De drie kinderen van een mannelijke collega en van mezelf zijn nagenoeg (op een paar maanden na) dezelfde leeftijd. Toch werd enkel aan mij gevraagd of ik het niet wat rustiger aan wou doen, nu ik drie kinderen heb. Toen ik de prof vroeg of hij dat ook aan mijn mannelijke collega had gevraagd, antwoordde hij doodleuk: “Waarom? Hij is een man, jij bent een moeder…” Blijkbaar stopt het vrouw zijn als je kinderen krijgt.

Het zijn trouwens niet enkel de mannen, maar echt 90% van de bevolking VERWACHT dat je als moeder minder gaat werken. Full time werken als moeder is blijkbaar bijna een doodzonde. Niemand heeft al eens tegen me gezegd: Proficiat dat je dat doet, een positief voorbeeld stellen en tonen dat het ook kan, werken en mama zijn, vele mensen zeggen me wel, dat is toch niet vol te houden en zo kun je toch niet optimaal presteren en blablabla.

In de ogen van de mannen zijn ze zeer gezinsvriendelijk, want oh zo bezorgd, ik noem dat gewoon bemoeizucht en een gemakkelijk excuus om me aan de kant te schuiven.

Story signed by : me

The story happened to me as a PhD Student in the years 2005-2009 at an academic institution in Flanders

Beste Professor, toon aub wat meer respect voor…

Toen ik vol idealisme begon als vorser, was ik blij dat ik iets kon bijdragen aan mijn alma mater. Ik keek er naar uit, de collega’s, het onderzoeksleven en het opleiden van jonge leergierige studenten. Zo eentje zoals we zelf waren, al die jaren geleden.

Tijdens ons eerste gesprek viel u al meteen met de deur in huis. Of ik misschien toch liever niet zwanger zou worden tijdens mijn onderzoek. Want dat zou – volgens u – het onderzoek alleen maar bemoeilijken en er waren toch al genoeg onderzoekers en vrouwelijke professoren met kinderen. Bovendien zou het imago van de onderzoeksgroep hier wel eens onder kunnen lijden. Dus, als ik plannen had in die richting, best even opbergen. Voor een jaar of zeven.

Toen de onderzoeksgroep het wat minder deed, ging u – zoals een goede professor betaamt – op zoek naar ‘vers bloed’. U keek daarbij niet naar de opleiding, kwalificaties of diploma’s, maar wel naar het uiterlijk van de nieuwe werknemers. Dat de nieuwe werknemer in kwestie geen diploma, noch ervaring had, was bijzaak. Ze was een streling voor het oog – dat was blijkbaar voldoende. Dat u nadien, te pas en te onpas, ook aan de overige werknemers vroeg of u geen briljante keuze had gemaakt, vond u de normale gang van zaken.

Overigens, de opmerkingen die u samen met de andere collega’s maakte op personeelsfeestjes, daar had ik het toch wat moeilijk mee. Alsof die enkele kilo’s meer bij de ene collega echt een verschil maakten voor dat specifieke onderzoek. En of het kapsel, dat u liever wat langer zag, hét verschil zou maken in de academische wereld.

Beste professor, ik zou u toch willen vragen om iets meer respect te tonen voor de onderzoekers. Want binnenkort worden we meteen allemaal zwanger in de eerste week, wordt er geen onderzoek gedaan en moet u misschien zelf eens wat beginnen schrijven.

Story signed by: Bea

The story happened to me as a PhD Student in the year 2012 at an academic institution in Flanders

A female lecturer? Unimaginable…

As a PhD fellow, I was asked to give a guest lecture in a different department. When I arrived (more than on time), and wanted to enter my class room, I was intercepted rather rudely by a secretary saying something along the lines of “where do you think you’re going, miss? Students are not allowed in the class room, you have to wait in the corridor until the lecturer arrives and he will then invite you in.”

When I explained I was, in fact, the lecturer, she shrugged, saying there was no way she could have known that. No apology whatsoever.

On that occasion (as on many later on), I realised that sexism is not just a male-vs-female problem, all too often it’s women stereotyping other women.

Story signed by : A female lecturer (yes, really)

The story happened to me as a PhD Student in the year(s) 2005-2009 at an academic institution not in Belgium.