Somehow, when it comes to one of their own being accused of sexual harassment, some feminists discard their devotion to the #MeToo movement and blame the victim instead.
Case in point: after a famous NYU female professor, a Trump-hater who is a feminist literary theorist, was accused of sexually harassing a male former graduate student, a group of professors, including well-known feminists, leaped to her defense despite the fact that they admitted they had no knowledge about the findings of the Title IX proceedings against her.
After an 11-month Title IX investigation, Avital Ronell, 66, professor of German and Comparative Literature at New York University, was found responsible for sexually harassing Nimrod Reitman, 34, a male former graduate student and currently a visiting fellow at Harvard. As The New York Times reports, a colleague termed Ronell, “one of the very few philosopher-stars of this world,” but the investigation concluded she was “responsible for sexual harassment, both physical and verbal, to the extent that her behavior was ‘sufficiently pervasive to alter the terms and conditions of Mr. Reitman’s learning environment.’” Ronell has been suspended for 2018-2019; the Title IX report concluded she could not additionally be responsible for sexual assault, in part because there were no witnesses to the reported actions she had taken.
Reitman, who is gay, had charged that the alleged sexual harassment for three years from Ronell, who is a lesbian, had included her referring to him in emails as “my most adored one,” “Sweet cuddly Baby,” “cock-er spaniel,” and “my astounding and beautiful Nimrod.”
The Times delineates other details, including Reitman’s claims that before the school year in 2012, Ronell invited him to stay with her in Paris for a few days. The Times continues:
The day he arrived, she asked him to read poetry to her in her bedroom while she took an afternoon nap, he said. “That was already a red flag to me,” said Mr. Reitman. “But I also thought, O.K., you’re here. Better not make a scene.” Then, he said, she pulled him into her bed. “She put my hands onto her breasts, and was pressing herself — her buttocks — onto my crotch,” he said. “She was kissing me, kissing my hands, kissing my torso.” That evening, a similar scene played out again, he said.
Reitman also provided to the Times emails Ronell had written to him that had passages including, “I woke up with a slight fever and sore throat. I will try very hard not to kiss you — until the throat situation receives security clearance. This is not an easy deferral!” Another: “Time for your midday kiss. my image during meditation: we’re on the sofa, your head on my lap, stroking you [sic] forehead, playing softly with yr hair, soothing you, headache gone. Yes?”
Despite their unfamiliarity with the details of the investigation, the professors who signed the letter (there were over 50 from around the world), started with this astonishing paragraph:
We write as long-term colleagues of Professor Avital Ronell who has been under investigation by the Title IX offices at New York University. Although we have no access to the confidential dossier, we have all worked for many years in close proximity to Professor Ronell and accumulated collectively years of experience to support our view of her capacity as teacher and a scholar, but also as someone who has served as Chair of both the Departments of German and Comparative Literature at New York University. We have all seen her relationship with students, and some of us know the individual who has waged this malicious campaign against her. We wish to communicate first in the clearest terms our profound an enduring admiration for Professor Ronell whose mentorship of students has been no less than remarkable over many years. We deplore the damage that this legal proceeding causes her, and seek to register in clear terms our objection to any judgment against her. We hold that the allegations against her do not constitute actual evidence, but rather support the view that malicious intention has animated and sustained this legal nightmare.
As Brian Leiter, an American philosopher who is Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Chicago Law School, writes, “The signatories collectively malign the complainant as motivated by ‘malice’ (i.e., a liar), even though they admit to knowing nothing about the findings of the Title IX proceedings–and despite that they also demand that their friend be acquitted, given her past ‘mentorship of students.’”
Leiter also notes that the signatories conclude the letter thus: “We testify to the grace, the keen wit, and the intellectual commitment of Professor Ronell and ask that she be accorded the dignity rightly deserved by someone of her international standing and reputation. If she were to be terminated or relieved of her duties, the injustice would be widely recognized and opposed.”
What is truly shocking is the idea that she is entitled to proceedings that treat her with “the dignity rightly deserved by someone of her international standing and reputation.” Apparently in the view of these “theory” illuminati dignity in Title IX proceedings is to be doled out according to one’s “international standing and reputation.” So while Professor Ronell “deserves a fair hearing, one that expresses respect, dignity, and human solicitude,” other “lesser” accused can be subject, without international outcry, to whatever star chamber proceedings the university wants. Moreover, only one outcome of the process is acceptable, regardless of the findings: acquittal.
One professor who signed the letter, Diane Davis, chair of the department of rhetoric at the University of Texas-Austin, complained, “I am of course very supportive of what Title IX and the #MeToo movement are trying to do, of their efforts to confront and to prevent abuses, for which they also seek some sort of justice. But it’s for that very reason that it’s so disappointing when this incredible energy for justice is twisted and turned against itself, which is what many of us believe is happening in this case.”
Ronell’s blind hatred of President Trump has included her saying, “I take it as rigorously necessary that Trump’s mouthhole be the flapping aperture to funnel floods of radically unleashed aggression, the toxic spill of excrementalized language, part of his recourse to a crucial intersection where Twitterature meets Sh**terature.”