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August 17 2018

Feminists Academics Outraged that Title IX Being Used in Abuse Case Involving Lesbian Feminist Professor

by Charlotte Hays

Quote of the Day:

Coming in the middle of the #MeToo movement’s reckoning over sexual misconduct, it raised a challenge for feminists — how to respond when one of their own behaved badly. And the response has roiled a corner of academia.

--New York Times story on strange case of a lesbian feminist professor accused of sexually harassing a gay male student

 

Title IX is being used in dealing with alleged sexual transgressions of a lesbian NYU professor, who in the anodyne words of the New York Times "behaved badly."

Her supporters are crying foul.

The gist of their complaint: Hey, we though Title IX was a feminist tool.  

The case in itself is perhaps one of the strangest in the annals of Title IX (which should not in any way preclude an alleged victim from receiving justice and protection). The accuser, you see, is a gay male.

Here is how the always interesting Robby Soave sest up the story:

Avital Ronnell, a leading professor of feminist philosophy at New York University, has been forced to take a year off after NYU determined that she had sexually harassed a male student. If there's a stranger #MeToo story out there, I've yet to hear it.

Ronnell identifies as a lesbian; the student she is accused of harassing is gay, and now married to another man. Also extraordinary: many well-known feminists—including the legendary Judith Butler—came to Ronnell's defense, testifying to her "grace and keen wit" and demanding that she "receive a fair hearing."

(Butler and co. taking the side of the accused in a sexual misconduct dispute would of course be unthinkable if the accused were male, as is usually the case.)

The New York Times had a report on the case:

In the Title IX final report, excerpts of which were obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Reitman said that she had sexually harassed him for three years, and shared dozens of emails in which she referred to him as “my most adored one,” “Sweet cuddly Baby,” “cock-er spaniel,” and “my astounding and beautiful Nimrod.”

Both Mr. Reitman and Professor Ronell’s descriptions of their experiences echo other #MeToo stories: In Mr. Reitman’s recollection, he was afraid of his professor and the power she wielded over him, and often went along with behavior that left him feeling violated. Professor Ronell said that Mr. Reitman desperately sought her attention and guidance in interviews she submitted to the Title IX office at N.Y.U., which The New York Times obtained.

The problems began, according to Mr. Reitman, in the spring of 2012, before he officially started school. Professor Ronell invited him to stay with her in Paris for a few days. 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.

Yes, that does seem to qualify as "behaved badly."

The Times did grasp why this case could be troubling to Ms. Ronnell's supporters:

Coming in the middle of the #MeToo movement’s reckoning over sexual misconduct, it raised a challenge for feminists — how to respond when one of their own behaved badly. And the response has roiled a corner of academia.

Here is how one Ronnell supporter reacted:

Diane Davis, chair of the department of rhetoric at the University of Texas-Austin, who also signed the letter to the university supporting Professor Ronell, said she and her colleagues were particularly disturbed that, as they saw it, Mr. Reitman was using Title IX, a feminist tool, to take down a feminist.

"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," Professor Davis wrote in an email.

"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."

As Soave points out, this is an unprincipled stand, indicating that it is wrong to apply the law to a member of the feminist left. He asks:

How can it be said that Title IX is really about ending gender-based discrimination, if it's wrong to use Title IX to protect men from sexual harassment?

Title IX is a 1972 law that forbids discrimination on the basis of sex in any education or other program receiving federal financial assistance.

Discrimination on the basis of sex is wrong, and Title IX, as written, states a simple truth that most Americans hold dear.

However, this protean statute has been used to eliminate male athletic teams and, most recently, invoked in setting up college tribunals that deny due process to the accused.

And now we know why some of these abuses have crept in: some on the left have regarded Title IX not as a statute promoting fairness and opportunity but as a convenient tool for promoting an agenda.   

 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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