FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Feminist Principles and Michael Kimmel 

A week after anonymous charges of sexual harassment against sociologist Michael Kimmel surfaced, I suggested that his half-hearted “apology” was unacceptable and that the pro-feminist men’s movement’s response was inadequate. With two more weeks now past, a follow-up challenge to Kimmel—a leading figure in the feminist-influenced study of men and masculinities—is appropriate.

Several groups in that movement have issued statements (here and here) asking for accountability, and he has resigned from the board of one of those groups. But Kimmel’s public comments have been limited to a brief initial statement reported in the press.

Independent of any disciplinary action that his employer (Stony Brook University) may take or any legal cases that women may bring, Kimmel should follow the feminist principles he claims to hold about men’s accountability to women in a patriarchal society.

Based on an article by a former graduate student* and off-the-record conversations I have had with people who have extensive experience with him, I would offer this advice to Kimmel: (1) fess up, and (2) be prepared to step down.

Kimmel should answer the published, on-the-record accusation that he expected graduate students to complete tasks for him without compensation, including work not related to their academic roles, and that he was unprofessional in how he used graduate students’ research for his own purposes. In other words, the question to Kimmel is, “Have you exploited students?”

From there, Kimmel should answer even more troubling questions:

+ Have you ever propositioned a student or junior faculty member, knowing that your prestige in the fields of sociology and feminist/women’s/gender studies might make a sexual relationship more likely? Would your status in those fields potentially leave a woman wondering about the consequences for her career if she refused your proposition?

+ Have you ever had sex, or sought to have sex, with a student? As a prominent teacher and researcher, would taking advantage of the power imbalance constitute an abuse of male privilege in patriarchy?

+ Have you ever had sex with a student under your direction—someone you had in class, had advised, or served on a thesis/dissertation committee for? Do you agree that such a relationship is unacceptable, no matter what the appearance of “consent”?

+ Have you ever “groomed” a younger woman over a period of time with the goal of making a sexual relationship with you seem more acceptable? Do you agree that, even if a man claims he was only trying to be supportive, such conduct is predatory?

If the answer to any of these questions about your behavior is yes, then fess up to what you have done, honor your stated commitment to feminist principles, and resign your position as a professor at Stony Brook and step down from the role as executive director of the university’s Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities. For a senior professor and well-known activist—one of the two or three most prominent men in the United States associated with a feminist critique of masculinity in patriarchy—to behave in such a fashion would be unacceptable.

Kimmel’s status at Stony Brook is not clear. A university spokesperson last week said, “The University is unable to comment on personnel matters. We have policies and procedures in place to fully investigate claims that are brought to our attention.” And I have no knowledge of any legal action pending or planned.

But Kimmel does not have to wait for university administrators and lawyers to reach conclusions before he speaks honestly in public about the charges women have made against him.

And whatever the resolution of Kimmel’s case, the larger questions remain: How common is the exploitation of graduate student labor and the sexual exploitation of students in higher education? How serious are faculty members and administrators about making significant changes in that culture?

* This writer also accuses of Kimmel of having a “trans-exclusionary frame of reference,” a claim that seems to assume that feminists must endorse the ideology of the transgender movement. Many feminists, myself included, reject that claim.

More articles by:

Robert Jensen is a professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men. He can be reached atrjensen@austin.utexas.edu or online at http://robertwjensen.org/.

Weekend Edition
February 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Timothy M. Gill
Why is the Venezuelan Government Rejecting U.S. Food Supplies?
John Pilger
The War on Venezuela is Built on Lies
Andrew Levine
Ilhan Omar Owes No Apologies, Apologies Are Owed Her
Jeffrey St. Clair
That Magic Feeling: the Strange Mystique of Bernie Sanders
David Rosen
Will Venezuela Crisis Split Democrats?
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
Curtain Call: A Response to Edward Curtin
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump’s National Emergency Is The Exact Same As Barack Obama’s National Emergency
Paul Street
Buried Alive: The Story of Chicago Police State Racism
Rob Seimetz
Imagined Communities and Omitting Carbon Emissions: Shifting the Discussion On Climate Change
Ramzy Baroud
Russian Mediation: The Critical Messages of the Hamas-Fatah Talks in Moscow
Michael Welton
Dreaming Their Sweet Dreams: a Peace to End Peace
Robert Hunziker
Global Warming’s Monster Awakens
Huma Yasin
Chris Christie Spins a Story, Once Again
Ron Jacobs
Twenty-First Century Indian Wars
Robert Fantina
The U.S. and Venezuela: a Long History of Hostility
Lance Olsen
Climate and Money: a Tale of Two Accounts
Louis Proyect
El Chapo and the Path Taken
Fred Gardner
The Rise of Kamala Harris
John W. Whitehead
Rule by Fiat: National Crises, Fake Emergencies and Other Dangerous Presidential Powers
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Biomass is Not “Green”: an Interview With Josh Schlossberg
John Feffer
Answering Attacks on the Green New Deal
W. T. Whitney
US Racism and Imperialism Fuel Turbulence in Haiti
Kim Ives
How Trump’s Attacks on Venezuela Sparked a Revolution in Haiti
Mike Ferner
What War Films Never Show You
Lawrence Wittner
Should the U.S. Government Abide by the International Law It Has Created and Claims to Uphold?
James Graham
A Slow Motion Striptease in France
Dave Lindorff
Could Sanders 2.0 Win It All, Getting the Democratic Nomination and Defeating Trump?
Jill Richardson
Take It From Me, Addiction Doesn’t Start at the Border
Yves Engler
Canada and the Venezuela Coup Attempt
Tracey L. Rogers
We Need a New Standard for When Politicians Should Step Down
Gary Leupp
The Sounds of Silence
Dan Bacher
Appeals Court Rejects Big Oil’s Lawsuit Against L.A. Youth Groups, City of Los Angeles
Robert Koehler
Are You White, Black or Human?
Ralph Nader
What are Torts? They’re Everywhere!
Sarah Schulz
Immigrants Aren’t the Emergency, Naked Capitalism Is
James Campbell
In the Arctic Refuge, a Life Force Hangs in the Balance
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Corregidor’s Iconography of Empire
Jonah Raskin
The Muckraking Novelist Dashiell Hammett: A Red Literary Harvest
Kim C. Domenico
Revolutionary Art and the Redemption of the Local
Paul Buhle
Life and Crime in Blue Collar Rhode Island
Eugene Schulman
J’Accuse!
Nicky Reid
Zionists are the Most Precious Snowflakes
Jim Goodman
The Green New Deal Outlines the Change Society Needs
David Yearsley
The Political Lyre
Cesar Chelala
The Blue Angel and JFK: One Night in Camelot
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail