Today’s guest post is by Dr. Rebecca Rogers Ackermann, a biological anthropologist at the University of Cape Town. Dr. Ackermann’s story accompanies this article, out today in Science.
When I was 15, my high school history teacher asked me out on a date (I
declined). In first year as an undergraduate at the University of
Chicago, I had a graduate student tutor invite me to a party at his
flat, and when I (fortunately, and to the tutor’s surprise) showed up
with a friend there was no one else there. When I was near graduation
the Dean ‘joked’ about how he had assumed I was just there for an “MRS
degree”. In second year graduate school at University of Arizona, I went
to the office hours of a professor I was taking a course from. He asked
me to close the door, then aggressively propositioned me. That same
year, my supervisor at that institution grabbed my ass at a conference
event. I moved to Washington University in St Louis for my PhD, where I
was lucky to have really great, completely professional relationships
with my advisors. Then I went into the field. For the very first time I
had the pleasure of handling and studying hominin fossils. When
photographing a famous one, the professor responsible for access
starting photographing me from behind, and commenting on the “light
streaming through my golden hair.” As I quickly gathered my things to
leave, he blocked the doorway and gave me a juicy ‘goodbye’ kiss. Back
in St Louis, a peer of mine told me that at a bar the previous night one
of the evolutionary biology professors had engaged in a conversation
with the other (male) graduate students about whether they would have
sex with me if my husband were watching. Just a few years ago at a
conference, a senior male colleague told me out of the blue that I was
“too good looking for my own good.” This is just a sampling of the
things that have happened to me in my post-pubescent life that might be
construed as sexually inappropriate or sexual harassment. I am certain
many people in my field can make a comparable list of their own.
I have always been open with my students about what has happened to me,
so that they might be more aware of these issues, and learn from them.
Now I am ready to be open with everyone. So go ahead and ask me. Ask me
who propositioned me, who grabbed my ass, who kissed me. Ask who grabbed
my student’s breast or groped her thigh. Ask who slept with
undergraduates, who accosted a colleague. Who bullied me, degraded me,
or put me down. I am done keeping this under wraps. Done.
Read the full blog post here.