Imagine what our campuses would be like if Title IX had been not a modification of the Higher Education Act but a spell. What if, in 1972, with Title IX’s passage, being sexually assaulted by a fellow student didn’t exile you from your student community, but rather led your community to address your needs and the needs of the people around you? What if the whole of the sports world had been desegregated? What if fields, disciplines and professions were not dominated by one gender or another? What if the upper ranks of the academy were not so patriarchal and white? What if, while we are at it, we got rid of the idea of the “upper-rank” altogether. What if your work as a caregiver were folded into your educational process? What if the gender binary dissolved in 1972? What if teachers and students worked alongside service workers and campus custodians to collaborate in the care of the institution as a structure, a scene and a space? What if that sharing of reproductive labor were built into what we know as the work of education? What if the “sex bureaucrats” (as Title IX administrators are often called) were not abject social service workers, but prized members of the campus coven?
Harassment produces crisis. It is very hard to know what to do when harassment dynamics descend on you, or on members of your community. Harassment is more than a single event — it is a process. Harassment may be intermittent or constant. It may fluctuate in intensity.
Bullying and harassment are social phenomena — they only happen within a group structure. The group facilitates — it amplifies and conducts. The bully and the bullied are not two sides having a bad conversation — harassment is not a dialogue. It is a debilitating dynamic which acquires additional force from the discriminatory, hierarchical structures that define life inside and around institutions which reproduce knowledge, power, access to a sense of the possible. It’s a form of surveillance and punishment. It is a group sickness. It is fueled by paranoia and it breeds paranoia. It’s difficult to confront alone, never mind stop.
Harassment is often racialized, sexualized or both. It may be racialized and sexualized in ways that cannot be accounted for by anti-harassment policy. And within a racist/sexist organization, few people will have the capacity to acknowledge racialized and/or sexualized harassment as forms of bias, discrimination and hate.
Some forms of harassment are integrated into rituals of belonging. Some rituals of belonging manage harassment. Hazing and bullying both consolidate a group’s sense of coherence through the abuse of a person who will embody, for that group, that which they most despise and fear.
Hazing ritualizes harassment as what holds the group together; bullying is a projection of the group’s fear of falling apart.
A sexual assault may not be part of a harassment dynamic. A sexist social context, however, will amplify the harm of a sexual assault by fruiting harassment dynamics around the victim’s attempt to articulate what they need.
[this might reproduce text which has appeared in earlier, longer, more rambling posts]
a penny drops
and a shoe
flies across the room