On a crowded San Francisco elevator, someone was pushing floor buttons for everyone else. One man joked that he would like to stop at “ladies lingerie.” And now, after Simona Sharoni, a women’s and gender studies professor at Merrimack College, filed a complaint, he is being forced to apologize.
The perpetrator, 76-year-old Richard Ned Lebow, is himself a professor of political theory at King’s College London, which is why Sharoni was able to file an official complaint, and she did so through the International Studies Association (ISA).
Instead of telling Sharoni to lighten up, toughen up, and pull the steel rod out of her bum (as one would in San Francisco), the ISA sided with her.
After first hearing about the complaint, Lebow emailed Sharoni.
“Like you, I am strongly opposed to the exploitation, coercion, or humiliation of women,” he wrote, adding:
As such evils continue, it seems to me to make sense to direct our attention to real offenses, not those that are imagined or marginal. By making a complaint to ISA that I consider frivolous — and I expect, will be judged this way by the ethics committee — you may be directing time and effort away from the real offenses that trouble us both.
To the surprise of no one except Lebow, this act of defending himself and accurately describing Sharoni’s frivolous complaint as “frivolous” only exacerbated the situation. The ISA is formally demanding Lebow offer an “unequivocal apology” by May 15.
Lebow, at least for now, is refusing. In an email to a friend, he wrote that the ISA’s actions are “a horrifying and chilling example of political correctness” that “encourages others to censor their remarks for fear of retribution.” In an email to the Chronicle, Lebow said he made the joke “to relieve the slight claustrophobia [he] felt in such a crowded lift.”
Those who mistakenly believe that one of the central tenets of left-wing feminism is to make women stronger, more independent, and self-assured should read the Chronicle story closely. What you have here is the ultimate persona in left-wing feminism, a professor of women’s studies, who has just proved herself not strong enough to handle a dumb joke.
Instead of laughing along or brushing it off, instead of saying something on the spot if she truly was offended, she has taken to the fainting couch of filing a complaint so that her weak and snowflake self can be protected from anything that might make her uncomfortable.
This is not the behavior of a strong and independent woman who can handle herself in any situation as well as any man; this is the behavior of a soft and spoiled child, a pathetic, weak, and cowardly tattletale.
Yeah, you’ve come a long way, baby.
Update: An earlier version of this story identified the International Studies Association conference as taking place in London, where Prof. Lebow teaches.