The Angry Grad Student and the Moral Philosopher
Feminist Issues, Global Justice, Moral Philosophy, Revenge, The Internet, Yale
“Lizbeth Mara” depicts herself in several places on the Internet by a stock photo of a pretty brunette muzzled by a pair of grimy male hands. Who knew that moral philosophers ever got their hands dirty?
Charlotte Allen reports, and reflects at length, upon all the sturm und drang, and also the delicious ironies attendant on the story emerging this month of the public shaming of a much-philandering Yale professor of Moral Philosophy and Global Justice by an irate female grad student, furious at having been seduced, now avenging herself via the extra-judicial methods of Internet grassroots appeals and social media.
Ms. Allen finds much entertaining reading in the now widely-distributed anonymous complaints of the alleged victim.
She reported that she began to get suspicious when the professor declined to leave his partner in order to be with herâ€”or even, in fact, to tell his partner that she existed. Then she found out about the â€œ22-year-old virginâ€ whoâ€™d been his former secret mistress, plus the â€œPhD student in India, who wears a sexy negligee,â€ and the â€œother young female scholars that he hosts in his apartment.â€ Anonymous concluded sadly: â€œHe will continue giving his lectures about justice around the world, pretending not to eat meat for moral reasons, inviting young women to his hotel room for philosophical discussions, and Iâ€™m just among the other young women scorned by the moral philosopher, who devotes his life to justice.â€
All this would make for a merry tale illustrating the adage â€œHell hath no fury like a woman who discovers that her man has been whispering the same sweet nothings into the ears of other females as heâ€™s been whispering into hers.â€ It would also make for a merry tale of hypocrisy among sanctimonious progressives in academia. â€œGlobal justiceâ€ typically involves requiring citizens of wealthy First World countries to hand over their income and assets (via taxes) for â€œredistributionâ€ to impoverished Third World countries, on the theory that theyâ€™re complicit in Third World poverty. Itâ€™s always fun to see a vegetarian guru of redistribution who also happens to occupy a cushy position at a prestigious East Coast university doing a bit of redistribution of his own on the side. Anonymous lamented: â€œI falsely assumed that the man who calls affluent westerners human rights violators would treat women with dignity.â€ Surprise, surprise!
And finally, this ought to be an inspirational tale for grad-school nerds laboring in the library stacks trying to finish their philosophy dissertations: Get yourself a job in â€œglobal justice,â€ and youâ€™ll have more progressive females in sexy negligees throwing themselves at you than there are stars in the sky or Third World kleptocrats.
But Allen is also a bit alarmed at the dark side of all of this, as one example of an increasing number of cases of feminist warfare against academic departments of Philosophy, and she notes that Internet shaming and mobbing has been, in this case, quite effective.
[W]ithin days of the appearance of Anonymousâ€™s article in Thought Catalog, he was specifically identified by a number of feminist activistsâ€”including Anonymous herselfâ€”as a Yale professor who had allegedly made sexual overtures to a female Yale undergraduate while serving as her senior-essay adviser and, after her graduation in 2010, employing her as a researcher and translator. That woman is reportedly preparing to sue both the professor and Yale itself, which, according to a September 30, 2011, article in the student newspaper, the Yale Daily News, had found â€œinsufficient evidence to support the allegation of sexual harassmentâ€ and merely issued the professor a reprimand for improper business practices.
In short, the global justice professor has been effectively â€œoutedâ€â€”linked irrevocably not just to a taste for trysts in hotel rooms around the world but to a concrete allegation of sexual harassment on his own campus. He may win the lawsuit if it is ever filed (those cases are hard to prove), but thatâ€™s beside the point. Everyone in the philosophy world is now pretty certain who he is (he has been named on several philosophy blogs), and his career in academia, if not formally finished, may well be mortally wounded. Several well-known philosophers at other universities are more or less calling for his head. Global justice, indeed.