Slate: “Tiger Mom’s Husband is a Witch!”
#MeToo, Amy Chua, Feminist Issues, Jed Rubenfeld, Witch Hunting, Yale Law School
If anybody doubts that #MeToo Feminism amounts to witch-hunting, he just needs to read this article in Slate, describing (with avidity) how Yale Law Professor Jed Rubenfeld (husband of “Tiger Mom” Amy Chua) needed to be investigated for making a young lady “uncomfortable” through personal conversations or by complimenting her (!) The beast!
One afternoon late in her first year at Yale Law School, Linda sat down to create a contemporaneous record of a conversation sheâ€™d had the night before. Sheâ€™d met with one of her professors, Jed Rubenfeld, in his office after hours at his suggestion, following repeated attempts to see him in the afternoon about a paper she was working on for him. Rubenfeld had made her uncomfortable throughout the year, commenting on her appearance and asking her about his. While friends had told her she had reason to feel creeped out by his behavior, Linda wondered whether she was being too sensitive and agreed to the 8 p.m. meeting. She really needed to make progress on the paper, after all. But given the queasy feeling she already had, she asked her partner to pick her up that night, and to come looking for her if he hadnâ€™t heard from her after a reasonable amount of time.
Per Lindaâ€™s record, written the next day and shared with us recently, her conversation with Rubenfeld that evening quickly veered away from her paper. The professor asked her, â€œWhy arenâ€™t you married?â€ When Linda tried to steer the conversation to safe groundâ€”mentioning how young she was and inquiring about his own marriage to fellow Yale Law School professor Amy Chuaâ€”Rubenfeld brought the focus back to her. He asked if sheâ€™d been the smartest girl in her high school, then if sheâ€™d been the prettiest. When she again deflected, he asked if her smarts had made things tough with the guys in school. The conversation meandered from there and never returned to her paper. Eventually, Rubenfeld said they should get going. By the time they left, Lindaâ€™s partner had come to look for her.
Linda, who today is a recent YLS alum, spent the rest of that academic year agonizing over what to do about her uncomfortable interactions with Rubenfeld, and experiencing more of them. One in particular sticks out: The Saturday night after exams wrapped up, Rubenfeld called her cellphoneâ€”the first time he had ever done that, she says. He said theyâ€™d never gotten a chance to talk about that paper and asked if she was free to do that now. Linda said she was busy preparing to leave New Haven and couldnâ€™t meet, but said she was happy to talk on the phone. They had what Linda describes as a 30-second conversation about the paper before Rubenfeld quickly ended the call, saying heâ€™d see her in September.
That summer, Linda spoke to Yale Law Schoolâ€™s Title IX coordinator. (Linda is a pseudonym, and to preserve her anonymity, we have chosen not to name the Title IX coordinator at the time, as it would identify her class year.) Her goal was twofold: She wanted to start a paper trail about Rubenfeldâ€™s behavior, and she was looking for advice on what her options were for engaging the schoolâ€™s Title IX process, the government-mandated means of investigating and stopping gender-based discrimination. According to Linda, the Title IX coordinator at the time told her at the very beginning of the call that if Linda named the professor during their conversation and the allegations were sufficiently serious, the coordinator would have to file a formal report. Once that process began, the coordinator said, Lindaâ€™s anonymity could not be guaranteed.
This was several years before #MeToo, and the prevailing wisdom at the time was that women should just lean in and push through when things got weird.
This put Linda in an enormously tough position. Schools need to protect the accused as well as the accusers, so it makes sense that Yale would ask women, or anyone alleging misbehavior, to attach their names to allegations. But it also makes sense that attaching her name would be incredibly difficult for Linda: Rubenfeld hadnâ€™t just advised her on a paper. He also taught one of her courses, and heâ€™d been her â€œsmall groupâ€ professor during the fall semester. (At Yale, each first-year law student is assigned to a 16- or 17-person small group. Those students take all of their courses together, including one course with just their group thatâ€™s led by one professor.) Until that April late-night meeting, Linda had generally considered Rubenfeld her advocate. She was counting on him to be one of her references on her clerkship applications, which she needed to submit soon after returning to campus in the fall. She worried that if she made a report or even told the Title IX coordinator his name, it could get back to Rubenfeld and sheâ€™d lose his support. This could undermine her chance to earn a prestigious clerkship with a federal judgeâ€”which would then make it harder for her to continue to pursue competitive opportunities, like the holy grail for Yale Law School students: a clerkship on the Supreme Court.
Linda was left with two terrible options: She could protect her clerkship prospects by subjecting herself to more unwelcome flirtation, or she could ask Yale to investigate Rubenfeld.
When I was at Yale, I had a professor who had a wonderful voice and a superb accent in the poetry of another language. His seminar was filled with gorgeous female grad students beautiful enough to be models, who were commonly visibly aroused, breathing heavily, as he read aloud. He was a lady-killer, with a glint in his eye. The girls adored him, and he made one of them after another his lover. I suspect he left behind a lot of happy memories, but, it’s a good thing he’s gone. Boy! they’d string him up today.