Anthropology is not the only discipline in which sexual violence is prevalent and where particularly egregious cases have become public knowledge. Sexual violence, as the global clamor of #MeToo suggests, is a problem of deep-seated gender inequities and the social supports that these have found in the institutions and societies within which we all live and work.
Taking leadership in addressing the harm of sexual harassment to their professional communities, academic associations in various fields have updated and crafted new policies with clear reporting provisions, engaged in policy advocacy on harassment, provided prevention and best practices resources for their members, and embarked on proactive programs for cultural change in annual conferences. Sexual harassment is defined by leading associations as “scientific misconduct” that limits innovation and restricts the presence of women in science.
Sexual harassment and sexual assault further neither the professional interests of anthropologists nor the Association’s mission to use anthropological knowledge effectively to solve human problems. Eliminating sexual harassment and sexual assault in anthropology is about a broader shift in cultural norms regarding gender, sex, sexuality, and power. It is about overturning what Berry et al. (2017) have defined as the “discipline’s implicit masculinist” mentality. In the year ahead, the Association through the Members’ Programmatic, Advisory, and Advocacy Committee (MPAAC), is crafting clear sexual harassment and meetings conduct policies, as well as plans for continued monitoring of the problem and the preventative work of member education on best practices for methods and ethics training, field school planning, and addressing sexual harassment in the varied work contexts in which anthropology takes place.
The work of MPAAC and its Working Group on Sexual Harassment will strengthen the Association’s Zero Tolerance for Sexual Harassment Statement and the expectations of professional conduct currently encoded in the AAA’s 2012 ethics statement. Shifting cultural norms regarding gender, sex, sexuality, and power, signals the beginning of a process of establishing new ways to conceptualize and address sexual harassment. This process includes the development of new practices for graduate and undergraduate training and mentoring along with a renewed commitment to our established practice of monitoring the incidence of gender inequities and sexual harassment in the discipline.
M. Gabriela Torres is an associate professor of anthropology at Wheaton College, Massachusetts. In the past, she served as secretary of the Association for Feminist Anthropology and chair of the former Committee on Gender Equity in Anthropology.
Dianna Shandy is an associate dean in the Kofi A. Annan Institute for Global Citizenship and professor of anthropology at Macalester College. She is the co-author of Glass Ceilings and 100-Hour Couples: What the Opt-Out Phenomenon Can Teach Us about Work and Family (2009).
They both hold gender equity seats within MPAAC and are co-leads on the AAA Sexual Harassment Working Group.
Cite as: Torres, M. Gabriela, and Dianna Shandy. 2018. “Taking Leadership and Remaking Academic Communities.” Anthropology News website, May 10, 2018. DOI: 10.1111/AN.864