This is a case study we have discussed in Gender Theory and Practice. What is the “natural body”? Michael Phelps also slept in an oxygen-enriched sleeping pod to enhance his competitive swimming skills, yet that was accepted as a training tool — not the privilege afforded to a wealthy white male athlete with corporate endorsements. Fast forward to Caster Semenya and a ruling that she must alter her hormones to level the playing field. Take a look at the pictures below, a reminder that black bodies (of all genders, to be sure) were the lascivious objects of the colonial gaze.
We had the honor of hosting former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos at Fletcher this week. Many of us had questions about the Peace Accords and their implementation under the hostile Duque administration, about the need for land reform in Colombia, and concerns about the ongoing assassinations of social leaders and activists. Unfortunately, the agenda took another turn when the event began with a screening of “Port of Destiny: Peace,” a hagiographic piece of political propaganda that left me queasy. From the opening scenes of President Santos driving a car through admiring throngs to Santos sitting at his desk with a furrowed brow as he ponders how he will bring peace to Colombia; from his nuclear family praising his leadership to the images of him as the nation’s father saving brown-skinned peasants and doling out a home to an Afro-Colombian woman and her children: this film is a gender/race/class runaway wreck. Tony Blair offers praise, as does Bill Clinton. A holy trinity of masculine leadership! Erased completely are the years of peace-building efforts by civil society organizations; this is History As The Work of One Great Man, an emplotment strategy that is alternately nauseating, laughable and historically incorrect. The cause of peace in Colombia would be better served by addressing the challenges of moving the process forward rather than beatifying Santos in his own lifetime.
It is gratifying to hear positions and names — and facts — spoken in open court.
I think of Dr. Ford sitting across from all those white men, who have the power to judge her credibility — which they will attack. So let’s imagine a tenure case in which senior white males send in secret poison letters, fearful of junior faculty who have already demonstrated they will speak out about professorial sexual misconduct. These men have long considered sexual access to students as part of their compensation package — and they are determined to be rid of a junior colleague who does not go along to get along. She is not a dutiful daughter, and would never counsel another woman to be one either. These men have far too much power to determine a woman’s fate, be it in the courtroom, the boardroom, the hallowed halls of the Ivy Leagues, or on the Supreme Court.
Retaliation is real and this is an important case. It points to why it matters that we are heard before a jury of our peers and not a judge in private proceedings. Senior professors have the power to sink a tenure case with a poisoned letter, a pernicious phone call, or a biased and vindictive appearance before an ad hoc committee. I press on with my lawsuit against Harvard because certain people should be held accountable for what they did—- and others for what they failed to do.