Gender Studies Professor Files Complaint Against Male Professor Over Elevator Joke

May 9, 2018 | No Comments » | Topics: Story

A male political theory professor said Friday he won’t apologize to a female gender studies professor for a joke about “ladies’ lingerie” he made while both were riding in a crowded elevator. 

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

The fuss started when Richard Ned Lebow, a professor of political theory at King’s College London, and Simona Sharoni, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Merrimack College, ended up in the same crowded elevator during a conference at a Hilton in San Francisco last month.

She said she offered to press the floor buttons for people in the elevator, whom she described as mostly conference attendees and all, except one other woman, white middle-aged men. Instead of saying a floor, Lebow smiled and asked for the women’s lingerie department “and all his buddies laughed,” Sharoni wrote in a complaint, the details of which he disputed, to the association later that day.

“After they walked out, the woman standing next to me turned to me and said, ‘I wonder if we should have told them that it is no longer acceptable to make these jokes!” she said in her complaint.

Sharoni, who wrote in her complaint that she has experienced sexual harassment in academe in the past and was shaken by the incident, said it took her a while to figure out that Lebow thought it was funny “to make a reference to men shopping for lingerie while attending an academic conference. I am still trying to come to terms with the fact that we froze and didn’t confront him,” she wrote.

Hours after the April 5 encounter, she filed a complaint with Mark Boyer, the executive director of ISA, which was hosting the annual conference on international relations studies.

Lebow was told to write an “unequivocal apology” to Sharoni and submit a written copy by May 15 to the association’s executive committee. The apology should focus on Lebow’s actions, rather than Sharoni’s perceptions of them, it said, adding that if he failed to comply, the executive committee would consider appropriate sanctions.

Lebow refused. He also sent an email to colleagues calling his treatment “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 on Sunday, Lebow said he made the joke “to relieve the slight claustrophobia I felt in such a crowded lift.”