[INDOLOGY] Unfounded accusations of Sexism and Bias on INDOLOGY governing committee

Patricia Sauthoff sauthoff at ualberta.ca
Tue Apr 2 20:05:00 UTC 2019

Dear list,

While I cannot speak to Dr. Truschke's experience with the list, I find
much of this discussion extremely disheartening. In fact, on the one hand,
I hesitate to say anything because I am at the beginning of my career and
must keep in mind the long memories of hiring committees, publishers, and
others. On the other hand, this is why I feel I must say something. I hope
to improve the field of Indology not just as an academic but also as a
human being.

First, the private email shared below to the list moderator is especially
frustrating. Colleagues announce books, awards, etc. on this list all the
time. We ask questions about resources and on behalf of our students.
Occasionally, but less often, we discuss controversial topics and
controversies in our field. Why would we want to avoid discussing news
stories about accusations against one of our colleagues?

The message regarding the sexual harassment by Bxxx Wxxx (as stated to
protect the identity of someone against whom there were widely reported
accusations of sexual impropriety) is helpful and appropriate for many of
us on this list. Such accusations against Neil deGrasse Tyson are certainly
well-beyond the scope of this list. However, when those accusations impact
departments close to our work and individuals who we might know, they are
incredibly important for us to discuss. First and foremost, we owe it to
our community, our students, and others to ensure safety within the
university setting. When an academic in our field has been accused of
impropriety within the university, it may be difficult for us to reframe
that individual or to reconsider our own work in relation to that person.
Being dismissed for sexual harassment against graduate students is
something I think we should talk MORE about, not less. These may not seem
like academic issues to some but for many of us, navigating a
male-dominated profession, they are absolutely academic.

Women create whisper networks in which we alert one another to these
behaviors, which are often ignored by administrators. We do this to remain
safe, to alert other women to predators who may take advantage of us, harm
our careers if we turn them down, etc. The case of Dr. Wentworth was widely
reported by The Guardian and others. By the time it made it to this list,
it was well beyond the whisper network. Creating a space where we can alert
one another to these cases benefits us all. The alternative is something
like The Shitty Media Men list
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shitty_Media_Men> that reverberated through
the media just a few years ago. I, for one, would prefer transparency so
that all members of our community and field remain safe.

Second, some of the responses to Dr. Truschke's renewed efforts to discuss
these issues are aggressive and dismissive. Certainly, asking for more
concrete examples in order to understand more fully is exactly what one
might expect from scholars. Simply dismissing them with anger and annoyance
does work to silence such discussion but not to improve the place of women
or other marginalized members of the academy. If any member of our
community feels under attack, are we not here to support one another? If
the list itself is the source of that attack, should we not consider the
actions that led to those feelings?

Finally, this is 2019 and I'm sure many of us feel that we have moved
beyond sexist language and behaviors. I assure you, we have not. Every year
when it comes time to hire, women watch men less qualified than them land
their dream jobs. We receive harsher criticism from our students on our
course evaluations than our male counterparts, and we sometimes are
approached/touched/spoken to by men in ways that make us uncomfortable. We
should be able to discuss these matters openly and not just in female

Just last week a student came to me after her professor unburdened himself
by professing his feelings to her -- two weeks before the end of class and
placing her in a position where she was not sure if she would graduate
because she rebuffed his (totally inappropriate) advances. These things
happen far more often than most of us would like to acknowledge. When they
impact us and members of our field and our list, we may not agree on the
level of inappropriateness, but we owe it to one another to hear each other
out and discuss things like the professional academics that we are.

Thank you to John Nemec for his offer to quantify some of these complaints
and issues. I have spoken to Dr. Nemec personally about some of the hurdles
that women face in this field. It is not always easy to acknowledge that
our own experience is not the same for others, but if we cannot do that
within the relative safety of an email list, how can we accurately convey
the variety of religious experiences about which we study and teach?

Patricia Sauthoff

On Tue, Apr 2, 2019 at 7:39 AM Tieken, H.J.H. via INDOLOGY <
indology at list.indology.info> wrote:

> Dear List members.
> Below you may find a mail which I sent on the first of October 2016 to one
> of the moderators of the list personally (Dominik Wujastik):
> Dear Dominik, I was rather amazed to find a message on sexual harassment
> on the list involving Bxxx Wxxx. It is a personal tragedy for the students
> involved as well for Bxxx Wxxx. But is this information that should have
> been passed on through the list? I am of the opinion that it is not and am
> even more amazed to see that the mail was sent by one of the moderators
> herself. With kind regards, Herman
> A week later hell broke loose.
> Herman
> Herman Tieken
> Stationsweg 58
> 2515 BP Den Haag
> The Netherlands
> 00 31 (0)70 2208127
> website: hermantieken.com
> ------------------------------
> *Van:* INDOLOGY [indology-bounces at list.indology.info] namens Philipp Maas
> via INDOLOGY [indology at list.indology.info]
> *Verzonden:* dinsdag 2 april 2019 11:13
> *Aan:* Indology List
> *Onderwerp:* [INDOLOGY] Unfounded accusations of Sexism and Bias on
> INDOLOGY governing committee
> Dear Audrey,
> In your latest message to the Indology mailing list you stile yourself as
> a victim of sexism experienced in recent times during your work on the
> Indology committee. Moreover, you pretend to courageously blow the whistle
> against the explicit advice of your colleagues who want to keep you silent
> probably in order to save their reputation.
> In this situation, it may be of interest to the larger community of
> colleagues that as a fellow committee member I did not witness a single
> instance in which, contrary to your claim, you “met with blanket denials,
> belittling of … [your] concerns, declarations that discussing sexism is not
> a substantive issue, accusations of being a troublemaker, and flat out
> refusals to discuss gender issues.“ On the contrary, all committee members,
> irrespective of their ethnicity and sex, always take your concerns
> seriously and devote as much time to their discussion as possible under the
> time constrains we all have to face in our daily work. Of course, we there
> is disagreed. But disagreement is not necessarily an indication of sexism.
> It may also occur on the (lack of) merit of arguments.
> Your move to go public with unfounded accusations in order to strengthen
> you position in the committee is something for which I have very little
> understanding. It is utterly unfair to your colleagues who spend a lot of
> time and energy to keep this list running to the best of their abilities. I
> can’t believe that you are not aware of this.
> Best,
> Philipp
> __________________________
> Dr. Philipp A. Maas
> Research Associate
> Institut für Indologie und Zentralasienwissenschaften
> Universität Leipzig
> ___________________________
> https://spp1448.academia.edu/PhilippMaas
> Am Di., 2. Apr. 2019 um 10:21 Uhr schrieb Jonathan Silk via INDOLOGY <
> indology at list.indology.info>:
>> Dear Dr Truschke
>> I am sure that there are many members of this list who are concerned. But
>> I confess that with the (lack of) information you provide, it is impossible
>> for me either to understand what is actually going on, or what you suggest
>> be done to correct the situation.
>> I do not mean this in any way to be dismissive; it is a request for
>> further information, and a proposed way forward.
>> J Silk
>> On Tue, Apr 2, 2019 at 9:56 AM Audrey Truschke via INDOLOGY <
>> indology at list.indology.info> wrote:
>>> Dear Friends and Colleagues,
>>> I am writing to call your attention to the entrenched, worsening sexism
>>> I have been experiencing on the INDOLOGY governing committee over the past
>>> year or so (I have served on the committee for six years). Other committee
>>> members have warned me not to publicly discuss the bullying and abuse that
>>> I have faced from them in private. I break my silence and go against their
>>> explicit instructions here.
>>> I have repeatedly faced sexism within the INDOLOGY governing committee,
>>> ranging from patronizing comments to silencing of discussions about bias to
>>> overtly different standards applied to male and female members of the
>>> committee and list. I have tried many times to raise these issues
>>> internally among the committee and privately with specific individuals. I
>>> have been met with blanket denials, belittling of my concerns, declarations
>>> that discussing sexism is not a substantive issue, accusations of being a
>>> troublemaker, and flat out refusals to discuss gender issues. Indology as a
>>> discipline has deep-seated issues with male privilege, discrimination
>>> against female scholars, and even outright misogyny. The issues within
>>> INDOLOGY's male-dominated governing committee are arguably a reflection of
>>> this larger set of problems that systematically drives women out of the
>>> discipline. If Indology or INDOLOGY are going to survive in any worthwhile
>>> form, we must face our ongoing issues of sexism and bias. I have made
>>> numerous suggestions to the INDOLOGY governing committee in this regard,
>>> including striving for gender parity on the committee by adding more female
>>> members, conducting committee business more openly as a check on bullying,
>>> and undergoing bias training. I hope the committee follows up on these
>>> suggestions. But, to date, I have seen only a desire to circle the wagons
>>> and deny bias, rather than any serious attempt to make the committee or the
>>> list a more equitable place.
>>> Last week, following another case where I documented and called out a
>>> committee member for acting with bias, that committee member wrote that if
>>> he were in my position, he would consider resigning from the committee. In
>>> other words, if I find members of the INDOLOGY committee discriminate
>>> against women, then I should bow out. I find that suggestion highly
>>> inappropriate, and I do not acquiesce to it here. But I will no longer
>>> serve as a punching bag for men who insist I keep quiet.
>>> I expect to face significant pushback and recriminations for shedding
>>> light on the dark underbelly of the INDOLOGY governing committee. But,
>>> unlike many of my fellow committee members, I think that this is an issue
>>> for the list at large. Many of us, myself included, find scholarly value in
>>> this listserv. But knowledge exists within power structures, and I find
>>> that I can no longer stomach what I have to overlook in order to quietly
>>> run this forum. I think it is time for us to talk about the key issues of
>>> bias and sexism facing our discipline that make women unwelcome at every
>>> turn, including in running this listserv.
>>> All the best,
>>> Audrey
>>> Audrey Truschke
>>> Assistant Professor
>>> Department of History
>>> Rutgers University-Newark
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> INDOLOGY mailing list
>>> INDOLOGY at list.indology.info
>>> indology-owner at list.indology.info (messages to the list's managing
>>> committee)
>>> http://listinfo.indology.info (where you can change your list options
>>> or unsubscribe)
>> --
>> J. Silk
>> Leiden University
>> Leiden University Institute for Area Studies, LIAS
>> Matthias de Vrieshof 3, Room 0.05b
>> 2311 BZ Leiden
>> The Netherlands
>> copies of my publications may be found at
>> https://leidenuniv.academia.edu/JASilk
>> _______________________________________________
>> INDOLOGY mailing list
>> INDOLOGY at list.indology.info
>> indology-owner at list.indology.info (messages to the list's managing
>> committee)
>> http://listinfo.indology.info (where you can change your list options or
>> unsubscribe)
> _______________________________________________
> INDOLOGY mailing list
> INDOLOGY at list.indology.info
> indology-owner at list.indology.info (messages to the list's managing
> committee)
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> unsubscribe)

Patricia Sauthoff
Post-doctoral researcher
Department of History and Classics
University of Alberta
Edmonton, Canada

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