The Father of Modern Libraries Was a Serial Sexual Harasser

The Father of Modern Libraries Was a Serial Sexual Harasser

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Adelaide Hasse was used to professional challenges. As a young woman, she struggled to be taken seriously by mostly male executive boards. She created a groundbreaking new way to classify government documents—and was disappointed when a male colleague claimed the credit. But armed with a new job at the New York Public Library, a better salary, and an ambitious new project, she finally felt optimistic about her career.

To pull off her newest plan, she’d need support, so she approached the leading voice in her field, Melvil Dewey, a man whose innovations made him a household name. He suggested they meet privately about her new project. Encouraged, she made her way to Albany, New York—only to find that he had arranged what amounted to a weekend-long date. It’s unclear what happened next, but Hasse departed hastily after being taken for a long drive by Dewey, and later spoke to colleagues about how offensive his behavior had been.

The story sounds like it could involve a Harvey Weinstein or Matt Lauer, but it didn’t. It took place in 1905, more than a century before the #metoo movement that exposed the sexual misconduct of America’s most powerful men. And the man in question was Melvil Dewey, the library pioneer whose decimal system of classification is still used in libraries today—a “protean genius” who raised himself from a poor farmer’s son to an icon during his lifetime.

Dewey is remembered today as aninnovator who ushered American librarianship into the modern age. He helped invent the modern library, shaping everything from its organizational methods to its look to the roles of the librarians who were their stewards. But his pattern of sexual harassment was so egregious that women like Hasse dared to speak out against it, at a time when women were harshly judged for reporting sexual harassment. So many came forward that he was kicked out of the profession’s most prestigious association after an industry cruise in Alaska turned dangerous for women.

The pattern of abuse cost Dewey money and his professional reputation—and was brought to light by women whose careers he could make or break. And it was so pervasive that for decades, librarians risked their livelihoods to expose his behavior.

“For many years women librarians have been the special prey of Mr. Dewey in a series of outrages against decency,” argued Los Angeles Public Library head librarian Tessa Kelso, one of Dewey’s most outspoken critics, in a 1924 letter. Yet his behavior was often dismissed by male colleagues, including Dewey’s son, Godfrey, as mere “disregard of conventions and indifference to appearances.”

During the late 19th and early 20th century, Dewey translated a career in library supplies to a position as one of the world’s most influential librarians. As editor of The Library Journal, a cofounder of the American Library Association, head librarian of Columbia University and the New York State Librarian, he wielded considerable influence in the library profession. But he also garnered hatred and was largely ostracized from the profession he helped found for harassing women.

Ironically, many women owed Dewey their ability to work in the library field at all. Dewey insisted onadmitting women to the male-only graduate program in librarianship at Columbia College, and lost his job in part due to that decision. Dewey knew the modern libraries he needed would require cheap, eager labor—and the generation’s few professional women, who were determined to prove themselves in a male-dominated world, were the perfect fit.

But though Dewey championed women in library science, he also seemed to think that harassment came along with the job—and his obsession with female students’ sexuality was so overt that rumors circulated he asked them to submit their bust measurements along with their applications. (He didn’t.) He surrounded himself with librarians—often spinsters—andinsisted on entertaining them in private. And observerswatched him repeatedly squeeze and hug his two live-in assistants—both women.

In 1905, Dewey took a cruise to Alaska with several members of the American Library Association. Its purpose was to unwind after a long ALA conference and plan the future of the newly founded American Library Institute. But for some of the women on board, it was no vacation. Dewey’s sexual misconduct was serious enough for four women to accuse Dewey of harassment.

Dewey was ultimately forced out of the American Library Association, an organization he had cofounded—a rare public consequence for one of the era’s many harassing men. Though Hasse was given the chance to testify against Dewey, she—perhaps scared to endanger the career she had fought so hard for—declined to do so.

As for Dewey, heclaimed that “I have been very unconventional…as men [are] always who frankly show and speak of their liking of women.” However, he stopped short of calling his behavior harassment.

It’s stillunclear exactly what Dewey’s offensive behavior consisted of—and because of the mores of the time, it’s not surprising that women were either afraid to come forward or hesitated to write down their specific accusations. But his behavior was so bad that he was characterized, in his words, as “a hopeless scamp that no self-respecting librarian [would] dare be in the same county with.”

Fifteen years after he left the ALA, Dewey was accused of inappropriate behavior with other female librarians. Tessa Kelso, a prominent Los Angeles librarian, helped organize a group of women to privately testify against Dewey. During thatinvestigation, it surfaced that Dewey had supposedly harassed his own daughter-in-law to the extent that she moved out of his house. Dewey denied the accusations,claiming that Kelso and the other women were “old maids” who wanted to ruin his career, and the investigation was eventually dropped.

In 1930, more sexual harassment allegations surfaced when Dewey’s former stenographer accused him of assaulting her, including kissing her against her will in a taxi. Though Dewey initially dismissed the allegations asblackmail, the 78-year-old eventually paid $2,147—the equivalent of over $30,000 in 2017 dollars—to hush up the case.

Like many other powerful harassers, Dewey’s pattern of sexual abuse has been noted, but often portrayed as a side note to his life. He’s referred toas “one strange guy”or “compulsive,” but his misconduct is usually written off as secondary to his outsized contributions to the library profession.

Dewey’s pattern of harassment demonstrated his dismissal of the very women he claimed to want in the profession. His innovations helped make librarianship possible—but we may never find out how many women’s careers he ended or hindered in his quest for sexual power.

The fine art of saying sorry

Harvey Weinstein: ‘I came of age in the 60s and 70s when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different. That was the culture then. I’ve since learned it’s not an excuse.’ Photograph: Vince Bucci/Invision/AP

Harvey Weinstein: ‘I came of age in the 60s and 70s when all the rules about behaviour and workplaces were different. That was the culture then. I’ve since learned it’s not an excuse.’ Photograph: Vince Bucci/Invision/AP

The sexual harassment scandal has added extra layers of absurdity to the art of the apology. Jay Rayner reveals why so many public figures get it so wrong

Last modified on Mon 24 Feb 2020 18.37 GMT

O n 20 November the American journalist and writer Dana Schwartz launched a new website. It was called the Celebrity Perv Apology Generator, and it did exactly what it said. At the click of a “try again” button it generated new apologies for lazy celebs, accused of appalling sexual misdemeanours, who couldn’t be fagged to get their publicists to write one for them. “As a person who was born in an era before women were ‘people’, I am deeply ashamed (but not ‘sorry’ because that means I’m guilty of something),” read one.

Or: “As the father of daughters the allegations against me are troubling. I imagined that any woman would have been thrilled to see a tiny penis peeking out from below my pasty, middle-aged paunch like the head of a geriatric albino turtle moments from death.” Click try again once more, and: “I feel tremendously guilty now that the things I did have been made public… I will get the help I so badly need because this isn’t actually my fault.”

It has been just two months since the New York Times published its first report alleging that film producer Harvey Weinstein was a serial harasser of women, with a history of assault, intimidation, exposure and unwanted touching just two months since the appearance of the #MeToo hashtag and the accompanying dam burst of emboldened women coming forward to tell their dreadful stories just two months in which the world’s crisis management professionals have been forced into overdrive, advising the likes of comedian Louis CK, NBC news broadcaster Mark Halperin and, perhaps most notoriously, the actor Kevin Spacey on the best way to do that thing your mum taught you to do: say sorry.

Louis CK: ‘At the time, I said to myself that what I did was OK because I never showed a woman my dick without asking first, which is also true.’ Photograph: Stephen Lovekin/Rex/Shutterstock

The problem is they had all done a lousy job. Dana Schwartz’s apology generator is hilarious, but it can’t match the jaw-dropping, buttock-clenching awfulness of the real ones. Witness actor Ben Affleck, accused of groping an actor he had worked with, announcing that sexual harassment was “terrible” and was “happening on a scale that I don’t think anybody except maybe women understood”. That’s anybody apart from half the world’s population, Ben. Or the veteran American broadcaster Charlie Rose, who concluded his apology for decades of harassment with the line: “All of us, including me, are coming to a newer and deeper recognition of the pain caused by conduct in the past, and have come to a profound new respect for women and their lives.” Well it may all be shiny and new to you Charlie, but some of us have been across it for quite a while. Josh Rivers, the short-lived editor of Gay Times, sacked for a history of abusive tweets, hoped that we could “all” use his offences as an opportunity for growth, and, confronted with the news that he had assaulted a then 14-year-old Anthony Rapp, Kevin Spacey shouted: “I’m gay!” Like it was news. Or, more importantly, in any way relevant.

There is only one conclusion: for a certain type of power-crazed, predatory, sexually dysfunctional man, “sorry” isn’t just the hardest word, it’s a nonstarter. The simple business of modern apology is in abject crisis. According to showbiz agent Jonathan Shalit, who represents a sizeable roster of British celebrities, the problem is intent. “Sorry is one of the most powerful words,” he says. “It moves the story on. The challenge you’ve got with the apologies from people like Weinstein and Spacey is that it appears they’re not sorry for the behaviour. They’re sorry they got caught. If you’re going to say sorry you’ve got to appear to mean it and be sincere.” As he says: “Most people mess up. What matters is how you deal with it afterwards. Most things you can come back from.” Though not, he adds, if you cross a moral line. “Kevin Spacey crossed that line.”

The curious thing about #PublicApologyfest2017, a brilliant hashtag literally no one has used, is that the political realm had already offered up more than enough examples of how to not do it. That’s a subject I know a little about. In 2004 I published a novel, The Apologist, about a man who becomes so good at apologising to the people he has offended in his own life that he’s appointed Chief Apologist to the United Nations, tasked with apologising for sins like colonialism and slavery. It came complete with its own fictional academic, Prof Thomas Schenke, and his doctrine of Penitential Engagement (Point 1: Never apologise for anything for which you aren’t sorry.)

Kevin Spacey: ‘I honestly do not remember the encounter. But if I did behave as he describes, I owe him the sincerest apology for my deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour.’ Photograph: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP

Since its publication, a genuine academic literature around public apology has sprung up. There are studies with titles like The Age of Apology: Facing up to the Past and Official or Political Apologies and Improvement of Intergroup Relations: a Neo-Durkheimian Approach to Official Apologies as Rituals. Academics all over the world are interrogating the word “sorry” and how best to use it.

Not that it’s really improved things. It got off to a good start. The general consensus is that the modern age of public apology began with German Chancellor Willy Brandt who, in December 1970, fell to his knees before the memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto, as atonement for the Holocaust. It was regarded as a genuine and profound gesture of penitence. It took the arrival of Bill Clinton and Tony Blair on the world stage to screw everything up. They’d both concluded that, where the old-fashioned politician depended for their survival on huge oratory skills that would go over at the back of the room, modern politics was in close-up. You needed to be seen as an authentic emoting human being.

What more authentic human gesture was there than to apologise, especially if it was for something you hadn’t done? In 1997, a month after winning his first general election, Blair apologised for Britain’s role in the Irish potato famine. In 1998 the Monica Lewinsky affair gave Clinton ample practice enough indeed to prove that whatever your political experience you could still come across as a fibbing scumbag. That same year, Clinton stood on an airfield in Rwanda and apologised to the TV cameras for the failure of the US to act over the country’s genocide four years earlier. It played beautifully to the world, though perhaps less so in Rwanda itself, where the percentage of the population that owned television sets was in single digits.

Bill Clinton: ‘Everyone who’s been hurt should know my sorrow is genuine – my family, my friends, my staff, Monica Lewinsky.’ Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

David Cameron made both of them look like lightweights. Cameron adored apologising, lived for it. He apologised for the way the Tories had called Nelson Mandela a terrorist, for Section 28 of a 1988 Tory education bill which banned the promotion of homosexuality to children, for British collusion in the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane, for failures to protect the victims of the Hillsborough disaster and even for an ageist remark to veteran MP Dennis Skinner. The latter was notable because, unlike the others, it was something he’d done.

Philip Collins was a speech writer for Tony Blair, and is the author of The Art of Speeches and Presentations: The Secrets of Making People Remember What You Say. He was involved in many conversations over apologies in Downing Street. “We had a long discussion about whether or not to apologise for slavery because there was some pressure to do so, but the gap between responsibility and words was so big we felt it would have been hollow,” he says. What, then, about the Iraq war? “We talked about that in detail, but in the end the reason Blair didn’t apologise for it is because, amazingly, he isn’t sorry. He says he regrets the consequences, but he still thinks what he did was right.”

On this point, Collins agrees with Shalit. “An apology needs to be sincere to function, it’s the act as well as the words that matter.” The problem with the post-Weinstein apologies, he says, is that: “People now apologise for the consequences, not the act itself.”

Andy Dick: ‘I didn’t grope anybody. I might have kissed somebody on the cheek to say goodbye and then licked them. I’m not trying to sexually harass people.’ Photograph: GP Images/WireImage

Eli Attie is uniquely placed to comment. He was a speech writer both for Bill Clinton and Al Gore before moving to Hollywood to write for, and later produce, The West Wing. In politics, he says, the political consultants advised against apologising – “Because the media would just want more.” The entertainment business, he says, is a different matter entirely. “I’ve been amazed at how careers have been ending here in Hollywood in just minutes,” he tells me. “I think we’re in a transition point in our culture where a certain kind of behaviour that was once acceptable no longer is. The instant condemnation of people is a way of saying: ‘We get it!’”

What, then, does he think is the secret to a good apology? “It involves absolute grace, no bitterness and no withholding of anything.” I wonder what he thinks of the current crop. “I’ve read some of them. In one sense none of them fly. People who own the question quickly own the problem, but that doesn’t mean anyone will ever want to employ them again. Some of these people might be able to come back in five or 10 years. But those whose apologies are much more grudging, for them it’s the end of the road.” And Weinstein and Spacey? “For them there is no redemption.” I ask whether, given his political experience, he has been consulted by any of those called upon to apologise. He declines to comment.

I turn instead to my fellow restaurant critic Giles Coren. He knows a bit about apologising. He’s been called upon to do it countless times. When I first text him to suggest we discuss the issue he replies: “The biggest crime is never to write anything that needs no apology.” Nobody who has read Coren will be surprised by this. Likewise, when he says: “I mostly don’t say sorry. But it’s true I sometimes do.”

Al Franken: ‘‘There’s more I want to say, but the first and most important thing – and if it’s the only thing you care to hear, that’s fine – is: I’m sorry.’ Photograph: Yuri Gripas/Reuters

Indeed, when we talk, it turns out he has just apologised. He recently wrote a piece for Esquire magazine, fat shaming his own four year-old-son. He hadn’t apologised for that. Heaven forfend. For Coren, his entire family is grist to the mill. If therapy was good enough for him it will be good enough for his kids, given time. However, in one line, he had referred to his son as looking “retarded”, an obviously offensive word which brought him absolutely everything he deserved.

“I was writing for Esquire and turning up the laddishness,” Coren says now. But he says he wasn’t even aware he’d used the word until it was brought to his attention on social media. “I write thousands of words a week and sometimes… Anyway, I went back and looked. I was just beyond gutted I’d written that word. There was no excuse.” He got the magazine to change it online and then tweeted the disability charity Mencap to apologise. “They didn’t tweet me. I tweeted them.” So does “sorry” work? “It does for me, but only if I mean it. And that’s why I mostly don’t say sorry because I usually know exactly what I’m saying and what the effect will be.” God, but it must be exhausting being Giles Coren.

The problem for all those who have sinned in public life is the nature of modern media. Clinton and Blair worked out the importance of the TV camera close-up. But now it’s more intimate still: we read apologies from the screen in the palm of our hand. If it’s on video we sit eyeball to eyeball, which leaves no wriggle room for insincerity at all. Try watching the 2016 video of Johnny Depp and Amber Heard (heading towards an acrimonious divorce) apologising for breaching Australian rules by illegally bringing in their dogs, as if a revolver was pointed at their heads just out of frame. Actually, don’t. We’ve all suffered enough.

Will #PublicApologyfest2017 eventually blow over? Will high-profile people eventually stop saying sorry? Only if they run out of crimes and misdemeanours. Because if there’s one thing recent events have taught us, it’s that no one is too big and powerful not to be called out for their behaviour. The incidents all these men are admitting may have required an aplogy. And the apologies they’ve made may have been laughable. But that, at least, has to be a good thing.

What to Make of Isaac Asimov, Sci-Fi Giant and Dirty Old Man?

The Sensuous Dirty Old Man (1971) is credited to “Dr. A”… but “the secret is out,” admits a paperback edition, naming the author as Isaac Asimov, “undoubtedly the best writer in America” per the Mensa Bulletin. A response to a then-popular book called The Sensuous Woman, Asimov’s book instructs dirty old men on how to leer (“don’t peep at girls—STARE!”), make suggestive remarks (“What a magnificent dress… or am I merely judging by the contents?”), and fondle.

The sensuous dirty old man has learned the fine art of the touch, that of making it so gentle and innocent that the young lady involved can scarcely believe it is happening and therefore ignores it. This presents an exercise of innocence both on the part of the toucher and touchee that should bring tears of envy to all beholders.

January 2, 2020 marked the centenary of Isaac Asimov’s birth at least, of the birth date the late author celebrated. (In his native Russia, the date of Asimov’s birth wasn’t precisely recorded.) The anniversary passed with little notice, although Asimov was a towering presence in science fiction and one of the most prolific writers to ever live. A Golden Age grand master and a protegé of Astounding Science Fiction editor John W. Campbell, Asimov coined the word “robotics” and wrote the Foundation series.

The Foundation stories beat J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to win a 1966 Hugo Award for Best All-Time Series. Today, Tolkien commands a much more visible pop-culture presence than Asimov, but the Foundation stories are still widely read bring them up in any group, and one or two people are likely to say they devoured the books.

From the 1960s through his death in 1992, Asimov was an iconic celebrity regarded as an authority on science and science fiction alike. The author of hundreds of books, he could speak lucidly on virtually any subject and made frequent media appearances. Today, though, his image—with its wide smile behind heavy black eyeglass frames, its bushy gray mutton chops, and its ubiquitous bolo tie—is most recognizable from vintage book jackets.

That image is set to gain fresh visibility with the forthcoming release of an Apple TV series based on the Foundation stories (in pre-production, filming of the show was postponed at the end of March because of the coronavirus). The original stories were published in science fiction magazines from 1942 to 1950 and later collected in a trilogy of books, ultimately supplemented with four late-career Foundation novels. They chronicle a visionary scientist’s efforts to relieve chaos and suffering during an interregnum between distant-future galactic empires.

To read Asimov is to escape into a world where infinite progress seems tantalizingly possible. If you’re inclined to spend a lot of time with Asimov’s work, you’ll come to an appreciation of his many gifts: his wide-ranging intellect, his amiable writing style, his optimistic spirit, and the breadth of his imagination.

You’ll also, however, notice a frequently lascivious attention to his female characters. If you begin to suspect that Asimov looked at actual women that way, you’ll be troubled by interactions that the author himself reveals in his two-volume autobiography: In Memory Yet Green, published in 1979, with In Joy Still Felt following in 1980.

In Memory Yet Green recounts a 1952 incident in which writer Judith Merril seemed to hit on Asimov, inspiring the author, by his own account, to speed away. When writing the book he invited Merril to comment, and Asimov included her response in a footnote. (Italics in the book.)

The fact is that Isaac (who was at that time a spectacularly uxorious and virtuous husband) apparently felt obliged to leer, ogle, pat, and proposition as an act of sociability. When it went, occasionally, beyond purely social enjoyability, there seemed no way to clue him in. […] Asimov was known, in those days, to various women, as “the man with a hundred hands.” On [one] occasion, the third or fourth time his hand patted my rear end, I reached out to clutch his crotch. He never manhandled me in vain again.

The following year, Asimov explained, he began to have extramarital affairs. His first encounter left him “riddled with guilt,” he wrote, but he went on to boast that “once I gathered I was good in bed, I was automatically far more self-assured in every other respect, and I believe this contributed to the mid-1950s as my peak period in science fiction.”

Asimov writes that at his publisher Doubleday, “my small peculiarities were becoming known and allowed for… any woman I overlooked in my all-embracing suavity was liable to be offended.” He explains that “my attitude toward young women amused everyone generally,” and that he came to “suspect that new girls were warned of my feckless lechery in advance so that they wouldn’t run screaming or, worse yet, bop me on the nose.”

About that. “When I am feeling particularly suave during the autographing sessions, which is almost all the time,” he wrote in Joy Still Felt, “I kiss each young woman who wants an autograph and have found, to my delight, that they tend to cooperate enthusiastically in that particular activity.”

As documented by Stephanie Zvan, Asimov was so infamous for this behavior by the early 1960s that the organizer of a Chicago science fiction convention offered to “furnish some suitable posteriors” for a talk about, and demonstration of, “The Positive Power of Posterior Pinching.”

“I have no doubt I could give a stimulating talk that would stiffen the manly fiber of everyone in the audience,” Asimov responded. However, permission would need to be sought from those being pinched, and “if they say ‘no,’ it will be ‘no.’ Of course, I could be persuaded to do so on very short notice even after the convention began, if the posteriors in question were of particularly compelling interest.”

By 1969, Asimov himself reported, he was being described by longtime friend Frederick Pohl as someone who “turned into a dirty old man at the age of fifteen.” Asimov, by his own account, was “perfectly willing to embrace the title I even use it on myself without qualms.” He wasn’t kidding. Two years later, he published The Sensuous Dirty Old Man.

I have seen many a dirty old man with an arm that began at the lady’s waist, shifted by such slow and gentle degrees as to pass eventually through the warmth of the armpit to the budding softness of the maidenly bosom, without that shift ever being noticed by the young lady. At least, she gave no signs of noticing.

For “the man with a hundred hands,” this “satire” was rather on-the-nose. “Laugh yourself to death,” raved the Detroit Free Press.

Pohl’s wife, Asimov learned after her death, “thought I was a ‘creep’ and wouldn’t have me in the apartment.” She wasn’t the only one who spoke up. When Asimov brought his usual “suave” self to a meeting of the National Association of Non-Parents (N.O.N.) in 1975, the New York Times reported on what the author described in his autobiography as an “imbroglio.” In the Times account,

One of the most heated parts of the convention came during a public discussion of whether N.O.N. should take a stand on feminism. It was prompted by the disgruntlement of several N.O.N. members who thought that Isaac Asimov, the author, had introduced Ellen Peck, author of The Baby Trap and a N.O.N. officer, in a “sexist” way at the convention’s general session. He described Miss Peck, who was wearing a clingy beige knit pants suit with her long blond hair in a Brigitte Bardot style, as “a sexual tornado.”

In his autobiography, Asimov added a detail the Times failed to mention: a dirty limerick he shared “to loosen up the early-morning audience.”

By the time he published his autobiography, Asimov was divorced from his first wife Gertrude and married to the writer Janet Jeppson. Even the first time he met Jeppson in 1956, Asimov later admitted, he cracked a blue joke. As Jeppson proffered a book for Asimov to sign, he asked about her field. When she said she was a psychiatrist, he responded, “Good. Let’s get on the couch together.” Reader, she married him.

Asimov enjoyed substantive, mutually rewarding relationships with peers like Jeppson, Judy-Lynn del Rey, and Jennifer Brehl, a Doubleday staffer in the 1980s when she impressed Asimov with her insights. Brehl eventually became Asimov’s editor and “like a second daughter” to the author, in the words of his biographer Michael White. Given these relationships, how could Asimov embrace “dirty old man” as a personal brand?

The answer is tied up in personal and social history. As a self-conscious, sexually inexperienced young man, Asimov learned that his lightning wit was a social lubricant. From early on, he sprinkled titillating quips into his banter, using his physical ungainliness to frame his lascivious persona as a colossal joke.

This was never a safe prospect, though. Even before he’d achieved celebrity, his manner could be offensive, especially when his quips were precisely aimed. His autobiography contains accounts of women who’d tweak his insecurity about his own body, only to find pointed and uncomplimentary jabs shot back at them. A woman who mocked the author’s growing belly but shrieked at a response criticizing her chest, wrote Asimov, “could hand it out but apparently didn’t like to get it back.”

Asimov’s willingness to go there—in both verbal and physical terms—continued as his fame grew. He experienced mutual interest often enough to reinforce his behavior, but he failed to respect the line between reciprocal flirtation and harassment.

Repeatedly, women told Asimov he was out of line many more didn’t speak, likely cowed by his celebrity and the double standard. White cites a friend’s wife reacting angrily to having her bottom forcefully pinched by the author, who apparently made it a habit.

“God, Asimov,” she snapped. “Why do you always do that? It is extremely painful and besides, don’t you realize, it’s very degrading.”

In one of the most public spectacles involving Asimov’s “usual suave self,” he appalled his wife and teenage daughter by propositioning a female guest on The Dick Cavett Show in 1970. By the following year, Asimov had moved out, divorce negotiations were underway, and he was back on Cavett wearing a bra on his face to promote The Sensuous Dirty Old Man.

Chronicling even more harassment, Alec Nevala-Lee convincingly argues in Public Books that Asimov’s behavior was enabled by other men, and some women, who helped him officially play it off with books like The Sensuous Dirty Old Man. “In general,” writes Nevala-Lee, “Asimov chose targets who were unlikely to protest directly, such as fans and secretaries, and spared women whom he saw as professionally useful.”

On the page, Asimov considered himself a feminist, decrying “male chauvinism” and arguing that women should be given wider professional opportunities. He was proud of his fictional robopsychologist Susan Calvin—but the cost that character paid for her extraordinary abilities was to have her physical unattractiveness constantly remarked upon.

“Susan Calvin was a plain spinster,” Asimov wrote in his memoir I. Asimov, “a highly intelligent ‘robopsychologist’ who fought it out in a man’s world without fear or favor and who invariably won. These were ‘women’s lib’ stories twenty years before their time, and I got very little credit for that.”

One of Asimov’s most important early robot stories, “Liar!” (1941), turns on precisely the fact of Calvin’s embarrassment after she dares aspire to be sexually appealing, wearing makeup to her job at US Robot & Mechanical Men, Inc. When Calvin realizes that a well-intentioned robot has lied to her about a coworker’s mutual attraction, “the inexpertly applied rouge made a pair of nasty red splotches upon her chalk-white face.”

Whatever the author’s conscious ideals may have been, his female characters tended towards restrictive stereotypes. Those characters range from Artemisia oth Hinriad, a comely royal who just can’t resist the man-of-action hero of The Stars, Like Dust (1951), to Bayta Darell, a sensible newlywed whose feminine compassion underlies a pivotal plot development in the original Foundation stories.

That was, of course, consistent with how many female characters were treated in genre fiction of the era: readers won’t be surprised to find a submissive space princess in a Truman-era science fiction novel. There’s another level of queasiness, though, in the way Asimov’s attention tends to run all up and down his fictional women’s figures.

The author’s acclaimed early work was published at a time when sensuality in science fiction was strictly limited.

Nor is that attention always on characters like Artemisia, a stereotypically gorgeous young woman ready to be painted for the cover of a pulp. When Bayta Darell meets her father-in-law Fran in a 1945 Foundation story, the older man turns to Bayta with an “appreciative stare.” She recites her age, height, and weight to save him the effort of guessing, but Fran corrects her and says she actually weighs 120, not 110.

He laughed loudly at her flush. Then he said to the company in general, “You can always tell a woman’s weight by her upper arm—with due experience, of course. Do you want a drink, Bay?”

The female character with the most complex journey in Asimov’s future history is Gladia Delmarre, a stunning Solarian who proves well-matched with Earthman Lije Baley in a quartet of robot novels. After the books dismiss Baley’s wife Jezebel (an ironic moniker), Gladia and Lije have a restrained flirtation that finally blossoms into star-crossed love.

Asimov’s 1980s, though, were also the decade that gave us Bliss: a curvaceous earth mother who appears in two Foundation novels. She plays supple lover to the aged Janov Pelorat, nag to the breathtakingly rude Golan Trevize (“She’s bottom-heavy!” he snorts), and instantly attached mother to an orphan child with dangerous powers.

The author’s acclaimed early work was published at a time when sensuality in science fiction was strictly limited. After focusing largely on nonfiction throughout the 1960s and 70s, Asimov returned prolifically to fiction in the 80s, a more open era. He became more frank, but seemed incapable of writing about sexuality in a warm, human manner. (A rare Asimov novel from the 70s, The Gods Themselves, centered on the somewhat abstract sexual practices of a non-humanoid alien race.)

A typical late-career passage comes in Foundation and Earth (1986) when a starship lands on a secluded world and Trevize appraises the topless woman who appears to greet the visitors.

She was not much more than 1.5 meters in height, and her breasts, though shapely, were small. Yet she did not seem unripe. The nipples were large and the areolae dark, though that might be the result of her brownish skin color.

The forthcoming Foundation show, with David Goyer as showrunner, seems to be remixing the stories’ sexual politics: at least three women have been cast as characters who are male in the books. Robyn Asimov, the author’s daughter from his first marriage, is an executive producer.

Gender issues aren’t the only reason Asimov’s books have proved resistant to successful adaptation: although his plots were clever and his ideas were big, he wasn’t a particularly visual writer. The best-known screen adaptations are the mawkish Bicentennial Man (1999), starring Robin Williams as a robot who wants to be human, and I, Robot (2004) with Will Smith.

The I, Robot movie says it’s “suggested by Isaac Asimov’s book,” and even that cautious credit may be putting it a bit strongly. Asimov was suspicious of Hollywood, but not in his wildest nightmares could he have imagined Susan Calvin blowing robots away with a machine gun. Nor would one ever use the word “plain” to describe Bridget Moynahan, the actor and model cast as Calvin.

“To loyal fans of science fiction and Isaac Asimov,” wrote the author’s daughter Robyn in SF Gate upon the movie’s release, “the only thing more disconcerting than robots attacking humans—a violation of the author’s First Law of Robotics—is that the camera filming I, Robot focused clearly on a buff Will Smith in the shower but not on the statuesque Bridget Moynahan, as Asimov would have preferred.”

In the film Smith plays Del, a cop assigned to investigate a suspicious death at US Robotics. In an early scene, he steps into an elevator with Moynahan, who says she’s been instructed “to assist you in any way possible.”

Taking a beat and turning appreciatively to face his host, Del smiles. “Real-ly?” he says. “Okay.” Smith leaves it at that. Asimov, in all likelihood, would not have.

Melvil Dewey’s Name Stripped From Top Library Award

Each year, the American Library Association awards the Melvil Dewey Medal to a recipient who has demonstrated “creative leadership of a high order” in such fields as classification and cataloging, library management and library training. It is the profession’s top honor, named after the man who is widely regarded as the father of modern librarianship. But the council of the ALA has now voted to strip Dewey’s name from the award, citing his history of racism, anti-Semitism and sexual harassment.

As Andrew Albanese reports for Publisher’s Weekly, the council approved the measure after a damning resolution was successfully advanced during the 2019 ALA Annual Conference, which ran from June 20-25 in Washington, D.C. The resolution called for the award to be divorced from Dewey’s name, arguing that the behavior he demonstrated for “decades” does not represent the “stated fundamental values of ALA in equity, diversity, and inclusion.”

More specifically, the resolution pointed to the fact that Dewey “did not permit Jewish people, African Americans, or other minorities admittance to the resort owned by Dewey and his wife.” Dewey, the resolution adds, “made numerous inappropriate physical advances toward women he worked with and wielded professional power over.” These allegations aren’t only now surfacing. In his own time, Dewey’s discriminatory and predatory actions landed him in trouble, pushing him to the fringes of a profession that he helped pioneer.

In 1876, Dewey published Classification and Subject Index for Cataloguing and Arranging the Books and Pamphlets of a Library, in which he laid out the first modern organizational system for libraries. Today, that system is known as the Dewey Decimal Classification, and it continues to be used in libraries around the world. Dewey was also one of the founders of the ALA, the director of the New York State Library, and the founder of the School of Library Economy at Columbia College, the first librarian training institution in the United States.

But Dewey’s colleagues became unsettled by his behavior. Minorities were patently forbidden entry to the Lake Placid Club, the New York resort that Dewey owned and operated with his wife as Anne Ford wrote in the American Libraries Magazine last year, promotional material for the club stipulated that “no Jews or consumptives [were] allowed.” Dewey was ultimately forced to resign from his position as New York State Librarian by those who objected to his discriminatory policies. And then there was the matter of his behavior towards women.

Writing in American Libraries in 2014, Joshua Kendall describes Dewey as a “serial hugger and kisser.” Kendall adds that “eyewitnesses” claimed Dewey’s personal assistants, Florence Woodworth and May Seymour, were repeatedly subjected to his “squeezes.” Adelaide Hasse, head of the Public Documents Division at the New York Public Library, reportedly told her contemporaries that Dewey had been uncomfortably flirtatious. According to Ford, Dewey’s own daughter-in-law was so unsettled by his behavior toward her that she and her husband—Dewey’s son—decided to move out of the family home.

Things came to a head in 1905, during an ALA-sponsored trip to Alaska. Dewey made physical advances on four female ALA members, who reported him to the association. He was subsequently forced out of active membership.

Dewey was not particularly apologetic about his actions. “ I have been very unconventional … as men [are] always who frankly show and speak of their liking for women,” he once wrote. And the allegations against him did not stop once he had been edged out of the ALA. In the late 1920s, Dewey was sued by his former stenographer, who said that he had kissed and touched her in public. He settled out of court, paying $2,147.

In the years after Dewey’s death, these unsavory elements of his biography tended to be glossed over, as he was shored up as a pillar of the library field. But in 1996, Wayne Wiegand published Irrepressible Reformer: A Biography of Melvil Dewey, which took a frank look at both his genius and his misdeeds.

The ALA’s decision to rename the Melvil Dewey Medal—the award’s new title has not yet been announced—marks the second time in recent months that the association has stripped the name of a controversial figure from an award. Last year, the ALA announced that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s name would be removed from a prestigious children’s literature award because her works “reflect dated cultural attitudes toward Indigenous people and people of color.”

Ian Anstice, the editor of Public Libraries News, tells Alison Flood of the Guardian that revelations about Dewey present modern librarians with “some difficulties,” given that they continue to rely on the system that bears his name.

“It would be difficult to scrap [that system] and odd to change its name,” Anstice said. “[B]ut such things as simply renaming an award absolutely should be done. Dewey is in the past now and should not be someone that is unquestionably looked up to. His behaviour should be questioned and responded to appropriately, like we would with anyone else.”


Justice William Brennan stepped down from the Supreme Court in 1990. Thomas was one of five candidates on Bush’s shortlist and was the one Bush was most interested in nominating. Bush’s staff made three arguments against nominating Thomas at the time: Thomas had only served eight months as a judge Bush could expect to replace Thurgood Marshall with Thomas in due time and multiple senior advisors told Bush that they did not feel that Thomas was ready. [4] [5] [6] Bush eventually decided to nominate Judge David Souter of the First Circuit instead, who was easily confirmed. [7]

White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu promised that Bush would fill the next Supreme Court vacancy with a “true conservative” and predicted a “knock-down, drag-out, bloody-knuckles, grass-roots fight” over confirmation. [8] [9] On July 1, 1991, President Bush nominated Clarence Thomas, a young (43 years-old) black conservative judge, to replace retiring justice Thurgood Marshall, a civil rights icon and the Court’s first African American justice. [10] When introducing Thomas that day, The president called him “the best person” in the country to take Marshall’s place on the Court, a characterization belied, according to constitutional law expert Michael Gerhardt, by Thomas’ “limited professional distinction, with his most significant legal experiences having been a controversial tenure as chairman of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and barely more than one year of experience as a federal court of appeals judge." [11]

In 1992, Gerhardt described the Thomas nomination as “a bold political move calculated to make it more difficult for many of the same civil rights organizations and southern blacks, who opposed Judge [Robert] Bork’s [Supreme Court] nomination, to oppose Justice Thomas." [11] He also wrote that, “in selecting Justice Thomas, President Bush returned to a practice – nominating extreme ideologues for the Supreme Court – that many hoped had ended with the Senate’s rejection of Judge Bork." [11]

Attorney General Richard Thornburgh had previously warned Bush that replacing Thurgood Marshall, who was widely revered as a civil rights icon, with any candidate who was not perceived to share Marshall’s views would make the confirmation process difficult [12] and the Thomas nomination filled various groups with indignation, among them the: NAACP, Urban League and the National Organization for Women, who believed he would likely swing the ideological balance on the court to the right. They especially opposed Thomas’ appointment because of his criticism of affirmative action and also because they were suspicious of his position on Roe v. Wade. [13]

In the second half of the 20th century, Supreme Court nominees were customarily evaluated by a committee of the American Bar Association (ABA) before being considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee. [14] Anticipating that the ABA would rate Thomas poorly, the White House and Republican Senators pressured the ABA for at least the mid-level “qualified” rating, and simultaneously attempted to discredit the ABA as partisan. [nb 1] [15] Ultimately, on a scale of well-qualified, qualified, or unqualified, 12 members of the Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary voted that he was “qualified", one abstained, and the other two voted “not qualified", for an overall vote of qualified. This vote represented one of the lowest levels of support for Supreme Court nominees. [16] [17] [18] [19] [20] [21] Although the ABA vote was viewed as a “significant embarrassment to the Bush administration", [12] it ultimately had little impact on Thomas’ nomination. [15]

Some of the public statements of Thomas’ opponents foreshadowed the confirmation fight that would occur. One such statement came from African-American activist attorney Florynce Kennedy at a July 1991 conference of the National Organization for Women in New York City. Referring to the failure of Ronald Reagan’s nomination of Robert Bork, she said of Thomas, “We're going to 'bork' him." [22] The liberal campaign to defeat the Bork nomination served as a model for liberal interest groups opposing Thomas. [23] Likewise, in view of what had happened to Bork, Thomas’ confirmation hearings were also approached as a political campaign by the White House and Senate Republicans. [24]

Public confirmation hearings on the Thomas nomination began on September 10, 1991, and lasted for ten days. The senators’ focus as they questioned Thomas and an array of witnesses for and against the nomination was on Thomas' legal views, as expressed in his speeches, writings, and the decisions he had handed down as a federal appeals court judge. [25]

Under questioning, Thomas repeatedly asserted that he had not formulated a position on Roe v. Wade, or had any conversations with anyone regarding the issue. [26]

At one point in the beginning of the proceedings, Senate Judiciary Committee chairman and future Vice President and President of the United States Joe Biden asked Thomas if he believed the Constitution granted any sort of property rights to individuals as described in Richard Epstein’s book Takings: Private Property and the Power of Eminent Domain, which had been published by Harvard University Press in 1985. Biden held the book up for Thomas to see and denounced its contents. In his book, Epstein argues that the government should be regarded with the same respect as any other private entity in a property dispute. The Cato Institute later paraphrased Biden’s general line of questioning in the hearing as, “Are you now or have you ever been a libertarian?" [27]

On October 6, 1991, after the conclusion of the confirmation hearings, and while the full Senate was debating whether to give final approval to Thomas’ nomination, NPR Supreme Court correspondent Nina Totenberg aired information from a leaked Judiciary Committee/FBI report stating that a former colleague of Thomas, University of Oklahoma law school professor Anita Hill, accused him of making unwelcome sexual comments to her when the two worked together at the Department of Education (ED) and then at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). [3] [28] [29] In the same FBI report, Thomas testified that he had once promoted Allyson Duncan over Hill as his chief of staff at the EEOC. [3]

It was shortly after the president selected Thomas as his nominee that Democratic committee staffers began hearing rumors that Thomas had in the past sexually harassed one or more women, and in early September that committee chairman Joe Biden asked the Bush White House to authorize an FBI investigation into Hill’s charges. FBI agents interviewed Hill on September 23, and interviewed Thomas on September 25. [25] Notwithstanding the allegations, Biden saw no reason to postpone the committee’s scheduled vote on Thomas’ nomination. [30]

After Totenberg’s story aired, Biden quickly came under pressure to reopen the hearings, from House Democratic women, [30] and from various groups that had opposed the Thomas nomination earlier in the process. As a result, the final Senate vote on the nomination was postponed and the confirmation hearings were reopened. [31] It was only the third time in the Senate’s history that such an action had been taken (and had not been done since 1925, when the nomination of Harlan F. Stone was recommitted to the Judiciary Committee). [32] Amid the resulting frenzy the president declared that he had “total confidence” in Thomas. [13]

Anita Hill testimony Edit

On October 11, 1991, Hill was called to testify during the hearing. She said she was testifying as to the character and fitness of Thomas to serve on the high court and was ambivalent about whether his alleged conduct had in fact risen to the level of being illegal sexual harassment. [33] [34] [35] [36] [37]

Ten years earlier, in 1981, Hill had become an attorney-adviser to Clarence Thomas at the United States Department of Education (ED). When Thomas became Chairman of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1982, Hill went with Thomas to serve as his special assistant until she quit in mid-1983. Hill alleged in her 1991 testimony that it was during her employment at ED and EEOC that Thomas made sexually provocative statements. [38]

She testified that she followed Thomas to EEOC because “[t]he work, itself, was interesting, and at that time, it appeared that the sexual overtures. had ended." [38] She also testified that she wanted to work in the civil rights field, and that she believed that “at that time the Department of Education, itself, was a dubious venture." [38]

Hill provided lurid details about Thomas’ alleged inappropriate behavior at the Department of Education: “He spoke about acts that he had seen in pornographic films involving such matters as women having sex with animals and films showing group sex or rape scenes. On several occasions, Thomas told me graphically of his own sexual prowess. and made embarrassing references to a porn star by the name of Long Dong Silver”. She also said that the following incident occurred later after they had both moved to new jobs at the EEOC: “Thomas was drinking a Coke in his office, he got up from the table at which we were working, went over to his desk to get the Coke, looked at the can and asked, 'Who has put pubic hair on my Coke?'" [39]

Statements in support of Hill’s allegations Edit

Two women, Angela Wright and Rose Jourdain, made statements to Senate staffers in support of Hill. Ultimately, however, Wright and Jourdain were dismissed by the Judiciary Committee without testifying. [40] The reasons why Wright was not called (or chose not to be called) to testify are complex and a matter of some dispute [41] [42] Republican Senators wanted to avoid the prospect of a second woman describing inappropriate behavior by Thomas, while Democratic Senators were concerned about Wright’s credibility and Wright herself was reluctant to testify after seeing the Committee’s treatment of Hill, including Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter stating that he felt Hill’s testimony was perjurious in its entirety. [12] [41] [42] During the Thomas nomination proceedings, Wright and Hill were the only people who publicly alleged that then-Judge Thomas had made unsolicited sexual advances, and Hill was the only one who testified to that effect. [43]

Wright, who was one of Thomas’ subordinates at the EEOC until he fired her, told Senate Judiciary Committee staff that Thomas had repeatedly made comments to her much like those he allegedly made to Hill, including pressuring her for dates, asking her the size of her breasts, and frequently commenting on the anatomy of other women. [44] Wright said that after she turned down Thomas for a date, Thomas began to express discontent with her work and eventually fired her. Thomas said that he fired Wright for poor performance and for using a homophobic epithet.

Rose Jourdain also did not testify but corroborated Wright’s statements, saying Wright had spoken to her about Thomas’ statements at the time they were allegedly made. Jourdain stated that Wright had become “increasingly uneasy” around Thomas because of his constant commentary about her body and looks, and that Wright once came to Jourdain’s office in tears as a result. [12]

Another former Thomas assistant, Sukari Hardnett, did not accuse Thomas of sexual harassment, but told the Judiciary Committee staff that “if you were young, black, female, reasonably attractive and worked directly for Clarence Thomas, you knew full well you were being inspected and auditioned as a female." [45]

Clarence Thomas testimony Edit

Thomas testified that the accusations against him were false and that, “I deny each and every single allegation against me today that suggested in any way that I had conversations of a sexual nature or about pornographic material with Anita Hill, that I ever attempted to date her, that I ever had any personal sexual interest in her, or that I in any way ever harassed her.” [46]

Clarence Thomas also stated that, “This is a case in which this sleaze, this dirt, was searched for by staffers of members of this committee. It was then leaked to the media. And this committee and this body validated it and displayed it in prime time over our entire nation.” He called the hearing a “high tech lynching”: [46]

This is not an opportunity to talk about difficult matters privately or in a closed environment. This is a circus. It's a national disgrace. And from my standpoint, as a black American, it is a high-tech lynching for uppity blacks who in any way deign to think for themselves, to do for themselves, to have different ideas, and it is a message that unless you kowtow to an old order, this is what will happen to you. You will be lynched, destroyed, caricatured by a committee of the U.S. Senate rather than hung from a tree. [46]

Senator Orrin Hatch asked Thomas his response to Hill’s graphic claims inquiring: “[D]id you ever say in words or substance something like there is a pubic hair in my Coke?” and “Did you ever use the term Long Dong Silver in conversation with Professor Hill?” Thomas firmly denied having said either, as well as denying having read The Exorcist, in which the character Burke Dennings says at a party, “There appear[s] to be an alien pubic hair floating around in my gin." [47]

Testimony and statements in support of Thomas Edit

In addition to Hill and Thomas, the Judiciary heard from several other witnesses over the course of three days, on October 11-13, 1991. [32] Several witnesses testified in support of Clarence Thomas and rebutted Hill’s testimony. Phone logs were also submitted into the record showing contact between Hill and Thomas in the years after she left the EEOC. [48]

Among those testifying on behalf of then-Judge Thomas was J.C. Alvarez, a woman who for four years was Thomas’ special assistant at EEOC. Alvarez said that “[t]he Anita Hill I knew before was nobody’s victim.” Alvarez went on to say that Thomas “demanded professionalism and performance.” According to Alvarez, Thomas would not tolerate “the slightest hint of impropriety, and everyone knew it.” Alvarez asserted that Hill’s allegations were a personal move on her part to advance her own interests: “Women who have really been harassed would agree, if the allegations were true, you put as much distance as you can between yourself and that other person. What’s more, you don't follow them to the next job – especially, if you are a black female, Yale Law School graduate. Let’s face it, out in the corporate sector, companies are fighting for women with those kinds of credentials.” [49]

Another witness who testified on behalf of then-Judge Thomas was Nancy Fitch, a special assistant historian to Thomas at EEOC, who said “[t]here is no way” Thomas did what Hill alleged. “I know he did no such thing,” she declared under oath. [50] Also Diane Holt, Thomas' personal secretary for six years, said that, “At no time did Professor Hill intimate, not even in the most subtle of ways, that Judge Thomas was asking her out or subjecting her to the crude, abusive conversations that have been described. Nor did I ever discern any discomfort, when Professor Hill was in Judge Thomas’ presence." [51] Additionally, Phyllis Berry-Myers, another special assistant to Thomas, said that he “was respectful, demand[ing] of excellence in our work, cordial, professional, interested in our lives and our career ambitions”. Berry-Myers said that her “impression” was that Professor Hill desired a greater relationship with Judge Thomas than “just a professional one”. [52]

Nancy Altman who worked with Hill and Thomas at the Department of Education testified that, “It is not credible that Clarence Thomas could have engaged in the kinds of behavior that Anita Hill alleges, without any of the women who he worked closest with – dozens of us, we could spend days having women come up, his secretaries, his chief of staff, his other assistants, his colleagues – without any of us having sensed, seen or heard something." [53] Senator Alan K. Simpson was puzzled by why Hill and Thomas met, dined, and spoke by phone on various occasions after they no longer worked together. [54]

Committee vote Edit

After extensive debate, the Judiciary Committee voted 13—1 on September 27, 1991 to send the Thomas nomination to the full Senate without recommendation. A motion earlier in the day to give the nomination a favorable recommendation had failed 7—7. [55] Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations against Clarence Thomas became public after the nomination had been reported out from the committee. [32] Up to that time, there had been no public suggestion of inappropriate behavior or misconduct in Thomas’ past. [25]

Full Senate Edit

The Senate voted 52—48 on October 15, 1991, to confirm Thomas as an associate justice of the Supreme Court. [32] In all, Thomas won with the support of 41 Republicans and 11 Democrats, while 46 Democrats and 2 Republicans voted to reject his nomination. [56]

Vote to confirm the Thomas nomination
October 15, 1991 Party Total votes
Democratic Republican
Yea 11 41 52
Nay 46 0 2 48
Roll call vote on the nomination
Senator Party State Vote
Brock Adams D Washington Nay
Daniel Akaka D Hawaii Nay
Max Baucus D Montana Nay
Lloyd Bentsen D Texas Nay
Joe Biden D Delaware Nay
Jeff Bingaman D New Mexico Nay
Kit Bond R Missouri Yea
David L. Boren D Oklahoma Yea
Bill Bradley D New Jersey Nay
John Breaux D Louisiana Yea
Hank Brown R Colorado Yea
Richard Bryan D Nevada Nay
Dale Bumpers D Arkansas Nay
Quentin N. Burdick D North Dakota Nay
Conrad Burns R Montana Yea
Robert Byrd D West Virginia Nay
John Chafee R Rhode Island Yea
Dan Coats R Indiana Yea
Thad Cochran R Mississippi Yea
William Cohen R Maine Yea
Kent Conrad D North Dakota Nay
Larry Craig R Idaho Yea
Alan Cranston D California Nay
Al D'Amato R New York Yea
John Danforth R Missouri Yea
Tom Daschle D South Dakota Nay
Dennis DeConcini D Arizona Yea
Alan J. Dixon D Illinois Yea
Chris Dodd D Connecticut Nay
Bob Dole R Kansas Yea
Pete Domenici R New Mexico Yea
David Durenberger R Minnesota Yea
J. James Exon D Nebraska Yea
Wendell Ford D Kentucky Nay
Wyche Fowler D Georgia Yea
Jake Garn R Utah Yea
John Glenn D Ohio Nay
Al Gore D Tennessee Nay
Slade Gorton R Washington Yea
Bob Graham D Florida Nay
Phil Gramm R Texas Yea
Chuck Grassley R Iowa Yea
Tom Harkin D Iowa Nay
Orrin Hatch R Utah Yea
Mark Hatfield R Oregon Yea
Howell Heflin D Alabama Nay
Jesse Helms R North Carolina Yea
Ernest Hollings D South Carolina Yea
Daniel Inouye D Hawaii Nay
Jim Jeffords R Vermont Nay
J. Bennett Johnston D Louisiana Yea
Nancy Kassebaum R Kansas Yea
Bob Kasten R Wisconsin Yea
Ted Kennedy D Massachusetts Nay
Bob Kerrey D Nebraska Nay
John Kerry D Massachusetts Nay
Herb Kohl D Wisconsin Nay
Frank Lautenberg D New Jersey Nay
Patrick Leahy D Vermont Nay
Carl Levin D Michigan Nay
Joe Lieberman D Connecticut Nay
Trent Lott R Mississippi Yea
Richard Lugar R Indiana Yea
Connie Mack III R Florida Yea
John McCain R Arizona Yea
Mitch McConnell R Kentucky Yea
Howard Metzenbaum D Ohio Nay
Barbara Mikulski D Maryland Nay
George J. Mitchell D Maine Nay
Daniel Patrick Moynihan D New York Nay
Frank Murkowski R Alaska Yea
Don Nickles R Oklahoma Yea
Sam Nunn D Georgia Yea
Bob Packwood R Oregon Nay
Claiborne Pell D Rhode Island Nay
Larry Pressler R South Dakota Yea
David Pryor D Arkansas Nay
Harry Reid D Nevada Nay
Donald Riegle D Michigan Nay
Chuck Robb D Virginia Yea
Jay Rockefeller D West Virginia Nay
William Roth R Delaware Yea
Warren Rudman R New Hampshire Yea
Terry Sanford D North Carolina Nay
Paul Sarbanes D Maryland Nay
Jim Sasser D Tennessee Nay
John Seymour R California Yea
Richard Shelby D Alabama Yea
Paul Simon D Illinois Nay
Alan K. Simpson R Wyoming Yea
Bob Smith R New Hampshire Yea
Arlen Specter R Pennsylvania Yea
Ted Stevens R Alaska Yea
Steve Symms R Idaho Yea
Strom Thurmond R South Carolina Yea
Malcolm Wallop R Wyoming Yea
John Warner R Virginia Yea
Paul Wellstone D Minnesota Nay
Tim Wirth D Colorado Nay
Harris Wofford D Pennsylvania Nay

The 99 days that elapsed from the date Thomas’ nomination was submitted to the Senate to the date on which the Senate voted whether to approve it was the second longest of the 16 nominees receiving a final vote since 1975, second only to Robert Bork, who waited 108 days. [32] Also, the percentage of senators voting against his confirmation, 48% (48 of 100), was the greatest against a successful nominee since 1881, when 48.9% of senators (23 of 47) voted against the nomination of Stanley Matthews. [32] [58] Vice President Dan Quayle presided over the vote in his role as President of the Senate, prepared to cast a tie-breaking vote if needed for confirmation. [58] [59]

Eight days after winning confirmation, on October 23, Thomas took the prescribed constitutional and judicial (set by federal law) oaths of office, and became the 106th member of the Court. He was sworn-in by Justice Byron White in a ceremony initially scheduled for October 21, but postponed due to the death of Chief Justice William Rehnquist’s wife. [60] [61]

Public interest in, and debate over, Hill’s testimony is said by some to have launched modern-day public awareness of the issue of sexual harassment in the United States. [3] Some people also link this to what is known as the Year of the Woman (1992), when a significant number of liberal women were simultaneously elected to Congress. [3] Some also called these women the “Anita Hill Class”. [62]

Michael Isikoff claimed the case influenced the coverage of the allegations of sexual harassment against Bill Clinton in the 1990s. [63]

Authors skeptical about Hill’s allegations Edit

David Brock wrote an article titled “The Real Anita Hill” for the 1992 The American Spectator magazine, which argued against her veracity. He also wrote a 1993 book of the same name. However, he would later denounce these works in a 2003 book titled Blinded by the Right: The Conscience of an Ex-Conservative. [64]

Ken Foskett, an investigative reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, wrote a book about Justice Thomas in 2004. Foskett concludes that, “Although, it was plausible that Thomas said what Hill alleged, it seems implausible that he said it all in the manner Hill described." [65] Foskett elaborates:

Bullying a woman simply wasn't in Thomas's nature and ran contrary to how he conducted himself around others in a professional environment. And if the context wasn't as Hill alleged, was it fair to turn private conduct into a political weapon to defeat his nomination?

Scott Douglas Gerber wrote a book in 1998 about the jurisprudence of Justice Thomas, and came to the following conclusion about the Anita Hill allegations: “Frankly, I do not know whom to believe." [66] Gerber also wryly noted the reaction when an author (David Brock) who had criticized Hill did a U-turn: “the left maintains that it proves that Hill was telling the truth, while the right contends that it simply shows that Brock is an opportunist trying to sell books." [66]

Authors supporting Hill’s allegations Edit

Jane Mayer and Jill Abramson, reporters for The Wall Street Journal, wrote an article for the May 24, 1993 issue of The New Yorker challenging David Brock’s assertions. The two authors would later conclude in an investigative book on Thomas that “the preponderance of the evidence suggests” that Thomas lied under oath when he told the committee he had not harassed Hill. [40] [67] Mayer and Abramson say Biden abdicated control of the Thomas confirmation hearings and did not call Angela Wright to the stand. [40] They report that four women traveled to Washington, D.C., to corroborate Anita Hill’s claims, including Wright and Jourdain. [40]

According to Mayer and Abramson, soon after Thomas was sworn in, three reporters for The Washington Post “burst into the newsroom almost simultaneously with information confirming that Thomas' involvement with pornography far exceeded what the public had been led to believe." [68] These reporters had eyewitness testimony and video rental records showing Thomas' interest in and use of pornography. [69] However, according to Jeffrey Toobin, because Thomas was already sworn in by the time the video store evidence emerged, The Washington Post dropped the story. [68] The book by Mayer and Abramson was subsequently made into a movie.

Strange Justice was a finalist for the National Book Award in 1994 and received an extraordinary amount of media attention. [70] Conservatives like John O’Sullivan panned the book, while liberals such as Mark Tushnet praised it, saying it established “that Clarence Thomas lied” during the hearings. [71] Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times called the book character assassination: “I don't care if Clarence Thomas had an inflatable doll on his sofa and a framed autograph from Long Dong Silver on the wall. Just because a man has an immature interest in dirty stuff doesn't mean he harassed anyone." [72]

Autobiographies by Hill and Thomas Edit

In 1997, Anita Hill penned her autobiography, Speaking Truth To Power, and she addressed why she filed no complaint at the time of the alleged harassment in the early 1980s:

I assessed the situation and chose not to file a complaint. I had every right to make that choice. And until society is willing to accept the validity of claims of harassment, no matter how privileged or powerful the harasser, it is a choice women will continue to make. [73]

In 2007, Clarence Thomas published his memoirs, also revisiting the Anita Hill controversy. He described her as touchy and apt to overreact, and described her work at the EEOC as mediocre. [74] He wrote:

On Sunday morning, courtesy of Newsday, I met for the first time an Anita Hill who bore little resemblance to the woman who had worked for me at EEOC and the Education Department. Somewhere along the line, she had been transformed into a conservative, devoutly religious Reagan-administration employee. In fact, she was a left-winger who'd never expressed any religious sentiments whatsoever during the time I'd known her, and the only reason why she'd held a job in the Reagan administration was because I'd given it to her.

In an op-ed piece written by Anita Hill, appearing in The New York Times on October 2, 2007, Ms. Hill wrote that she “will not stand by silently and allow [Justice Thomas], in his anger, to reinvent me." [75]

Showtime dramatized the confirmation hearing in the 1999 television movie Strange Justice that stars Delroy Lindo as Thomas and Regina Taylor as Hill. The film aired on Showtime on August 29, 1999.

HBO dramatized the confirmation hearing in the 2016 film Confirmation that stars Kerry Washington as Hill and Wendell Pierce as Thomas. The film aired on HBO on April 16, 2016. [76]

Clarence Thomas discussed his confirmation hearings and the Anita Hill allegations in the 2020 documentary Created Equal: Clarence Thomas In His Own Words. [77]

High Court inquiry finds former justice Dyson Heydon sexually harassed associates

Former High Court Justice Dyson Heydon, one of the nation’s pre-eminent legal minds, sexually harassed six young female associates, an independent inquiry by the court has found.

A Herald investigation has also uncovered further allegations from senior legal figures of predatory behaviour by Mr Heydon, including a judge who claims that he indecently assaulted her. The women claim that Mr Heydon’s status as one of the most powerful men in the country protected him from being held to account for his actions.

The High Court inquiry was prompted by two of the judge’s former associates notifying the Chief Justice Susan Kiefel in March 2019 that they had been sexually harassed by Mr Heydon.

“We are ashamed that this could have happened at the High Court of Australia,” said Chief Justice Kiefel in a statement. She confirmed that the lengthy investigation found that “the Honourable Dyson Heydon, AC, QC” harassed six former staff members.

Rachael Patterson Collins pictured at the time she commenced as then Justice Heydon's associate in 2005.

“The findings are of extreme concern to me, my fellow justices, our chief executive and the staff of the court,” said the Chief Justice.

Chief Justice Kiefel has personally apologised to the six women, five of them Mr Heydon’s associates, saying “their accounts of their experiences at the time have been believed”.

Dyson Heydon was on the High Court bench from 2003-13 and in 2014 was appointed by then Prime Minister Tony Abbott to run the royal commission into trade union governance and corruption.

Mr Heydon denied the claims via his lawyers Speed and Stracey who issued a statement.

Chelsea Tabart was an associate of Dyson Heydon in 2012.

"In respect of the confidential inquiry and its subsequent confidential report, any allegation of predatory behaviour or breaches of the law is categorically denied by our client," the statement said.

"Our client says that if any conduct of his has caused offence, that result was inadvertent and unintended, and he apologises for any offence caused.

"We have asked the High Court to convey that directly to the associate complainants.

''The inquiry was an internal administrative inquiry and was conducted by a public servant and not by a lawyer, judge or a tribunal member. It was conducted without having statutory powers of investigation and of administering affirmations or oaths.''

One of his former associates, Rachael Patterson Collins, told the Herald that Mr Heydon’s “actions had real and terrible consequences” which led her to abandon her plans to become a barrister.

Chelsea Tabart, another former associate, said she too left the law because “the culture was broken from the top down”. She felt she would not be safe “from powerful men like Mr Heydon even if I reported them”.

“Dyson Heydon was one of the most powerful men in the country,” said Josh Bornstein, the women’s lawyer and a principal with law firm Maurice Blackburn in Melbourne. “As the independent investigation makes clear, he is also a sex pest. At the same time he was dispensing justice in the highest court in Australia’s legal system, he was [engaged in] sexual harassment.”

Vivienne Thom, the former Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security, interviewed a dozen witnesses, including five former associates. Dr Thom’s report found that the evidence “demonstrates a tendency by Mr Heydon to engage in a pattern of conduct of sexual harassment” which included unwelcome touching, attempting to kiss the women and taking them into his bedroom.

A Herald investigation can reveal that Mr Heydon’s predatory behaviour was an “open secret” in legal and judicial circles. Not only did he prey on his young associates during his decade on the High Court until his mandatory retirement at 70 in 2013, other females in the profession suffered at his hands.

Mr Heydon, via his lawyers, denied "emphatically any allegation of sexual harassment or
any offence".

A current judge told the Herald that Mr Heydon slid his hand between her thighs at a professional law dinner not long after he joined the High Court bench.

Former ACT Law Society President Noor Blumer. Credit: Gary Schafer

“He indecently assaulted me. I have no doubt it was a crime and he knew I was not consenting,” said the judge.

Indecent assault, which involves the unwanted touching of another person in a sexual manner without that person’s consent, can attract a maximum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

Despite telling him to “Get your f--king hands off me” the judge, a barrister at the time, said Justice Heydon was too powerful to complain about. “The power imbalance is such that he is so senior … He was a giant of the profession.”

She said any such complaint could have killed the career of a female practitioner. “He was also notoriously unkind about people … If you fell foul of him you know he wouldn't think twice about telling other people how dreadful you were.”

Mr Heydon is also alleged to have indecently assaulted the then president of the ACT Law Society, Noor Blumer, at the University of Canberra Law Ball in April, 2013.

According to a statement from the university, Mr Heydon was "removed from the event and returned to his accommodation", following a complaint of "inappropriate behaviour" from a student the same night.

Ms Blumer said while she sat next to Mr Heydon at the dinner, he started “feeling up the side of my leg”. Then, on the pretext of discussing adoption law with her, he took her to an empty room where he attempted to forcibly kiss her.

Ms Blumer, who is the director of a Canberra law firm, was “upset and disgusted”. She left the ball immediately. The next day she made a lengthy contemporaneous file note of the evening, which the Herald has seen, and also notified the university.

In a statement to the Herald, Professor Murray Raff from the University of Canberra confirmed that Ms Blumer complained to him the next day “of inappropriate and unwelcome behaviour towards her at the Ball, by the retired Justice of the High Court of Australia, Dyson Heydon”.

A female student, who also attended the ball, also reported an unpleasant encounter with the judge when he commented on her breasts, she said.

Justice Dyson Heydon in his Sydney chambers in 2002. Credit: Renee Nowyarger

Another lawyer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, described an incident following a private dinner she had with Mr Heydon when he was a High Court judge.

She said the judge had “put his hands down my pants and kissed me on the mouth” when she was in a car with him following the dinner.

A leading female member of the NSW Bar said that when the 2017 stories about the #MeToo movement broke, her first thought was, “Boy, Dyson Heydon should be really worried.” The senior counsel recounted Mr Heydon inviting her to his chambers after she appeared before him during a special leave application to the High Court.

The woman described being greeted at the door by the judge who was “padding around in his socks”. All the available seats had books on them leaving only a “love seat – a little old-fashioned two seater” empty. Champagne on ice and two glasses were laid out.

She was acutely aware of “what he had in mind”. After she politely listened to him “spilling the dirt on everyone, judges and barristers alike,” she made good her escape.

The top silk wasn’t so lucky at a later encounter. Mr Heydon, who had retired from the bench and returned to the Sydney bar, invited her to his chambers to discuss a legal matter. This time he blocked her from leaving. “He was very intimidating. He is a very big guy. He was in his early 70s …but he was still a very imposing person.”

The barrister said Mr Heydon “planted himself in the doorway” and then kissed her.

Subsequently, the judge called her repeatedly. “I thought his behaviour was bordering on stalking,” she recounted. He only stopped after the barrister had a letter hand-delivered to him in which she asked Mr Heydon not to contact her.

The predatory behaviour of Mr Heydon, a pre-eminent black-letter-law jurist and a Companion of the Order of Australia, has led to complaints from women as far afield as Oxford University.

A 2015 complaint by a student that the judge had groped her in the library, brought to an end his Visiting Professorship at the prestigious UK university, where he had originally studied as a Rhodes Scholar in 1964.

In 2012, 22 year-old Chelsea Tabart was a brilliant student with a first class honours degree in Law from Sydney University, thrilled to have won a prized associateship with Justice Heydon.

An associate is a personal assistant to the judge who conducts legal research and helps review judgments. High Court associateships are granted to the most illustrious of graduates and are considered the gateway to a brilliant legal career.

On her very first day, after the office staff went out for dinner, the judge offered her a lift home, Ms Tabart told the Herald.

He suggested they stop for a drink. Ms Tabart said she was expecting they would go to a bar but instead the judge took her to his room at The Commonwealth Club, the prestigious private club in Yarralumla where the judge stayed while court was in session.

Ms Tabart’s 68-year-old boss poured them a glass of wine and sat down next to her on the couch. She told Dr Thom that when the judge asked her about a deformity of her finger, he responded by stroking her hand and saying: “I don’t think it’s weird, I think it’s beautiful”.

Mr Heydon then dropped her hand, moved closer to her on the couch and put his right hand on her left thigh.

Ms Tabart attempted to excuse herself and said she would get a cab home, at which point Justice Heydon offered to go with her. “You don’t know what kind of creeps are out there,” he said.

She immediately called her boyfriend and then her father, she said. She also noticed she had missed a phone call from her predecessor, Alex Eggerking, who had also been at the dinner that night.

The next day Ms Eggerking was upset with herself. She hadn’t thought she would need to warn her so quickly that the judge had a history of harassing his female associates.

She had been intending to advise Ms Tabart not to be alone with him, but she was concerned it would be too overwhelming to caution her on her first day.

When contacted by the investigators, Ms Eggerking disclosed that she too had been sexually harassed by Justice Heydon.

Rachael Patterson Collins started as an associate with the judge in 2005, when she was 26.

Ms Collins told Dr Thom that as a working class, conservative Catholic, she felt lonely and isolated in Canberra, excluded from the clique of the other judges’ associates. The investigation found her to be an “honest and credible witness with a clear recollection of events”.

Some time around May 2005, she confided in the judge that she was suffering from depression. That same evening there was a “chambers dinner” during which the judge typically drank heavily, she told the investigation.

After dinner, Ms Collins drove Justice Heydon home. She confided in him that she was being bullied by some of the other associates and was having a difficult time in Canberra.

He reached over and began “caressing” her hand, she said.

“Ms Collins felt alarmed and confused by Justice Heydon’s conduct,” which she saw as a sexual advance, Dr Thom reported.

“Instead of helping me, he tried to take advantage of my vulnerability and I had to leave my position early,” Ms Collins told the Herald.

It was considered unthinkable and possibly damaging to your career to quit an associateship, but Ms Collins did just that having been offered a full scholarship at an American university.

She refused Mr Heydon’s persistent invitations to have dinner with him alone to mark her departure but finally agreed to have a drink in his chambers.

He had the champagne ready, she took it and moved to the other side of his room. After commenting on her hair colour, he asked her to stand up. “Justice Heydon then stood close to her and, looking down at her, said: ‘Can I kiss you?’” the report states.

Ms Collins rebuffed him. “Maybe just on the cheek then?” he pleaded. She replied: “No! You’re married, you’re my boss. I am a practising Catholic. No.”

Justice Michael McHugh’s associate Sharona Coutts was still in the office. Ms Collins was crying as she told her what happened.

Later, when the court was sitting in Adelaide, Ms Collins told the judge she wanted to speak to him about his conduct. He said he was giving a talk and to meet him at the hotel afterwards.

Instead of going to a bar, he took her to his room. Ms Collins said how disappointed she was in his behaviour as he was a married man, a judge, a Christian and a conservative. Asked why he did this, he replied, “Because you’re beautiful”.

Ms Collins told him he couldn’t keep doing this. “Do you have any idea how upset your wife and kids would be if they found out?” She warned him that if he kept doing it, it would eventually leak to the press and that he would look like a hypocrite.

Ms Collins thought her warning would have some impact on the judge. It didn’t, he went on to harass more women.

Ms Collins praised the actions of the High Court. “Not only did the current court treat us with fairness and kindness, they’ve also taken some concrete steps to ensure this never happens again,” she said.

“The legal profession’s dirtiest and darkest secret is no more,” said Mr Bornstein. “His repeated sexual harassment of young women who were starting out their legal careers was and is known to many people.”

Chief Justice Kiefel said there was no place for sexual harassment in the workplace.
‘‘We have moved to do all we can to make sure the experiences of these women will not be repeated. We have strengthened our policies and training to make clear the importance of a respectful workplace at the Court and we have made sure there is both support and confidential avenues for complaint if anything like this were to happen again.’’


The novel is divided into three parts, framed by a prologue and epilogue.

Prologue Edit

The prologue takes place during the final years of the Second World War. Charles Ryder and his battalion are sent to a country estate called Brideshead, which prompts his recollections which form the rest of the story.

Et In Arcadia Ego Edit

In 1923, protagonist and narrator Charles Ryder, an undergraduate reading history at a college very similar to Hertford College, Oxford, is befriended by Lord Sebastian Flyte, the younger son of the aristocratic Lord Marchmain and an undergraduate at Christ Church. Sebastian introduces Charles to his eccentric friends, including the haughty aesthete and homosexual Anthony Blanche. Sebastian also takes Charles to his family's palatial mansion, Brideshead Castle, in Wiltshire, [1] where Charles later meets the rest of Sebastian's family, including his sister Julia.

During the long summer holiday, Charles returns home to London, where he lives with his widowed father, Edward Ryder. The conversations there between Charles and Edward provide some of the best-known comic scenes in the novel. Charles is called back to Brideshead after Sebastian incurs a minor injury, and Sebastian and Charles spend the remainder of the holiday together.

Sebastian's family are Catholic, which influences the Flytes' lives as well as the content of their conversations, all of which surprises Charles, who had always assumed Christianity was "without substance or merit". Lord Marchmain had converted from Anglicanism to Catholicism to marry his wife, but he later abandoned both his marriage and his new religion, and moved to Venice, Italy. Left alone, Lady Marchmain focuses even more on her faith, which is also enthusiastically espoused by her elder son, Lord Brideshead ("Bridey"), and by her younger daughter, Cordelia.

Brideshead Deserted Edit

The Flyte family becomes aware of Sebastian's drinking problem and attempt to stop him drinking which only worsens the situation. Lady Marchmain falls out with Charles and he leaves Brideshead for what he thinks is the last time.

Julia marries the rich but unsophisticated Canadian-born businessman and politician Rex Mottram. This marriage caused great sorrow to her mother, because Rex, though initially planning to convert to Catholicism, turns out to be a divorcé with an ex-wife living in Canada. He and Julia subsequently marry without fanfare in the Savoy Chapel, an Anglican church where - unusually - marriage between divorcees where one or more earlier spouse is still alive is permissible.

Sebastian, a troubled young man, descends into alcoholism, drifting away from the family over a two-year period. He flees to Morocco, where his drinking ruins his health. He eventually finds some solace as an under-porter and object of charity at a Catholic monastery in Tunisia. Sebastian's drifting leads to Charles's own estrangement from the Flytes.

Julia asks Charles to go and find Sebastian because Lady Marchmain (Sebastian's mother) is ill. Charles finds Sebastian in the monastery in Morocco. Sebastian is too ill to return to England, so Charles returns to London to see Brideshead and sort out Sebastian's financial affairs.

Charles is commissioned by Brideshead to paint images of Marchmain House, in London, before its demolition. The paintings are very successful. Charles talks to Cordelia while he paints and discovers more about the Flyte family.

A Twitch Upon the Thread Edit

Charles finds success as an architectural painter and visits Latin America to portray the buildings there. Charles marries and fathers two children, but he becomes cold towards his wife, and she is unfaithful to him. He eventually forms a relationship with Sebastian's younger sister, Julia. Julia has separated from Rex Mottram.

Charles and Julia plan to divorce their respective spouses so that they can marry each other.

Cordelia returns from ministering to the wounded in the Spanish Civil War with disturbing news about Sebastian's nomadic existence and steady decline over the past few years. She predicts he will die soon in the Tunisian monastery.

On the eve of the Second World War, the ageing Lord Marchmain, terminally ill, returns to Brideshead to die in his ancestral home. Appalled by the marriage of his elder son Brideshead to a middle-class widow past childbearing age, he names Julia heir to the estate, which prospectively offers Charles marital ownership of the house. However, Lord Marchmain's return to the faith on his deathbed changes the situation: Julia decides she cannot enter a sinful marriage with Charles, who has also been moved by Lord Marchmain's acceptance of the Last Rites.

Epilogue Edit

The plot concludes in the early spring of 1943 (or possibly 1944 – the date is disputed). [2] Charles is "homeless, childless, middle-aged and loveless". He has become an army officer and finds himself unexpectedly billeted at Brideshead, which has been taken into military use. He finds the house damaged by the army, but the private chapel, closed after Lady Marchmain's death in 1926, has been reopened for the soldiers' use. It occurs to him that the efforts of the builders – and, by extension, God's efforts – were not in vain, although their purposes may have appeared, for a time, to have been frustrated. [3]

Catholicism Edit

Catholicism is a significant theme of the book. Evelyn Waugh was a convert to Catholicism and Brideshead depicts the Catholic faith in a secular literary form. Waugh wrote to his literary agent A. D. Peters:

"I hope the last conversation with Cordelia gives the theological clue. The whole thing is steeped in theology, but I begin to agree that the theologians won't recognize it." [4]

The book brings the reader, through the narration of the initially agnostic Charles Ryder, in contact with the severely flawed but deeply Catholic Flyte family. The Catholic themes of divine grace and reconciliation are pervasive in the book. Most of the major characters undergo a conversion in some way or another. Lord Marchmain, a convert from Anglicanism to Catholicism, who lived as an adulterer, is reconciled with the Church on his deathbed. Julia, who entered a marriage with Rex Mottram that is invalid in the eyes of the Catholic Church, is involved in an extramarital affair with Charles. Julia realizes that marrying Charles will separate her forever from her faith and decides to leave him, in spite of her great attachment to him. Sebastian, the charming and flamboyant alcoholic, ends up in service to a monastery while struggling against his alcoholism.

Most significant is Charles's apparent conversion, which is expressed subtly at the end of the book, set more than 20 years after his first meeting Sebastian. Charles kneels down in front of the tabernacle of the Brideshead chapel and says a prayer, "an ancient, newly learned form of words" [5] – implying recent instruction in the catechism. Waugh speaks of his belief in grace in a letter to Lady Mary Lygon:

"I believe that everyone in his (or her) life has the moment when he is open to Divine Grace. It's there, of course, for the asking all the time, but human lives are so planned that usually there's a particular time – sometimes, like Hubert, on his deathbed – when all resistance is down and grace can come flooding in." [6]

Waugh quotes from a short story by G. K. Chesterton to illustrate the nature of grace. Cordelia, in conversation with Charles Ryder, quotes a passage from the Father Brown detective story "The Queer Feet":

"I caught him, with an unseen hook and an invisible line which is long enough to let him wander to the ends of the world, and still to bring him back with a twitch upon the thread." [7]

This quotation provides the foundation for Waugh's Catholic treatment of the interplay of free will and grace in the moment of conversion. [ citation needed ]

The same themes were criticised by Waugh's contemporaries. Novelist Henry Green wrote to Waugh:

"The end was not for me. As you can imagine my heart was in my mouth all through the deathbed scene, hoping against hope that the old man would not give way, that is, take the course he eventually did." [4]

Edmund Wilson, who had praised Waugh as the hope of the English novel, wrote:

"The last scenes [8] are extravagantly absurd, with an absurdity that would be worthy of Waugh at his best if it were not – painful to say – meant quite seriously." [4]

Nostalgia for an age of English nobility Edit

The Flyte family may be taken to symbolise the English nobility. One reads in the book that Brideshead has "the atmosphere of a better age", and (referring to the deaths of Lady Marchmain's brothers in the Great War) "these men must die to make a world for Hooper . so that things might be safe for the travelling salesman, with his polygonal pince-nez, his fat, wet handshake, his grinning dentures".

According to Martin Amis, the book "squarely identifies egalitarianism as its foe and proceeds to rubbish it accordingly". [9]

Charles and Sebastian's relationship Edit

The question of whether the relationship between Charles and Sebastian is homosexual or platonic has been debated, particularly in an extended exchange between David Bittner and John Osborne in the Evelyn Waugh Newsletter and Studies from 1987 to 1991. [10] In 1994 Paul Buccio argued that the relationship was in the Victorian tradition of "intimate male friendships", which includes "Pip and Herbert Pocket [from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations], . Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, Ratty and Mole (The Wind in the Willows)", [11] and Tennyson and Arthur Henry Hallam (In Memoriam). David Higdon argued that "[I]t is impossible to regard Sebastian as other than gay [and] Charles is so homoerotic he must at least be cheerful" and that the attempt of some critics to downplay the homoerotic dimension of Brideshead is part of "a much larger and more important sexual war being fought as entrenched heterosexuality strives to maintain its hegemony over important twentieth century works". [10] In 2008 Christopher Hitchens derided "the ridiculous word 'platonic' that for some peculiar reason still crops up in discussion of the story". [12]

Those who interpret the relationship as overtly homosexual note that the novel states that Charles had been "in search of love in those days" when he first met Sebastian, and quote his finding "that low door in the wall [. ] which opened on an enclosed and enchanted garden" (an allusion to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, or, more likely, "The Door in the Wall" by H. G. Wells). The phrase "our naughtiness [was] high on the catalogue of grave sins" is also seen as a suggestion that their relationship is homosexual, because this is a mortal sin in Roman Catholic doctrine. [10] Attention has also been drawn to the fact that Charles impatiently awaits Sebastian's letters, and the suggestion in the novel that one of the reasons Charles is later in love with Julia is her physical similarity to Sebastian. [10] When the two become a couple in the novel's third part, Julia asks Charles, "You loved him, didn't you?" to which Charles replies, "Oh yes. He was the forerunner."

Waugh wrote in 1947 that "Charles's romantic affection for Sebastian is part due to the glitter of the new world Sebastian represents, part to the protective feeling of a strong towards a weak character, and part a foreshadowing of the love for Julia which is to be the consuming passion of his mature years." [13] In the novel, Cara, Lord Marchmain's mistress, says to Charles that his romantic relationship with Sebastian forms part of a process of emotional development typical of "the English and the Germans". This passage is quoted at the beginning of Paul M. Buccio's essay on the Victorian and Edwardian tradition of romantic male friendships. [11]

  • Charles Ryder – The protagonist and narrator of the story was raised primarily by his father after his mother died. Charles's family background is financially comfortable but emotionally hollow. He is unsure about his desires or goals in life, and is dazzled by the charming, flamboyant and seemingly carefree young Lord Sebastian Flyte. Charles, though dissatisfied with what life seems to offer, has modest success both as a student and later as a painter less so as an Army officer. His path repeatedly crosses those of various members of the Marchmain family, and each time they awaken something deep within him. It has been noted that Charles Ryder bears some resemblance to artist Felix Kelly (1914–1994), who painted murals for aristocratic country houses. [14] Kelly was commissioned to paint murals for Castle Howard, which was used as a location in the television series and is where Ryder is depicted painting a mural for the Garden Room. [15]
  • Edward "Ned" Ryder – Charles's father is a somewhat distant and eccentric figure, but possessed of a keen wit. He seems determined to teach Charles to stand on his own feet. When Charles is forced to spend his holidays with him because he has already spent his allowance for the term, Ned, in what are considered some of the funniest passages in the book, strives to make Charles as uncomfortable as possible, indirectly teaching him to mind his finances more carefully.
  • Lord Marchmain (Alexander Flyte, The Marquess of Marchmain) – As a young man, Lord Marchmain fell in love with a Roman Catholic woman and converted to marry her. The marriage was unhappy and, after the First World War, he refused to return to England, settling in Venice with his Italian mistress, Cara.
  • Lady Marchmain (Teresa Flyte, The Marchioness of Marchmain) – A member of an ancient Recusant Roman Catholic family (the people that Waugh himself most admired). She brought up her children as Roman Catholics against her husband's wishes. Abandoned by her husband, Lady Marchmain rules over her household, enforcing her Roman Catholic morality upon her children.
  • "Bridey" (Earl of Brideshead) – The elder son of Lord and Lady Marchmain who, as the Marquess's heir, holds the courtesy title "Earl of Brideshead". He follows his mother's strict Roman Catholic beliefs, and once aspired to the priesthood. However, he is unable to connect in an emotional way with most people, who find him cold and distant. His actual Christian name is not revealed.
  • Lord Sebastian Flyte – The younger son of Lord and Lady Marchmain is haunted by a profound unhappiness brought on by a troubled relationship with his mother. An otherwise charming and attractive companion, he numbs himself with alcohol. He forms a deep friendship with Charles. Over time, however, the numbness brought on by alcohol becomes his main desire. He is thought to be based on Alastair Hugh Graham (whose name was mistakenly substituted for Sebastian's several times in the original manuscript), Hugh Patrick Lygon and Stephen Tennant. [16] Also, his relationship with his teddy bear, Aloysius, was inspired by John Betjeman and his teddy bear Archibald Ormsby-Gore. [17]
  • Lady Julia Flyte – The elder daughter of Lord and Lady Marchmain, who comes out as a debutante in the beginning of the story, eventually marrying Rex Mottram. Charles loves her for much of their lives, due in part to her resemblance to her brother Sebastian. Julia refuses at first to be controlled by the conventions of Roman Catholicism, but turns to it later in life.
  • Lady Cordelia Flyte – The youngest of the siblings is the most devout and least conflicted in her beliefs. She aspires solely to serve God.
  • Anthony Blanche – A friend of Charles and Sebastian's from Oxford, and an overt homosexual. His background is unclear but there are hints that he may be of Italian or Spanish extraction. Of all the characters, Anthony has the keenest insight into the self-deception of the people around him. Although he is witty, amiable and always an interesting companion, he manages to make Charles uncomfortable with his stark honesty, flamboyance, and flirtatiousness. The character is mainly based on Brian Howard, a contemporary of Waugh at Oxford and flamboyant homosexual, although the scene in which Blanche declaims extracts from The Waste Land through a megaphone from his upper-storey college window was inspired by Harold Acton. [18] When Sebastian and Charles return to Oxford, in the Michaelmas term of 1923, they learn that Anthony Blanche has been sent down. [19]
  • Viscount "Boy" Mulcaster – An acquaintance of Charles from Oxford. Brash, bumbling and thoughtless, he personifies the privileged hauteur of the British aristocracy. [citation needed] He later proves an engaging and fondly doting uncle to "John-john" Ryder. As with Lord Brideshead, his Christian name is never revealed.
  • Lady Celia Ryder – Charles's wife, "Boy" Mulcaster's sister, and Julia's former schoolmate a vivacious and socially active beauty. Charles marries her largely for convenience, which is revealed by Celia's infidelities. Charles feels freed by Celia's betrayal and decides to pursue love elsewhere, outside their marriage.
  • Rex Mottram – A Canadian of great ambition, said to be based on Lord Beaverbrook, Lord Birkenhead and Brendan Bracken. [20] Mottram wins a seat in the House of Commons. Through his marriage to Julia, he connects to the Marchmains as another step on the ladder to the top. He is disappointed with the results, and he and Julia agree to lead separate lives.
  • "Sammy" Samgrass – A Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, and Lady Marchmain's "pet don." Lady Marchmain funds Samgrass's projects and flatters his academic ego, while asking him to keep Sebastian in line and save him from expulsion. Samgrass uses his connections with the aristocracy to further his personal ambitions. Samgrass is an unflattering portrait of Maurice Bowra. Waugh was annoyed when friends did not recognize Bowra, and additionally annoyed to hear that Bowra claimed to enjoy the caricature. [21]
  • Cara – Lord Marchmain's Italian mistress. She is very protective of Lord Marchmain and is forthright and insightful in her relationship with Charles.

Minor characters Edit

  • Jasper – Charles's cousin, who gives him advice about student life at Oxford, which Charles ignores.
  • Kurt – Sebastian's German friend. A deeply inadequate ex-soldier with a permanently septic foot (due to a self-inflicted gunshot wound) whom Sebastian meets in Tunisia, a man so inept that he needs Sebastian to look after him.
  • Mrs (Beryl) Muspratt – The widow of an admiral, she meets and marries a smitten Brideshead, but never becomes mistress of the great house.
  • "Nanny" Hawkins – Beloved nanny to the four Flyte children, who lives in retirement at Brideshead.

Waugh wrote that the novel "deals with what is theologically termed 'the operation of Grace', that is to say, the unmerited and unilateral act of love by which God continually calls souls to Himself". [22] This is achieved by an examination of the Roman Catholic aristocratic Flyte family as seen by the narrator, Charles Ryder.

In various letters, Waugh himself refers to the novel a number of times as his magnum opus however, in 1950 he wrote to Graham Greene stating "I re-read Brideshead Revisited and was appalled." In Waugh's preface to his revised edition of Brideshead (1959) the author explained the circumstances in which the novel was written, following a minor parachute accident in the six months between December 1943 and June 1944. He was mildly disparaging of the novel, stating "It was a bleak period of present privation and threatening disaster – the period of soya beans and Basic English – and in consequence the book is infused with a kind of gluttony, for food and wine, for the splendours of the recent past, and for rhetorical and ornamental language which now, with a full stomach, I find distasteful."

Acclaim Edit

In the United States, Brideshead Revisited was the Book of the Month Club selection for January 1946. [23] In 1998, the Modern Library ranked Brideshead Revisited No. 80 on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. In 2003, the novel was listed at number 45 on the BBC survey The Big Read. [24] In 2005, it was chosen by Time magazine as one of the one hundred best English-language novels from 1923 to the present. [25] In 2009, Newsweek magazine listed it as one of the 100 best books of world literature. [26]

Controversy Edit

Brideshead Revisited landed on the American Library Association's (ALA) list of banned and challenged classics. [27] In 2005, Alabama Representative Gerald Allen (R-Cottondale) proposed a bill that would prohibit the use of public funds for the "purchase of textbooks or library materials that recognize or promote homosexuality as an acceptable lifestyle." [27] The bill, which would have impacted all Alabama school, public, and university libraries, also proposed to removed and destroy novels and college textbooks that suggested that homosexuality is natural. [27]

In 1981 Brideshead Revisited was adapted as an 11-episode TV serial, produced by Granada Television and aired on ITV, starring Jeremy Irons as Charles Ryder and Anthony Andrews as Lord Sebastian Flyte. The bulk of the serial was directed by Charles Sturridge, with a few sequences filmed by Michael Lindsay-Hogg. John Mortimer was given a credit as writer, but most of the scripts were based on work by producer Derek Granger.

To mark the 70th anniversary of its publication in 2003, BBC Radio 4 Extra produced a four-part adaptation, with Ben Miles as Charles Ryder and Jamie Bamber as Lord Sebastian Flyte. This version was adapted for radio by Jeremy Front and directed by Marion Nancarrow. [28] [29]

In 2008 BBC Audiobooks released an unabridged reading of the book by Jeremy Irons. The recording is 11.5 hours long and consists of 10 CDs. [30]

In 2008 Brideshead Revisited was developed into a feature film of the same title, with Emma Thompson as Lady Marchmain, Matthew Goode as Charles Ryder, and Ben Whishaw as Lord Sebastian Flyte. The film was directed by Julian Jarrold and adapted by Jeremy Brock and Andrew Davies.

Chuck Close: how to deal with an artist accused of sexual harassment

C huck Close, an artist known for his photorealist portraits, has recently found himself at the centre of sexual misconduct and harassment allegations. Since December, several women have come forward with misconduct allegations, and as a result, his artwork was removed from a university library while a national museum has indefinitely postponed his forthcoming exhibition. Other places, like the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, is leaving up its exhibition Chuck Close Photographs.

The museum has added a new a group show of acclaimed female artists – including Barbara Kruger and Kara Walker – called The Art World We Want. It invites museum-goers to share their opinions by writing on Post-it notes and adding them to a timeline of art history, one with an undetermined future.

“Some people say the show should come down, others say it should stay up there is a whole range of opinions of what to do,” said Brooke Davis Anderson, director of Pafa. “We want to create a space that encourages a full dialogue.”

It began in December, when three women came forward with claims of Close’s sexual misconduct. The artist allegedly invited them individually to his studio, where they were asked to strip nude and “audition” to be a candidate for a portrait. Close allegedly asked invasive questions about the women’s genitals. The New York Times reported the allegations of two women with the headline: “Chuck Close is Accused of Harassment. Should His Artwork Carry an Asterisk?”

In response, Close said in a statement to the New York Times: “I never reduced anyone to tears, no one ever ran out of the place. If I embarrassed anyone or made them feel uncomfortable, I am truly sorry, I didn’t mean to. I acknowledge having a dirty mouth, but we’re all adults.”

Four more women came forward with sexual harassment allegations, including one story of a woman who claims Close asked her to masturbate in front of him. Shortly after, performance artist Emma Sulkowicz staged a protest in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, where she posed in front of Close’s paintings with asterisks drawn all over her body.

In the wake of the allegations, Davis Anderson met the local community in Philadelphia – meetings with local faculty members, students, artists and curators – who talked about how to approach the new counterpart exhibition. “We wanted to respond to these allegations, despite hosting a Close exhibition on our walls,” she said.

“One priority was to ask people visiting the museum what needs to happen to have the art world be more equitable and share more power,” said Davis Anderson. “An example could be to show more women artists, or have more museum directors who are female or people of color.”

The World We Want at Pafa. Photograph: Barbara Katus/Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Alongside the artworks, the exhibition’s workshop component involves Post-it notes and an art history timeline, where guests can share their own thoughts of what needs to change in the future. The public’s responses will be archived by the museum’s education department and put to use for future programming. It’s an attempt to contribute to lasting change.

“We wanted to make sure we didn’t just close the show. We wanted to deal with it,” said Davis Anderson. “We are collecting everyone’s responses in a report that will impact the decisions we make.”

The exhibition has questions, which are painted on the walls above the artworks, which say: “Who has had the power to speak about women’s bodies?” and “Who do we need to hear more from?”

It’s a different approach from the one taken by Seattle University. The school had one of Close’s paintings in their Lemieux library, which was removed swiftly after the sexual assault allegations surfaced in December. The decision to remove the painting was made by librarian Sarah Watstein, who replaced it with a painting by Linda Stojak. In Washington DC, the National Gallery of Art indefinitely postponed a Close exhibition scheduled to open in May. .

Chuck Close in 2016. Photograph: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for Pamm

Cancelling an exhibition before it opens is different from leaving one up that’s already open. “I applaud the museum’s team to take the controversy surrounding Chuck Close as a prompt for open dialogue about women’s experiences with harassment and abusive power,” said Erin Pauwels, an art history professor at Temple University.

“Removing the exhibition would have been an easy answer, but it also would have quickly silenced public debate over one of the most pressing questions facing art institutions today – how do we separate creative output from personal conduct, especially for artists whose work has long been honored, exhibited, and collected?”

Pauwels says it’s time to change the long lineage of male artists mistreating women. “Art museums must take greater responsibility for contextualizing the artists and artwork they make visible,” she said, “which is what I believe Pafa is now attempting to do.”

But not everyone agrees with the museum’s decision to keep Close’s show up alongside this new exhibition at Pafa.

Sexual Harassment in the Children’s Book Industry

Sometimes, it’s in the form of inappropriate comments.

An author wrote, “An editor who was considering my work commented very thoroughly on my body type as a possible personal advantage of working with me.” For her now, “it makes submissions feel like a minefield.”

For an author/illustrator, it was at a book party with a famous illustrator “I introduce myself to him,” she writes, “and he makes a crack about my breasts.” After enough incidents like these she’s “completely stopped socializing in this business because each time it becomes another abuse story.”

Sometime s the comments are more pointed, like for the publicist who says her supervisor told her he had a crush on her and if he wasn’t married and twice her age he would ask her out. Or a writer’s conference attendee who says that a faculty member asked her if she was “kinky” at the opening mixer. Or the aspiring illustrator who won a mentorship contest, and at the end of her meeting with the mentor she said she had to go get a drink of water because she was hot. According to her, “he said ‘Yes, you are.’ And squeezed my arm. And raised his eyebrows in a suggestive way.”

These are the sort of events we’re told to brush off — they’re jokes, they’re flattering, no big deal. But when you believe you are a professional and someone informs you they see you as a sex object, it can shatter your sense of self and your sense of safety.

Sometimes, it’s inappropriate touching and groping: as in “a senior editor of a division I don’t work in being a tad too handsy” or the author who says another author groped her while taking pictures at a conference or an agent who says she was sitting in the backseat with a bestselling author during a conference, and as he pretended to be searching for his seatbelt, he fondled her.

Sometimes, it’s stories of women being invited to a networking opportunity only to get propositioned or of male conference faculty and staff acting like all female paying attendees are potential and willing conquests or of powerful men trying to ruin the reputations of women who won’t sleep with them.

And sometimes, the stories reveal serial predators unchecked by an industry that does not want to acknowledge such things could be possible of its men.

We work in children’s books, and we like to think we are different, somehow. We value “kindness.” The ranks of publishers are populated with women. And everyone is so nice, right?

But we aren’t different, and before we can do anything about sexual harassment, we need to face that reality. And the reality is that a culture of “kindness” can silence people who have been harassed, that women can be complicit in a culture of sexual harassment and gender discrimination, and that the people who we work alongside, whose books we care about, who we like, can be sexual harassers.

Facing this reality is going to be ugly. But it is far uglier to pretend these problems aren’t here.

In December, I opened a survey about sexual harassment in children’s publishing, inspired by Kelly Jensen’s work on sexual harassment in libraries. I received almost 90 responses, as well as emails and DMs from people who didn’t want to fill out the survey because they felt too ashamed, or were still frightened of reprisal.

This is not intended to be some kind of lurid exposé of children’s publishing. The point of it isn’t to say that our industry is somehow special the point is simply that we do have problems, that these problems affect people’s careers and mental health, and that we can and should take steps to solve these problems so more people do not get hurt.

Most of the survey responses I received were about men harassing women, and so that will be the focus of this particular essay, though not all responses here necessarily reflect that dynamic. (I used self-identifying remarks as well as context to determine gender.) But I hope as the current conversation continues issues of harassment of people in the LGBTQIAP community will come to light. Nor do I have specific examples of the way racial and gender discrimination intersect for women (and trans and gender non-conforming people) of color, but that too is a conversation that must be had.

(For the record, I had two responses that specifically mentioned women as harassers — one female author verbally harassing another, and one editor who propositioned a male writer at a conference. I am aware of anecdotes of straight white women acting entitled to the bodies of gay men and men of color, but these issues did not appear in the survey responses.)

I asked people to keep their responses anonymous and not to name names specifically — because I wanted the focus to be on the stories themselves, and because once names are involved people start defending the harassers and accusing the harassed, and in addition to the harm done to them and those who have yet to speak, it stops the conversation before it starts. I have eliminated some identifying details from the quotes. I also have redacted names of organizations and conferences in responses for the same reason.

I am not a journalist, just an author who cares deeply about this industry, the people in it, and the audience we serve. This is an anonymous survey, and there is no way for me to verify the stories it is entirely possible that someone submitted a false entry in order to derail this project, as this is, after all, the internet. This is not about exposing or accusing people speculating on the identities of the alleged harassers would be damaging to everyone involved, and will only feed derailing narratives. The responsibility for dealing with known harassers is on the institutions that have received complaints. The point of this survey is to paint a picture of sexual harassment in our industry so we can begin to address it.

The two biggest groups of respondents were creators (people who described themselves as authors/writers/illustrators) and conference attendees/staff. About a fifth of the respondents worked in publishing houses, while others were agents, booksellers, librarians, and one was a graduate student.

Responses reveal, in general, three loci for sexual harassment: in the workplace at conferences and book festivals and in the professional spaces where spheres of the industry intersect (author to bookseller, agent to author, etc, editor to agent, etc.) All three categories seem to require different solutions, so I will be discussing each separately. I am writing up some of the responses here, but this is just a representative sample.

What is Sexual Harassment?

Our cultural focus recently has been on horrific stories of sexual assault, so it is important to remember that sexual harassment isn’t just about assault, but about any unwelcome sexual overtures, physical or verbal. The law against sexual harassment in workplaces reads, in part:

It is unlawful to harass a person (an applicant or employee) because of that person’s sex. Harassment can include “sexual harassment” or unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical harassment of a sexual nature.

Harassment does not have to be of a sexual nature, however, and can include offensive remarks about a person’s sex. For example, it is illegal to harass a woman by making offensive comments about women in general.

The law falls under employment law, and it exists not just to protect against sexual assault, which is a crime sexual harassment has a broader umbrella and is considered a civil rights violation — because unwelcome sexual advances, verbal or physical, can affect a woman’s ability to work and can cause professional harm.

In her essay on the accusations of sexual harassment and bullying of women against public radio’s John Hockenberry, Suki Kim writes:

Both [bullying women and sexual aggression] can create what is defined in sexual harassment law as a ‘hostile work environment.’ And with the lurid details coming at us so fast and furious these days, it can be easy to forget that sexual harassment is a form of illegal workplace discrimination. The law against it is intended to allow women to do their jobs and pursue their professional goals with the same freedom as men.

In New York Magazine, Rebecca Traister cautions us against making category errors in our conversations about sexual harassment — that the non-physical, verbal come-ons, disparaging comments about women, objectifying comments are all sexual harassment too:

How to make clear that the trauma of the smaller trespasses — the boob grabs and unwanted kisses or come-ons from bosses — is not necessarily even about the sexualized act in question so many of us learned to maneuver around handsy men without sustaining lasting emotional damage when we were 14. Rather, it’s about the cruel reminder that these are still the terms on which we are valued, by our colleagues, our bosses, sometimes our competitors, the men we tricked ourselves into thinking might see us as smart, formidable colleagues or rivals, not as the kinds of objects they can just grab and grope and degrade without consequence. It’s not that we’re horrified like some Victorian damsel it’s that we’re horrified like a woman in 2017 who briefly believed she was equal to her male peers but has just been reminded that she is not, who has suddenly had her comparative powerlessness revealed to her.

It is implicit in the law that sexual harassment creates an environment hostile to women, and while the law itself only applies to employers with over 15 employers, the effect remains the same: Sexual harassment, whether verbal or physical, interferes with women’s careers.

And yet the majority of the stories I‘ve received in the survey do not fall under the protection of employment law, but they still take place in environments where we do our work of making books for young readers and putting these books in their hands, and the effect on the harassed is still the same — damage to their careers, and damage to their mental and physical health. (This is true for both physical and non-physical harassment.)

This puts greater onus on institutions — publishers, agencies, conference organizations — to take action.

Thank you so much to everyone who shared their stories.

In the Workplace:

Respondents tell stories of male bosses making inappropriate comments, including demeaning comments about women, telling blow job jokes to an office full of women. One editorial assistant says she had to spend three years with a boss who spoke in this manner like this, “just silently hating this guy,” before she was finally able to quit for another job in publishing.

Another editorial assistant reports that she was repeatedly asked out by the head of her department. “When I turned him down,” she writes, “he became terse with me at work, belittled me in meetings, tried to make others think I wasn’t good at my job — it was small stuff but added up to me feeling like crap. Took it for four months, then found a new job.”

An editorial director writes, “I was on the way to our weekly acquisition meeting at a major big 5 publisher, to present new titles. The finance director and production director followed me downstairs to the meeting sharing explicit comments about my ass and general fitness for sex. I then had to present potential acquisitions to them.” She did not report the incident, as “no one would listen to me.”

“I have a coworker who scopes out all of the new girls at work,” writes a publicist, “including the interns. He is in a slight position of power, and asks new girls out to lunch. He asks about their dating status right off the bat, and it is incredibly inappropriate. He reached out to me over FB messenger, and for nearly seven months I pretended I was still with my ex-boyfriend.” She did not report his behavior because it was “kind of an open secret.” She adds, “It’s made me think twice about reporting things because I find his behavior to be rather obvious — how hasn’t someone corrected it yet?”

One woman reports that she had an internship at a prestigious literary agency where for months she was groomed by the office manager, decades older than she. When she was offered a full-time position there, her co-workers took her out for drinks to celebrate. The office manager “insisted on buying me many drinks, even after I said I no longer wanted any, and put his hand on my leg beneath the table. When I moved my leg away he put his hand back on me. When I made motions to leave he made excuses to keep me there until eventually we were the only two people left at the bar. He kissed me. I pulled away. He asked what my problem was, and I could not find words to answer. I was horrified and in shock.”

She says she tried to leave the bar, but was new to the city and didn’t know what part of the city she was in or how to get to a subway station, so he offered to walk her to one. It was after midnight, so she agreed. But he led her to the steps of his brownstone instead. “He spent several minutes arguing, persuading, insulting, demeaning, flattering, and demanding that I go inside. I refused. … I was terrified. I perceived this person to be very powerful and influential and was afraid to anger him or turn him against me. I never felt comfortable in that job and as a result my work was poor and I left the company much sooner than I otherwise would have.” She adds, “I know for a fact this man did similar things and worse to other women who worked under him.”

An editor reports being screamed at and physically intimidated by a male co-worker she says this was considered a “rite of passage” for women in the company. When she complained, “I was told he had been spoken to and if I wanted to pursue it I could meet with him alone in a closed room. Afterward I was further harassed, lied about, and eventually dismissed.” She is glad that issues of abuse and harassment are coming to light now “I’ve seen a lot of young women editors flee from places (including at least 4 others from that company) to lower jobs (title or pay) just to escape.”

This is exactly what sexual harassment laws are supposed to protect against but in these cases, as in so many others, it seems that it is the people who have been harassed whose professional goals are suffering, and the result is a talent drain for the industry. Writes one former editor, “Something that is not being called out yet is the loss of opportunity for the women who don’t play along.”

“Kidlit is filled with women,” writes another editor, “but a lot of the senior staff are still men…How many women have left the industry because of hostile work environments who could be running things today? We shouldn’t have to suffer to earn respect.”

But for that to happen the companies need to make the safety of women a priority. An editor reports that her boss was physically inappropriate with her. She writes that she discovered that this man had many complaints against him for “sexual and other abuses of power/ unreasonable behavior.” But, she adds, “HR said they were powerless to do anything because he was getting results.”

At Conferences and Book Festivals:

In the children’s book industry there are a number of organizations that sponsor conferences throughout the year that give developing writers and/or illustrators the opportunity to meet with and learn from established authors and illustrators as well as publishing professionals. Most of the responses in this category were about these kinds of conferences, though a few were at book festivals where authors meet the public.

An editor writes that at a writing conference she experienced “unwanted touching by older male conference attendees. Several men touched me to stop me in the halls without even speaking first, and one man touched my bare shoulder as I was leaving my lunch table, and then stood between me and the exit, blocking me up against my table, while he touched my shoulder again and asked questions and told me about his book. I tried to leave but he pointedly ignored my physical cues…It was invalidating and frightening to be backed up against a table by a much larger, older man at an event where I was an invited professional.”

“I discussed this issue with other female agents and editors,” she says, “and they said they had experienced similar issues that year and previous years….” She struggled with whether or not to report it, because “I felt somewhat silly reporting something so ‘minor’ as that and was worried I was overreacting.”

She suggests: “More supervision of the dynamic between conference attendees and industry professionals, an established harassment reporting protocol that is easy to find and follow, consequences for inappropriate behavior at events.”

The need for codes of conduct at conferences and book festivals came up again and again. One author who reports sexual aggression from a fellow writer at a book festival notes, “There was a huge push for SFF conventions, conferences and festivals to have codes of conducts, but I don’t see YA festivals using the same thing. We need public codes of conduct and the expectation and reality that all people at the festivals will be held to that code of conduct.”

This author is not the only one who reported sexual harassment from fellow speakers. Another writes that she spent a day on panels with a male author who was, in her words, “weirdly handsy and invasive of space.” At night some of the writers gathered at the bar, and when this woman got up to leave, the author asked for a hug and “since it was a group setting and he seemed to be well-liked (he’s a very, very popular bestselling author) it seemed less awkward just to hug him, even though I got a vibe from him I didn’t like. But I didn’t want to raise a fuss or seem anti social, he’s big deal, there were so many people around, maybe he’s just a really friendly guy, etc etc. So I hugged him. And as I hugged him, he reached up and fondled both my breasts.”

She did not report the incident. “He’s a very, very successful author and I’m not, and I didn’t think anyone would care or believe me. I worried it sounded made-up, like I would just be trying to get attention or attack a powerful man for the sake of it.”

That woman is a published author appearing on panels, and she still did not feel comfortable reporting the assault to anyone due to the stature of the author. For aspiring writer/illustrators at conferences those dynamics are intensified exponentially. The troubling dynamic between powerful, popular male authors/illustrators aggressively looking initiate sexual encounters with female conference attendees came up again and again in responses. One writers’ conference attendee describes male faculty who are “notorious for sleeping with attendees.” She says:

…People need to realize they are in positions of power. It isn’t just faculty, editors, agents. At conferences, people who are published writers/illustrators are held in esteem by those who are not, too. I don’t think it should have to be said because we’re all adults, but people on faculty should not attempt to have romantic encounters with attendees.

There is nothing wrong with sex between consenting adults, but there are power dynamics at play here. The most common trend in these responses were of male faculty/staff at writing conferences harassing attendees. And for some of these men, it seems to be a culture.

“I’ve been harassed by NYT bestseller males,” said one frequent writing conference attendee. “This is not a one man problem but I got the feeling he/they thought they were entitled to harass female authors because of their publishing status.”

Another writes that when she was new to the industry and at a conference she was introduced to someone on the organization’s board. “I handed the person my business card that had a sticker on it to promote my upcoming book. This person then took the sticker and stuck it on my chest while looking right into my eyes.”

Another writer says, “During an award ceremony during a conference in Los Angeles, I thought how lucky I was to sit next to a huge bestseller in the children’s industry. Our entire table enjoyed dinner together and near the end he expressed how he’d be interested in reading my work and give feedback. As a newer writer, this was a dream and we exchanged cards. After that, I started to receive messages from him about how beautiful my social media pictures were and that we should get together sometime. He then proceeded to tell me that his wife was fine with it, as she dates other people too. When I told him I was married and declined, he then got upset and pretended to never have met me.”

For this writer, “He made me never want to go back to Los Angeles. This happened years ago, and he made me feel like an object, not a professional.”

This is one of the effects of this kind of harassment we live in a society centered around powerful men, and thus when a powerful man sees you for who you are you feel validated — and then they pull the rug out from under you. He sees you as an object, thus you feel like an object. He treats you as fungible, thus you feel fungible. And ashamed for ever thinking you were something else in the first place.

[T]his is a basic and familiar pattern: a powerful man sees you, a woman who is young and who thinks she might be talented, a person who conveniently exists in a female body, and he understands that he can tie your potential to your female body, and threaten the latter, and you will never be quite as sure of the former again.

Another woman reports that during a conference a mentor with a leadership position in the parent organization became more and more physical with her, and she did not report it because, “I felt like I would sound stupid and whiny if I said that a [mentor] who I thought was genuinely interested in my career started touching my arms and back.”

This sort of harassment leaves the recipients feeling foolish for ever thinking someone might be interested in their abilities.

In the introduction, I mentioned a woman who tells a story of winning a mentorship contest with a mentor who closed the meeting with a sexually suggestive comment. She said, “I’d see him at conferences and he’d make ‘eyes’ at me. I began to wonder. If I’d won because he wanted to have sex. It really devalued the enjoyment I’d have gotten from the win.”

She did not report it at the time, but says, “I think I should have said something. I think people in power positions should have training on how not to abuse that power. Not to use these gatherings as opportunities to ‘hook up’.”

Just as workplace harassment affects opportunities for women, so does harassment at conferences for aspiring children’s book creators. An illustrator says of the man she reports harassed her, “He hosted out of town gatherings for illustrators to chat etc. He’d have industry professionals come to them also. People like agents, even publishers. People who could advance my career. But, because of his constant flirting and sexual innuendo, I didn’t attend one event. I feel like I missed valuable opportunities to connect with other mentees and professionals.”

It is often the promise of these opportunities that entrap women in the first place. One woman tells a story of an encounter with an author who is, in her words, “now a powerful, charismatic, popular writer — well known in kidlit and many hold him in high esteem, never guessing what he really is — the sneakiest kind of sexual predator. He preys on married women who want to be published.”

She says she met him online and they started corresponding, and he invited her to be his guest at a writers’ conference:

He led me to believe I was talented and very special. He seemed to take an interest in my writing, and we became more and more intimate over technology. He couldn’t wait to meet in person, so he could introduce me to editors and agents and ultimately be alone with me. I couldn’t wait to be around his energy! It was a great conference. But, thank god, I was able to extricate myself from a physical relationship before getting really screwed over emotionally. We agreed we’d be ‘just friends’.

Their correspondence faded, she continues, and the next year when she went to the conference, the author was “weird and standoffish:”

His group of people acted weird to me. One told me get the hell away from them…I didn’t know it at the time but he spread lies about me to every author, agent and editor who was around him at that 2nd conference. He told people I was a crazy stalker. He told people I had threatened him. He tried to get me thrown out of the conference. In reality, he had moved on to another female author (and actually several) and did not want me to compare stories with them.

Since the #metoo thing, I have been finding out over the past few months that he has done this same thing to more than 2 dozen other women over the past 10 years. These women share a similar story with me. Some left marriages for this guy. Some tried to commit suicide. His tricks are covert sexual innuendo, casual seduction, games, promises to leave his wife! and then he moves on to a new woman leaving others devastated and left wondering…

She did report it, and she says the incident was ‘handled,’ and that she cannot say more. But she is still confronted with seeing his name and his books everywhere, and every time she does “I feel sick and cheated.” As for her, she quit the organization and does not write anymore.

Another illustrator told a story of an encounter with someone high up in a conference organization that she calls Mr. X. During her first conference, Mr. X offered to review her portfolio at the bar. “My creep-o-meter was up,” she writes, “but he was in an authority position, and I badly wanted to improve my craft, so I accepted. And while he did review my portfolio and that was helpful, he also asked me questions about my personal life, going as far as to suggest I had married the wrong man, and that I should come visit him at his studio.”

Later, she tried to avoid him:

I’d heard that someone had overheard Mr. X saying to another man, ‘If you don’t get laid at this conference, there is something wrong with you.’” He creeped out one of her friends so badly by being aggressive on social media that she has refused to come to the conference since.

She writes that at a later conference, Mr. X chatted her up on the way down to the hotel bar.

I thought, “Okay, I’m older now. Maybe this weird semi-come-on stuff is over, and maybe he can just treat me like a human being now.” So I tried having a normal conversation. And within a minute, he told me that I’ d been in the running for a mentee position for a couple of years now, that he’d been trying to tell me at the last conference but that I’d been avoiding him. And what could I say? I told him that I was really excited to hear that, and I wondered what was holding my work back from winning the award. He didn’t answer, just had a smile on his face, and then sat next to me at the bar. Uninvited….

I now know I’m NOT the only person he’s made uncomfortable. And I’m worried that someone else who maybe isn’t as wary of creepers might actually go for his lines, might think that maybe if they’re nicer to him, then they’ll get an in for an award. Like a casting couch sort of situation. I don’t know. But I emailed a male friend of mine who had won the portfolio showcase, telling him about what Mr. X had said to me about getting close to getting a Mentorship, and he said, “Not to be rude, but Mr. X is pretty well-known for using his clout to get lady action.” Which confirms my suspicion that this was just a line.

With the support and encouragement of friends, she decided to report him.

After all, this has been going on probably since before I even joined [the organization] and nothing has been done about it. Has it been intentionally overlooked, or had NO ONE ever reported Mr. X. on his questionable behavior?”

In my survey, she added that after she reported him he was put on probation for a year (couldn’t attend the organization’s events), and had to attend a sexual harassment class. After that he was back, but recently, Mr. X resigned from the organization. As for the illustrator, “There are a LOT of what ifs involved with my not having attended conferences for nearly 3 years.”

At Intersections:

Most of the rest of the stories came from moments of intersection between industry groups — for instance, the young agent who writes, “I was asked to go to a party and meet editors that could help further my career at a conference in a suite. When I got there the man that invited me said I was the only one that came. The others were late and I was doing so well showing I can be on time. I had a glass of wine and he made advances and I had to leave. He told me I’d never work with his house. I’ve never been able to sell a book there. I don’t know if it’s coincidence or not.”

For those who work for companies big enough to be covered by employment law, harassment by those they do business with (whether agents, editors, or authors) is actually covered by that law and is an issue for their ownHR — but respondents reported a great pressure not to report these incidents in order to preserve a broader working relationship.

And some aren’t covered at all.

“My first literary agent was incredibly sexually inappropriate with me,” an author writes. “When we finally met in person at a conference, he repeatedly sexually harassed me, made comments about my breasts and told me inappropriate sexual anecdotes. Asked to be invited into my hotel room, so he could give me writing feedback. I was terrified, even after I fired him, that he would try to destroy my career.” She did not report him because she was (and is still) afraid of career repercussions.

The bulk of the stories in this category mirror the same issue that came up again and again in conferences — powerful male authors or illustrators out on tour harassing booksellers and librarians, or fellow authors.

One author reports unwelcome touching and sexual come-ons from the illustrator of her book when they were doing joint events. Some of this, she says, occurred in his car in front of his young child. For her, this made doing those events miserable but “I had to smile and play nice while choking on my bile.” She told her agent and her editor, and asked that she never be paired with him again or have to do events with him again. “But this happened two years ago and I have hardly written a thing since, though I have had some other heavy life issues that have contributed. However, this experience completely turned me off to my own book because any success it had would be shared with him. It certainly has had a negative effect on my career. I’m so angry.”

Sometimes authors struck up email correspondence that turned flirtatious or sexual, and in many cases these advances were difficult to shut down. One bookseller writes of an author flirting with her during an event, then emailing her afterwards. “I misinterpreted his e-mail as being just friendly. After a week or two of e-mailing, he asked me if I would come to see him if he was able to get his publisher to send him to the area again. He wanted to hold my hand, and once he said this I quickly ended the conversation and stopped communicating with him. He is married with children.”

But it wasn’t over — the bookseller says she saw him again at a conference for independent booksellers. “Which he took as an opportunity to write to me again and send me short stories, and he would continue to write to me during big book conferences until I told him one of his stories was shit. He never contacted me again after that. I learned later on that he tends to do this to booksellers and librarians, and cozies up to them. I feel fortunate that I never actually went to go meet him, but I also feel incredibly guilty for not saying anything. How many women has he done this to now that he has a larger platform and he is even more beloved?”

“A very well-known, married male author tried to get me to have sex with him,” wrote one librarian. “He was extremely persistent, even after I said no repeatedly. He said he was shocked because no one had ever said no to him before.”

“I am a librarian who hired a male author to do an author visit at my library,” says another, “and also, attended a conference where the same author was in attendance. He later contacted me through social media and email and asked to talk to me while he masturbated over the phone. He also asked for pictures.” She is an aspiring author, and is concerned that reporting the behavior would have consequences for her.

For booksellers and librarians, so many of them female, the very nature of their job makes them vulnerable to predatory men. Says one bookseller who reports that she was groped by an author/illustrator on tour, “I do think my responsibilities during author events — primarily, to make a good impression on the author on behalf of my store and to play the role of hostess involve power dynamics that might make harassers take advantage of a situation.”

“I want to be able to talk about this openly,” says another bookseller, “tell people that it isn’t your fault when someone thinks that you want them. I also think these authors need to be brought out of the dark, and that publishing houses need to stop shielding their authors and stop giving them contracts. His publisher has received several complaints about his behavior and from what I hear, they haven’t done anything about it. He’s still touring. He’s still out there, and there are leagues of women who don’t know what is about to hit them.”


The hardest thing about reading these responses wasn’t the stories themselves — though they are very difficult to read — it was the way so many of the women were beating up on themselves: for the fact that this happened to them at all, for not doing something to stop it, for the way they acted and reacted, for the way they still feel. Sexual harassment and abuse turn us all into our own internet comments section, and society has taught us to gaslight ourselves.

As Jia Tolentino writes, “Even the slightest brushes I’ve had with men who bait-and-switched their interest in my work and my body have left me feeling that I am, as [alleged Harvey Weinstein victim Asia] Argento felt she was, a fucking fool.”

That is one reason many people didn’t report their harassment they were ashamed of themselves, and they told themselves they were overreacting. People were also scared that there would be career consequences and reprisal, that no one would believe them or care, that if they accused a beloved male creator they would be dismissed and demonized by an entire industry. It is traumatic enough to be sexually harassed.

As one respondent said, “To accuse a man who is loved for beautiful, innocent things… I’d have been blamed for whatever happened, past, present, future.”

Many respondents believed that they would always lose a battle of “my word against his,” especially as the harassers tended to be popular, powerful. Said the author who reports she was groped during a hug, “It turned out that this author has a history of harassment and assault, which makes me feel even more complicated about not speaking up at the time. BUT at the same time I’ve told this story to other women authors who have proceeded to defend him because he’s ‘just so nice’ and was ‘going through a rough time in his marriage.’ And that reminds me why I didn’t raise hell at the time…I can’t even get other women to see why it was serious and disgusting.”

Many women who did not report the harassment are beating up on themselves for it, but the fact that they didn’t feel able to report that harassment is an indictment of our society and our industry and not them.

And for those that did, there are very few cases in these responses where reporting harassment had any real consequences for the harasser. (The story of Mr. X’s removal from his organization after #metoo is a rare exception.)

Says an editor, “I heard a story about a female author harassed by her male agent … and when the author told the female head of agency about it, the head of agency asked her not to sue them and promised to assign her to another agent, but DID NOT FIRE THE MALE AGENT OR STOP HIS BEHAVIOR, and as far as this author knows, he faced no repercussions other than no longer getting to have her as a client.”

One bookseller reports being groped by an author she refers to as “Male Person” during an event at her store: “I called Male Person’s publicist the next day. She thanked me for telling her. A few days later I received a strange email from Male Person that implied his publicist had spoken to her superior, who had a conversation with Male Person’s agent, but did not address anything I had said directly. It felt intimidating, so I didn’t respond.”

She is not the only person who reported harassment and had more communication from the harasser inflicted upon her in return. Asking someone to apologize is, perhaps, good policy when someone accidentally steps on someone’s foot. But in the case of sexual harassment it is asking the harassed to be re-traumatized, not to mention it’s essentially slapping a band-aid on the plague and calling it cured.

And speaking of putting a band-aid on the plague, a female author tells this story:

Another author cornered me at a book festival where he was a mainstay, year after year. He started by interrupting me whenever I tried to speak to tell me I was pretty and then escalated. He told me that it wasn’t ‘safe’ to be so pretty and kept repeating that theme. “It’s not safe to be that pretty. You can’t just walk around here looking like that. It’s not safe.” Then he escalated again and told me that he’d asked the ‘Author Make a Wish Foundation’ for a night alone in bed with me, and they’d granted his request. Through all of this, I was frozen. Being told I wasn’t safe made me feel unsafe. Other male authors witnessed it and laughed awkwardly along. When I finally made my escape, I was shaking. The harasser thanked me for being ‘a good sport.’

Other authors had seen this behavior and been warned about it. The festival organizers developed a new policy to discourage harassment and provide an avenue for reporting future incidents. They spoke to the perpetrator, but still invited him back the next year.

Let me repeat that: They spoke to the perpetrator, but still invited him back the next year.

First off, as we have seen in the stories of the last few months, sexual harassers and abusers tend to be repeat offenders. The responses were filled with stories of people who were harassed by someone and then discovered that this person has done the same thing to many other people.

Writes an author, “At a dinner for the authors appearing at a conference, a male author followed me upstairs when I went to leave my coat in the bedroom with the rest of the coats. He trapped me between the bed and the window, standing in my way and blocking my exit. He hit on me, said that he was a big fan. And isn’t it great that we can do whatever we want when our spouses are at home. He didn’t say anything overtly sexual. He was just suggestive and physically imposing. When a friend came looking for me, he was like, hey, you could join us. Again, he didn’t explicitly say anything sexual. It was all suggestive…..We didn’t report the incident. He was the big draw and we didn’t think that anything would happen if we did.

“After telling other authors about the man who trapped me, it turns out that I’m not the first one he’s done this kind of thing to. Surprise, surprise. He’s a huge missing stair in YA.”

A slap on the wrist isn’t going to do anything. And if we invite a known harasser back to a conference or festival or send them out on tour again, we are creating a space for more people to be harassed and abused.

“Don’t protect these men, though it may cost a publishing house money,” says the author who reported that she was groped while a photo was being taken. “After mentioning the incident to a close friend, I learned that this male author has done this exact thing many times.”

“Stop holding men on such a pedestal in this industry,” echoes another. “Also, too many secrets with people ‘in the know’ being aware and the rest of the people not knowing about the history of who is safe to be around and who is not.” Organizations that run conferences need, “a policy about harassment, a protocol that members know about, and need to stop inviting these people to events. If people are being warned to stay away from certain speakers at events, why are these speakers still being invited?”

Secondly, what does it say to those who have been harassed when their harasser is back the next year? What are they supposed to do? We are putting the onus on them to either “get over it” or opt out. Again and again in this survey, I found women who left jobs, avoided conferences, avoided networking opportunities, stopped writing, stopped illustrating, either because they couldn’t bear seeing their harasser again, or because they were afraid something like that could happen again. Sexual harassment of all types has long-term psychological consequences, including PTSD. Yet the harassers are welcomed back, then the harassed shut out.

How many careers have been derailed while we looked the other way?

So, What Do We Do?

For harassment within companies, one former agency assistant writes, “For editors and assistant editors: UNIONIZE. More robust HR processes for naming and removing abusers. More structural support for victims.”

Adds a publicist, “Tell men that it isn’t okay to use their publishing houses as a dating pool. I’m here to work.”

But what about the other spaces? The places employment law doesn’t cover?

As many respondents said, conferences ought to strengthen their harassment policies and reporting procedures. Those who have been harassed need to know their rights and what to do. As one woman wrote, “Maybe event organizers need to make it clear that they have a zero tolerance policy on harassment and assault? And maybe authors all need to be aware of their rights or even just what to do in the face of harassment and assault. I was so embarrassed that I didn’t just yell at him or push him off, but it was like my brain froze. All I could think of was getting away and not making him mad.”

I checked on the website of various conference organizations, and while every organization I looked at had an anti-harassment policy they tended to be quite thin, with reporting procedures that might feel unsafe for attendees, and it seems many attendees don’t know they even exist. For an example of a thorough policy and procedure, see that of WisCon. Organizations looking to develop more effective anti-harassment policies might start with the resources at Geek Feminism.

As for those other spaces:

“I think there needs to be a clear form of legal protection for employees not under the umbrella of the big houses (& whether separate or together, clear protection for those employees under the umbrella as well). We need organizations like AAR, ABA (or new organizations) to function as modern-day unions and enforce HR policies and standards in places where combatting harassment is left in the hands of the individual employer. Think of functioning organizations like the Bar Association or even one of the Hollywood guilds — while not perfect, there are clear procedures and standards there for discrediting and disbarring those who are sexual predators, etc.”

But that’s not all. We need to upend the way we think about sexual harassment.

“I believe in reform,” writes the illustrator who reports being asked if she was kinky by a conference faculty member, “and I believe that, when called out, people can change. But we have to find a way to allow for that reform to take place in a manner that does not infringe on the safety of others. Private reprimands and private conversations prioritize the rights of those who harass over the rights of those who are harassed.”

We have a hard time as a society centering those who have been harassed and assaulted, as we see in the conversation surrounding #metoo. (Unless, of course, it’s criticizing the harassed for their actions and reactions.) In her essay “Due Process is Needed for Sexual Harassment Accusations, But For Whom,” Ijeoma Oluo writes:

But now, with only a small handful of high-profile men finally facing some repercussions after years of abuse, there is already an effort to slow down. Is this becoming a witch hunt? Is this becoming a sex panic? Are innocent men at risk of being wrongly accused? …The men who are now “scared to even talk to women” lest they be accused of sexual harassment. And the women…the women are forgotten completely.

…How often are we manipulated into prioritizing the abuser over the abused?

In an opinion at The Daily Beast, journalist Madhulika Sikka writes:

Stop lamenting the “loss of talent” of the men who have been removed. If we examine the lost opportunities of so many women as a result of the structural obstacles to their growth, advancement, and power, that work could fill up all our time.

Now is the moment to focus on the colossal damage inflicted upon talented women whose paths have been derailed, whose careers took a turn because of the toxic masculinity prevalent in so many of our media entities. It’s a time to mourn for those women who were denied opportunities in one of the most influential industries in our culture. Those women with smart, creative and different ideas that would have enhanced and enriched our national conversations. The industry and the audience is poorer for it.

In our industry, this seems particularly difficult. As an editor writes, “We need more frank conversations about why we, an industry dominated by straight white women, value the voices/opinions/words of men more than those of other females (especially women of color, and the voices of non-binary, disabled, and other marginalized writers). We need more conversation and exposure across the board about our culture of toxic masculinity and misogyny. Naming the problem is an early step in stopping it.”

Again: sexual harassment is a form of workplace discrimination. In our industry the “workplace” takes many forms — certainly in the offices of the publishers and agencies themselves, but also at conferences, and also in the spaces where spheres intersect. In order to do our jobs and pursue our professional goals — whether it is as an agent, librarian, writer, publicist, editor — we need the same access to these workspaces that men have. And that is going to require a lot of work, and some fundamental restructuring of the way we operate.

We, as an industry, need to change our thinking about harassment. We need to stop centering the people who harass and abuse others. Oluo writes that she hopes “that we can all work together to be more aware of how we are being manipulated and distracted and misrepresented and shamed into believing that we do not deserve to be centered in conversations on our oppression.” In another New York Magazine essay, Rebecca Traister notes that our conversation about sexual assault and harassment is framed by the very people who gain from that diminishing and gaslighting.

We need to put the harassed first. This involves having clear policies and codes of conduct for conferences. It involves better HR practices for companies. It involves easy and safe mechanisms for reporting. It involves protections from and consequences for harassment in publishing contracts. And it involves keeping spaces welcoming for people who have been harassed and safe for all marginalized people.

And it involves transparency. An illustrator writes:

I think that we need to become more open about harassment — if people have been suspended, if people have been asked to take classes in sexual harassment, whatever — we need to be open about it. Look: this is a health and safety issue. If a company fires a manager because he told an employee to forget about the hardhat and then that employee got hurt, everyone would know about it. Sexual harassment is no different. And if we know that such-and-such editor or author or whomever was suspended for a period of time — or banned, even — for sexual harassment, then people who have been harassed will feel safer about coming forward. It is very hard to believe that you will be heard and that your harasser will face consequences when those consequences are hushed up and kept secret. Consequences need to be visible. Otherwise, the industry gives the appearance of enabling and empowering harassers.

Another writer agrees, “Harassment policies by organizations need to be explicitly stated and the consequences of such actions must be made clear too. It would also be nice if organizations made public statements whenever an incident does occur and action is taken. They don’t even have to name names but this would at least show people that this type of behavior does happen and will not be tolerated. Right now it feels like everything is so secretive and I feel like this only protects future predators.”

As for the harassers themselves, publishers, agencies, and conferences ought to take responsibility for keeping our larger workspace safe.

One author recommends, “Zero tolerance with an immediate stop by publishers or refusal by publishers to cease publishing the offenders’ work or by including sexual harassment prohibition as an immediate contract termination clause.”

An editor echoes. “Zero tolerance. There needs to be a top-down prioritization of people’s safety and basic humanity over the prioritization of profit.”

It means zero tolerance, yes. And it also means taking the time to understand why it is unsafe for people to report now. “I have female coworkers who tend to downplay things,” wrote a publicist. “‘He didn’t mean it like that.’ or ‘He’s never done that to me.’ Generally, employees, male and female, could use sexual harassment training and an understanding that women need to be believed not dismissed when reporting. Just because it didn’t happen to YOU doesn’t mean it didn’t happen.”

That goes for the industry as a whole, too.

If we put people’s safety and basic humanity first, then we can do that work. We can move past a culture that teaches us to diminish sexual harassment and gaslight and further isolate the harassed.

What would it look like if we, in children’s publishing, decided we had zero tolerance for sexual harassment? What would it look like if we looked at all of our institutions and spheres and made combatting sexual harassment a priority in them?

If we put caring for the harassed before anything else, these two ideas will naturally follow. If we put caring for the harassed first, we will make more spaces to hear their stories, we will take time to listen and understand, and we will look harder at intersectionality and at what in our culture has kept LGBTQIAP voices largely silent in this conversation.

If we put the harassed first, when someone wrings their hands about the effects on harassers’ careers, or derails with the specter of slippery slopes, or talks about how nice the harasser has been to them, or turns the conversation to when we can allow harassers back into our spheres, we will say:

No. We’re not going to center the harassers now. Our time and energy needs to be spent taking care of the people who have been harassed, and doing everything we can to make sure there aren’t more.

It’s not a solution. But it’s a start.

[This post has been edited to remove some information at the request of a respondent.]

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