Blog Implications of the #MeToo Movement for Academia

Discrimination Is Not For Anyone

woman protesting through a megaphone while standing on a chair
by Dr. Richard Greggory Johnson III:

The purpose of this blog is to discuss my thoughts on the Me Too Movement. First, I must address my involvement with women’s rights through the years. I have been a supporter of women’s rights all of my life.  I watched my parents (mother and father) participate in civil rights organizations since the time of my youth.  I also watched my mother participated in the graduate chapter of her sorority which was founded on the principles of social justice and public service. 

I grew up in the East Bronx, New York with a keen sense of social justice and understanding the importance of community activism.  However, I did not know that I was a feminist until taking Dr. Marsha Tyson Darling’s class while being enrolled in graduate school at Georgetown University.  This was such a great realization for me to learn that men could be considered feminist as well.  Though, I understand that some women believe otherwise.  But as a Social Equity Scholar I know the value of allies.  For example, victories from the Civil Rights Movement were not won because only African Americans took to the streets.  Indeed, there were poor folks, Jewish folks, Asian folks, Hispanic folks, LGBT folks, priests and folks with disabilities.  All of these groups were on the front-lines, arm in arm with African Americans fighting for civil rights. 

 I have been following and supporting the Me Too Movement since it first emerged in 2017. This movement is no doubt important as society fights against sexual harassment and violence against women. The good fortune is that the movement is also spreading to other countries such as India where violence against women has been imbedded in the culture for decades.  

However, the movement must acknowledge and take responsibility for the fact that women of color have been victimized by sexual abuse for years. Often, this violence was committed by male employers and/or husbands.  There has also been many articles written about women of color who clean offices at night only to be sexually accosted by their supervisors. These reports have also indicated that hotel cleaning staff, primarily poorer women of color, have been victimizedby male hotel guests who expose themselves while the cleaner is working. 

The tragedy beyond being accosted is that nothing is generally done with the perpetrators of the above situations.   This is because even in the 21stcentury, women of color, especially women of color from working class/poor backgrounds, with little education and who work low wage jobs, are seen as not having the same agency has White women from means and resources.  Therefore, the challenge with the Me Too Movement is that it could have been started years before if in fact someone would have taken the claims of Black and Brown women seriously.  Indeed it was not until high profile White female celebrities such Ashley Judd and Gwyneth Paltrow among others got involved with the movement that caused visibility.  It is admirable that these women came forward and shared their stories of abuse. Their stories are worthy of illumination. However, the voices of women of color and refugee women continue to besilenced even within the larger Me too Movement. Please note that I am not victim blaming privileged and/or high profiled White women.   However, what I am suggesting very clearly and concretely is that the effects of institutionalized racism, sexism and classism can continue to be observed even in a well-intentioned organization such as the Me too Movement. 

Going forward, women in higher education can take lessons from the Me too Movement and focus on coming together as a unit (across social classes, races etc).  The advantage of doing so will increase opportunities for mentoring and career growth. Society is no place near parity. Therefore, women need to take up places on organizational boards (public and private), assume leadership positions, such as academic department chairs, deans, provosts and presidents.  I am so proud to have been appointed the first African American Department Chair by the first female Dean in the University of San Francisco’s School of Management history (USF was founded in 1855 and the School of Management/College of Business was started 95 years ago).  

Finally, the value of ally building is important to everyone fighting for equity and inclusion.  This has got to be the case with women in academia as well, specifically ASPA. Working with such sections such as DSJ, Ethics, LGBT Alliance and the like will help to strengthen the bonds of the women’s section and foster a commitment to advancing not only women’s right but the equal rights of all disenfranchised communities as well. It is clear that no identity group can conquer the insidious nature of hatred alone. 

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About the author:

Dr. Richard Greggory Johnson III
Professor and Chair for the Department of Public and Nonprofit Administration, School of Management
University of San Francisco

Dr. Richard Greggory Johnson III is a tenured Full Professor & Department Chair for the Department of Public and Nonprofit Administration, School of Management, University of San Francisco. He is also Director of the Business Minor in the School of Management as well. Dr. Johnson also chairs the USF IRB Committee.  As a scholar Professor Johnson’s research centers on social equity within the fields of public policy, management, higher education and Human Resources Management.  He has been teaching in higher education for almost twenty years and is widely published with several peer-reviewed books and over two dozen peer-reviewed journal articles.  Professor Johnson holds graduate degrees from Georgetown University, Golden Gate University and DePaul University.  He holds membership in: Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society; Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society; Pi Gamma Mu Honor Society. Professor Johnson is also a life Member of the Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Incorporated.