Dankprofessor’s Weblog

A weblog examining sexual politics in higher education and beyond.

Sexual hell at the MLA meetings

An attendee at the recent meetings of the Modern Language Association (MLA) has set the dankprofessor straight about the dankprofessor’s belief that the MLA has no sexual harassment policy.  In fact, every registered attendee at the MLA meetings was given a copy of the MLA sexual harassment policy.  I gather that members did not receive a copy of the MLA sh policy before the meetings; if they did, attendance at the meetings may have precipitously declined. 

And interestingly enough, the MLA sh policy could not be found online, at least the dankprofessor could not find it.  But the dankprofessor’s readers should be pleased since a copy of the policy received by the members has been emailed  to the dankprofessor.  Key excerpts follow; those persons wishing to read the whole policy, email me your request and I will forward it to you.

THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSSOCIATION (MLA) is committed to providing a convention environment that promotes equal opportunity and treats all persons with respect.  Discriminatory practices, including sexual harassment are prohibited.  Sexual harassment, whether verbal, physical or environmental and whether at the convention site or premises off-site is unacceptable and and will not be tolerated.

Sexual harassment is defined as unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature when …  (3) such conduct has the purpose or effect of unreasonably interfering with the person’s performance or of creating an intimidating, hostile, or offensive convention environment.

Sexual harassment includes, but is not limited to, between persons of the opposite or same sex.


. sexual jokes, flirtations, or innuendos

. display of sexually suggestive objects or pictures.

…If you believe you have been the victim of sexual  harassment in  any guise or have witnessed an act or acts of sexual harassment, you are urged, encouraged, and expected to discuss the incident promptly with a representative of the offender’s educational institution or company who is present at the convention.  If no such person is present, you are encouraged and urged to report the incident immediately to the institution or company.

OK, in this MLA nightmare vision of convention sexual hell, the dankprofessor’s alter ego was in attendance at the MLA meetings in the city by the bay and imbibing and bantering over dinner with six other alcohol fueled MLA attendees.  And much to my dismay I heard a comment that was directed by one of the diners to another diner that “I not only have a hunger for dinner, but I also have a hunger to get to know you better”.  Obviously, such represents a thinly disguised sexual innuendo, even the dankprofessor’s alter ego got it.  But no one at the dinner, no one to my knowledge, has reported this incident to the powers that be.  I couldn’t report it since I could not remember who made the comment and to whom it was made, nor could I remember the sex of the commentator or of the recipient. 

Of course, what anyone in attendance at the dinner should have done was to immediately take out the MLA sexual harassment policy and read it to those in immediate attendance.   But there were no readers. We all just wanted to eat and drink and drink.  And no matter there was no MLA drinking policy.  We all could  drink to that and we did over and over again.

But, of course, the MLA wants its sexual harassment policy to be taken seriously.  In all probability the policy was written by persons who are hardly ever taken seriously by anyone and now they had the opportunity to get back at those who never hear or see them and are hardly ever the subject of sexual innuendos. 

But if the MLA wants to be taken seriously and get the attention it does not deserve, it needs the following additions to its sexual harassment policy. 

. Require all members who register for the MLA meeting to go thru a MLA approved sexual harassment module.
. Have MLA approved town criers read the MLA sexual harassment policy throughout the meetings and at nearby dining venues.
. Require all registered attendees to adhere to an MLA approved dress code.
. Attendees be prohibited from consuming spirits of any kind during the MLA meetings.

OK, that’s it for now.  But, of course, there must and will be more.

Anti-sexual crusaders are never satisfied; they know there is always so much more they can do.  Now that they have their policies in place at the MLA, they can believe they can have them in place at any place, at any time, even at Sarah’s Alaska place.

So I hope I have not offended any MLA members, at least not offended those who are in good standing; good standing meaning those who know they have not violated MLA policies.  Go ahead stand up and be counted.

January 8, 2009 - Posted by | conference sex, ethics, higher education, MLA, sex, sexual harassment, sexual policing, sexual politics, sexual rights

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