SWS Statement on Harassment and Sexual Violence


Sociologists for Women in Society (SWS), like many other organizations, is reckoning with how to deal with and respond to the issue of sexual and gender harassment. As accounts from the #MeToo Movement reiterate, this sort of harassment is painfully common across workplaces, industries, and occupations.

It is important to state publicly and unequivocally: SWS does not tolerate, condone, or accept harassment of any type. There is no question that such behavior is detrimental to individual health, career opportunities, relationships, and adversely affects survivors in many other areas of life. But on top of that, it undermines trust in institutions and individuals; and perpetuates various types of inequalities. And finally, acts of harassment are incompatible with our values as a feminist organization.

Additionally, we recognize that harassment comes in many forms and is not just driven by gender. Harassment also occurs on the basis of race, nationality, ethnicity, ability, sexual identity, religious practice, and other factors. None of this is acceptable.

The recent attention to this issue within our discipline reminds us that in many cases, organizational policies maintain the status quo and re-victimize survivors. In doing so, institutions frequently protect themselves and the harasser(s) in question rather than taking steps to sanction and prohibit the harassing behavior itself. As a feminist organization, SWS has a special responsibility not to follow this pattern. Many of our members are people who have experienced some type of harassment themselves. Thus, it is incumbent upon us to act in accordance with our principles of transforming academia through feminist leadership and promoting social justice through activism. Given that women and non-binary people of all backgrounds are disproportionately likely to be harassed due to their subordinate position in society, there is no question that this is a feminist issue. Standing against harassment is not just a timely issue, it is a key opportunity to stand for our principles and to put action behind our beliefs.

SWS has some resources in place already to support survivors: the Discrimination and Academic Justice Committee, mentoring program, and Natalie Allon fund are all examples. But there’s still more we can do to model how an organization can take harassment seriously and operate in a way that respects survivors and recognizes the pervasiveness of this issue. In the coming weeks and months, we will be developing a working group to look into ways that we as an organization can strengthen and improve the measures we already have in place, as well as consider new ones that could also be beneficial. SWS has an opportunity here to model ways that organizations can establish measures that are fair, deliberate, transparent, and equitable. These measures need not compromise our ideals, mission, or values. And perhaps most importantly, they should not re-victimize those who have survived harassment. Together, we have an opportunity to seize the moment and show how feminist leadership and organizations can create necessary and positive change.