Battle of the Sexes: Take the Stairs Next Time

The Chronicle of Higher Education (yes I know, “higher education” is in danger of becoming an oxymoron these days—especially with stories like this one) has a story out today about a joke gone awry. I imagine you can guess already how this went down: a professor of women’s and gender studies took offense to something a man said:

The fuss started when Richard Ned Lebow, a professor of political theory at King’s College London, and Simona Sharoni, a professor of women’s and gender studies at Merrimack College, ended up in the same crowded elevator during a conference at a Hilton in San Francisco last month.

She said she offered to press the floor buttons for people in the elevator, whom she described as mostly conference attendees and all, except one other woman, white middle-aged men. Instead of saying a floor, Lebow smiled and asked for the women’s lingerie department “and all his buddies laughed,” Sharoni wrote in a complaint, the details of which he disputed, to the association later that day. . .

After glancing at Lebow’s name tag, Sharoni says she went back to her hotel room to check out the association’s code of conduct. She then wrote to Mark A. Boyer, the association’s executive director. He forwarded the complaint to the group’s Committee on Professional Rights and Responsibilities, which determined that Lebow had violated the conduct code.

Lebow, whose work on Cold War history I consulted when writing the second volume of my Age of Reagan books, is fighting back:

Lebow was told to write an “unequivocal apology” to Sharoni and submit a written copy by May 15 to the association’s executive committee. The apology should focus on Lebow’s actions, rather than Sharoni’s perceptions of them, it said, adding that if he failed to comply, the executive committee would consider appropriate sanctions.

Lebow refused. He also sent an email to colleagues calling his treatment “a horrifying and chilling example of political correctness” that “encourages others to censor their remarks for fear of retribution.” In an email to The Chronicle on Sunday, Lebow said he made the joke “to relieve the slight claustrophobia I felt in such a crowded lift.”

Next time maybe Lebow will want to just take the stairs.

Meanwhile, this from CNN:

Here’s the tedious article CNN links if you’re a glutton. Or you can just take in Christina Hoff Sommers’s succinct reply:

Annnnnd . . . chaser—this is perfect: