Gendered Violence in Fieldwork

Anthropology has come a long way from it’s roots as a primarily white, male, imperialistic field. With anti-discriminatory laws and higher rates of diversity in colleges, now is a fantastic time to delve into the field. However, there are still some ugly shades of the past that still occur frequently, unfortunately the most common is sexual harassment of women. In the article, Dealing with Realityauthors Reyes-Foster and Matejowsky discuss the frightening frequency that sexual harassment occurs during fieldwork. A recent survey of 666 male and female anthropologists discovered that 64% of females were sexually harassed and 22% had experienced sexual assault. The majority of the victims were students or post-doctorates and were harassed by their professors. This frequency plays into the gender roles of male domination and female subservience.

When a woman puts herself into a position of obedience (such as being a student) the power is placed into the hands of the usually male professor. The power imbalance is strengthened through fieldwork since the student is left vulnerable and alone in another country without the aid of the professor.With such a power gap between the sexes, sexual harassment occurs more frequently. Ways to combat this problem is to attack it at the source, toxic masculinity via domination. Having female professors who won’t demean, always traveling with a partner (predators go after single targets), and making sure that travelers know where the American Consulate is located can aid women and give them a safety net to fall back on. Perhaps a screening test of domineering personalities would be able to limit the number of potentially dangerous professors taking up leadership roles.