Every single goddamned organization with any kind of social presence at all seems to be afflicted with the problem of sexual harassment — including, now, library conferences. Librarians! I love librarians, they always seem to be the most sensible people, and here it comes, a familiar story. Two people, Lisa Rabey and Nina de Jesus called out a guy named Joe Murphy for his predatory behavior at library conferences, in a post titled Time to Talk About Community Accountability. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before.
So after @pnkrcklibrarian made a very clear public statement that Joe Murphy, a fairly ubiquitous presence in the library conference circuit, has been continuously sexually harassing women at these conferences (and one imagines pretty much anywhere he goes). This information, apparently, is widely known amongst women (this is the whisper network) and in spaces beyond, yet very little has been done to hold him accountable. He still gets speaking engagements. Keynote invites. Still considered a ‘leader’ or whatever in the field.
Can I point out the fact that Joe Murphy’s behaviour is so well known that women attending lib conferences literally have instituted a buddy-type safety system to protect themselves? That — quite literally — they are afraid to be alone with him? Add this to the fact that librarians are mostly women and one begins to truly understand that this is what institutional sexism looks like. This is why issues of sexism and misogyny need to be present even in fields with a numerical majority of women. Because, despite these numbers, we still have a man known to be a predator being supported by the same institutions that employ, fund, etc. many of the women in the field. One last thought: if you think he is the only one… well, you’d be wrong.
But wait! We’re not done! There’s more deja vu to come.
Mr. Murphy claims that Ms. Rabey “posted the following false, libelous and highly damaging tweet accusing the plaintiff of being a ‘sexual predator’”. He further claims that Ms. de jesus wrote a blog post that “makes additional false, libelous, highly damaging, outrageous, malicious statements against the plaintiff alleging the commission of sexual harassment and sexual abuse of women and other forms of criminal and unlawful behaviour”.
Both Ms. Rabey and Ms. de jesus maintain that our comments are fair and are truthful, which we intend to establish in our defense. Neither of us made the claims maliciously nor with any intent to damage Mr. Murphy’s reputation.
We both also believe that women calling out harmful the behaviour of men is an act of free speech and of resistance to a culture that regularly reduces our bodies to sexual objects existing only to serve men. We have decided to fight this lawsuit, at great financial and emotional cost to ourselves, because we believe that all victims of sexual harassment should be supported and believed. We believe that by speaking up and speaking out we are contributing to a change in culture whereby victims and survivors no longer have to be silent about our experiences. A culture where we can speak out and not be punished more severely than the men who engage in harassing behaviour.