The Professionalization of Equity Officers
We were like mice that have been brought up with cats and are not eaten. First we enjoyed the luxury of not being eaten; then we became cats ourselves and were stricken with terror at the idea that we would be taken for mice, that the mouse in us showed. In extreme cases, some of us became more ferocious toward mice than cats in order to show that there was no mouse in US.26
Equity offices facilitate systemic discrimination by design. The professionalization of sexual harassment has provided job opportunities for all those mice disguised as cats. This professionalization enables the absorption of women's experiences into an institutional dead- letter box: the equity or anti-harassment office.
Equity professionals are encouraged by the university to show leadership to women on campus and be examples of allegiance to administrated equity and administrative "protection." In this con, the function of the equity office is to silence women by convincing them to trust the process: The Problem is being handled by The Process. Trust is the trick, and most are prepared to trust the equity office because it is a "process" and because faith and trust must be declared if complaints are to be taken up.
The strategy of sexist interests has been to make women's grievances the property and copyright of the equity office. In our situations, there has been a move to franchise equity and make the administration's equity office the professional authority and copyright holder to all rights and speech that protest power and dissent from discrimination. With the delegitimization and discrediting of the speech of unauthorized women and minorities, there has been a reaffirmation of men's rights to sue and be protected from women's speech. The message to dissenting and harassed women is: Report to the Equity Office; go to where we control what you have said, go and tell it in confidence to those we have authorized. The disenfranchised are opened up to civil liability if they speak out, and the only "protection" seems to be at the equity office, the University owned and operated rallying point for praise of white and male power. In fighting this, we realize and remember how systemic, organized and sustained discrimination really is.
Somer Brodribb (instructor), Sylvia Bardon (graduate student), Theresa Newhouse, Jennifer Spencer and Nadia Kyba (undergraduates) are all feminists who have been in struggle with the department of political science, all of us but Jennifer was a member of the Chilly Climate Committee. We share theory and experience of the process, policy and procedures of harassment at UVic.