History Prof Denies Charges of Sexism
A Harvard history professor accused of making disparaging remarks about feminism and denying the existence of date rape and sexual harassment refuted those charges in an interview with The Crimson yesterday.
But members of the class continued to express concern over comments made by Associate Professor of History James Hankins during his History 10a lecture on Tuesday.
During the lecture, which centered on the age of chivalry and courtly love, Hankins allegedly said "'Feminists have invented sexual harassment and date rape in order to gain dominance in our society,'" according to an unidentified member of the class.
Another member of the class, who wished to remain anonymous, said the audience was shocked by Hankins' remarks.
"I turned around [after the comment] and every girl in the class was sitting there with her jaw dropped, including my section leader," the student said.
"People took it that he was saying that date rape and sexual harassment are kind of being made up in a sense," said Chad H. Barker '93. "It sounded really bad."
According to Rebecca L. Lee '95, Hankins said, "'I hope one of you won't report me to the Dean of Political Correctness.'" Lee said she was not offended by the remarks.
In an interview yesterday, Hankins, who is up for tenure this year, said his statements were misinterpreted and that he did not mean to offend anyone.
"I think it's just that people misconstrued what I was saying," Hankins said.
Disputing the quotes attributed to him by some members of the class, Hankins said he had not implied that feminists use date rape and sexual harassment as a means of achieving dominance.
"I used the word invented' and that was the origin of the problem," he said. "Feminists do claim to have invented the concept [of date rape]. But the reality is there and has always been there." "People thought I was denying the reality of date rape, which I don't deny," he said.
"I didn't say that feminists use this as a way of controlling the world or anything like that," Hankins continued. "This is a natural reaction of the female sex to get control of its relationships again after the anarchy of the sexual revolution."
Several members of the class plan on asking Hankins to make a public apology for his statements, one member of the class said yesterday.
"We told [Hankins] that his comments had offended a number of students," the unidentified source said. "There are letters already waiting to go to the appropriate deans and the chair of the department."
Despite the criticism leveled against him, Hankins said that he does not intend to apologize.
"I'm not going to make an apology because I don't think there's anything to apologize for," he said. "But I am going to explain tomorrow what I meant."
One student, who wished to remain unidentified, said she did not expect the professor to retract his statements.
"I can't see him apologizing. He just doesn't seem like the type," the student said. "I'm sure he would blow it off if anybody said anything to him about it."
Not all members of Hankins' class were offended by his remarks, and some defended them as a joke.
"It was in total jest. I'm surprised that anybody took offense," said Brian M. Gibel '95.
"If they know Professor Hankins, he makes a lot of short, quick little witty comments or snide remarks," Gibel said.
"It was a joke...I think anyone who took offense at what he said may not have heard the entire discussion," Lee said.
But Hankins denied that he was joking.
"It was meant seriously," he said.
Hankins added that sexual harassment and date rape are issues of serious concern to him. His own wife, he said, "has been sexually exploited a lot."
"People should be sensitive to date rape and sexual harassment," he said