Sexism or PC gone mad? Professor faces sanctions over lingerie joke

Sexism or PC gone mad? Professor faces sanctions over lingerie joke
Photo credit: Merrimack College \ Kings College London

The International Studies Association (ISA) has thrown the book at a male professor after he delivered a "sexist" joke in an elevator with colleagues.

Richard Ned Lebow, a professor at King's College in London, is facing sanctions after someone in a jammed elevator asked him which floor he was getting off at, according to The Washington Post.

His response? "Ladies' lingerie".

According to The Post, the professor of international political theory got a round of laughter from his buddies before exiting the lift. 

But as the lift doors closed, Simona Sharoni, a professor of women's and gender studies, was left unamused and unimpressed.

Professor Sharoni laid a complaint with the ISA against Professor Lebow, which found him in violation of the group's code of conduct.

Richard Lebow, after learning of the complaint emailed Professor Sharoni.

"I certainly had no desire to insult women or to make you feel uncomfortable. Like you, I am strongly opposed to the exploitation or humiliation of women," he wrote.

"By making a complaint to ISA that I consider frivolous - and I expect, will be judged this way by the ethics committee - you may be directing time and effort away from the real offences that trouble us both."

But Professor Sharoni still took issue with the joke - and the ISA disciplinary committee sided with her.

They informed Professor Lebow they had found his comments "offensive and inappropriate", but the graver infringement was reaching out to Professor Sharoni and deeming her complaint "frivolous."

The committee instructed Lebow to issue an "unequivocal apology", but he declined to do so - instead, he labelled the committee's decision "a horrifying and chilling example of political correctness."

In a statement to The Chronicle, Professor Sharoni said: "For decades, women and other marginalised groups in the academy had to put up with white men who decided what counts as violation and what is 'frivolous'."

Professor Lebow faces further sanctions from the ISA if the apology isn't written by May 15.