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Two women in the library science world, nina de jesus and Lisa Rabey, are being sued for 1.25 million in damages. Why? Because they spoke up regarding the behavior of a fellow professional who appears to be a serial harasser — and refused to back down when he threatened them with a lawsuit.

If you feel safe doing so, please consider cosigning this open letter signing this petition to plaintiff Joe Murphy asking him to withdraw the lawsuit and seek an alternative path toward reconciliation.

If you are willing and able, please consider speaking up as a witness; a key aspect of defending one’s self against charges of defamation.

If you can afford to, please consider donating to nina de jesus’ and Lisa Rabey’s legal defense fund.

I’m not going to write a long blog post on the subject, because I have little to add that hasn’t already been said by individuals more articulate than I (particularly Meredith Farkas, Laura Crossett, Barbara Fister, and the Radical Librarians Collective). But I want to offer two reasons why I support #teamharpy in standing up to Joe Murphy’s aggression.

1) One day, it could be me. I’m a snarky, opinionated woman on the Internet. I have little patience for those who punch down and I have reason to believe I give a good tongue lashing — particularly when I have people to defend, including myself. If women are to be slapped with a 1.25 million dollar lawsuit for naming high-profile men in the context of sexual harassment allegations, a conversation that desperately needs to happen about sexual coercion and sexual entitlement — within the library science profession, apparently, as in the rest of our fucked-up society — will be stifled. And those who do speak will be forever looking over our shoulders waiting for that inevitable moment when we piss off the man who proves desperate, angry, or privileged enough to come after us with every tool at his disposal.

I stand in solidarity with the women who have spoken because there should never be silence in the library (or anywhere else) on this subject.

2) One day, it could be me. While this is a less likely scenario than the one above, I could also someday find myself faced with allegations that I sexually harassed a colleague. While I have every reason to believe I’m good at respecting boundaries, people make mistakes. Actions or words are misconstrued.

In the face of such allegations, I would hold myself to a different set of standards than Joe Murphy has. As I said on Twitter earlier in the week:

The charges of sexual harassment aside, Joe Murphy has subsequently demonstrated that he is a man who is willing to bring a lawsuit against two professionally-vulnerable women with limited financial resources who spoke up about behavior they (and many others) see as a systemic social problem.

If he is innocent of the actions of which they accused him, he should have reached out to discover where the misunderstanding was, apologized if necessary, and worked to do better moving forward.

That he resorted, instead, to punching down through a lawsuit speaks as eloquently on the subject of his character as the allegations of sexual misconduct against powerful men ever have.

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