The e-mail: Several hours ago, I received an e-mail from an unknown correspondent, sent to my university account, with the subject line "student." Thinking that this was someone enrolled in one of my fall classes asking if I could provide a copy of the syllabus (a common occurrence here), I opened it. What I found was a helpful suggestion as to what I might "need," sexually speaking, complete with a couple of anatomically-based insults. No virusy attachments or links to unsavory websites; just a single, foul sentence.
Coining a phrase: I actually don't believe this was personal (I didn't recognize the name, and I've been on sabbatical, so my opportunities to piss students off have been minimal); most likely it was some random person trolling faculty websites looking for women to harass. It occurs to me that this type of behavior is part and parcel with catcalls and other skeevy behaviors from one stranger (usually male) to another (usually female), with the intent of asserting power, and that the whole spectrum of behavior needs a phrase to describe it. I propose gender terrorism.
The recommendation: So, finding myself more irritated than actually intimidated, I decided that I should at least go on record. I e-mailed my chair, and she wrote back almost immediately, telling me that it should be reported to our network security people, and to keep her informed. She is generally good about these things, and takes them seriously, preferring to be safe rather than sorry. The network security people, on the other hand, advised me to "ignore it" or call 911. They also helpfully advised me not to reply to my correspondent.** Fine. As I said, I'm almost certain that this was random, rather than personal, and I can't imagine that the university should go on red alert every time that some jerk decides this kind of thing is hilarious. But you know what would help to make women feel like they're welcome in the workplace? A simple statement of solidarity. Something like, "we have a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to sexual harassment," or "we value the safety of our employees." Sure, they're platitudes. But knowing that the university has my back in case something were really amiss here would mean a lot.
That is all.
UPDATE: I guess that's not all after all, because just before closing up for the night, another e-mail came in, this one with the name and number of one of my fall courses in the subject line. So I guess it's not random after all. Crap. This is going to be a huge pain in the ass for me, onacounta some jackass.
**Good to know, right? 'Cause my first thought was to strike up a fucking correspondence.