Survey of Sexual Harassment in Southeastern Archaeology, online now

About a year and a half ago, some of my biological anthropologist friends started sharing a link on Facebook to the Biological Anthropology Field Experiences Web Survey. Coordinated by Kate Clancy, Katie Hinde, Robin Nelson, and Julienne Rutherford, this survey was “designed to solicit input on the ways in which fieldwork does or does not provide a safe scholarly and research environment for all.”1 Their goal: “gathering stories to inform Field Directors, faculty mentors, and other researchers and students on the scope of the problem, and identify some of the main contributory factors to a negative environment, both to encourage improvement and to identify future areas for research.” 1

Now fast forward to July 2014. Clancy, Nelson, Rutherford, and Hinde publish their survey’s results – based on the responses of 666 field scientists – in PLoS-One. As summarized in that article’s abstract, their findings underscore that sexual harassment is a major issue facing field researchers today: that women trainees are most often targeted by senior male colleagues; that men trainees are more often targeted by peers; that sexual harassment policies and obvious reporting mechanisms are infrequently encountered in such situations. The authors also outline how field directors might change this status quo by implementing “policies of safety, inclusivity, and collegiality.”2

Fast forward a couple more days/weeks. Other news media pick up the story. Bloggers blog about it and related topics. My friends and I talk about it over the phone, on Twitter (#SAFE13). In these conversations, we express little shock at the findings; rather, there’s a sense of empowerment because things we have witnessed or experienced have been given collective voice. On the flip side, there are also more cynical musings: “I wonder if bringing all this to light will actually change anything.”

I think it will. I hope it will. You can’t take action unless you have a solid idea about what you’re taking action on (though Danielle N. Lee makes a great point – listening and taking seriously the stories we are already hearing should push us to doing something anyway). If we want to “improve field experiences of a diversity of researchers, especially during early career stages,”2 then we need to know where to start.

With that in mind, this post is to invite members of the Southeastern archaeological community to participate in Survey of Sexual Harassment in Southeastern Archaeology. Please note that participation in the survey is not limited to active/current SEAC members nor restricted to degree/employment status; the survey is open to any who participate/participated in fieldwork in the Southeastern US. It’s anonymous, online, and has the potential to improve our field. This survey has been in the works for several months under the leadership of Maureen Meyers (University of Mississippi), chair of the SEAC Sexual Harassment Survey Committee. With the approval of the SEAC Board, our team3 determined that it would be worthwhile to conduct a “field experiences survey” specific to Southeastern archaeology for a couple of reasons.4 For one thing, gender issues have been an increasingly visible topic at our recent annual meetings; the 2014 meeting in Greenville will be no exception (e.g., the Student Affairs Committee will be hosting a Gender in Archaeology Panel on Friday evening). We also thought there are some unique aspects of archaeological fieldwork in the American Southeast – with its blend of academic and professional archaeologists, comparatively short-term/non-international field seasons, etc. – that might serve as interesting points of comparison to SAFE13 and other recent studies.

There are many questions we hope to answer with this survey, and many ways that its results might help us chart a path toward a safer, more inclusive, all around better Southeastern archaeology. So, please, take a few  minutes to complete the Survey of Sexual Harassment in Southeastern Archaeology. We appreciate your time and input, and think that future generations of Southeastern archaeologists will too.

1Clancy, Kate. “The Biological Anthropology Field Experiences Web Survey: Now Live,” Context and Variation (blog), February 21, 2013.

2Clancy, Kathryn B.H., Robin G. Nelson, Julienne N. Rutherford, Katie Hinde. (2014) Survey of Academic Field Experiences (SAFE): Trainees Report Harassment and Assault.” PLoS-One. 9(7): e102172. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0102172

3Maureen Meyers (chair), Tony Boudreaux, Stephen Carmody, Victoria Dekle, Elizabeth Horton, and Alice Wright

4That said, we are very indebted to the SAFE team, especially Robin Nelson, for providing guidance and advice for the present Southeastern archaeology survey.

Questions? Concerns? Please contact Maureen Meyers, Chair of the SEAC Sexual Harassment Survey Committee,


18 comments on “Survey of Sexual Harassment in Southeastern Archaeology, online now

  1. Sarah says:

    I took the survey this morning and was disappointed to see it did not address the major harassment issue in our field. In my experience, the majority of harassment happening to archaeologists is not by their coworkers, it is by other people such as the construction crew adjacent to the project area or the locals.Whether it’s comments like “what’s a women doing that [physical labor] for “honey you’re going to get blisters from doing that kind of work” or people assuming the field director is a guy to just being followed shovel test to shovel test by harassing locals. I have way too many examples of being harassed at work by nonarchaeologists.

    • Alice Wright says:

      Thanks for your reply Sarah, and for bringing up this issue; it’s one I’ve faced a bit, too. Based on the responses we have received so far, we’re discovering that the present survey (though it did go through several drafts, vetting by survey experts, board approval, etc.) is only scratching the surface of some of these important issues in the field. Your comments (and others’) will be taken into account as we move forward with the project. Thanks again for responding and commenting.

    • dover1952 says:

      Sarah. Just curious. When you say, “…just being followed shovel test to shovel test by harassing locals” what exactly do you mean? Are you talking about local taxpayers who have a legitimate interest in what you are doing and want to see HOW you do it—or are you talking about a sexist guy pursuing you for a night out from shovel test to shovel test to shovel test. I would no define the taxpayer interest thing as harassment. This is just the way normal people behave down south, and they would be shocked and peeved to see it define as harassment. The latter would definitely be harassment.

  2. Corin says:

    I had the following question fail to allow me to “check all criteria,” and only allowed one.

    “What criteria did you feel that your field site director used to evaluate your performance? (Please check all criteria that apply)”

    Glad to see this survey.

  3. Shane says:

    I found myself checking “everyone” for a lot of the potentially gender-segregated tasks.

    Then I stopped and asked myself, “Was that really the case, or is this a bullshit reality that I’ve constructed for myself?”

    I’m really interested/nervous/excited/apprehensive to see the results of this survey.

    • victoriagd says:

      Yeah, it will be interesting to ‘hear’ from SEACers about their experiences 🙂

    • Alice Wright says:

      Actually, I clicked “everyone” a lot, too — and I don’t think I am deluding myself (my bullshit realities tend to involve “oh, surely I can sit next to this box of donuts and only eat one” — completely. delusional.). I think I have just had the good fortune to work on some top notch projects. And while I’m dealing with a similar anxiety tornado with regard the results, I wouldn’t be surprised if a fair amount of folks have also had similarly good fortunes… and also, a fair amount of folks who have had other experiences. We’ll see…

  4. victoriagd says:

    Thanks for the great post, Alice! You situate the survey within broader discussions inside and outside of anthropology so well!

  5. dover1952 says:

    Praise Jesus!!! Finally. Finally. Finally. Someone in American archaeology is starting to take a really close looks at these sorts of issues with an eye towards doing something about them. I have been waiting 40 years for this—40 damned years.

    This is going to raise some hackles. The first one is going to be, “We shouldn’t be doing this sort of thing because it takes away time and energy that should be devoted to more important things like our research.” In my opinion, this is the same as saying, “Little Jessica has a fever of 105 degrees, appears to be dehydrated, and is having trouble breathing—but don’t bother me about taking her to the doctor—I’ll take her after I finish writing Chapters 3 and 4.

    When those voices rise up, ignore them, kick them in the ass, or do both. They are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Always be part of the solution. A new generation of archaeologists with different priorities from those of past generations can unite and do this. Make your voice be heard and taken seriously now. Press forward relentlessly!!!! You have the full support of this older generation archaeologist.

  6. DuVal Lawrence says:

    I took survey today. I am a volunteer archaeologist ans I’ve worked with several folks posting to this site. Many of the questions didn’t directly apply to my experience but as an older male I do look for inappropriate behaviors when I’m in the field. Overall I’ve been very impressed with folks I’ve worked with and the projects I’ve been able to contribute too.

    This may not be the place for this, but I do worry about some of the younger females not hydrating enough. I understand the modesty/privacy issue but not drinking cuz you don’t wanna pee in the woods can land you in the hospital or worse. Do others have this fear too? How do you handle it?

    • dover1952 says:

      At Icehouse Bottom in 1977, we dug a hole in the ground, inserted two posts into postholes on each side, tacked on a bench, and built a black plastic screen around half of it. Everyone peed just fine. Phase I survey folks—you are on your own—and it’s a jungle out there.

  7. […] Marbled Beads Gathering Monuments Survey of Sexual Harassment in Southeastern Archaeology, online now Congress, the NSF, Archaeology, and Anthropology… September Pieces Of My Mind #2 […]

  8. Alice says:

    Brilliant, so pleased to see someone shining light upon this issue! Sadly, this scenario plays out every day in offices, in hospitals, universities and in stores around the world. Recent statistic on sexual harassment at workplace shows that 79% of the victims are women and 21% are men.

    You can check this research on this link:

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