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I didn't know that the victim is African-American. I've been disturbed by the various defences of Stubblefield I've seen around. I'd qualify that *some* white feminist philosophers have taken that view. Others have called the defences rape apology.

Shelley Tremain

Yes, of course, you are right, Komarine: not all white feminist philosophers have defended Stubblefield, nor, I should add, have all white disability studies scholars. I don't think my remarks imply a consensus; but I'm willing to be corrected on that.

There has been very little acknowledgement of the fact that the victim is African American.

Shelley Tremain

Komarine, although I think that "some" is implied in my reference to "white feminist philosophers," I have edited the post to make this qualification explicit.

Tommy J. Curry

If we may speak more generally. There has been and continues to be a resistance of the public and the academy to take the rape of men, especially the rape of Black males seriously in this society. We know that the rape of Black men was prevalent not only in slavery, (Thomas Foster, "The Sexual Abuse of Black Men Under American Slavery," Journal of the History of Sexuality 20:3 [2011], pp. 445–64), but remains an unacknowledged aspect of American culture and Black male victimization (Lara Stemple and Ilan Meyer, “The Sexual Victimization of Men in America: New Data Challenge Old Assumptions,” American Journal of Public Health 104.6 [2014]: e19-e26. Both sources document a presumed heteronormative account where men are the aggressors and women are the victims at the base of our present understanding of rape, a historiography not uncommon in feminist literatures.

This situation, as currently analyzed, rests on this systemic ignorance and denial. Imagine for a moment if a Black male had been convicted of rape (sexual assault) in philosophy. Imagine what sorts of actual and de facto sanctions would be leveled against this individual. How many people, both men and women, in the profession would claim to feel "unsafe" by his presence at conferences, how many would deny him any standing. As is historically the case, the rape of Black men by white women remains unapproachable discursively or conceptually.

In regard to this particular case, there has been no calls for analysis or conversation. There have been no attempts to explore what this means for the disabled community, their vulnerability to other abled bodies, or specifically the vulnerability Black (disabled) males have to sexual violence. This situation has been reduced to "personal responsibility" rather than the historical and libidinal forces acting upon Black male bodies.

Are we to believe that this Black male was only assaulted because he was disabled? Are we to believe in philosophy Black men are not sexualized and categorized based on sexual stereotypes constantly? There are many who have experienced unwanted touches and advances by women, as well as dealt with the sexual stereotypes of a practically all white discipline.

Rather than pointing to specific individuals, or specific traditions, this situation should challenge the collective silence on the rape and sexual assault of Black males throughout society.


Thanks Shelley. And I didn't mean for my comment to detract from the very important points that I think you and Tommy in his comment here and in his interview for this blog raise about the case.

The fact that the victim in the Stubblefield case is African-American makes the whole sorry business (I mean specifically the rape apologist analyses) more disturbing.

Elizabeth Barnes

Thanks for this post, Shelley. I want to echo what Komarine says. I had no idea, until two days ago, that the victim in this case is Black. It's disturbing that this aspect of the case hasn't featured more prominently in discussion. It also renders various things said by those attempting to defend Stubblefield - that the victim's family is out for money, that they are irresponsible, that they don't understand disability - look even more horrible. I already thought they looked like classic victim-blaming. But the racial context makes it so much worse.

Shelley Tremain

Thanks for the comments everyone. I agree with Tommy who asserted on Facebook that there would almost certainly be a lot more discussion about these sexual assaults if the victim had been a white woman philosopher and the assailant had been a male philosopher, especially a black male philosopher. I think that many more philosophers and disability studies people would condemn the assaults and would try to send a strong message to the (white) feminist philosophers and disability studies scholars who have defended the assailant.


Tommy Curry's observation about racially disparate patterns of response is on point. See, for example, professional outrage over the "Hendricks affair," i.e., the webpage posting of "logic schoolgirl" photos:

The Stubblefield case has been invoked as "an ugly coalescence of...incredibly fraught, painful issues" regarding disability, race not among them. But on the fundamental issue of sexual assault, the facts in the actual Stubblefield case seem ethically uncomplicated. There was also a lack of curiosity about the the victim and his family. (A simple Google search turns up racially charged remarks, in late September, from Stubblefield's daughter in defense of her mother.)

Much appreciation to Shelley Tremain and Tommy Curry for raising difficult, very helpful questions about race, disability, and sexuality.

Rebecca Kukla

I have zero sympathy for the Stubblefield apologists. But I had no idea until now that the victim was African American and it seems others didn't know either. This just hasn't been a noticeable part of the reporting - which I guess I think is a good thing? So my guess is that race has played very little role in people's reactions. Gender has been huge however.

Shelley Tremain

that the victim is African American/black has been mentioned in only a few items in the popular press. However, as anon pointed out, a google search would produce these items. In addition, many people in the disability studies community have known that the victim is black/African American.

I agree with you that gender has played a significant role in the reception of the events.


FWIW, Stubblefield was on the APA Committee on Black Philosophers.


It's no accident that the victim was black. Or disabled. Indeed it's an essential part of her delusional world. One has to ask how much the delusional worldview of much of modern philosophy contributed to this whole tragedy.

Shelley Tremain

Nancy, although I published your comment, I want to point out that it contains claims and language that many people (myself included) regard as ableist and harmful to certain groups of disabled people in particular, namely, people who have been psychiatrized, identify as "mad," etc.


Perfect illustration of my point. When you reach this level of mental gymnastics you are capable of believing anything.

"There's no use trying," [Alice] said; "one can't believe impossible things." "I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

Shelley Tremain

Nancy, my remark about ableist language and claims pertained specifically to your use of the term 'delusional'. In many cases, authors and speakers could avoid ableist language/claims were they to use a more explanatory or descriptive expression, rather than take recourse in a word or two that is meant to grab the reader/listener.

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