classrooms · clothes · copper-bottomed bitch · sexist fail

This month in sexism: September

Welcome to the first edition of “This Month in Sexism,” an anonymous compendium of gobsmacking true experiences.

Unless we’re sorely mistaken, feminists don’t really have time to take on the re-education of everybody who says something dumb, intentional or not. At the same time, we are tired of pretending it just doesn’t matter. Our solution? Send us your FAIL stories (see the link here for how) and we’ll compile them into a post that will make you groan, laugh – and move on.

Here are this month’s jaw-droppers:

  • I pause during my lecture to ask if anyone has any questions. A hand from the back shoots up. “Yes,” I acknowledge a male student who rarely speaks. “Where do you get your clothes?,” he asks.
  • In a public meeting, my VP referred to 4 senior academic administrators as “ladies” – as in, “Thanks, ladies. Good work!” (This happened twice.)
  • A senior colleague in my field patted me on the head.
  • My new dean looked me up and down and said, “You didn’t have to dress up, you know.”
  • My first professional advice? “Women can’t direct Shakespeare.”
  • Sitting beside a (female) colleague from another institution during dinner: “Wow, you sure can pack it in, young lady! Better watch your figure.”
  • As I walked up the aisle of the classroom distributing notes, a male student complimented me on my skirt, which I guess is okay . . . sort of. Then he complimented me on on my legs. I told him that I grew them especially for his pedagogical benefit. I suspect it was this student who described me as “a sarcastic and cynical feminist” on my teaching evaluations that term.
  • For a slightly longer rant, see Mama non Grata’s blog entry for today!

What’s that? You can top these? Email us at sexism (at) hookandeye (dot) ca and show us!

3 thoughts on “This month in sexism: September

  1. This might be a generational difference – I am 25 – but most of these incidents don't seem at all like sexism to me. They are rude things to say at best. I think these women are reading too much into very innocent comments and should just get over it.

    Comment 1: true, that was probably not the best moment to ask that question, but take it as a compliment that your clothing is worth asking about. All you have to do is say you'll answer that question after class or make a joke and move on.

    Comment 2: since when is being called a “lady” so insulting? What is he supposed to say, “Thank you my genderless colleges”? It's the same as saying, “Thanks guys. Well done.”

    Comment 3: kind of weird, but seems like an old person thing to do.

    Comment 4: my boyfriend, a man, who tends to dress a little more formally, gets that all the time. It is not a comment against your gender and is only meant to say exactly what it says – you didn't have to dress up as this is a fairly casual affair.

    Comment 5: yeah, this one is pretty stupid. Did you go and prove him wrong or did you just whine about it on a blog?

    Comment 6: This is just a rude thing to say to someone you don’t know very well. I don’t think it qualifies as sexism. Also, men comment on each other’s weight too. I think that weight consciousness is just the reality of our society in general.

    Comment 7: You handled that situation beautifully. That was such a witty thing to say! I would not be able to come up with that on the spot. Why do you care so much what some loser who probably got a bad mark had to say on his anonymous evaluation? He didn’t have the guts to say it to your face.

    I think in most of these cases you are just projecting your own insecurities onto the world around you. If you expect to see sexism, you’ll find it in every innocent comment and situation. If you think of yourself as an equal, as an expert in your field, and carry yourself that way, then your colleagues and students will treat you that way too. Occasionally you will still come across that sort of sexist stupidity, but the people responsible are a dying breed and are not really worth so much of your time and energy. And if these things really bother you, you need to deal with them head on as opposed to whining about it on a blog read by other like-minded women. The men and women who are treating you this way are not reading this blog.

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  2. This might be a generational difference – I am 25 – but most of these incidents don't seem at all like sexism to me. They are rude things to say at best. I think these women are reading too much into very innocent comments and should just get over it.

    Comment 1: true, that was probably not the best moment to ask that question, but take it as a compliment that your clothing is worth asking about. All you have to do is say you'll answer that question after class or make a joke and move on.

    Comment 2: since when is being called a “lady” so insulting? What is he supposed to say, “Thank you my genderless colleges”? It's the same as saying, “Thanks guys. Well done.”

    Comment 3: kind of weird, but seems like an old person thing to do.

    Comment 4: my boyfriend, a man, who tends to dress a little more formally, gets that all the time. It is not a comment against your gender and is only meant to say exactly what it says – you didn't have to dress up as this is a fairly casual affair.

    Comment 5: yeah, this one is pretty stupid. Did you go and prove him wrong or did you just whine about it on a blog?

    Comment 6: This is just a rude thing to say to someone you don’t know very well. I don’t think it qualifies as sexism. Also, men comment on each other’s weight too. I think that weight consciousness is just the reality of our society in general.

    Comment 7: You handled that situation beautifully. That was such a witty thing to say! I would not be able to come up with that on the spot. Why do you care so much what some loser who probably got a bad mark had to say on his anonymous evaluation? He didn’t have the guts to say it to your face.

    I think in most of these cases you are just projecting your own insecurities onto the world around you. If you expect to see sexism, you’ll find it in every innocent comment and situation. If you think of yourself as an equal, as an expert in your field, and carry yourself that way, then your colleagues and students will treat you that way too. Occasionally you will still come across that sort of sexist stupidity, but the people responsible are a dying breed and are not really worth so much of your time and energy. And if these things really bother you, you need to deal with them head on as opposed to whining about it on a blog read by other like-minded women. The men and women who are treating you this way are not reading this blog.

    Like

  3. I would have to agree with Anna about item two, at least. Yes, there is sexism in academia; I'm not wholly convinced that all of these examples qualify. I call people (students, colleagues, whatever) 'ladies' as often as I use 'guys' to address males or mixed groups (it really is as often, since I teach in psychology, a very female-dominated space).

    I got an email today from a more senior male colleague at another institution, who, inter alia, asked me if my hair colour (from photos on a page I'd sent him a link to) was real. There's something not 100% comfortable about that, but if it had come from a woman I wouldn't have thought twice about it; maybe this guy is just really interested in hair or comes from somewhere where they don't have any redheads. You know, maybe he's just curious. Sometimes it's easier to take offense than it is to consider the other person's perspective.

    I really love this blog, by the way. Keep doing what you're doing! 🙂

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