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April 28, 2004

Comments

Brian

I'm not sure how relevant this, but I overheard an interesting conversation at church on Sunday. I belong to a small church, and our one minister is a woman. During Lent she wore (traditional?) black robes. Now's she back to her white robe. An older gentleman remarked how glad he was that she was back in white. He said black was fine for male ministers, but that it was unbecoming for a female pastor to wear black. I don't know if he has a problem generally with female ministers, but he still comes to church. Who knows?

annika

i recently saw a full grown deer run across the Metro tracks at California near Arroyo in Pasadena. In the middle of the day too.

Ben Keen

I think it's possible to get way too scrupulous with this.

I'm a PhD student in math - my advisor is one of the two tenured women in the department, out of 60 or so. Am I being a good guy by being her student (I've had other students ask me if I was going to have trouble finding a job because my advisor's a woman; the answer is NO.) or a bad guy because I'm maybe denying a mentoring opportunity to a female student?

I think such considerations are very small; what matters is how one conducts oneself. Since you're telling the truth, I don't think you should feel bad. If your speech is sometimes taken more readily for bad reasons (you being a man, in this case), the meaning of that speech is to lead the students to discard those reasons.

Lorie

A large part of my undergraduate work (for my major in radio, television, and film) was in media studies, a field that is really an umbrella for a number of topics. In my sophomore year, I was in some really generically named distro - "mass media and society" or something - and our instructor was a visiting professor from, I think, UCLA. Although it might have been Stanford. (Yeah, I know, the two are very different, but I had visiting profs from both places.)

We started off that course with such high hopes - she was fresh blood, young, dynamic, with awesome credentials - she had everything that we thought would make a great teacher. We were wrong, though.

This instructor sent an undeniably clear message that if you weren't a "double minority," then you couldn't possibly ever come to a full understanding of what she was teaching. I took this class with a very diverse group of students (which included Filipino, Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Mexican, and African-American kids, to name a few), and every one of us had come to the same conclusion. If you were a white guy, you'd never get what she was talking about. If you were a white gal or a non-white guy, you might approach nirvana, but you'd never fully achieve it.

When those of us who were foolish enough to speak up in her class offered opinions during class discussions, she'd almost always rip us to shreds, often even going so far as to say things like "You're a white woman, so there's no way you can really empathize with what happens in Mi vida loca."

TV and film studies is a department overflowing with profs that some would call "militant feminists," but Lynn was the only instructor who treated us like our opinions weren't valid because of the gender/race we'd ended up with. The others would challenge our theories, would play devil's advocate, would grade on a very hard line - but they treated us with respect.

And unfortunately, as in all areas of life, one bad apple can really mess up the barrel if you aren't careful. Some people would have one experience with someone like that and might become concerned that it would happen again if a similar professor was brought to campus. Of course that's silly, but that's how a lot of people work, I think.

Elizabeth

Amen, Hugo. I've had a female preacher for most of my life. Now that I am church hopping, it kind of stinks that the only female Presbyterian preacher in town is the one whose preaching style I dislike the most. I wish there were more choices!

As for male and female Gender Studies profs, I never had the opportunity to take a Gender Studies class with a male prof. I only took two classes (Intro to Gender Studies and the History of Women in America) and both were taught by women. I might have been more cautious about taking a Gender Studies class from a male, and I probably would have been less comfortable sharing in class with a male prof. I don't know though, since it was never an option.

Hugo

Terrific comments, all of you... thanks so much. I do think about what you wrote, Elizabeth, in terms of female students "opening up" to a male prof. And Lorie, I am sad that you had such an experience; all too often, I hear similar stories...

Amy

I've had both male and female Gender Studies profs and I've loved all of them. I was initially more skeptical of the male prof, but as I've commented before, he is one of my favorite profs. Further, I think it was a good experience for me because it's often hard to believe that there might be men out there who are feminists and who can be emphathetic to "women's issues" and in that class (not to mention your blog) I found that there are actually men in the world who are passionate about the subjects. I'm lucky to have had fantastic Gender Studies profs that I've felt comfortable voicing my opinions to in class and meeting with during office hours. In my experience their gender has been fairly irrelevant and I think they'd be happy to know that.

We do have a long way to go as far as accepting women in authoritative positions. I'd love to see a woman coaching an NBA team or even a men's college b-ball team (that hasn't happened yet, right?) no matter how many people tell me it will never happen. Personally, I would much rather work for a female-owned or managed company as I've had better experiences in those situations. Unfortunately, they're a little hard to find.

Hugo

They'll be easier to find when you're running one of them.

Elizabeth

I work for a female-owned company - they are out there!

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