Friday, October 4, 2013

Feminist English Teachers!

Over at the Men's Rights Subreddit this morning, a high school student is plaintively soliciting help in dealing with his English teacher who is "very feminist."  Of course, because I am an English teacher (who also happens to be "very feminist"), this catches my attention.

The poster makes a number of claims I find quite improbable unusual:  first, that the boys are "often served detentions for being too quiet during class."  While I can imagine disciplining students for being disruptive, I've never heard of a teacher forcefully requiring students to speak in class -- although I have (gently) reprimanded students for sleeping in class.

He goes on to complain that "she started reading us articles about how men are rape creatures and are useless other than to the extent of conception [sic]."   When he complained, he was treated to another unjust detention.

BTW, in my world, spending time outside of class with students is more punitive for me than it is for them.  And another BTW, why is the teacher "reading" to her students?  Even in high school, aren't the students capable of reading for themselves?  But I digress...

What's becoming apparent to me is that this English teacher has her work cut out for her.

His third complaint is that "Every single paper that is submitted by the guys are usually barely passing [sic]."   That the male students have previously enjoyed extremely high GPAs clearly proves her anti-male gender bias.

The subsequent commentators have been predictably sympathetic ("the bitch!").  Helpful suggestions include telling the poster to record classes on his cell phone in order to provide "evidence" against the teacher.  That may or may not be permitted by school policy, but it makes sense.  I myself would love to hear what the instructor actually said, and in what context she conveyed the idea men were only sources of genetic material.  Did he abruptly wake up while she was quoting the author of some dystopian or radical feminist fantasy?  Or was he still dreaming when he "heard" her say that?  Of course, the third alternative, that she actually said and meant what he attributes to her, is possible too (possible, but not very damn likely).  In which case, and it can be proven, her head will roll...

Another commentator warned that, if the student approached administration, he not attribute the conflict to the instructor's being "a feminist... who hates men." Good advice.

That I have a liberal bias is manifest, and I freely cop to it in class.  When students ask me what I think about a current event, for example, I will tell them (and always with the proviso, "This is my opinion").  As a teacher, I do consider the extent my personal biases affect my students, especially in choosing topics to read and write about.  Sometimes, I frankly enjoy the authority to require students to think about and discuss topics I am interested in.  On the other hand, I use caution with material that might be interpreted as "male bashing" or derogatory about non-western cultures (my own culture I can freely disparage).  I try very hard to avoid writing prompts that are likely to elicit views that will upset me, too, because (1) I really, really don't want to dislike my students (after all, we're stuck with each for a whole quarter), and (2) marking papers is disagreeable enough a task without getting angry or sad about the content of those papers.  As you can imagine, just identifying "appropriate" topics can be a big part of my planning process.  Then add to that the chore of finding topics that are sufficiently "interesting" to inspire an "emerging adult" to write AND a mid-life adult to read and you can see why it is an ongoing challenge.

Anyway, next week I'm going to show them the recent documentary "Seeking Asian Female," and have them write about the mail order bride industry.  Because many of my students are from countries that are the source of many "mail order brides" (China, Vietnam, Ukraine), this could be a highly sensitive topic.

Getting back to class participation:  I have to constantly curb myself from calling on male students more than female students.  If there is a bias in that regard, it is toward the boys, mainly because they tend to be more assertive and fearless in expressing opinions.  It's rare for me to have a female student who challenges me directly or who "hogs" class attention.  What is more problematical for me are students that want to express their opinions without having done the relevant reading...

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for commenting!