sexist fail

This month in sexism: October

  • Why, when my male colleague is out of the office, do students expect me to know when he’ll be back? They don’t ask him the same question when I’m away.
  • I’m the only woman at a meeting along with one senior male academic and two junior male academics from the same department. We’re discussing a grant we have recently received. When I make a suggestion, it is ignored. Until the senior male academic says *the same thing* and the junior male academics say gushy things like ‘excellent point — very strategic.’ Now I know what you’re thinking: this is too much of a cliche to have actually happened. But it did…three times in the same meeting!
  • On one of the student evaluations, in response to the question “What aspect of the course and/or the instructor’s teaching did you find the least valuable”: “prof’s loud, shrill voice.”
  • On the weekend, the subject of being a stay at home mother comes up in conversation and this woman says to me – “But if you were a stay at home mother, what kind of role model would you be? I mean, who would your daughter look up to?” Wow.
  • Directly copied and pasted from “BEST PROF EVER, AND WHAT GREAT GAMS!!” (and what is even more embarrassing is that I didn’t know what “gams” were until a colleague of mine explained it to me…I naively assumed that it was a comment about my sense of humour in the class)
  • Being referred to as “Miss.” This is a pet peeve of mine, but a default option (at the very least) should be “Ms,” and I’m sick of feeling guilty or elitist if I correct people and say “Dr.”
  • By the end of the first year of a tenure track job I started taking pre-natal vitamins. One clock was ticking louder for me than the other one. When one of my senior (female) colleagues found out she said, “You better not get pregnant. I could be on your tenure and promotion committee, you know. hahahahahahaha.” So not funny then, and it still annoys me. But: I now have a kid, tenure, and promotion. hahahahahahaha.
  • I had a meeting with a senior partner at a law firm to finalize some documents we began drafting in April, when I was a few months pregnant and just starting to show. When I met with him in September, his first words weren’t “Hello, how was your summer” but rather “Wow, you really were pregnant last time I saw you – you look way better now.”
  • I learned that my son’s grade five teacher will insist that we use Miss. Yes, that’s right, Miss. Not Ms. and not Mrs. as she’s single (and, BTW, maybe 25, at the outside). Apparently it matters whether she is married or not. I also learned that this concern is based on MY (said, with capitals, by the accuser, “YOUR”) value system and does not reflect on her teaching skills or style.

4 thoughts on “This month in sexism: October

  1. In January 2010 a 4th-year student, female and very bright, gave me an assignment addressed to Mrs. Banting. When I drew this to her attention, she revised the Mrs. Banting to Ms. Banting! This was pretty astonishing to me on all fronts, not because I hadn't received assignments addressed to Mrs. or Ms Banting before, alas, but because my husband, whose surname is Stenson, had visited one of our classes one day to talk about his novels, and I told the students he was my partner because I didn't want to appear coy or whatever. In other words, she knew he was my husband and that his last name is Stenson, and yet she STILL referred to me as Mrs. Banting. I guess her unexamined belief is that female professors are married to themselves?

    The quoted comment from a senior female colleague shocks me even more! What is it in academia that makes for a higher percentage than one might expect of unthinking people with such terrible values?


  2. Ah, Alberta, how I miss you so. Then again, I'm now in rural Kentucky, which isn't much better. Actually, it's probably worse.

    I tell my students to just call me Professor. And to try and spell my last name correctly.


  3. Why are we so hung up on titles? Most of these students are probably doing this without even thinking, not because they are trying to be disrespectful or demeaning to your credentials. Yes it is unfortunate that they are not paying enough attention to this, but really, who cares? One of the best and most popular profs in my department just goes by her first name. I find I respect professors less when they get too hung up on people calling them Dr, and that includes male professors (I've had a few examples of that). So as long as your students like you and respect you, is it that important to get hung up on details? And if it really bothers you so much, then why not deal with it head on instead of complaining about it on a forum? Just tell your class that it is more appropriate to call your professor doctor than Ms, or Mrs, Miss or Mr. There!


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