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Male Alienation in Women's Studies Classes

The following two-part discussion of how to deal with/avoid male alienation
in Women's Studies classes took place on WMST-L in April 13-23, 1993.
People interested in this topic may also wish to look at two later
discussions on similar issues, Men in Women's Studies Classes and
Men in Women's Studies Classes II, as well as the file Male Oppression.  
For a larger listing of WMST-L files available on the Web, see the 
WMST-L File List.


Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1993 20:48:00 EST
From: "Patricia A. O'Donnell :pattyo @ irishmvs.cc.nd.edu"
Subject: alienating men in class
I have recently been approached by one of my students complaining that
my course focuses entirely too much on women's issues.  The course
I am teaching is an Introductory Criminal Justice course.  In the
course description I mentioned that the focus of the course would be
to critique the criminal justice system especially in respect to
gender and racial discrimination.  I also mentioned on the first day
of class that I would be teaching from a feminist perspective.  This
student argued that he is not getting the "basics" he needs for law
school.  The text book - Senna & Seigel 1993 - covers the basics and
is not from a feminist stance.  This confrontation was very upsetting
to me.  I started questioning my teaching style only to discover that
I have not focused on women's issues any more or less than racial
issues and other extensions of the "basics."  As I began talking to
faculty I discovered that many professors who try to teach from a more
inclusive perspective are attacked by their students - either directly,
as I was, or through teacher course evaluations.  I am relatively new
to this list, so I don't know if this issue has been raised before,
but I was wondering if anyone else has had similar experiences, and
if anyone has suggestions about ways to teach from an inclusive
perspective without alienating students - especially white males.
Thanks (AGAIN!).
Patty O
sorry - Patty O'Donnell
University of Notre Dame
pattyo  @  irishmvs.cc.nd.edu

Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1993 02:01:00 EST
From: John Kellermeier <KELLERJH @ SNYPLAVA.BITNET>
Subject: Re: alienating men in class
>I have recently been approached by one of my students complaining that
>my course focuses entirely too much on women's issues.  The course
>I am teaching is an Introductory Criminal Justice course.
>I started questioning my teaching style only to discover that
>I have not focused on women's issues any more or less than racial
>issues and other extensions of the "basics."
>if anyone has suggestions about ways to teach from an inclusive
>perspective without alienating students - especially white males.
My question for you is: have you quantified just how much time you spend on
women's issues?  I would guess that this student is perceiving a little as a
lot.  I have had similar experiences in teaching Introductory Statistics.
In that class I have used word problems for including diversity.  When I
ask students to comment on the word problems there are always some who say
"most of the problems deal with women's issues" or "too many deal with
homosexual issues".  In fact, a content analysis of the 300 word problems I
use in a semester showed that about 1 in 6 deal with gender issues and less
than 1% deal with sexual orientation.
I think that one of the problems we will always face in including
marginalized groups is the false preception that a little inclusion is a
lot.  Notice the phenomonon of last fall's elections.  That was dubbed by
the media the year of the woman.  Yet when all is over there are still only
6% females within our U.S. Senate.  While this may be a 3 fold increase it
is still hardly more than a beginning.
The same thing may be going on in your class.  If this student perceives
women's issues as foreign to criminal justice, he then probably sees *any*
inclusion as too much focussing on women and he percieves it as more than
it is.
Perhaps it would be appropriate to ask students to do a content analysis of
your course to actually determine how much time is spent on women's issues.
Then a discussion of the limitations of personal perceptions without an
accurate analysis can be part of your discussions.
     - - - - - - -   John Kellermeier               +----------+
+ + + + + + +   -    Department of Mathematics      | Fight    |
 +  Bisexual   -     SUNY Plattsburgh               |   Racism |
  +     - +   -      Plattsburgh, New York 12901    | Fight    |
   +   Pride -       (518) 564-4134                 |    Rape  |
    +   + - -                                       +----------+
     + +   -         BITNET:   kellerjh  @  snyplava
      +              INTERNET: kellerjh  @  splava.cc.plattsburgh.edu

Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1993 08:33:16 -0500
From: Von Bakanic <BAKANICV @ COFC.EDU>
Subject: Re: alienating men in class
Patty, You've hit a very important nerve with your observation that being
inclusive is seen by some as being narrow.  One student commented on my
evaluation that I am too pro-women.  I considered this a victory, not a
criticism.  What pleased me is that the student did not say I was anti-men.
 I take pains to be fair and inclusive.  I allow no gender bashing in my
classes.  Since men and women are accustomed to having knowledge presented
in the "neutral" male voice, they perceive the inclusion of women's voices
as being a special interest and not the basics.  Remind your student that
more than half the people subject to our legal system are women.  To
continue ignoring their role will not prepare him for life, much less a
career in law.
                        Regards, Von
Von Bakanic                                  (803) 792-7105
Dept. of Sociology                           internet address:
College of Charleston                        bakanicv  @  ashley.cofc.edu
Charleston, S.C. 29424

Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1993 09:26:30 EDT
Subject: Re: alienating men in class
This is in reply to Patty O'Donnell's query about alienating male students in
classes.  I don't have any real answers to the question, but I would call
everyone's attention to Patricia Williams' book The Alchemy of Race and Rights.
In it, Williams describes many scenarios exactly like the one she described.
Maybe it helps just to know it isn't you as the teacher that's the problem.
What makes it even more relevant to Patty's situation is that Williams is a
lawyer teaching in a law school.  You might think about using it in the class;
at least you might want to read it.
Laurie Finke
finkel  @  kenyon.edu

Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1993 12:24:53 AST
From: "Heather A. Smith" <heather.smith @ ACADIAU.CA>
Subject: alienating men.
I could not help but add my comments to the matter of alienating men
in the classroom.  I am a first year professor, young, six months
from a complete Phd and the only female in the department. Some of my
students are only 4 or 5 years younger then I am - so it has made
life interesting.
Sometimes I think it doesn't matter how inclusive or exclusive your
material is. I taught an introduction to political science course
with the occaisonal reference to women and the students left thinking
that I was the most radical feminist they ever encountered. They
simply are not used to having a variety of perspectives presented to
The most interesting class was the women in politics class I taught.
I had one young man mutter under his breath about "ideologies of
hate" in reference to radical feminism, and constantly commented on
how stupid feminist theory was. I often wondered why he was in the
course. This same student challenged a grade I gave him last term and
wrote the worst evaluation I received for that course. (The women in
politics evaluations are yet to come). Thankfully I had some really
dynamic students - male and female, who were very open to new ideas
and willing to give expression to those ideas. In the end, the women
in politics class was amazing. So with a few exceptions the students
were receptive.
There are times when it is very difficult to figure out one's role as
THE FEMALE PROFESSOR....but it all works out in the end. (I can say
that now that the term is over!).
Heather Smith
Heather.Smith  @  acadiau.ca

Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1993 14:02:37 EDT
Subject: alienating men
I must admit that I find this discussion interesting.  I taught an
Introduction to the Problems of Philosophy this past year to a class
of 85 students.  During the 3rd lecture into the course I showed
the National Film Board of Canada production _Goddess Remembered_
(produced through Studio D).  I found it interesting that about half way
through the video a few men walked out muttering something about
propoganda.   A couple of them never returned.  I have tried to present
the class and organize it under the notion that all discussions ought to
be and will be non-adversarial and non-classist.  All in all, it worked.
Nonetheless, I cannot help but wonder whether being a male and teaching
the course had anything to do with this success -- what I mean by this is:
is the success just another indication that a male instructor's position
is perceived by students as being somewhat more valid than women's
positions?  I am not at all clear on how to precisely formulate this question.
 Pardon my rambling.
<>                                                              <>
<>  Pierre J. Boulos                  boulos  @  server.uwindsor.ca <>
<>                                        pboulos  @  uwovax.uwo.ca <>
<>  Department of Philosophy                                    <>
<>  The University of Western Ontario                           <>
<>  London, Ontario                                             <>
<>  Home: 519/ 258-3851                                         <>
<>                                                              <>
<>       magis mutus quam piscis                                <>

Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1993 14:57:58 -0700
From: Gail Stygall <stygall @ U.WASHINGTON.EDU>
Subject: Re: alienating men in class
Patty O'Donnell and others responding--
I agree with John Kellermeier's suggestion for content analysis.  Another
way to go at it is discussing the amount of time women are *allowed* to be
on the conversational floor.  A while back Dale Spender suggested that
women and men begin to perceive women as *dominating* a conversation when
their percentage of the total talk reaches 33-35%.  Even if there are
several women present and a single male, Spender found occasions of the
perception of women controlling when they collectively went over the
one-third mark.  Though Spender isn't thought to be a *real linguist* by some
linguists, I have found similar perceptions in working with student
groups.  For students who really object, we might think of having them
tape record a class and literally count time and utterances made, by whom
and about whom.  I've never had a male student who tried taping who didn't
come to see a social construct operating linguistically.
In other classes, usually my writing courses, I've taken some heat for
requiring student papers to use inclusive language.  Dale Bauer
memorialized one of my student evaluators in her article "The Other *F*
Word; Feminism in the Classroom," in College  English a few years back.
My student wanted the university to "investigate" how I managed to get
into his classroom.  He doesn't mention that this was an issue to which I
devoted all of about 20 minutes in the entire semester.  But, of course,
he was one of the students whose papers I kept returning and not
evaluating until he revised his language inclusively.
There are a lot of approaches to this problem; the only one that seems
dangerous to me is to not expect it.  Good luck!
Gail Stygall
University of Washington
stygall  @  hardy.u.washington.edu

Date: Wed, 14 Apr 1993 22:40:07 -0400
From: Linda Paige - Georgia Southern University
Subject: Re: alienating men in class
Hi, Patty
     I too have had a similar experience.  In teaching an English 151
class, I chose a book called GENDER IMAGES.  On an evaluation, a
student said that I should keep my feminism at home, "where it
belongs."  I'm still trying to figure out that one.
     In addition, a few males in my WLIT class were upset when I
talked of vaginal and phallic imagery in HEDDA GABLER and in
MADAME BOVARY.  One male student wrote on an evaluation that
I was a "pervert."  What can I say?  The imagery is there.
If a student doesn't like--or understand--what I have to say,
I can only hope that the majority of students will appreciate
seeing a layer of meaning of which they were heretofore unaware.
     The GENDER IMAGES book was great, but I find that on my
campus, students still associate the word "feminism" with
"man-hater."  I'm hoping that in time even Georgia Southern
will come of age.
      Linda Paige

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1993 08:14:51 -0600
From: Harriet Linkin <hlinkin @ NMSU.EDU>
Subject: Re: alienating *presence of* men in class
I have been following the thread on alienating men in class with great
interest, as many of us have.  And I too have had similar experiences.  I
believe it's part of the marked case phenomenon; students are, still, so
used to patriarchal classrooms that feminist experience becomes marked as
outside the norm.  This semester I am teaching a graduate seminar on
"Gender and Language" under my English Department's Theories of Discourse
requirement that is also cross-listed as a Women's Studies course.  Of the
eleven students, one is male; the male student enrolled because the course
is required and, as he pointed out in class one day, he didn't know what
the subtitle was.  Nevertheless he has been a fine participant in our
endeavor (although he has made a number of sterotypic remarks that met
with raised eyebrows or verbal resistance).  All semester I have made a
conscious effort to be inclusive in our efforts to explore the ways gender
shapes language for both women and men (though we have read more feminist
theory than masculinist theory because of the larger notion of marked
cases).  And again and again the class has discussed muted group theory and
its application to women in groups versus women alone.  It has been both
interesting and ironic to see how the atmosphere in class changes on the
days the male student is absent.  On one of these days I was having
difficulty articulating a concept; a student urged me not to worry and to
say what I "really" wanted to because the male student wasn't there.  This
in a class of graduate students, ten females/one male, explicitly
concerned with the issue of gender and language.  And still these ten
women, the dominant group in a women's studies class, felt muted by the
presence of a single sympathetic man.  I wonder how many of us
have had this flip side of the "alienating men in class" phenomenon, which
is the alienating presence of men in class?
Harriet Linkin
New Mexico State University
hlinkin  @  nmsu.edu

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1993 12:33:58 CDT
From: Bob Bender <ENGBOB @ MIZZOU1.BITNET>
Subject: Re: alienating men in class
One strategy I've tried to use, is to try to talk the thing through briefly. In
women's literature courses someone always asks, Why can't we read something by
men?  My answer is, You'd never ask to read plays by Sophocles in a Shakespeare
course, or 20th century lit in a medieval course.  The questioners, I find, are
not limited to men unfortunately, and my colleagues in Black Studies report
some students want to know what they can't look at white issues. The resistence
sometimes seems endless, but the struggle is worth it.
Bob Bender
University of Missouri-Columbia engbob  @  mizzou1

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1993 13:53:00 EST
From: Christine Smith <CSMITH @ VMS.CIS.PITT.EDU>
Subject: Re: alienating *presence of* men in class
Regarding the issue of the alienating presense of
men in class--I teach at a small Catholic women's college
that class is actually 5% men.  Women's Studies is a requiement, so
I occasionally have men in my class.  There is not doubt that
classses that are all women are different that those with even
one man.  In my all women classes, women are much more
talkative, more likely to relate personal experiences.  Basically,
ther presence of men silences them, whether that is the intention or
not.  The men are
almost always at least somewhat talkative, and often have
impressive insight.  However, no matter how supportive the
men are, the women, especially younger women, are much less
likely to speak than if men are there.  It is certainly possible
that I am doing something differently when the men are in the
class.  I personally feel that the all-women classes are
much more successful.  Maybe because I enjoy them more
because the women students seem to.
     Christine Smith
     csmith  @  vms.cis.pitt.edu

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1993 10:58:00 PDT
From: Kerry Ferris <Ferris @ SOC.SSCNET.UCLA.EDU>
Subject: student complaints on gender curriculum
One way to deflect this student's complaint is to remind him that NOTHING he
learns as an undergradute will in fact "prepare" him for law school.  What he
should be concerned with is learning all he can about the real-world problems
he will face as a practitioner of law--and even law school may not prepare
him for that!  Sounds like you are properly fulfilling your responsibilities
as an educator--it is the student who is shirking his.
Kerry Ferris
Ferris  @  soc.sscnet.ucla.edu

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1993 14:25:40 -0400
From: paula <gaber @ INFO.UMD.EDU>
Subject: unhappy students
I have never actually taught a women's studies class before
(except as a teaching assistant), so this suggestion may
be a little naive. But, as I was reading all the helpful
comments about disruptful students  in the classroom, it occured to me that
the best strategy is to be over prepared. To that end, what if
one prepared a handout with all the possible question/complaints
a student might have with responses to the complaints.
An instructor could either hand it out with the syllabus or
keep it on hand for that day when a student brought up the topic.
That way, an instructor would not be caught off guard,
the situation would be handled with a minimum of disruption to
the class, and students who were just trying to make trouble
would be alerted to the fact that the instructor is prepared for
them.It could even be turned into a useful classroom discussion
about why the instructor thought it necessary to hand out the
sheet. There might be a danger in appearing too defensive, however.
Paula Gaber
University of Maryland
gaber  @  info.umd.edu

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1993 15:02:38 EDT
Subject: Re: alienating *presence of* men in class
        I've been following this discussion for some time now and I
finally had to throw my opinion in the ring.
        I am a student, so I have a somewhat different perspective.
I am currently taking a 20th C. Women's Lit course, my first experience
with Women's Studies.  The class only contains one male, who attends
almost without fail.  The one day I can remember that he was not present,
it is true that the atmosphere changed.  The other students seemed to fell
(feel) more free to contribute statements which might normally be considered
"male-bashing", which I do not in any way condone.  However, if the sentiment
is in the literature, as it often is, how can you ignore it?  And if you do.
does that harm the student's reading and understanding of the text?
        I guess the question is, how do you reconcile your need to discuss
all aspects of the text with the need to avoid offending class members?
It is a sensitive topic, especially in this PC age.  I would be interested
to hear an educator's perspective.
                                                        Kimberly Reed
                                                        REEDKA  @  LEMOYNE.bitnet

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1993 16:58:12 -0600
Subject: Re: alienating men in class
I taught Willa Cather's My Antonia this semester, and a white male student
grumbled in conference that "it's a good thing that the narrator was a guy,
because there are already too many strong female characters."  Unfortunately,
this sort of response is not a rarity, and I don't know exactly how to approach
such a ridiculous stance.  I asked him what he meant by that statement, and he
replied by listing four female characters he describes as "strong" and
basically repeated his quip.  I responded that a strong depiction of women in
(canon) literature is so rare that this book could hardly begin to compensate
for all the toilet paper-thin roles we've been assigned.  He nodded smugly, but
I'm sure my explanation meant nothing to him.
A friend of mine encountered a similar problem in teaching two female writers
and one male writer in Intro. to Fiction.  A white male student  complained
about the "lopsided emphasis," and she replied, "I'd be happy to recommend you
to a white male support group."
I, too, sometimes feel unnerved when I hear such statements, but I'm sick of
this paranoid antagonism coming from the voice that rules the world.  Should my
responses in the future be attempts at explanation, or "too bad?"  Because,
really, I have no sympathy.
Amy Couture

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1993 17:08:44 -0700
Subject: Re: alienating men in class
I am a graduate student, just completing work on an M.A. in Women's Studies in
Religion.  I will begin PhD work in the fall and I am/was looking forward
to teaching history with an emphasis on women and "Other others."  However,
this thread is very discouraging and has raised some questions in my mind
about the process for the faculty person.  How do those bad evaluations
effect the promotion/tenure process?   How much weight will those type of
evaluations carry in a review committee and will the professor be able to
respond in some way that is official to the negative review?  I have
appreciated the strategies which have been given in regard to this thread, but
it is a very discouraging thread all the same.
Laura Ammon
ammonl  @  cgsvax.claremont.edu

Date: Thu, 15 Apr 1993 21:48:24 EDT
From: "John C. Berg" <J.BERG @ ACAD.SUFFOLK.EDU>
Subject: Alienated men and tenure
I do not wish to deny the reality of discrimination in tenure decisions,
but I do want to encourage Laura Ammon.  In the hands of a fair
review committee (as opposed to one which is out to get you however
it can), negative comments from a few disgruntled [cf. Nicole Hollander
last week!] men (or others) should be outweighed by the enthusiastic
support of most of your students.
  Moreover--and this may discourage you in one way even while encouraging
you in another--I think the tendency continues to be to pay less attention
to teaching evaluations than to scholarship.
John Berg
j.berg  @  acad.suffolk.edu

Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1993 09:27:25 EDT
From: Joya Misra <SOCAK663 @ EMUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: Re: alienating men in class
In regards to Amy Couture's statement (below):
When one of my students (male or female) makes a bizarre statement like
this, rather than trying to deal with her/him myself, I unleash the rest
of the class onhim/her.  There are usually students who are willing to
make the kinds of reponses I can only dream of making...and it helps
define the norms in my class. One outspoken conservative student needn't
set the tone for the class as a whole.
Joya Misra
On Thu, 15 Apr 1993 16:58:12 -0600 Amy Couture said:
>I taught Willa Cather's My Antonia this semester, and a white male student
>grumbled in conference that "it's a good thing that the narrator was a guy,
>because there are already too many strong female characters."  Unfortunately,
>this sort of response is not a rarity, and I don't know exactly how to approach
>such a ridiculous stance.

Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1993 09:50:50 -0400
Subject: teaching evaluations
I would like to respond to Laura Ammon's question about the role
of teaching evaluations when you have male students who seem
inevitably alienated by everything you say.  I am at her level, beginning
my doctoral work, and recently lost the opportunity to teach a
Women's Studies class because by students perceived me as too political.
I had taught a first-semester composition course (required) that was
focused around issues of politics (it was last fall, and I thought
(erroneously, as it turns out) that students would be interested in
political issues).  My class was overwhelmingly male, and whenever
any kind of gender issue came up, which was fairly often, I could
just see them bristling.  I did my best to soften what I was saying,
to give them an opportunity to speak, but not to back down.  For this
I received scathing evaluations about my left-leaning tendencies and
personal biases. (The fact that I'm a hard grader didn't help me either).
When I was overlooked for the four or five sections of composition with
Women's Studies emphasis, I asked the director of Women's Studies why,
given that my interest was clearly known.  She told me that my teaching
evaluations had concerned them, and that they didn't want someone like that
 teaching the class.  So don't really believe those who tell you that these
things don't matter.
Mary Donnelly
U of Miami.

Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1993 10:04:08 -0400
From: "Mary Roberson \\ 513/229-2166" <ROBERSON @ DAYTON.BITNET>
Subject: Re: alientating men in class
Regarding Laura Ammon's question about how all of this affects
evaluation and tenure and promotion process, I would report that it
has clearly affected mine.  I remember also a comment from yesterday
indicating that one might do any number of things to deal with this
teaching dilemma, but the one thing that one shouldn't do is not
expect it to occur.  I has taken me about 3 years to figure out what
exactly is happening to me, gathering increasing evidence all the
while about white males who utter deprecating comments about me or
about women such that I do no hear them, but those around do; about
men who feel the content is lopsided; about women who feel silenced;
and about women who--not knowing what to think--adopt the world view
of the men who are opposed to teaching about diversity.
Our teaching evaluation is based on the mean numerical
answer to two questions, How
would you rate this teacher?  How would you rate this course?  In
addition, students are actually told that this is the only basis for
our tenure, promotion and merit raises.  Last, they do write comments
to open ended questions that only the chair reads.  Mine normally have
a few "male basher"  "feminist bias"  comments.  One semester (Anita
Hill--William Smith Kennedy rape trial--I teach Human Sexuality) I had
quite a few.  Recently I had one such comment in a graduate course out
of 12 students.  These comments have been taken very seriously with
the chair.  The numerical ratings are highly varied-- very excellent in
some classes where the atmosphere is good, average in others, and
below average where the alienated men congregate.  Their presence has
a chilling effect on all participants in the course.  So my teaching
ability is criticized.  My scholarly activity has also been described
as biased.
Fighting these two perceptions for the last three years has affected
my time and self esteem--even though I know what is happening.  This
in turn has affected my scholarly productivity.  I feel it has a
chilling effect on academic freedom, which I have refused to bow down
to--I'd rather have the poor ratings.  I teach in a university that is
rated 14th in nation in conservatism in students thus I suspect the
problem is a little worse here.  I have been documenting everything
and am in the process of writing it all up in a formalized way to pave
the way for a grievance should I not like their response.  What a
battle.  I suspect that in terms of informal process in evaluation of
tenure, I don't have a prayer.  In formal process, I am behind.
We need some research on this topic!!!  I acquired an interesting
unpublished paper entitled Teacher Bashing:  Male Students to Women
Professors by Mary J. Hart, Ph.D., Department of Journalism/Mass
Communication, Creighton University; Omaha, NE  68178.  It was her
hypothesizing on the origins of this increasing phenemonon--backlassh,
white male fears about affirmative action--instead of blaming economy,
mother transference, bias against competent women.  It is informal and
unreferenced--but I think she makes some good points.
Mary Roberson, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
University of Dayton
Dayton, OH  45469

Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1993 12:08:04 -0400
From: Julie Tharp <jtharp @ UWCMAIL.UWC.EDU>
Subject: alienating men
I'm very interested in your comments (as well as those of the other women in
the discussion) and would like very much to know what Mary Hart argues vis a
vis mother transference.  I'm a new faculty member at a small northern
Wisconsin university that attracts many first generation college students from
working class backgrounds.  Many of the 18-year-old men respond to me with
hostility, whether I say a word about gender or not, this in spite of the fact
that I'm a very friendly and approachable person (or so I'm told).  Some of
their discomfort is simply because I'm a competent female professional I'm
sure, but I wonder about the "mother" theory.
Anyway, I'd appreciate your either summarizing her ideas or making her essay
available if at all possible.
Julie Tharp
jtharp  @  uwcmail.uwc.edu

Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1993 13:43:00 PDT
Subject: Re: alienated males
earlier amy couture wrote in saying that she is on the verge of saying "too
bad" to smart ass male students who feel overwhelmed by having to deal with
an emphasis on women in a class.  I heartily concur with amy's anger;
however, i think that one has to be concerned with the way that we say "too
bad -- deal with it."  We have to give "alienated" students reasons for why
they should deal with it; we have to put the amount of time spent on gender
into perspective; and I think we have to recognize that while we perceive a
lot of "alienated" response on student's part as a defense of their
gender/class/race interests, it is usually nowhere near as conscious as
that on their part.  In other words, male students may be supremely
uncomfortable on levels they both know and don't know they have.
It is not our job to make them comfortable, as I see it, on this subject --
the inclusion of women's voices -- or any other for that matter.  It is our
job to recognize the discomfort and address the discomfort; that is, there
are ways of saying "deal with it" while remaining above the level of
authoritarian classroom behavior (which I am given to) or ignoring the
problem.  I think the form of this address will differ for each individual
teaching, and I think it's an ongoing problem for feminists, or any teacher
who tries to break open students' minds.  benita roth
broth  @  soc.sscnet.ucla.edu

Date: Fri, 16 Apr 1993 22:28:40 PDT
From: Kimberly Ann Crabtree <crabtree @ SCF.USC.EDU>
Subject: Re: alienating *presence of* men in class
I feel the anger growing in my recently emerging feminists heart.  I am not
in a Women's Studies class right now (I will be in 4 weeks), so I cannot say
that I have had such an experience as a man changing the atmosphere, but I
feeel frustrated knowing that this does occur.  It makes me want to scream:
"Every class you have ever taken, mr. student, has been masculine oriented."
And then get angry when I do speak my mind and am labeled a bitch, when I
know that if a man said the same thing, he would simply be macho.  I feel the
blood pressure rising!
Then, suddenly, the fog lifts, and I understand why we have Black Awareness
Month and Chicano Studies and Gay-Lesbian Pride Parades, because every other
"class" I've ever taken (read: the entire American mainstream) has been
white, or Ango, or Hetero.  I often catch myself feeling selfish and even
racists, and I become frustrated and wonder how on earth I can stop it.  I
know the "people" that I don't like are mostly those I am afraid off (obvious
gang members in LA top my list), but I don't want to hate someone for no good
reason.  I don't want to die, but I don't want to be so angry either.  I
guess what I am trying to say is that I am grateful that this exchange has
taken place, because once again I have obtained clarity on one issue while
looking at another.  So, the solution?  I guess every thing we do, one day at
a time, is all we can do to change the world.  I am only one person, but I
can do one person's worth, which may mean sitting him down and explaining to
him the things that are in my heart.  I only hope I can break the chain of
hate with myself and my children.
Kimberly Crabtree
crabtree  @  scf.usc.edu

Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1993 12:17:38 EDT
From: Libbie chute <LIBBIECH @ CCVM.SUNYSB.EDU>
Subject: classroom criticism
I've been reading of our experiences with (usually) patriarchal males who have
difficulty hearing things from a female perspective.  When I read them, the
answers seem obvious, yet when they occur in my classes, they cause great
emotional stress.  The understanding I've come to of my own reaction to it is
that it's much deeper than what actually occured in class.  It's in the realm
of "forbidden" thoughts or actions and I have to walk my way mentally through
it.  In the actual classroom, however, I too throw it back to the class.  A
few weeks ago, right out of the blue, a male student yelled out "Well, if you
didn't hate men....." and then garbled something that had to do with comments I
had made on a paper he turned in.  I said "I hate men?????"  and the whole clas
s turned around and said "no. no, she doesn't hate men.  He came up after
and said if I didn't hate men, then he was missing something and I gave him a
reference to read, C. Wright Mills' Sociological Imagination, not a feminist
book, but about inclusive thinking, and from the 50's, where the student's
thinking is.
      I teach at Stony Brook, so the student population is huge and varied.
This might make getting points across easier--it's not one social class, race,
religion, sexual preferences or beliefs--that's the good thing about large
schools.  And while there is a growing conservative contingent, they seem to
avoid sociology classes, or at least mine.
      I love teaching, and the growth I've seen in some students far outweighs
the lack of same in others.  When the criticism gets to me I tell them that if
they already know everything, there's no need for them to be in college.
If I say it nicely enough, I get my point across and make them think a little.
College is not here to reinforce what they think they already know, it's to
teach them HOW to think.  If they want to pass the course, they have to learn
what I have to teach.  But I always give them the opportunity, in closing
paragraphs on essay exams, to explain why they don't like the theory and to
back it up.  Sorry this got so long.
                            Libbie   LIBBIECH  @  ccvm.sunysb.edu

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