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Male Alienation in Women's Studies Classes


Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1993 11:49:17 EST
Subject: alienating men
Pierre Boulos poses an interesting question when he wonders whether it
is the fact of his being a man, and thus privileged in the classroom, that
has contributed to the success he had in introducing gender issues into his
intro to philosophy classroom.  I've been thinking about the "privilege
issue" for quite some time, in connection with a philosophy course I
teach, called Racism and Sexism.  I find that I am regarded as FAR more
credible when I am addressing racism than when I address sexism.  I
imagine that my students regard me as more "objective" and "unbiased"
because I'm "neutral" (being white and all--whiteness equalling neutrality.)
I find this terribly frustrating, in part because I find myself playing
into their perceptions.  I am allowed to get righteously indignant about
racism, because I am white, but I am not allowed to get indignant about
sexism.  (Obviously I'm not actually allowed or disallowed to do either of
these things.)
I'd be interested in any tools or strategies people have developed to
help students to address their preconceptions about objectivity--about
the ways taht they determine that someone is credible and objective
because they are not themselves members of the oppressed group in question.
Lisa Heldke
Gustavus Adolphus College
St. Peter, MN  56082

Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1993 10:12:20 -0700
Subject: Re: alienated males
I would have to agree that classroom culture has a lot to do with
how male students, or all students for that matter, deal with issues.
I feel it is the moral obligation of the educator to work to create
this climate, particularly if one is informed by feminist educ. theory
where context of safety are emphasized (Belenky, et al.).  However,
in any good class, challenge and discomfort are present.  The obligation
is there for every educator particularly if the educator is a member
of the oppressed group being studied.  Classroom dialogue rarely
occurs in hostile classrooms.  Challenge and discomfort within safety
change student's lives.  I am an early thirties white male who teachers
course in developmental psychology and social theory.  Virtually all of
my students are returning students working toward a teaching credential
in CA.  Last quarter I had a middle aged man come up to me after class
and say "I never realized I was a member of the dominant group.  What
am I going to do with my life now!"  His discomfort and struggle within
a safe classroom environment precluded his simply passing off the
material as "just interesting radical theory."
I guess I am also sensitive to this issue because usless safety is
present for everyone, someone will be left silenced.  For example, last
week in class it was the women who were challenged.  We were talking
about feminist theory and hegemonic structures in general.  A middle
aged Afro-american man turned to the white women in the class and
asked them how they could claim to be oppressed.  He went on the
share his perpective that they were the progenetors of the dominate
class, they effectively controlled 79% of the countried resources
through their control of men (through food, sex, manipulation etc.).
He then took off one shoe and said their complaints reminded him of
the adage "I complained I had not shoes until I met someone with no
feet."  It caused us all the take stock.
(ps sorry for the typos, using a line editor).  Todd.

Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1993 10:27:47 -0700
Subject: Re: classroom criticism
Libbie, I was interested in your emphasis on teaching students HOW OT
THINK.  My immediate response was according to whom?  Correct me if
I am misguided, but isn't a fundamental tenant of feminist epistimology
that there are a variety of ways to think and know, and that to
assume only one usually default to male oriented logical, objective,
rationality?  I struggle with this question myself, so any insight
would be helpful.  Todd.

Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1993 13:58:25 EST
From: la femme armee <LBURKETT @ UCS.INDIANA.EDU>
Subject: Re: alienating men
        I teach music theory for non-majors.  Many of my students are
audio technology majors (the course is required for them), and typically,
the class is about two-thirds male.  I try to use some sort of culturally
inclusive material several time each semester to get them thinking about
music in terms of gender, race, class, etc..  For example, this semester,
I had them listen to a recording of the Beach Boys rendition of the song
"Surfer Girl" along with Phranc's recording of the same song (Phranc is
a lesbian folksinger).  We had an interesting discussion, and I was happily
surprised that nobody seemed offended or closed-minded during the
discussion.  But I have noticed that the degree of credibility I have
with my students relates directly to the extent in which they view the
subject matter as a type of math.  Usually, a few weeks into the semester,
the students will realize that a big part of learning music fundamentals
is pattern recognition; someone will say, "This is just like math!", and
I will have the unwavering respect of the students for the rest of the
semester.  I think some students feel alienated by subject matters that
they perceive as being too subjective; this seems especially true of
computer science majors.  I find that I spend quite a bit of time convincing
my students how "logical, rational, and math-like" music is, so that
they'll be a bit more willing to participate when I ask them more
open-ended questions.  I'm not sure I like this set-up, but it seems to
be the way things work mowt of the time.
Lynellen Thornblad Burkett
music theoryersity
(oops!) music theory
Indiana University

Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1993 16:19:00 EDT
From: mh90 <Marcia_A_HERNDON @ UMAIL.UMD.EDU>
Subject: Re: classroom criticism
There's a great difference between teaching "how to think" and teaching
"what to think."  HOW involves process, discernment, etc.
Email:Marcia_A_HERNDON  @  umail.umd.edu (mh90)
Snail: MRI, Box 362, Pt. Richmond, CA 94807

Date: Sat, 17 Apr 1993 19:55:40 EDT
From: Joya Misra <SOCAK663 @ EMUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: Re: alienating men
Lisa Heldke mentioned that she was considered more credible when teaching
about racism than sexism in her "Racism & Sexism" class, and she thought
this may be true because she is white and therefore "neutral" in her
students' eyes.
Well, I teach a Racism & Sexism class and I'm not just a woman, but an
Asian woman, and I'm think I'm seen as more credible when I'm teaching
about racism, not because of any neutrality, but because racism is
accepted as true, while sexism is not as automatically accepted.
In terms of strategies, I _use_ my identities with the students from
the beginning of the semester. I'm very conscious about the ways in which
I choose to present myself as a woman or not white in order to get
points across in the class. This works for me very well, but that may
have more to do with my style of teaching and the way I present myself
as a person overall, rather than being a general strategy. I know many
of my colleagues (in particular a white male close friend of mine who
teaches a similar course) never even think of using their racial/gender
identities in this way. But I do think by being upfront about my
identity, I deal with my student's perceptions of _objectivity_ in a
relatively non-threatening way. I'd be happy to describe specific
examples to any individuals who are curious about this (I'm sorry to
be vague here, but I don't want this to be any more lengthy).
Joya Misra
SOCAK663   @   EMUVM1

Date: Sun, 18 Apr 1993 23:53:00 EST
From: Christine Smith <CSMITH @ VMS.CIS.PITT.EDU>
Subject: Re: alienating men
Karen Prager suggested that an inundation of facts can often
silence someone who might want to challenge your position.
I tend to give lots of statistics in my classes, and I too
have found this technique to work fairly well.  However, this
semester I have a man who basically says that my statistics
are incorrect.  Like I made them up.  He, on the other hand,
heard that it was actually a different number.  He "supplements"
all of my lectures and trivializes any genbder issue I bring up
(the class is Psychological Aspects of Human Sexuality).  This student
has so angered the other students that I had another male
student come to me before class basically apologizing for his
gender, that all men are not like that, and the problem student
has problems with women in authority.  This supporter has also taken
to verbally defending me when I am challenged by the problem
student.  So I have an interesting situation--my problem student is male,
and my biggest supporter is also male.
     Christine Smith
csmith  @  vms.cis.pitt.edu

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 09:41:15 -0500
Subject: Re: alienating men
I appreciated your long explanations of how you handle "disruptions."  I
sense that underpinning your answer is the need to maintain authority in the
classroom.  I personally think it is time to dis}icuss authority a}ind the role
of the teacher.  Our authority lies in what we know, not to control and
hierarchy.  One of the axioms in Education is that the students are not the
enemy -- yet many teachers assume any threat to authority stemsxD from the
"enemy."  When students are disruptiveH they are not always trying to do a
number on the tef*acher, but are exAX|ressing anger, frustration, or an
inability to expamine their own$Z feelings._$~%pZ  YouS/HTw3r Your sug_gestions
/Tkqod for establishing an ?Inv 2+p
environment for students to coe to terms with themselv=~gy's.  But they
need a4XI} a non hirerarchial community2G{p to do it well.  ANaylor

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 11:01:17 EDT
From: judy long <JLONG @ SUVM.BITNET>
Subject: alienating men
I appreciated jane Eliza's comments, and particularly agree about the efficacy
of humor.  While I haven't had to deal with some of the bozos other subscribers
describe, i not infrequently have male students who try to make contact with me
(and stand out ina large class) by being wise guys.  When i answer briefly and
humorously they seem to settle down, participate in a more constructive way and
often do original work that expresses that iconoclastic posture.  I  interpret
this in terms of gendered interaction styles --a playful " dukes up" approach
need not be hostile.  At least that's my experience.
 --103 SIMS IV, SYRACUSE, NY 13244-1230, USA     (315)443-4580          --
 --Bitnet: JLONG  @  SUVM        Internet: JLONG  @  SUVM.ACS.SYR.EDU           --

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 09:40:28 -0700
From: Karen Anderson <KARENA @ ARIZVMS.BITNET>
Subject: alienating men
The discussion of alienating men in class has offered much constructive
advice about pedagogical strategies for dealing with the problem, but
little discussion of the responsiblity of the institution for acknow-
ledging and handling the problem.  Students whose conduct is way out of
line should be disciplined through university procedures.  This may
reveal that this was the the first time he did such a thing and it will
alert his friends that this conduct is not acceptable.  Department heads
should offer support to faculty or TAs encountering this problem.
Departments and universities have a responsibility to ensure that bias
in student course evaluations is not counted against the faculty in annual
reviews or tenure review.  Universities have an affirmative obligation to
structure student course evaluations so that bias is revealed and discounted.
Bernice Sandler is doing work on how men students treat women faculty.  She
gave a wonderful talk on this at the Univ. of Arizona last fall.  Your
stories should go to her.  Her address is Center for Women Policy Studies,
2000 P St. NW, Suite 508, Washington, D.C.  20036.
Finally, women's studies programs can offer structured discussions of this
for their faculty and for women TAs and bring in appropriate administrators
to discuss everything from student disciplinary policies to p&t criteria
and student course evaluations.  We have done some of this with success.
Karen Anderson, Univ. of Arizona.  karena  @  ccit.arizona.edu or karena  @  

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 12:13:00 EST
Subject: Re: classroom criticism
I am also a little uncomfortable with teaching "how to think" -
there are many processes for thinking.  The choice of process can
often determine the content.  Gaile
pohlhaus  @  vuvaxcom

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 13:30:28 EDT
Subject: Re: alienating men
I have also followed with interest the discussion about disruptive students
(primarily male) in classrooms and agree with some of the discomfort expressed
by Alice Naylor.  While I empathize entirely with the frustration and rage such
students can  create (I'm not exactly known for my nurturing qualities), it is
important to think about issues of authority and power.  Actually there are
interesting power dynamics at work in these situations.  While the teacher
holds some fairly extreme power in the classroom, the students are not
powerless so that the dynamic becomes quite complex in fact.  Both active and
passive aggression are possibilities and given the increased emphasis placed on
student evaluation (as several postings have suggested), students do in fact
wield some real power over our lives.
We need more research, more information on the power dynamics of classrooms and
how they operate.  Most research on pedagogy follows the model that gives the
teacher power and authority.  Even feminist accounts (including my own) tend to
see feminist teachers as "giving up" power and authority as opposed to the
masculinist classroom which retains it.  These accounts tend not to think about
the students' power or agency (I may be wrong about that and I hope if I am
others will correct me).  We need to know about research that addresses power
dynamics in the classroom from a horizontal as well as a vertical axis (student
to student as well as teacher to student dyad).
One theoretical approach might be to think about the issues of resistance.
Several writers have approached the issue of pedagogy from a psychoanlytic
perspective talking about resistance.  In this I might recommend Shoshona
Felman's "Psychoanalysis and Education: Teaching Terminable and Interminable"
(Yale French Studies I think) and Gregory Jay, "The Subject of Pedagogy," in
College English. Both of these authors maintain, and I would agree, that it is
precisely at the point of resistance, of "ignorance," that there is the
potential for real learning.  We need to think more about what this means for
all students who resist in our classrooms, not just male students.  The
resistance I wrote about in my College English essay was the resistance of
female students who are resisting my particular oddities as a teacher and not
feminism itself.  Perhaps because I never have disruptive males of the kinds
being described in my classes (I expect they self-select out and this was even
true before I taught in Women's Studies), the resistance I have become most
familiar with is that of female students whose expectations of "feminist
discourse" are not being met.  But in both cases I think the dynamic involved
is resistance and we need to think how it presents opportunity for "real"
education, real learning.
One more practical suggestion. I don't know if it would be helpful or not, but
perhaps the inclusion of some material from men's studies would help such men
to work through their own resistance.  WE know from our experiences in women's
studies that the inclusion of material that speaks directly to students'
experiences (both of agency and powerlessness, and men do sometimes feel
powerless) can be transformative.  And while I would agree that the whole
curriculum is "male," very little of it speaks to the experience of being male
and subject to compulsory masculinity.  I have found students (who I will admit
are mostly female or male sympathizers) respond well to Kimmel and Messner's
Men's Lives, which is written from a feminist perspective.
Just my two cents for what it's worth.
Laurie Finke
finkel  @  kenyon.edu

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 14:53:28 EDT
From: Sherry Linkon <FR122601 @ YSUB.YSU.EDU>
Subject: Resistance in the classroom
A few thoughts that come to mind as I've read the notes on alienating men in
Women's Studies courses.  First, Laurie Finke suggests, rightly I believe, that
including examinations of the meaning of gender for men is valuable.  Male
students not only feel less "picked on," but they also learn to recognize how
the issues raised in such classes relate to their lives.  On the other hand, I
just finished a discussion of an essay on this subject in my Representations of
Women class, and my all-female class (the one male was not there) were very
hostile to the essay, even though they insisted that they know that our
cultural uses of gender harm men and women (if not equally).  Indeed, this
quarter, I have a very vocal, strongly feminist class, and the one male just
left a note in my box asking if he can do all the work outside of class, since
he says the class is meant for women and "not something a man can relate to."
Second, I usually try to use students' resistance to my ideas and to my
teaching methods (students often dislike feminist pedagogy, since it asks so
much of them and they feel that it's harder to do well in a class without
clear answers and centralized authority).  Students who question ideas and
methods provide terrific opportunities for class discussions on issues such as
silencing, power, "truth," hegemony, cultural change, backlash, etc.  I will
almost always turn such questions back to students--why would someone feel
uncomfortable in this kind of course?  why do people see inclusion of women's
texts and perspectives as evidence of bias, but don't question courses that
look exclusively at men's texts and perspectives?
Finally, I rarely encounter students who protest and openly resist the
feminism in my courses.  That doesn't always please me.  I often suspect that
my students are telling me what they think I want to hear.  In my current
American lit course, the guys are being very agressive about recognizing and
commenting approvingly on the resistance to patriarchy in women's texts.  I'm
glad to hear it, but I don't always believe it.  I don't want students to
parrot the ideas they think I want them to have.  I want them to examine texts
and ideas critically, thoroughly, and with an awareness of their own
perspectivity as Amy Ling calls it.
Anyway, this is valuable discussion.  Gets me thinking about how my courses
work and why.
Sherry Linkon, Youngstown State University
fr122601  @  YSUB.YSU.EDU

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 16:21:50 U
From: Harrison-Pepper Sally <harrison-pepper_sally @ MSMAIL.MUOHIO.EDU>
Subject: men in WS classes: the good news
I offered a required "Creativity & Culture" course for sophomore
interdisciplinary studies majors last semester on "Women & Theatre: The
Politics of Representation."  It was a little more than a third men, and most
communicated clearly in the beginning of the semester that they did not want to
be in the class.  (And I'm right down the road from Mary Roberson in Dayton,
who remarked that we are 14th in the nation in conservatism in students)  Women
in the class devoted an inordinate amount of discussion time trying to make the
men feel comfortable, trying to create space, trying not to be "too feminist"
and so on.
I had anticipated much of the tension that would emerge, and had two phrases in
the syllabus that I emphasized repeatedly throughout the semester.  One was a
question, centered on a page all by itself:  "IS CHOOSING TO PUT SOMETHING IN
other, in large boldface print beneath the course description:  "A FOCUS ON THE
Like many of you have already reported, however, I had to continually repeat
and emphasize the "rules" for the course -- that it was, for example, about
WOMEN and theatre.  By the end of the semester, however, I found a way to
empower the students and have them take ownership of the material and its
approach: an assignment for each student to present a short performance piece
that presented a personal response to the course and its materials.  The men in
the class were TOTALLY FLOORED by the power and passion of the women's
responses.  It was impossible for them to dismiss this material as "not
relevant," when they saw the depth of these women's responses.
And here's some *good news* that I wanted to share with you.  After these
performances I asked students to write about the course and their experience
anonymously at the end of the semester.  They wrote at the top whether they
were male or female.  Here are a few of the responses from the men:
- "I hated this class more than anything, and it was the best thing to ever
happen to me.  I'm not sure how much progress we made in the women's movement,
but I know that I grew more than I thought any class could cause."
- "In talking with other men, I think this course has been difficult for us
because it requires us to give up something in the process.  It requires us to
give our time and energy to listening and even feeling things from women's
perspectives.  This is difficult to do, but I think it's important to continue
to try to work with it."
- "Sometimes a class comes along that evokes such a strong response that the
people in it often feel like they can't get out.  This response, though, is the
basis of deep learning, and I think that it what has occurred here."
- "I'm glad I took this course,  Not because I particularly liked it, but
because it was a learning experience."
- "Any discomfort men have had due to the course materials is, I think, a good
thing -- a necessary stage in being exposed to this material."
A couple days ago, I put out a call for an Undergraduate Assistant to help with
the next version of this course -- someone who took it last semester.  A man
was the first to apply.
So, if there is a moral to this long story I'm telling here, it is that the
struggle is worth it.  They'll kick and scream and resist like hell, but some
will come out different, in ways that will make your heart sing.
Sally Harrison-Pepper, Miami University of Oxford OH
Harrison-Pepper_Sally  @  MSMAIL.MUOHIO.EDU

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 14:04:04 -0700
From: hcbolak @ CATS.UCSC.EDU
Subject: Re: alienating men
this is in regards to including material from men's studies... I think if
the focus is on gender rather than women per se, it is absolutely
necessary to this. I have also found "Men's Lives" to be very useful.
Another piece I use when I talk about violence against women is by
Bathrick & Kaufman called "Male privilege and male violence: patriarchy's
root and branch" from a book edited by F. Abbott, Men and Intimacy. It
is written from the perspective of men working with men who batter their
female partners and who identify the sources of male privilege in their
own lives. It helps them make the connections between gender and control
issues in a non-threatening way.
In general, I think we do need to acknowledge and try to work with the
emotional stuff as best as we can in a non-defensive manner. After all
emotions are the gateway to learning and people don't learn when they're

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 17:09:42 EDT
From: Allan Hunter <AHUNTER @ CCVM.SUNYSB.EDU>
Subject: Re: alienating men
Whenever I teach, I emphasize the ways in which men individually suffer
from the hierarchies of oppressive power over other people which is,
according to the branch of feminist theory I ascribe to, a result of
patriarchy.  This sense of oppression as a no-winner social form may be
of use.  Also, one of the most personal areas in which individual males
have reason to resent the strictures of patriarchy--especially young
males who do not (as of yet) possess the personal power that is eroti-
cized by patriarchy for men--is the patriarchal construction of sex as
something that women possess and for which men must expend effort (or
else obtain illegitimately through force, etc.).  Conventional male
complaints (which tend to blame women) can be used to open up discussion
of why and how women are set up so that they have HAD to participate in
the commodification of themselves as sex, dependency upon men for
material survival, etc...not to mention the double-binds of masculinity,
in which the individual is often socially damned if he doesn't partici-
pate in the very behaviors and activities most threatening to all of us
collectively as a community.  Try casting patriarchy not merely as the
rule of _men_ but also as the rule of _fathers_, i.e., old men over the
young as well as (and through the control over) women.
- Allan Hunter
 <ahunter  @  sbccvm>

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 18:13:52 EDT
From: kathy cirksena <ENCIRKSE @ ECUVM1.BITNET>
Subject: alienating men in class
I've just returned from the SEWSA conference and cathcing up on mail.
Here's my contribution to this topic:
While teaching a large (150+) lecture course at Iowa I was informed
by my department chair that he had received complaints from students
who thought i used too many examples focussing on gender and race.
I assured him that this would only cause me to increase the number of
examples about the experiences of (white) womena and people of color.
Such are the luxuries of being a visiting instructor.  Today I
just taught a class dealing with the feminist press of the 1970s and the
Black Press in the 20th century and my graduating seniors expressed
appreciation for getting to learn something they've never been exposed
to before in the week before graduation!

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 19:19:30 EDT
Subject: classroom-think
This is in response to Todd's query about "how" to think equaling patriarchal
thinking.  What I try to do is set up a situation or a theory and ask for
examples or thoughts.  Then, ask if there's another way of looking at things,
and then another.  Kind of what's "common knowledge" what can we add to common
knowledge from what we've looked at so far.  On tests, essays are set up in
a format where studeents have to argue an issue from both sides and then defend
their own opinion about what's going on (thesis, antithesis, synthesis).  I
also have been known to give true/false justification questions where I make a
somewhat neutral statement and students have to defend the statement either way
 using course principles.  $|
Thanks to Marcia for her "how=process" and to Jane for some terrific suggestions.
                 Libbie    LIBBIECH  @  ccvm.sunysb.edu

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 16:20:03 -0700
From: Fran Michel <fmichel @ JUPITER.WILLAMETTE.EDU>
Subject: Classroom climate query
I have read with interest (identification, dismay) the postings about
student resistance and hostility to women's studies courses and material.
As several people have noted, this hostility is partly a result of the
biases of
other courses on campus  (e.g., if a student isn't used to seeing ANY
women's names on the syllabus, then one or two can make a reading list
look like it's, as one student put it, "predominantly about females."  If
a teacher makes sure to give time to the comments of female students, it
may look like "squelching" the male students, who may have the floor less
than they are used to).  The Association of American Colleges'
Project on the Status and Education of Women's 1982 report, "The Classroom
Climate: A Chilly One for Women?" suggests including classroom climate
issues in student evaluations.  Making this an issue in ALL courses may
take some of the pressure off classes that make an effort to be inclusive,
and may put some pressure ON classes that so far don't make that effort.
I'm wondering whether anyone knows of studies of the best ways to phrase
questions about classroom climate issues on
student evaluations.  Our University uses quantitative course
evaluations (and averages the numbers), and the relevant committee
requires recent evidence of the accuracy of particular questions before
they will consider making changes on the form.
Please reply privately to: fmichel  @  Willamette.EDU
Frann Michel
Department of English
Willamette University
Salem, OR 97301

Date: Mon, 19 Apr 1993 17:47:14 -0700
Subject: Re: alienating men
I have been reading a very interesting book which may fit into some of
the course materials you have been discussing.  It's _Women and Male
Violence_ by William Beers.  I don't teach yet so I don't know first
had about how this will be read by others, but it is by a male attempting
to understand the roots of male violence about women from a psycho-
analytic perspective.
Laura Ammon
 ammonl  @  cgsvax.claremont.edy

Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1993 09:55:58 -0700

Subject: Re: classroom criticism
But aren't the traditional processes of "how to think" also being
called into question and being replaced by a valuing of non-linear,
non-rational modes?  Todd.

Date: Tue, 20 Apr 1993 20:51:00 EST
From: "Patricia A. O'Donnell :pattyo @ irishmvs.cc.nd.edu"

Subject: Alienating men.
Thanks to all who have responded to my concerns about alienating men
in the classroom.  I should probably have been more specific.  I think
there are some additional dynamics working in my situation.  First, I
am a graduate student, so I think my authority or "wisdom" is more
questionable to my students.  Second, I am 24 years old, and look more
like 18.  So, these aspects I'm sure, have factored into my situation.
The student who confronted me confronted me outside of the classroom,
and he did so in a very disrespectful manner.  He has not shown up at
class but once since the confrontation, so anything I may do inside
the class would not benefit him directly.  I have benefited greatly
from this discussion.  I was not aware that this kind of thing was
so extensive.  However, most of the suggestions have been reactionary -
what to do after the confrontation arises.  Are there any other thoughts
on how to deal with the situation before it arises - a sort of preventive
approach?  I can't emphasize enough how much I've gained from this
conversation, and this list in general.  Thanks again!
Patty O'Donnell
University of Notre Dame
pattyo  @  irishmvs.cc.nd.edu

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1993 09:45:30 EDT
Subject: Re: Alienating men.
The more I teach the more I become convinced that all teaching is reactionary.
I'm not sure any teacher can prevent anything from happening.  I have found
that as soon as I correct for one thing another crops up. That doesn't mean we
shouldn't use our experience, just that experience is itself a form of
A word of comfort thought.  It does get better (and I really don't mean this in
any patronizing way, but as support).  When you are teaching as a grad student
you do have an authority and the younger and more feminine you look the more
the problem. I was a terrible graduate school teacher and I shudder to think of
the students I taught in the mid 70s.  But what happens as you teach at a place
over a period of time (4 years I think.  At that point there is almost no one
left among students who remembers when you weren't the "new person"), is that
your students start becoming more self-selecting, your reputation becomes more
settled, and these problems while they never entirely disappear become less
difficult.  That's why I think, barring total disaster, no judgments should be
made about a person's teaching before 4 years. Let me say that in my last
teaching job (which Iwas at for 8 years) the difference in teaching evaluation
numbers between my 3 and 4th year was phenomenal. I was doing nothing
differently but suddenly my numbers made a significant leap.  OF course I'm now
in the process of doing it all over again and I must say it has made me quite
uncomfortable to be the "new guy" once again.
Laurie Finke
finkel  @  kenyon.edu

Date: Wed, 21 Apr 1993 10:39:35 EDT
From: Sherry Linkon <FR122601 @ YSUB.YSU.EDU>
Subject: action vs. reaction
On the question of how to prevent negative, resistant outcries from students
who are unhappy about a teacher's feminism, I've started including an open,
clear statement  on my women's studies course syllabi about the feminist
"slant" of the course.  I started this after a student asked me on the 2nd
day of my Women and Lit course if I was a "raging feminist."  (I asked him to
define "raging.")  I figured that students will worry about my politics as
long as they think that politics are covert or that I'm trying to slip my
position in surreptitiously.  My statement of feminism lets students know
that I claim the label (the "f word") proudly and that I make no apologies
for my political ideas.  However, my statement also promises, in writing, that
I will not grade students based on whether they agree with my position--only on
how well they make their arguments.  And I point out to them that the syllabus
is a kind of contract, so if they think I don't live up to that promise, they
can use my syllabus as evidence of what I've said I will do.
I think that this statement, combined with my habit of responding (as someone
here suggested recently) with good humor and openness to challenges, disagree-
ments, and questions seems to put students at ease.  I have more worries, at
least this quarter, about feminists who are not always willing to examine fully
the basis for their ideas.  But with them, as with more conservative students,
I try to keep my sense of humor and my willingness to turn questions back to
the class.  I use the same questioning, challenging mode when students are
raising ideas that I agree with fully.  That constant challenging of nearly all
ideas probably adds to my students sense (reported consistently in written and
statistical evaluations) that they feel comfortable and supported in offering
their opinions.  Of course, as I noted here a few days ago, I do always wonder
if students aren't trying to play games with me and say what they think I want
to hear.
Sherry Linkon, fr122601  @  YSUB.YSU.EDU

Date: Fri, 23 Apr 1993 19:15:00 EST
From: robin ikegami <IKEGAMI @ XAVIER.BITNET>
Subject: alienating men
  This is a somewhat delayed response to the subject (I hadn't
checked my e-mail in a week!), but I'd like to offer some
strategies that have worked for me in handling complaints
both about female/feminist bias and people of color bias in
my courses.
  On the first day of class, as I review the syllabus, I
point out that the class gives a greater voice to perspectives
that traditionally have been silenced or marginalized.  I
advise students that the course will cover subjects which
they will perhaps, at some point, find disconcerting or
uncomfortable but that education from my point of view is
about learning new things and challenging ideas, our own and
others'.  As others have suggested, I use humor to try to
make some of the discomfort manageable--that is, to create an
atmosphere in which we can at least talk about that discomfort.
And when someone complains that he/she cannot relate to the
reading assignment/material because it is too focused on
feminism/race/homosexuality/etc., I point out that he/she now
has some idea of how women/people of color/gay men and lesbians
must feel in other more traditionally oriented courses.  That
usually seems to strike a chord--they realize that they are
complaining about an oppression that some others experience
everyday at various levels..
Robin Ikegami
ikegami  @  xavier.bitnet

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