I just got back from a class I’m taking at a local university and I am so confused and taken aback that I don’t even know where to begin.
The class is called The Sociology of Gender, and we had a midterm exam scheduled for this morning. As I was sitting in the lecture hall, waiting for the exam to commence, the teaching advisor for the course announced that there would be no more talking and began handing out the exam materials. After all of this was said and done, a few more students filtered into the room. The TA then announced that anyone arriving late would have to come to the front and pick up a copy of the test, and then find a seat. Immediately following this, two young male students behind me commented, “Whoa, PMS,” and began to laugh to themselves.
Are you kidding me???
To clarify, the TA did not have a mean or even stern tone. She was firm, and spoke loudly and clearly enough for everyone in the room to hear. Since when has assertiveness been a premenstrual symptom?
The professor — who is also a woman — then wrote the current time in large numbers on the blackboard, in case anyone couldn’t see the clock, and clearly intended to update it during the course of the exam. Upon seeing this, the same ignorant young men behind me said, “Does she think we’re stupid? What a bird!” followed by more laughter.
Needless to say, I was (and still am) incredibly offended by these comments. For starters, you’re enrolled in a Sociology of Gender course. It is not a requirement for any program; you are choosing to be there. The class is 98% women, and the teaching assistant and professor are both women. One of the focuses of the course is to open people’s eyes to the ideas of tolerance and acceptance of various types of sex, gender, sexuality, and other related roles within our social world. How brazen, brash, and disrespectful do you have to be to even dare to make comments like those in that type of environment? It was all I could do to keep myself from turning around and letting them know how offensive and ignorant I felt they were. I think that the only reason why I didn’t was fear of being reprimanded for speaking when we had specifically been instructed not to, because I obviously wouldn’t have used a hushed voice for my comments as they had.
It just made me wonder how far we have actually come in terms of gender equality. Apparently, we are still in a position wherein if a woman displays assertive behaviours or takes charge of a situation, even if she’s in a position of power, she is not taken seriously. She is presumed to be experiencing PMS, or she is just labeled a bitch. If the TA or the professor today had been a man, it is undeniable that any kinds of comments would not have been made. A man in that situation would not be called a prick or a bastard or be laughed at; he would be respected and listened to. In this modern age, Western society is consumed with political-correctness, equality, and human rights; yet, it is somehow still acceptable for a boy in his late teens to put down and assert his power as a male over his older female superiors. The problem is that we let it slide, just as I did in class today. We don’t confront these men on their actions. We don’t call them on their inappropriate and disrespectful behaviour. We sit back and sigh with frustration and shake our heads in disbelief, and then we never approach the subject again. We let them get away with it, and as a result, we are holding ourselves back as women and as equal members of society. We are allowing them to keep us in our “place.”
Then again, when a woman does speak out against comments and actions such as the ones described above, she is labeled as a “bitch,” or worse. How many dissenting voices will it take before we are seen as being valid individuals with feelings and opinions that are just as important as any man’s? Can we ever win the war?