February 25, 2008

An Education of Intolerance and Sexism

I mentioned in an earlier post that I was having a few issues with my Brit Lit professor and his tendency to force the subject of religion in class when there's no reason, in context to the text itself. But he just keeps getting worse!!

We had a paper due last week, so he brought in an old paper to share with the class. He had us read it and then started the conversation with "There's a reason that I chose this paper. You'll notice that it's written about a female character. Now I want you all to avoid following the fad of writing this way, of falling into the trap of feminist criticism." Yup... feminism is just a wacky fad right now. Or for the last, oh, 100 years. I'm sure it'll fade any day now.

But today... oh wow.

We were discussing some of Shakespeare's sonnets. Including 20 which was written for a man and 144 which was written to discuss his pain in being torn between the man he loves and the woman he's having an affair with (never mind his poor wife and children!).

So he reads 20 aloud and then looks around the room and opens the floor for discussion with "As disturbing as it may be to even consider... could Shakespeare have been gay?" Well the woman in front of me immediately had her hand in the air and asked why in the world would it be disturbing to consider that anyone is gay? And he responded with "Well I think that most anyone would agree that it's a very odd concept to grasp about anyone." Oh yeah, the woman? Lesbian. I thought she was going to throw her book at him, she was so pissed. And I don't blame her a bit. Oh and he closed discussion by declaring "He wasn't gay. He was paid to write the sonnet for someone to convince him to get married." (BTW - There's a fairly large percentage of academic agreement that he was at least bi-sexual.)

So eventually we moved on and got to 144. In it the "dark lady" is not spoken about at all nicely. So he opens the discussion with "So, obviously we see again this expression of women being poor companions for anyone. What with mood swings and the usual female trickery, their constant lusting, and these are the Bard's words, not mine. But you know... stereotypes exist because what they say is true."

I actually went to another professor today to ask if there was another section of the class that I could transfer into and when she questioned me about why I told her freely and her response was "Sadly you're not the first student I've heard this from. Every year several students approach me about this problem." In the end she advised me to tough it out so that I don't lose the money I paid for the class and if things get really bad, talk to the department chair. So I'm trapped in this hell of intolerance.


Chris said...

Ugh! Doesn't the department have some sort of complaint process? Or would that jeopardize your grade?

Anonymous said...

Fortunately for me, I had the reverse at the U of MN many (eek! Many!) years ago. I had a lesbian Shakespeare prof who scared the bejeezus out of straight males--until they gave her a chance. She didn't hate men, she hated oppressors of any gender or race. And her Shakespeare course was so thought-provoking---I'm so lucky to have had access to a class like that.

Anna-juniorknitwit said...

Oh, hun, I'm sorry...I'm quite frankly horrified that someone as closed-minded as this is actually teaching in the world of higher education. I feel for your classmate, too. What an awful thing to have said in front of your peers...

I know you can deal with this, though, however you need to. Worst comes to worst, you can use your superior knowledge of the English language to torch the guy when you write the student evaluation at the end of the semester. If nothing else, give him something to think about the next time he opens that mouth of his... :)

mrspao said...

Oh dear - are there no equality and diversity procedures for dealing with this because it is daft! I hope you manage to get something sorted out.

Traceyleezle said...

Um, no you're not trapped. I would go to the department chair right now. Start documenting the things he says in class so that you can give specific examples. This is intolerable.

Debi said...

I agree with Tracey, why wait til "things get really bad". Actually this knucklehead's remarks regarding sexuality could be construed as harassment because he is creating a hostile environment. I would document everything and make an appt. with the dept. chair asap!

You know your other professor's attitude about circling the wagons unless things get really bad is why this character is still teaching and getting away with this crap!!!

Batty said...

Yeah, complain now.

And the thing about stereotypes persisting because they're true? He may be on to something there. He's exactly what I'd expect from the stereotypical bigot!