Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Women Who Came Before Me

As an educator, I often observe that it is much more difficult for my female students to express their opinions in class, especially when their point of view is challenged by male students. In class, women speak in a more tentative way, often formulate their thoughts as a question, allow male students to interrupt them.

From personal experience I know that one of the things that helps us to find a voice in public settings is the feminist tradition behind us. I am extremely fortunate in having three generations of powerful successful women with great careers behind me. When you observe your mother, your grandmother and your great-grandmother who occupy a position of power and who teach you to not be afraid of voicing your own opinions, you grow up knowing that you have an undisputable right to speak and to be heard.
Sent via BlackBerry by AT&T


Pagan Topologist said...

This is a problem. I often call on women in preference to men in classes to attempt to offset it, but this has the unfortunate effect of having some students label me a "dirty old man" who notices his female students way too much.

But, I do not like the solution of sex-segregated colleges, which some advocate.

Clarissa said...

I didn't notice that a comment appeared in this older post. Thanks for noticing it!

"this has the unfortunate effect of having some students label me a "dirty old man" who notices his female students way too much"

-I don't think students would think that. At least, I wouldn't. In your discipline, it should be all that more difficult for female students to speak out since there are many more men in math courses.

Pagan Topologist said...

This is interesting. I shall have to check my spring semester classes, but I think the number of males and of females is about equal in our classes for math majors. Quite a few women want to be high school math teachers.

Clarissa said...

Once all two of our male students didn't show up for class. And female students shared that they found it a lot easier to participate. So even two very unoffensive guys made them feel inhibited. That was at Cornell. These female students seemed very self-assured, intelligent and over-achieving. That's why I was VERY surprised to hear this from them.

In my country, I never heard male students say anything in class at all. They just sat in the back of the classroom and giggled. I was shocked when I heard male students actually speak in class in Canada. That was a huge culture shock. :-) Men! Speaking! Having opinions! Weird! :-)