Sexism in the classroom

It’s important to speak up when uncomfortable in the classroom.

One of my male professors asked a seemingly harmless question recently: “Do any other guys sound like girls on tape? I do. I hate it.”

His worry was met with laughter from a majority of the class. After all, it’s funny for a man to sound like a young woman, isn’t it?

Comments like these tell female students that there is something wrong with being a woman. Before you write me off as an overzealously sensitive feminist, consider the logic behind the remark. Not only did it alienate the women in the classroom, but it also reinforced the idea that men need to be masculine out of an embarrassment associated with femininity.

When my peers laughed at the question, I felt even more uncomfortable. Not only were the people around me amused with the prospect of my male professor exhibiting feminine qualities, but none of the other women seemed offended. In fact, I saw some of them laugh too.

In an interview with the Orlando Sentinel, Kathryn Seidel, a professor at the University of Central Florida, said most students regard sexist behavior as acceptable until the inequity is pointed out.

This is where I failed to do my part. Instead of asking him why it is so terrible to sound like a girl, I glared at the clock wondering when class was going to end. I was part of the passivity that continues to allow sexism within our society.

This is not to say sexism doesn’t affect men. The embarrassment my professor felt came from somewhere. The gender you identify with should play no role in how professors or students conduct themselves within the classroom.

In reflecting on my professor’s question after class, I grew frustrated with myself because I simply let it go. I buried my feelings before I even had a chance to speak. Repeated moments of passivity make it more difficult to speak up later.

The first thing to do in this situation is to speak up. Next, reject claims that the remark’s intent was harmless.

Finally, address how the remark was sexist. Calmly explain why you felt the remark was sexist, and ask them to stop.

My professor is not a sexist person. He is brilliant and I’m fortunate to have the ability to learn from him, but a sexist remark cannot be tolerated.