Young women faculty: tired, poor, huddled masses yearning to breathe free?

BlogHer Original Post


Aspazia at Mad Melancholic Feminista has sparked a much-needed discussion about the differences in male and female instructors' experiences in the college classroom.

She writes,

Women faculty spend many more hours, on average, prepping for their classes. They also have to spend a great deal of time handling complaints from students that male faculty cannot even fathom. Why do women faculty have such strict policies? Why do they have grading rubrics that spell out with painstaking detail how they graded your work? Because women faculty get challenged on everything. Why do they spend hours prepping? Because if a woman walks into the classroom and doesn't appear to be an expert, which is proven by total mastery of the subject matter, the students will challenge her all semester.

Kristen of The History Enthusiast provides confirmation of the behavior Aspazia laments:

I've had professors tell me that my syllabus is too "micro-managed," and every semester I have smart-aleck guys who sit in the back and snicker.

Aspazia inspires Breena Ronan to consider a recent conversation with a privileged white male about women and careers.

In a related post inspired by Aspazia's, Dean Dad explores his difficulty in choosing adjectives to describe a female colleague in a letter of recommendation:

I started by describing her as 'driven,' then as 'dedicated,' then as 'ambitious,' and then realized that those words, applied to a woman you haven't met, are the usual code for 'castrating bitch.' She isn't a castrating bitch at all – if she were, I wouldn't have agreed to write the letter – but it's harder than I thought to find words to praise her strengths without setting off stupid gendered trip wires.

Of course, any feminist posting is going to have its detractors, and Aspazia attracted her first: Wiseacre of Dude, Where's My Engightenment? writes that men have it hard, too--and then he adds this gem of a paragraph:

What I'm complaining is (1) the kind of armchair feminist speculation that the Mad Melancholic Feminista seems to be engaged in here that treats multifaceted issues as if they boil down to a difference in gender and (2) a professor at a small liberal arts college (where the courses are smaller in size) complaining about how how demanding and stressful the job can be. Don't even get me started on the level of stress that is caused by young women who get crushes on their professors or who come by your office to discuss their bad test grades in low cut tops with their boobs popping out. How often do young female professors have to deal with unwelcome flirtation or remarks of a sexual nature and worry about what the reaction will be when you politely but sternly explain that it's inappropriate? I've been around academia for a while now and not once have I ever heard a female colleague express concern or anxiety about male students coming by the office and trying to flirt their way to a higher grade.

Aspazia responded with further resources on the problem. Go check them out for yourself.

(Photo of teacher and suffragist Elsie Hill from Women of Protest: Photographs from the Records of the National Woman's Party, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.)

Leslie Madsen-Brooks is an academic technologist and freelance writer who blogs at The Clutter Museum.

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