Category Archives: Controversial Issues

Sexism In Class

Yesterday was the first day of my Poli Sci class’s quiz section. I walked through the door actually quite excited – my previous two classes that day had been wonderful and I was hoping that this quiz section would be just as great. Sadly, it wasn’t. During section the TA made some extremely inappropriate comments that were derogatory to women. My response was to write a letter to my professor and cc the head of the department:

Dear Professor [blank],

I am a Junior LSJ major currently enrolled in your Poli Sci 201 class trying get the pre-reqs done to be able to double major. Last Fall I took your LSJ 320 class, which is in part why I am writing you this e-mail.

I have just home from my quiz section with [name removed], and I am utterly appalled at the conduct he exhibited during section. The majority of the quiz section was devoted to informing us that we would be unable to understand any of the material without his guidance because of supposedly lacking high school educations. This assumes that everyone in the class is a freshman lacking in any understanding of political theory and moreover that those students who might have some sort of background in philosophy or political theory are too stupid to understand the coursework – assumptions made by [name removed] without him even bothering to ask our names, school years, or majors, information which would obviously prove these assumptions to be incorrect. It also seemed as if [name removed] main goal was not actually to provide further insight into the coursework; his language during the quiz section was peppered with vague sports references and a lot of swearing seemingly geared toward impressing the younger male members of the class with how ‘cool’ he is. I do not object to swearing as a general rule and often indulge in the practice myself in my private life, but I think it is extremely inappropriate when almost every sentence coming from a TA or professor’s mouth contains at least one four letter word, if not several.

The most disturbing issue that occurred during quiz section, however, was the level of misogyny exhibited by [name removed]. I have been working with Planned Parenthood since I was 16 and been called all manner of names by anti-Planned Parenthood demonstrators and even by the aides to District 4 legislators when I lobbied them in 2007, yet I have never felt so marginalized as I did in quiz section today. [Name removed] referred to multiple negative issues we may encounter during the course of this class as bitches, even telling us that we needed to “smack around the text” in order to “make it our bitch” after giving a disclaimer to the men in the class that they shouldn’t hit women because it “makes [us] angry.” He also told the class Nietzsche said that “men should go to a women with a whip in hand” and that this is what we should do to our imaginations because even though “Nietzsche never got laid except for one time with his sister,” he got published. As the daughter of a domestic abuse victim, I am offended, appalled, and extremely angry that I was subjected to this type of domestic violence marginalization, especially as it came from a person who is supposed to be helping me learn about political theories dealing with the concepts of justice and equality.

Having been in your Politics and Law of International Human Rights course, I know that you are not someone who would condone this sort of behavior from one of his TAs. Even if there is nothing else you can do, please transfer me to Section AE as it is the only other section which fits with my class schedule and I do not desire to remain in a quiz section where my opinion is not valued because of my gender and supposed lack of intelligence.

My professor responded promptly and is handling the matter in a satisfactory manner, but in his response he also informed me that my TA has been awarded a coveted teaching award which was given to him by his students. This makes me wonder. The language and references he used during lecture were clearly geared towards the younger males of the class – the more they laughed, the more vulgar and demeaning his language became. I wonder if he was like this in previous courses. I wonder if he received his award because he made the guys in his classes laugh at the expense of the women in his classes. I wonder if any woman in any of his classes has reported him before, or if they have felt too intimidated to do so. The class is an entry level pre-requisite for the Political Science major – I would not be surprised if he had done this before and freshman women in his class who were unsure of their own authority just let him slide. What would you have done?

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Porn and Feminism – The Story of Annabel Chong

I just finished reading a really interesting interview with Annabel Chong, a woman famous for starring in the world’s largest gangbang (251 sex acts with 70 different men over a period of 10 hours). Pulling off such a stunt (which, by the way, resulted in the best selling porn film of all time) most certainly leads all of us to certain assumptions about what type of woman Annabel Chong might be. For some who feel that porn is inherently oppressive to women – the Andrea Dworkin types – there is a probably a feeling of pity; maybe even of disgust. For those who subscribe to more a pro-porn feminist philosophy, certain anti-sex sentiments socialized into all of us from a very young age are probably subtly resulting in negative conclusions about Chong’s quality of character or intelligence.

Would you have expected that Annabel Chong graduated from USC with a 3.7? That she is an extremely articulate, socially aware, self-proclaimed feminist?

Putting the feminism/porn debate aside for a second, I think it’s important to remember that female porn stars are still autonomous agents capable of making active decisions about their life (this is of course not to discout those women who are forcibly coerced into the sex business – that is a different matter entirely). But women like Annabel Chong, I think, serve as an important reminder that women can still be activists, even when engaging in acts that traditional feminism frowns upon. Being a housewife, being a porn star, being a mom, a teacher, a nurse – all of these things do not necessarily negate feminism. And yes, sometimes women end up becoming these things because they are socialized to believe that they have no other choice… but sometimes they don’t. And maybe that distinction isn’t always entirely clear. But who are we, as feminists, to generalize all women of a certain profession or lifestyle as helpess non-agents supposedly being victimized by choices that they, supposedly, could have no way made based on their own desires?

I guess what I’m trying to say, in a more concise manner, is that automatically assuming that all women who make stereotypically “un-feminist” decisions are doing so because they have been too oppressed to know any better completely denies those women their agency – a pretty “un-feminist” move in and of itself, in my book anyway.

Anyway, I totally didn’t mean to get into this discussion – I was really just planning on posting the link to the interview! I really recommend that you read it, if you get the chance. You can find it here:

http://www.nerve.com/Dispatches/Goodman/chong/index.asp?page=1

* Trigger warning for some discussion of rape on the fourth page.

Check out the last page in particular for her discussions on feminism.

“[…P]eople usually think of porn stars as the exact opposite of feminists. I would say that I would like to be known as a porn star feminist. It’s like, either you’re a porn star or you’re a feminist, but you can’t be both. So, being a little punk I’d like to be both. [Laughs]” – Annabel Chong