A recent Chronicle article discusses age and teaching through the lens of a magazine article called “Confessions of a formerly hot woman.” The author does a really nice job of pointing out how problematic associations between bodies and knowledge nevertheless manifest in very real ways in the classroom. A single pedagogy may not work forever; pedagogy must shift along with teacher embodiment.
“… in recent years, as I have moved into middle age, the concept of the “formerly hot woman” has returned to me in a different manifestation, one related to my professional identity as a professor of English. . . . students are beginning to react differently to my pedagogical and advising strategies . . .”
I find this fascinating, and a little troubling. Moreover, I’m a bit appalled at the lack of research in this area. (Maybe I’m using the wrong search terms.) Aside from this Chronicle piece, my initial searches have turned up only one relevant article on how pedagogy might change as teachers age. Everything else is focused on the age of learners, or turns up sources about the information/digital/internet “age.” The one piece I did find–an article from the journal Feminist Teacher–introduces some fairly insulting stereotypes about female teachers of reproductive age. I refuse to believe that the only way we can value the teaching of older women is by denigrating that of their younger counterparts, and thus I’m left with very little in the way of resources to think about how pedagogy changes with age. Perhaps this is an important direction for future research on teaching and embodiment.
Mitchinson chronicles the history of how the male body was understood as normal and the female body was understood as abnormal, weak, prone to breakdown in the first half of the twentieth century in Canada. What follows are selected quotations and some contextualizing notes.
The first chapter on “Woman’s Place” takes up historical arguments based in medicine and health (and, implicitly, reproductive capacity and fertility) about women’s employment, eating habits, exercise, fashion. The author points out that female sexual organs are naturally better protected than male sexual organs, and yet physicians only seemed to express concern over female fertility in most of these areas.
“I see medicine as a bedrock of societal norms, sometimes in their creation and more often in their maintenance” (p. 8).
Re-posted from tengrrl:
THE GENDER DIVIDE IN ACADEME: Insights on Retaining More Academic Women http://t.co/qwvnV6kaZ4
- “Female authors are only half as likely as male authors are to cite their own research” (p. 16).
- A recent study “showed that female students finished college with lower self-esteem than they started with. Males, on the other hand, graduated with greater self-confidence (albeit lower GPAs) than their female peers” (p. 14).
- “[T]here are more than three times as many male full professors at doctoral universities as there are women in those ranks” (p. 12).
I recently read an article in Bloomberg Businessweek that quoted Anita Sarkeesian’s male co-producer, Jonathan McIntosh, as saying, “In the video game industry right now, women don’t want to speak. There’s a real fear, and it really is silencing people.” I’d call McIntosh an ally, and I’m thankful for his work and his statements. But I also think it’s too bad that we have to have a quote from a male game producer/critic to validate what should already be obvious:* Women who dare to have a critical opinion about sex in the gaming world are in real, direct, physical danger. The above quote was buried deep in the article, long after a description of nasty, graphic threats against Sarkeesian (including the infamous threat of mass murder that caused her to cancel a talk at Utah State University), long after a discussion of how female game designer Zoe Quinn “fled her home in Boston and hasn’t been back in months” because of threats of violence. Yes, there’s a real fear. That’s because there’s real danger.
*To be clear, this is not a critique of the article, written by Sheelah Kolhatkar. Rather, it’s a cultural critique, and a testament to Kolhatkar’s understanding of what is required to persuade an audience.
Civil rights are those basic rights needed in order to participate in the political life of a civil society. In the U.S., these rights are set out in the Constitution and its Amendments. In this country, most people are familiar with the term “civil rights” because of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s, which was centered on rights for black Americans. Unfortunately, civil rights are still not guaranteed for all people in this country. Pregnant women are particularly victimized.
The New York Times published an Op-Ed on pregnancy and civil rights this weekend. It makes some excellent points. Most important among them: The authors have identified 793 cases in which a pregnant woman was denied her physical liberty. This is, I hope, shocking enough for most readers. But here’s the really incredible part. The scope of this study (part of which was published as a peer-reviewed article last year) includes cases back to 1973 (when Roe v. Wade came down). But 380 of those cases–48% of them!–happened since 2005. In other words, the United States is increasingly, and at a truly alarming rate, denying basic civil rights to pregnant women.
This shouldn’t be a surprise in the wake of an election in which multiple embryonic and fetal personhood measures were on statewide ballots. But, somehow, it’s still getting very little attention. Some of the cases Paltrow and Flavin (the authors of the Op-Ed mentioned above) raise are clearly intended to remedy this:
- A woman arrested on murder charges for the “crime” of having a miscarriage. (Louisiana)
A woman taken prisoner and forced to undergo a Cesarean, for the “crime” of having a miscarriage. (Florida)
A woman forced by a judge to undergo an early Cesarean that ultimately killed her and the 26-week fetus she was carrying. (Washington DC)
These are sensational cases where the actions of the state upon a particular woman are pretty clearly wrong, regardless of political leaning. I understand Paltrow and Flavin’s rationale for focusing on these cases–they’re persuasive, and they focus on physical liberty. These authors had to limit their scope somehow; this is not a critique of them or their work. However, I’m nervous about this message because it leaves a lot of things out of the conversation. It leaves a full discussion of the civil rights of pregnant women unsaid. Physical liberty is important, yes. But pregnant women–like other human beings–also have a right to basic safety. They have a right to life, liberty, privacy, protection from discrimination, freedom of thought, freedom of expression.
And there are a lot more than 793 women since 1973 who’ve had their civil rights infringed–trampled!–if we consider the full spectrum of rights that we offer to other humans. Somebody should be talking about this.
This is one of those how-did-I-not-find-this-until-now books: Caitlin Moran’s How to Be a Woman. Moran is irreverent and on-point, and I often laughed out loud while reading. She calls herself a “strident feminist” and puts forth several theories about feminism and sexism that I found pretty useful, such as:
- If you’re not sure whether something is a feminist issue, ask yourself if men are spending time worrying about it.
- Treating other people with courtesy goes a long way toward enacting a feminist world.
- Responding to sexism by noting that a person has been “uncivil” is often an in-roads to a better conversation.
In short, Moran articulates a feminism that is both persuasive and possible–and it’s fun!
Oh, and if you don’t follow her on Twitter, you’re missing out.