Ways to Oppress Girls in School: Open Thread

Having been the recipient of wisdom which was also undermining, although I did not realize it at the time, having had important information withheld from me and/or not having had access to it, and having had basic principles pronounced at me as the ultimate in new wisdom when I have said things which did not actually contradict these but went beyond them (and were therefore taken for misunderstandings), I have finally noted that these were largely strategies to oppress girls in school.

It is interesting that I did not receive any of these pieces of information until graduate school, that the rain of them was stepped up when it became apparent I would finish graduate school, and that it has not stopped. We will therefore begin to make a list of these statements. This is an open thread. Please comment.


Graduate Student Z: I am not going to that event because I am studying for my Ph.D. exam.

Whiteman: Do you not realize that to take an exam you do not have to write the history of the world, all you have to do is answer questions?

Graduate Student Z (with slight frown). Yes, well this is not the History department, which is indeed more demanding. Our exam only covers 70 primary texts. Questions may speak to secondary texts or other works, but each must each focus on one of the primary texts listed. So the exam does not cover the history of the world, it only asks certain specific questions.

I am getting ready for those and I am studying 36 hours per week. I work 25 hours. This adds up to 61 hours already, and then you have to add in the classes I am auditing and the rest of life. I have discovered that in 36 hours I can really only cover five primary texts, and 70/5=14, and a semester is 15 weeks, and the examination is in finals week, so I really cannot sacrifice any of those 36 hours.

The plan I have made gives me completely flexible time only on Fridays at 5 to Saturdays at 7, and Sundays from 11 to 7. That is an entire period of more than 24 hours, and the greater part of a whole day, every single week. I am available to attend events at these times.

Whiteman: I see. You do believe you must write the history of the world. And you are very controlling. Did you not know that was a bad thing?


Other strange pieces of advice and lore I have received include, but are not limited to:

You are so good at administration, you should manage this project of mine for me, it will be good for our department.

You are not in graduate school any more, so you should give up your dreams of research. You are here to teach.

Teaching is not valued, so you should do as poor a job of it as possible.

If you did a good job teaching, it is because you wasted inordinate amounts of time on it.

You will never write.

You will never get anything published.

It is selfish of you not to be married.

Because you have a career, it is selfish of you to imagine having anything else.

You will never try.

Because you go swimming every day, you do not suffer enough to be an academic.

You will not finish your degree on time.

Because you are blond, you cannot be intelligent.


16 thoughts on “Ways to Oppress Girls in School: Open Thread

  1. How about another one?

    Because you spend time writing a blog, it shows that you are not a serious scholar.

    You’ve given us a lot of food for thought–thank you.

  2. Heh. One I never heard was the one about being blond. I do think blonds get hassled. Female blonds, that is. My husband, who was blonde, never had any problem.

  3. All I can say is that the constant harranguing I received to put me in my place — mostly concerning how subtle, complex and transcendentally logical the people of this culture were — sent me back to the research libraries repeatedly to try to crack their puzzle.

  4. I have had these pearls addressed to me at various times (I am quoting verbatim):

    Math teacher: Girls have a mental block against math.

    Father: You will never get a man because men don’t like smart women.

    Senior colleague:Your book doesn’t really exist.

    Other senior colleague: You have no ideas.

    Senior colleague in faculty meeting: You talk too much.

    Senior colleague: Skinny women are mean.

    Senior colleague: Why do you hate men?

    Senior colleague: did you know that the other senior colleagues say you’re stupid?

    Graduate student: I know you are not allowed to direct dissertations because Senior colleague X told me so.

    Graduate student: Senior colleague X said in class today that feminism is wrong and bad.

    Graduate student: I am so sorry I have to take you off my committee because Senior colleague said I had to.

    Graduate student: did you know that Senior colleague told all the graduate students that is was your fault that Student X flunked his prelims? They had a meeting about it and people cried.(because the one female untenured professor in the room trumped four male full professors and made them vote to fail him even though they did not want to.)

    Female colleague: Your work is not as valuable as Male Senior colleague’s.

    Senior colleague: if you do not sign this letter saying that you renounce what other female colleague said in the faculty meeting, you will be my enemy.

    (Oops, time to go to work. There’s more, but that is a taste)

  5. Jennifer – I really doubt Zimbabwean institutions are free of this.

    Joanna & Historiann, oh yes, we know these lines, too!

  6. Well Jennifer, what irritates me is Manicheism, for one thing, and having to turn *everything* into a discussion of the “West” which is one monolithic thing, vs. Zimbabwe, as you experienced it up until age 16.

    Moving back onto topic: I just figured out a new one, related to Joanna’s “talking too much.” I am famous for interrupting people. I interrupt people who are giving half hour sermons on really basic things as though one had never heard this information before. I say, “I understand this, but my question lies beyond,” or “I understand this, but my point on it is.” They seem to think they have a right to lecture and I a duty to listen (many times to the same thing, which is usually already written in some handbook and which I can usually also recite by heart). And *that* *is* one form of oppression thing I have noticed since childhood … and not from school, but from parents and men.

  7. I’m sorry you are disturbed by Manicheanism. So do you think that because I had different experiences from yours that yours are definitively Western? Or is there something else going on here? I mean, what is wrong with accepting that my experiences were not the same as yours? What do you suppose you might lose by accepting this, and what would you unwillingly concede to me if there were in fact differences, in reality, which I didn’t just make up to make you feel as if you were the opposite to me?

  8. Interesting fact: this post appears to have been shared on Facebook. I hope it has not been shared in connection with my IRL name. If it has, I am taking it down, and I may take the whole blog down.

  9. Also, to note before I forget – this post was inspired in one I never finished, but upon which WoC PhD commented. It was about how I was embarrassed not to like being a professor. I am embarrassed about that the way abuse victims are embarrassed to talk about what really goes on at home.

  10. Hi Asada! It’s easy: because you are not primarily focused on serving a man and producing children for the family name.

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