No country wants to admit they suck. Take an elementary school level history class and you’ll learn about how that country was great, was victimized and is essentially the center of the universe. This is the case literally everywhere and very few countries (with the exception of Germany) do a good job of admitting where they have significantly erred throughout history.
Even the great U.S. of A. has issues discussing its history of female oppression, Native American genocide, exploitation of Chinese immigrants in the 1800s, Japanese internment camps, exploitation of the poor, Islamophobia, slavery, segregation, classism and homophobia. These are certainly issues many countries have, even very privileged and free ones like the U.S. but there are just certain moments in history you don’t rewrite, you don’t shy away from and you aren’t insensitive to.
I bring up sexism specifically because it is the easiest issue to overcome in a course of study and it is also the easiest problem to be overlooked. Women make up half of this world, the human race could not even exist without us, yet all too often our voices are erased, ignored and men get the credit for making the “great contributions” that have shaped the world.
So how do you know if your course is working within a sexist paradigm? Ask yourself a few questions after you’ve settled into the work and syllabus for a few weeks.
1. Are there any female authors on the syllabus? Meaning, are women even acknowledged as having a valid point of view?
2. When women show up in the course, whether that be as fictional or historical figures, are they only portrayed as roadblocks and obstacles for the “right thing” to happen? Are female politicians condemned? Are female characters servile, irrational and malicious?
3. Is the treatment of women completely ignored from the conversation? For example: Is your professor constantly referring to a specific time in history like the “1960s Golden Age” as a great moment in the American landscape, while ignoring the fact that women were deeply repressed to the extent of being institutionalized and people of color were being stripped of human rights?
4. Are women routinely excluded from reading lists of the greatest inventors, authors, politicians, thinkers, etc.?
5. When discussing the treatment of women, are women voices even acknowledged? Meaning are the issues that women have faced and face today being analyzed from only a male perspective? (You know, kind of like how the government works today.)
6. When women are excluded from conversations about people of influence, does the professor acknowledge that such disparities exist because until fairly recent in human history women have had their civil rights and opportunities eroded in favor of their male counterparts?
7. Lastly, is your professor needlessly condescending to female students and colleagues?
If you’ve answered yes to these questions, here are some things you can do about it.
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