As a feminist, I am constantly aware that the epithet “man-hater” is out there, ready to be flung, and for the most part, I agree that trashing men, guys or boys is not a productive act.
There are times when men act like sexist assholes, and then, you know, sometimes you have to call a spade a spade, or your head asplode. I therefore regale you with the following two tales.
1. 16th Century Anti-Feminism had a Point.
This one might need some context for you non-literary scholars, so bear with me. In the 16th Century, there was a lot of anxiety about the position of women in society, which often expressed itself in men ranting about women, as in the case of the always-charming John Knox and his First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. Also, and likewise, various other chaps took it upon themselves to write treatises to women about their various faults. John Donne, for instance, was particularly niggled about the inconstancy of women, which he apparently knew a lot about because he was sleeping with so many of them, according to his poetry.
So. In my literature survey class (which is pretty much a Dead White Guy class, by its very nature), we read a bunch of this stuff, and then, in an attempt to have a bit of balance because it does get a bit tiresome for we womenfolk to inhabit this historical pre-feminist space, we read Aemilia Lanyer’s poem, which has the inflamatory title “Eve’s Apology in Defense of Women”.
Well. Apparently, according to one male student, this poem should not have been written. Lanyer should shut the hell up, because HOW DARE SHE criticize men. Men who have done nothing to warrant such criticism, especially not make sure women have no right to vote or own property, and who have only written HUNDREDS of anti-feminist works criticizing women both individually and as an entire sex.
Now, lest you think that this student was just some kind of sexist jerk, let me assure you that he appended to his excoriation of Lanyer the comment: “N.B. Because of political concerns, let me assure you that I am not sexist”. What a relief. See, the problem with Lanyer was the finger-pointing. Criticizing men is not the way to achieve equality, ladies.
I responded to the student saying that while I appreciated his concern not to appear sexist, that if I judged him on his written opinion, rather than his assurances, that there really was no other conclusion I could come to. (In other words, “yeah, you are”.) Well, he conceded, the problem was, reading Lanyer in the context of the 20th century, in which (and this will be news to you, I am sure) there is no gender inequality, her criticisms of men have no value. Lanyer, he said, offended him, “because of all the reverse sexisms men have to endure these days”.
So that’s me told. Including female authors in proportions of roughly 1:4 in a survey course is a “reverse sexism”.
2. Disrespect as a way of controlling uppity females.
So, in my online course, there’s this student who is kind of a jerk. Unlike 90% of the students, he posts responses on the discussion forums that are shallow and thoughtless, and generally written in a kind of malformed text speak. He generally gets no marks for these, although I am not sure he is aware of that.
When he submits electronic assignments, he uses the “Comment” field on the submissions form to write such erudite comments as “asffrgarewyqss” and “this is stupid” and “ha ha the prof in this course is so lame”. After the second one, I wrote back “I CAN SEE THIS”, but apparently he never looks at his returned work.
I am not sure he has ever been to the in class portion of the class. Maybe once? Anyway, he turned up last class with a friend who I didn’t recognize either, and proceeded to talk through the start of the first student’s presentation. Now, talking over presentations is something I have no tolerance for, because I know those poor dumbasses are shaking with nerves as it is, and while I am inured to rudeness, it can make some presenters really fall apart.
So I got up (they were at the back of the room and I still heard them, which gives you an idea of the volume of the talking), and went and told them to get the fuck out.
They did not leave until I had asked 3 more times, stopping the presenter while they left the room. After they were out the door, another student asked “Are they even in this class?” so I think general opinion was on the side of the booting.
So it turns out that the kind of rude guy was one of these two students (which one, I have no idea, and the other one is silent, so maybe he ISN’T even in my class) emailed me to complain about how my kicking him out made him “loose” participation marks, “even tho I did’nt do anything wrong”. Note the lack of apology.
I replied pointing out what I thought he had done wrong, and also pointing out that he had the opportunity to participate in the online portion of the activity.
His response was a lengthy explanation that included the points, “that chick hadn’t even started her presentation and she was talking about Harry Potter, which is stupid,” the inappropriate comment was meant for jokes, because he was not aware I could see them, and he was planning to drop the class, and that I have an grudge against him now.
It was a virtuoso piece of rudeness, containing as it did, disrespect for me, the class, my lack of humour, my perceived pettiness, and the stupidity of all my endeavours. Of course the thing that stung the most was that he was PLANNING to drop the class, but DIDN’T.
Now, if you are a chap reading this, you may say, well, okay, granted this student is disrespectful, but his disrespect isn’t obviously about gender. While this may be true, on the surface, it is also the case that this is a male student making his contempt amply clear, and that female profs, if you ask them, experience this kind of contempt with a lot more frequency than male profs.