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Neddy on Feminist icons.

This started out as another driveby, but then I had a bit of a feminist digression.

In class yesterday we were talking about body image and messages for girls in children’s books and tv, and we talked a lot about Dora. (I must admit to being surprised to learn that there are people who complained that Dora was a lesbian, possibly because of her hair? or is it her sensible shoes?) Our discussion was focussed on how it was a shame that Dora, who was a positive role model for girls, seems to be being made more stereotypically feminine.

First, she had to have Diego help her, because obviously, girls can’t really solve problems by themselves without a boy to help them. There was also the old, tired mansplanation that boys wouldn’t watch a show about a female character (despite the fact that they manifestly did watch the show.

Then there was that brief abomination of tween Dora, with her better-coordinated outfit, more feminine silhouette and less sensible shoes. Tween Dora got a lot of pushback at the time she was announced, and she seems to have quietly disappeared. However, the efforts to feminize Dora are continuing. Lately, she’s all about ballet and being a princess instead of being an explorer. Ballet Dora has much nicer hair, and properly girly clothes.

So we talked quite a lot about images of girls (cartoon and real), and what kind of pressures they might put on real girls.

That was all by way of giving you context for the Neddyism. I asked if there were other shows that did present good examples of strong girls (in the context of us having talked for about half an hour about unrealistic body image), and Neddy’s hand shot up. “Sailor Moon,” he said.

Sailor Moon.

Are you shitting me? At least 10 heads snapped towards him with expressions of incredulity and outrage on them. “How is that a positive example of body image?” one of them asked, quite mildly. Neddy’s response, which was about how Sailor Moon has girl heroes in it, made it clear he had really no idea about what body image was, or that it had never occurred to him to think about the pressures women might experience with regard to their appearance.

Now, granted, he’s a young man in the 18-22 age range, and some of them can be pretty damn sexist, as any of you who spend time on the internet may have discovered. In my experience, though, guys of that age KNOW about issues like body image. The ones who choose to argue against media pressure on women tend to counter with “it’s just as bad for men,” or “you can choose to ignore media stereotypes”. Neddy’s response was an example of complete obliviousness.

Naturally, he wanted to talk to me about it in that brief 2-minute window between classes. “I got the impression I said something wrong,” he said, apparently because he noticed a bunch of people “looking at him weird”. Oh, good god. Yes, Neddy, you are about to have an existential crisis, but I really, honestly only have 2 minutes.

Cowardly, me?

Jerks, a treatise in 2 parts.

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.

FYCL #19 – The Fish Hat Podcast

Recorded on New Year’s Eve, this episode contains advice on New Year’s Resolutions, the true story of Christmas Steve, lots of talk about cooking and drinking, and a fair amount of smack about stuff we found to P&L at online.

FYCL #19, if you are still doing the old-fashioned-y downloading of each episode, rather than subscribing with our shiny new rss or via iTunes.

Auld Link Syne:

Closing music is Billy Bragg, “Waiting for the Great Leap Forwards”.

A reminder: although only the most recent 3 episodes are live in iTunes, you can always access back episodes of FYCL in our archive at

Got a question or a comment? Leave it here, or email us at fyclpodder at gmail dot com.

Fish Hat

FYCL # 18 – Mostly bitching.

Very little advice, but a good deal of bitching about getting ready to eat at Xmas, children who want to change their names, dealing with stink, and new developments in the whorehouse business.

FYCL #18, if you are still doing the old-fashioned-y downloading of each episode, rather than subscribing with our shiny new rss or via iTunes.

The first days of linkmas:

Music was “Who put the Spring in Springfield”; the Burlesque House song from The Simpsons episode “Bart After Dark,” which is well worth watching if you can find it on Hulu or in reruns, or similar.

A reminder: although only the most recent 3 episodes are live in iTunes, you can always access back episodes of FYCL in our archive at

Got a question or a comment? Leave it here, or email us at fyclpodder at gmail dot com.

FYCL #9 – Ordinary Sacrilege

Dubious advice on outre artistic expression, being Canadian in an American world, and the stupidity of trying to legislate the internets, plus our regularly featured Dubious Sex Toy of the week, and other recommendations.

FYCL #9, if you are still doing the old-fashioned-y downloading of each episode, rather than subscribing with our shiny new rss or via iTunes.

Linkety link links:

Oh, also, an explanatory note for those of you who don’t know that “souping” means flouncing out. To soup: to leave, in an ostentatious manner, often while commenting that you are never coming back.

The thematic sacrilege naturally made me think of Randy Newman, so I picked “God’s Song” for the closing musics.

Hope you enjoy the podcast, please to be leaving threats of hellfire, feedback and questions here.

Dubious Advice Weekly

Presenting FYCL, starring SJ from I, Asshole, and me.

Marriage, Librarianship, and Apple Maggots (click to play, right click to save for later playage on your mp3 player of choice)

We even have a cool graphic.


The plan is, if it gets enough critical acclaim for a second episode, to make an rss feed. If you have questions, requests for dubious advice, or criticisms of the hamhanded audio quality, please post them here.

The boring semester of no drama ends.

Dear Blog, I am sorry for being so horridly neglectful. I blame my students, who for the most part have been polite, hardworking, good-humoured and present. This makes for an awesome class, but it means I lacked the necessary raeg to get me past the fatigue of teaching 4 days a week in order to post. Also, not much happened.

Highlights, then:

I got an evaluation from last semester which was nothing short of a rave. This caused me to faint away, and I did not revive for a day or two. Apparently, there were several people who said “two thumbs up, would learn again” (I had 5 students out of 17 this semester who were repeat offenders, which may account for the overall good vibe in the classroom), and some of these people would even recommend me to their friends.

The incredibly difficult and loud student who complained to me that I wasn’t taking her learning disability into account dropped the class after I asked “what disability?” and then followed up with the Disability Office to find out whether she even had paperwork. (Turns out she does, but didn’t actually request accommodations until after she yelled at me. They kicked her ass.) So that was a win for sanity, although she did have the potential to become another Pineapple. Chalk it up as a loss for entertainment, I guess.

My older student (by which I mean the woman in the class who was my age) was peer pressured by her religion to get married and have 5 kids straight out of high school coped with adversity and me riding her to think harder and managed to get a respectable grade. I didn’t even mind when she hugged me after the exam. Well, not that much. People like that make me grateful that although my mother is a headcase, she is a headcase who believes in education for women, and had no desire to impose her experience of marriage and spawning at age 18 on me.

I was knitting during the exam, a practice I adopted after Sarcastic Bastard once got a comment from students about how when he graded papers he made “scary faces” that caused them to wet themselves with fear.  At the end of the exam, one of the students handed in her paper, and then said, a little tentatively, “can I ask you a question?” To which, I replied in the affirmative, thinking she wanted to ask about the final. Instead she said, “I am knitting this scarf in stockinette, and I was wondering if you knew how to stop the edges from curling.” I love that students think I am some kind of learning guru, and font of information on all subjects. Earlier in the semester, I impressed another student by mentioning that I had managed (through some kind of technomancy, no doubt) to get hold of a particular computer game before its advertised release date.

I am apparently utterly mellow. I suspect it will not last. Also, I am twotting desultorily, so I add the feed to this page.

Wednesday WTF

Because I know he already has fans, I give you this brief update on WTFG’s performance today:

Punctuality today: 50 minutes late to class.
Excuse (provided at the end, not during the 2 minutes he was banging around the room to get to his chair, during which time I didn’t even get a muttered, “sorry”): doing some work for another class.
Response to my comment, “I know you aren’t invested in this class, but don’t you think even for you that’s kind of awful?”: “I would drop, but I need this class.”
Response to my further comment, “If you need it don’t you think you need to be here and do the work?”: silence.

WTFG may have some competition for lulz in the form of Sexist Saul, though. Saul is very earnest, is punctual, tries hard and always writes more than he needs to. It’s not always on topic, but in the face of WTF guy, visible effort gets a lot of kudos.

So today, we read a fairly mild piece by Dave Barry about guys not being all that good at cooking, and we were discussing it when Saul piped up with an “I don’t agree with Women Liberation.” Oh dear. See, it turns out that he doesn’t mind if women are equal and get jobs and stuff, but he can’t be having with a woman in a position of authority over a man. He is one of these dudes who can’t shut up, either. So I am staring at him incredulously, and the girl beside him is making shovelling motions – like, dig yourself in deeper, dude – and the students on the other side of the room are laughing, but he just keeps going. Eventually I say, “So, you have a problem having a female professor?”

This gave him pause. “Let me think about that,” he said. So we went back to talking about other issues, and a few minutes later, up goes Saul’s hand again. “The thing is,” he says, “women are just more emotional than men.” The crowd goes wild. Saul ignores the extreme warning signs in the form of the two burly ethnic guys telling him to “just stop talking.” We have a discussion of what sexism means. As an example, I say “Okay, let’s try substituting another group for women in your statement. Would it be okay to say black people are more emotional than white people?” He has another pause for pondering. We talk about how making blanket statements about groups of people is problematic. It’s a useful conversation, if not exactly what I had planned.

Class moves on to some other topics. Saul comes up to me at the end of class and says, “I got your point about racism, I guess, but what about if I said black people just can’t swim? That’s not racist because it is a scientific fact.”

I am sure you haven’t heard the last from him. He’s oblivious, but I think his horrible attitudes are the result of ignorance rather than assholishness: i.e. there is hope. Oh, and we did establish that in the classroom, I am his boss, and he’s pretty much okay with that.

Ten Essential Pieces of Advice for Exam-takers.

  1. Pay attention to any instructions about materials you are allowed to bring. If your instructor tells you you may bring your text, the questions will probably require answers that relate specifically to the said text. Reading the text ahead of time is a definite bonus.
  2. Also, even though your instructor does not tell you to bring a pen or pencil, you should probably go ahead and do that, on the off chance that a writing implement will be needed at some point.
  3. Sniping at the professor for any reason just before the exam starts is equivalent to shooting yourself in the foot. Humour the poor dear, even if you privately think rules about turning off cell phones or not entering the examination room before the invigilator are “ridiculous and stupid”.
  4. Even if you are getting a B+/A- average, not turning up to the exam will probably mean you end up with an F for the course. Do not be surprised when this happens.
  5. I know it’s an English exam, but basic math skills are still important. “Answer 8 questions” means 8, not 6 or 7, or, WTF, 9.
  6. Similarly, “Answer one of the following in essay format” means answer one of the three questions, not write an essay that attempts to answer three completely unrelated questions.
  7. Spelling counts. It’s the little details that matter. When it’s an open book exam and you have to write an analysis of an essay by Sarah Vowell, referring to her as “Powell” throughout your exam is unlikely to get you extra marks.
  8. Try to answer the question. For example, if you are asked to write a persuasive essay on types of argument with specific reference to the three appeals defined by Aristotle, writing a narrative about your cousin who went to juvie is unlikely to meet the instructor’s requirements.
  9. A “bonus question” is your professor’s way of offering you a lifeline, in case you have screwed up (see points 1-8, above). Essentially, a bonus question offers free marks. Take the 2 minutes out of your busy life to throw a sentence at it, especially if you are done early.
  10. Professors are tired and cranky at this time of year, and overburdened with marking a metric fuckton of mediocre crap. If you have an inspired moment and think of a little joke or pleasantry that might lighten this load a little, go ahead and throw it in there. It’s best to avoid racist, sexist, or off-colour humour, but that little gem about how although playing Grand Theft Auto will not get you a girlfriend, playing the Sims will has got to be worth an extra 3-5%.