education post-feminist problems

Douchey Teacher thinks that Female Teachers are Setting Slutty Examples

Among my limited talents is the ability to provide theoretical validation to just about any a feelings that my friends might have. If they get rattled by something that they see, read or experience, they sometimes come to me to help them put their feelings into productive commentary. This is particularly true when it comes to social justice issues. Through my academic training I have had the privilege of gaining access to terms and language that help me frame my experiences in the social world. It is a pleasure to help them out in this way.

I recently got together with a girlfriend who teaches in an elementary school. She was reading the editorial page of the Globe and Mail, where she saw a comment written in reaction to an article called “Debating the Great School Cover-up”, which discussed students’ clothing. She photographed it because she found the comment frustrating, judgmental and intrusive. She then sent it me.

Evidently, Don Cooper, a teacher from Toronto thinks that his slutty ass colleagues should not be setting such slutty examples.

For a woman, dressing to teach in our social context is difficult. As this this post from tenureshewrote points out, we have very narrow appearance norms to follow when we dress to face students and (sometimes judgmental) colleagues. If women are too polished, they risk being criticized for their vanity, and it is concluded that her “looks distract from what she is saying.” But, if they dress down, they risk being criticized for their apathy, and it is concluded that her “looks distract from what she is saying.”

This is an issue that many women in professional spaces confront. In a culture that encourages all of us to objectify women and perceive their bodies as objects of desire, but also as objects of disgust, it makes it difficult for women to perform their femininity appropriately. Folks like Don Cooper reinforce this idea that our bodies are inherently sexual, and that it is our job to erase any trace our secondary sex organs in order to be taken seriously. Otherwise we make ourselves into distractions.

“Attire is a touchy subject when you consider a woman’s perceived right to wear what she will” – Don Cooper

I am a little surprised that the Globe and Mail would publish such a misogynistic comment (just kidding, I’m so not surprised). But, it really is sexist. First of all, Mr. Cooper you are not talking about attire as much as you are talking about our bodies. No shit: it is “touchy” when an institution or a person decides to interject in your presentation of self. And, are you seriously suggesting that women merely “perceive” themselves as having “the right” to wear what they “will”? This right is no more “perceived” than the right to vote or have a fair trial. It is a right, regardless of perception, and to suggest otherwise is more than just a little troubling to me.

Perhaps we should encourage people like Mr. Cooper to re-evaluate his “perceived right” to comment about how his colleagues present their bodies.

education sociology

Social Science and Democracy

I remember getting riled by the engineering and even the kinesiology students during my undergrad for taking sociology. They felt it was a waste of time, and even a bit of a cliche for a young woman to be in that program.   The social sciences have often been ridiculed, but recently one study funded by a large financial institution (CIBC) has provided social science haters with lots of ammunition, particularly when it comes to the return of investment on a degree. This study tells us that pursuing a degree in the Humanities or social science is basically pointless.  Students, instead should be opting to pursue careers in fields like business.

While I’m certainly not prepared to review the particular methods and the validity of the findings here, I think that we should be critical at a larger level. It is troubling to me that a powerful financial institution is producing research that explicitly deters people from entering the only programs that will formally introduce them to critical social discourse.  The social sciences, like History, Political Science, and Sociology provide students with ways to problematize major financial institutions and the subsequent wealth disparities that they perpetuate. This is extremely threatening to the status quo, which banks like CIBC are highly invested in.

That social sciences have a ‘low return on investment’ (if it is true) says nothing about the intrinsic value or applicability of the disciplines to current social conditions. Rather, it is a devaluing of the critical voices that emerge from these programs. This exchange between right wing business douche Kevin O’Leary and Chris Hedges is a perfect example of an attempt to silence such a social scientific critique of neoliberal economic hegemony.  The Humanities are clearly a threat to the institutions that hold power in our culture.

The thought of a society without the social sciences and Humanities quite frankly terrifies me. Dissent and the opportunity to thoughtfully develop it is crucial in a democracy. This not so subtle push towards a post-social science world is absolutely a threat to democracy.

Thanks for telling me about this Ryan!

girly-girl post-feminist problems sociology

On Love

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There is no consensus when it comes to defining love. Poets, philosophers, scientists, and the writers of romantic comedies have put a great deal of effort into understanding why and how it happens. Despite their efforts, no one seems to be able to define, or explain it in a way that satisfies everyone.

My people (sociologists) would most likely talk about it as a social construction that carries with it great meaning in our culture. Then they would probably discuss how definitions and experiences of love vary according to time and space.  You would hear the words “context” and “problematic” a lot. Like a lot. One of us would suggest that it is a tool of the patriarchy, and another sociologist would agree with them, but also make a case that it is an invention of capitalism.

Sociologists aren’t very sentimental. In fact, they will with great pleasure de-romanticize love and any other human experiences that bring joy to people’s lives. They make wonderful friends during a breakup. Incidentally, they can also be pretty supportive when you’ve imbibed in any deviant behaviour, because by the end of the conversation, you will feel that the only things that you violated were a few arbitrary social norms.

But, I unlike my fellow sociologists, do believe in love in an organic and human way. While I don’t have a hard and fast definition, I can explain it…

Love is when you irrationally worry about your partner dying anytime you are apart from them. I know that I’m in love when he doesn’t text me back in a timely fashion, and I immediately assume that he is dead or near death. I know that I’m in love when I begin to work under the assumption that every time we part ways, it will be the last time I see him. For me, a key tell is when I opt to send texts like: “be safe” or “don’t forget to lock the door before you go to bed”, or “When was the last time you tested your smoke detectors?” instead of something sexy.

Naturally, I only feel that my love is reciprocated when I can detect a parallel brand of neurosis from him. I’ll often blatantly ask “Do you ever worry about me dying?” Until I’m satisfied that he is sufficiently irrational about my mortality, I feel my love to be unrequited.

I blame my family for this ridiculousness. Every time it rains or snows each and every one them sends a “drive safely, roads are slippery” text.


*I’ll never not think that feminist Ryan Gosling is wonderful. I worry about him.

'race' education perspectives

The N-word in the classroom: Two different perspectives

A few months ago I was involved in an interesting discussion with two other instructors. I am a white female sociologist, and was talking to another sociologist who is of Indian descent, and a white female historian. We all broach the topic of ‘race’ in our classrooms. So, we started to talk about the ‘N-word’. I, as well as the other sociologist involved in the conversation took it for granted that we don’t use that word in the classroom, especially considering that neither of us, or our ancestors were targeted by that word. But, then the historian shocked us.

She told us that when reading primary historical documents which contain the word, that omitting it or changing it would be revisionist, which from my understanding of serious historians is problematic. She went on to tell us that she wanted to get her students to experience the shock, and visceral effect of the term. She actually made the argument that not using the term was actually ineffective pedagogy.

This really highlighted how complex this issue is. All three of us would describe ourselves as anti-racist feminists, and we share very similar politics.  But, in sociological discourse the use of this term in the classroom, at least by a person who is not Black would be considered to be troubling. I suppose that this is one of the differences between historians and sociologists. We both have theoretical justifications for how we treat this powerful symbol, and I don’t think either of us are necessarily wrong.

Imma shutup about teaching for today.

'race' education perspectives privilege sociology

Teaching: Privilege and the Denial of Oppression

Whenever I teach intro sociology, I (for better or worse) always hit my students with the most controversial chapters in the first 3 weeks: ‘race’ and racism, gender and sexism, and social inequality. Bam! I do this for many political and pedagogical reasons which I won’t go into here.  But, the effect of this is usually pretty intense. My students tend to experience anger. This anger is either directed at their culture, but often times it is directed at me. I am, after all pointing out the flaws in their culture, showing them that it isn’t always fair, and despite our best efforts, hard work does not guarantee us success. This is a lot to handle. People like to see their social context as fair and just. So, I come up against a lot of resistance.

Learning, especially in the social sciences necessarily entails a level of discomfort. Only when we become uncomfortable with the frame through which we are accustomed to viewing our world through, will we consider changing that lens. This is one of the main goals in teaching sociology. We want to push our students towards seeing all of the taken for granted disparate power relations that operate in all of our social interactions (both micro and macro), our identities/roles and our social institutions.

I always expect a level of resistance.  But one particular form of it drives me bananas… “white people/men also suffer from discrimination… blah, blah, blah, reverse-racism, blah, blah, blah.” Ugh.

I was discussing the phenomenon of “driving while black” in Toronto where we have a racial profiling issue. This is not an issue simply dreamt up in the minds of bored lefties. Even Bill Fucking Blair acknowledges this issue. Yet, this empirical fact is refuted with statements like “My son is white, and he was pulled over the other day, so yeah.”  Not only is this argument illogical, but it reveals this desperation to ‘fight’ for the privileged group, and refute that the oppressed group is actually oppressed.  It’s about aligning oneself with the valued group.

So, I’ve prepped my lecture notes for next week. This one is about sexism. This particular group (43 women, who are 40+) is outspoken in their advocacy for privileged folks. So, in my discussion of feminism, I actually spend most of my time talking about what it can do *for men* (it can do a lot, btw). This is ridiculously ironic, and actually quite manipulative on my end. It is an attempt to get them to stop advocating for men, when I go on to point out that (white middle class) men have more power in our culture by virtue of their gender.

 I will inevitably, at one point this semester hear that “women rape men too” in an effort to degender a discussion of rape and rape culture. But, hopefully I’ll come up with a similar strategy.