I’m slowly beginning to realize that I am a bitch, in my students’ eyes. Well, my male students’ eyes. This is insanely frustrating to me. In my reality, I am kind and fair to them. I guide them through assignments, teach them the best I can, and I enforce any rules or deadlines that I said I would. This last part, the enforcing, is what makes me a “bitch” in many of their opinions, especially my male students.
What’s really interesting to me is that most of my male students are athletes. These are football, basketball, and baseball players who get chewed out by their coaches daily. If they miss my class, the football coach makes them run laps. Somehow I don’t think they are calling him a bitch. They’ve never called me that name out loud, but their eyes say it. I know these thoughts are not pure paranoia since they have been discussed by women before. I specifically found Susan Basbow of Lafayette College’s field study interesting: “The ratings of male professors are unaffected by student gender, but female professors frequently receive lower ratings from their male students and higher ratings from their female students” (Basbow).
My young males students always are the most difficult challenge (public relations word there: “challenge”). Many of them are still of the mindset that women are one of two types: their mother (nurturer) or their girlfriend (sex object). I don’t fall under either one of these categories; therefore, they don’t know how to treat me. They try out mother. They try out sex object. I block both choices. They become angry and quiet.
More from the same study:
“Research conducted at Lafayette College, a small liberal arts institution in Pennsylvania, demonstrates these complexities. In one study (Basbow), 16 female professors were matched with a male professor in the same division, at the same rank, and with the same rank, and with the same number of years at the college. More than 1,000 students in classes taught by these 32 professors filled out two questionnaires. One was a standard student rating form consisting of 26 questions, summarized into five factor scores (scholarship, organization/clarity, instructor-group interaction, instructor-student interaction, and dynamism/enthusiasm) and an overall rating. The second (the Bern Sex Role Inventory) asked students to rate their professor on two sets of personality traits: instrumental (such as assertive or dominant), often viewed as “masculine”, and expressive (such as warm or nurturant), often considered “feminine“.
The results revealed a consistent pattern. On all five factor scores and the overall rating, male students rated female professors more negatively than they rated male professors – and generally more negatively than did female students in the same class.”
I think the combination of my gender and my age make things even more difficult for myself and my male students. Believe me, I dress in the most non-sexual way possible, but I still see their eyes travel in ways that are not very studious. I am not a professor in their eyes. I am a female professor. I seem to have to carry that modifier with me wherever I go in the classroom. Women only make up about 30% of full-time academia, so we are not the norm, yet. Therefore, students respond to women in the classroom differently.
However, based on my observations of my students, women won’t be the minority in academia for much longer.