I was in my college psychology class and my one professor liked to try and figure out what would bother his students the most. I purposely kept myself guarded around him. He took different approaches, but the one I remember the most is that I was asking questions about the material, digging pretty deep into the theories, and after I asked a question he let out a low whistle, looked at me, and replied with: “Wow. You’re going to be a downright terrible wife. Asking questions like that? No man in their right mind would ever want to put up with a woman like you.” Everyone laughed. Including me. I used this as a funny anecdote for years, but I now look back and realize that this was a horrifically sexist thing for him to say to me.
During lectures, my Comparative Political Systems professor talks at length about male leaders of different countries, going so far as to list unnecessary personal details about their upbringing and hobbies. The first time he mentioned a woman was last week, more than halfway through the semester. He talked about the wife of one of the political leaders… well, more specifically, he showed a bunch of pictures of her, saying that her clothing demonstrated how that country’s culture is changing. To make matters worse, he kept making comments about how “pretty” she was. I am incredibly frustrated and saddened by this because I generally think that my professor is intelligent and knowledgeable about the material he teaches; however, I’m having trouble reconciling that with this disgusting behavior.
I’m a female full professor at a research university in the United States. Two of my male colleagues routinely act as if they are above our process for determining the agendas for meetings, and hijack them at their pleasure. The process is that our support staff sends out a call for agenda items and then the department chair forms them into an agenda. Despite receiving the agenda in writing, these two choose to ignore it and introduce new items without obtaining the consent of their colleagues. When female faculty members whose items (buried at the bottom of the agenda) complain about the situation, the chair brushes them off and won’t use even the most diplomatic of strategies to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, even when the complaining professors outrank the chair. This strikes me as unconscious sexism. Unsurprisingly, the upper administration uses the same marginalizing scripts as the chair when confronted with various complaints from female faculty from across campus. And they wonder why they can’t remain women faculty!