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My Women's Studies Class

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City_Baby
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Makes me sick.

I just got back from the 4th time we've met this semester, and I just want to get out, although, I can't, because I "need" the course to graduate.

I'll try to keep this brief.

So the professor starts the day off by talking about "women's culture" as opposed to "men's culture" and goes into how "women do things different and so do men." She mentions how a matriarchy is a "fantasy reality" of hers. I'm starting to fall out with her here, but it gets better.

In her discourse about how "men and women do things differently" she begins to talk about manners of speaking to use as evidence saying that, "It's been observed in many cultures that men and women do speak differently." Fine. So I sit and listen as the class begins piping up, the few men speaking with obvious male guilt, one girl saying how it is "arrogant" how "men always speak like they know what they are talking about." and the rest of the women lamenting the fact that they just CAN'T get their points across.

Am I hearing this correctly? Are these people REALLY convinced that their gender dictates SO much of them as an individual that they CAN'T GET THEIR POINT ACROSS? Are men in this class so convinced that because of their gender that they are doomed to be arrogant assholes every time they open their mouths? Jesus...

So, I go up to my professor after class and I say, "Ok, regardless of gender, is there not an objectively good and bad way to reason?"

"Yes"

"Ok, so then why should it matter when we are trying to solve a problem what gender we are? Why can't we, as an individual, apply logic and rationality to things, and arrive at a conclusion or compromise?"

"I don't think there is an objective truth."

"No no no, not objective truth, but objective logic. Logic doesn't have a gender. One gender isn't "really" illogical and one isn't "really" logical. You said yourself that gender was a social construct, yet you are perpetrating the very idea you claim to decry. You are telling women that they, because they are women, speak passively and are unable to "keep up" with men, and that if they want to, they must "speak like men." Why can't we just speak as individuals?"

"You're becoming abstract. I don't deal with abstractions or philosophy. I am an anthropologist. I deal with experiences."

"Well, in my experience, my gender has very little if nothing to do with how I reason and conduct myself in problem solving. The method for this does not, and never has relied on gender. Reason is objective."

"Objective... that's such a male word... you're speaking from your male head now, Ashley."

This is the kind of class I'm going to spend my semester in? She admitted to me while walking to her office that "she deals with collectives, because that is where experience comes from" and she "does not care about philosophy." I don't know.

A fellow philosophy major sits behind me... she tapped me on the shoulder mid class and said "Is it just me, or is this conversation getting pretty weird?"

Beyond this, I can already tell that she grants merit based on gender, that is, she feels that I ought to have pride simply because I am female. I do not believe in this. I do not believe that me being female, or white, or black, or gay, or straight, or male, or w/e else merits me any pride. It's an arbitrary thing.

Uggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh

Sorry. Needed to vent. Opinions?

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Wow. "You're speaking from your male head now"? Sounds like she's just started out by defining the "male" perspective as concerned with logic and objective truth, etc, and then applies that indiscriminately. She's gotten to the point where her definitions of male and female override your actual physical gender in her mind. That's a disconnect from reality if I've ever seen one.

That being said, I'm pretty sure every university has people like this. It's a good life experience to have to deal with them for a limited time, but fun it is most certainly not. Just speak up and inject some reason when you can't take it anymore :-)

Edited by Dante
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Sounds pretty sucky, but calm down. We can't usually control who our teachers, coworkers or bosses are. Some will be worse than others. Time to suck it up and use it as a learning experience on how to deal with people we don't agree with, because those people will be there all of our lives.

BTW, I'm surprised that a women's study class is necessary for graduation. You sure? Have you checked to see if you can change it to something else?

Edited by claire
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Time to suck it up and use it as a learning experience on how to deal with people we don't agree with, because those people will be there all of our lives.

I agree with this, and having done so myself in college, using the experience was very fruitful. I treated professors like the one you describe as clients and did my best to provide them with a product to their liking, for which they paid me high grades. Many of them kept my work for display and future classes to appreciate, and I was fine with that.

I did my work in such a way as to not cheapen it or abdicate my values, too, so it was a great learning experience overall; in fact, I may have learned more from those classes than the ones with sensible professors because I had to work so much harder and with more maturity in the ones with ninny-heads for instructors.

Take it or leave the advice, but I really enjoyed the challenge of doing things the way I did. I learned from my earlier educational experience that trying to interject sense into discussion generally made things harder for me, and not in a way that brought about growth, but that meant fighting for deserved grades and being mostly miserable during the time I was required to spend in those classes if I was to graduate.

It was fun to mine professors for information and use it to my advantage. What I produced made them happy too, so I received the payment I sought. I was at the top of my class in an elite program and this was in no small part because I effectively dealt with situations like the one you described. Several other students ended up flunking out or quitting because they didn't figure this out and chose to fight instead. I retained my voice and my values, and gained the respect of my professors and fellow classmates while producing top quality work.

I highly recommend taking up the challenge of doing this yourself, rather than trying to overhaul the erroneous thinking of your obviously unwilling professor.

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"I don't think there is an objective truth."

I'm going to go against the common advice here and recommend you abandon the class. If your professor doesn't believe there is an objective truth, then how can she possibly grade you? Your grade is completely arbitrary, and therefore a complete waste of your time.

If you can't change to a different class, just don't go, don't take any exams, don't take any quizzes - in short, put no effort at all into the class. If she gives you a failing grade, confront her with the fact that there is no objective truth. She might claim you never showed up, never took any exams, never did anything, but that claim has no validity since there is no objective truth. You can claim with as much authority that you deserve an A+ since you did everything you were supposed to do, scored 100% on every test, and even did extra credit.

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Imogen, yes, I had a few doozies myself (oh, the nightmares it brings back). But I learned even from them. I learned how NOT to think. I learned what were NOT facts. I learned how to go about getting the right answers. And yes, I always got good grades (even from the SOB whom I threw a book at in class!!)

But like I said earlier, Women's Studies seems like a strange requirement for graduation. Do guys have to take it as a requirement, as well?

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I'm going to go against the common advice here and recommend you abandon the class. If your professor doesn't believe there is an objective truth, then how can she possibly grade you? Your grade is completely arbitrary, and therefore a complete waste of your time.

Sometimes even when the professor is bad, you can still acquire some valuable information by reading the material provided. The professor here is so comical that it's hard to believe, but I would still suppose that the coursework involves reading about history such as woman's suffrage, which does not require you to support any radical feminist ideas. If the OP enjoys annihilating silly premises, she can at least practice focusing on how neither men nor women have any inherent specialness in any regard to rights, and improve writing skills involving discussion on individualism. That is, if the class involves a lot of the writing, which I would guess is the case with a class named "Women's Studies."

Edited by Eiuol
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I'm going to go against the common advice here and recommend you abandon the class. If your professor doesn't believe there is an objective truth, then how can she possibly grade you? Your grade is completely arbitrary, and therefore a complete waste of your time.

If you can't change to a different class, just don't go, don't take any exams, don't take any quizzes - in short, put no effort at all into the class. If she gives you a failing grade, confront her with the fact that there is no objective truth. She might claim you never showed up, never took any exams, never did anything, but that claim has no validity since there is no objective truth. You can claim with as much authority that you deserve an A+ since you did everything you were supposed to do, scored 100% on every test, and even did extra credit.

Would you suggest that she do the same each time she encounters a collectivist/socialist/subjectivist professor (in the humanities!), because as far as my experience has been, that would mean not bothering with any program at all, and just taking 'continued learning' courses after interviewing professors to determine which, if any, courses I could take.

That, and she'd be making a very pricey point to do as you suggest. Tuition where I am isn't free, so I'd opt to take the required courses and make sure that I learned something valuable from the experience while assuring my own success foremost. Remember that as a volitional being, she has the opportunity to develop her own criteria or curriculum for the time she's there. The course doesn't seem very academically challenging, at least from the little that she shared, so there's likely room for her to do as pleases her with or in addition to what's being 'taught.'

Unless the requirement for a passing grade is that she sign a document or overtly express her agreement that all reality is subjective, I see no reason why she couldn't use her creativity to make this class personally productive.

If I can make my time changing diapers personally productive, surely a less deterministic occupation, such as taking a class in women's studies, could provide at least as much fodder for learning and success, no?

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"Objective... that's such a male word... you're speaking from your male head now, Ashley."

:lol: I Don't mean to laugh at your situation, but that just made my day. Thanks for sharing. My advice would be to try to enjoy the class. I use to have a Documentary teacher just like this. I took advantage of the situation. I got a good laugh and I met some good friends by just watching other peoples reactions to the non-sense coming from his mouth.

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Would you suggest that she do the same each time she encounters a collectivist/socialist/subjectivist professor

Absolutely, if those professors believe there is no objective truth. To do otherwise would not only waste her money, but also her time.

Why pursue a good grade in the course (an objective truth) when a poor grade is just as likely? The OP stated the professor grants merit based on gender. Based on the evidence the OP has provided, I can see no other way of looking at this than whatever grade one receives in this class is a complete crap shoot. In such case, any rational person would question the value of gaining the arbitrary (a grade in the class, which may require re-taking the class) in exchange for the objectively verifiable value of time and treasure. The OP knows what her time is worth, she knows how much money she's spending on the class. What she doesn't know, and can have no way of knowing, is what grade she will get in the class. Excelling in the class is no guarantee of a passing grade because there is no objective truth. She can't guarantee her own success, because there is no objective way of determining success in that class.

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I'm going to go against the common advice here and recommend you abandon the class. If your professor doesn't believe there is an objective truth, then how can she possibly grade you? Your grade is completely arbitrary, and therefore a complete waste of your time.

If you can't change to a different class, just don't go, don't take any exams, don't take any quizzes - in short, put no effort at all into the class. If she gives you a failing grade, confront her with the fact that there is no objective truth. She might claim you never showed up, never took any exams, never did anything, but that claim has no validity since there is no objective truth. You can claim with as much authority that you deserve an A+ since you did everything you were supposed to do, scored 100% on every test, and even did extra credit.

This obviously isn't the viewpoint of most people who claim to reject objective truth. They almost always have some warped ideas about how we can still manage through life and act like we're living in the same reality even though we can never be "certain," or we can only have "subjective truth," or some other B.S. like that. What you're saying makes for a good argumentative debate point, but not something to hang a class grade on.

Edited by Dante
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Absolutely, if those professors believe there is no objective truth. To do otherwise would not only waste her money, but also her time.

Why pursue a good grade in the course (an objective truth) when a poor grade is just as likely? The OP stated the professor grants merit based on gender. Based on the evidence the OP has provided, I can see no other way of looking at this than whatever grade one receives in this class is a complete crap shoot. In such case, any rational person would question the value of gaining the arbitrary (a grade in the class, which may require re-taking the class) in exchange for the objectively verifiable value of time and treasure. The OP knows what her time is worth, she knows how much money she's spending on the class. What she doesn't know, and can have no way of knowing, is what grade she will get in the class. Excelling in the class is no guarantee of a passing grade because there is no objective truth. She can't guarantee her own success, because there is no objective way of determining success in that class.

Your suggestion is a perfectly valid way of dealing with the situation, but my points hang on the assumption that the O.P. has endeavoured to complete the program, and has also already encountered a good number of collectivist/socialist/subjectivist professors, given that she is a philosophy major and there is just no shortage of these types of mentalities amongst the faculties of the Humanities. This one seems extreme, no doubt, but this is not an insurmountable problem. If the course can be switched and still satisfy the requirements of the program, then I would agree that switching to another course may be the best option.

I have had little experience with objectively assessed and given grades. Most of the time, the criteria are loosely stated if at all, so from a student's perspective it is at least somewhat arbitrarily determined by the instructor. I've never met a person who could give evidence for the merit of 92% as distinct from 91% or 93%. It could be done with a one-by-one break-down of the criteria, but I have never seen a professor surrender leeway to this degree. Usually, there is an abstract common understanding of what quality of work merits 90% as a grade as opposed to 30%, and usually there are enough given criteria to objectively distinguish between the two (and even with closer numbers, but not within more than 10, say), but in general, a significant proportion of a grade is 'determined' arbitrarily (ie: subjectively, or worse- collective, a.k.a. 'the curve').

I personally think that it would make much more sense to have students grade their own work and then to explain and defend their assessments. I have always figured out my instructors' blind spots, and used them to my benefit when necessary, but I am harshly critical of my own work- far, far moreso than any instructor ever has been. But I digress...

Edited by Imogen
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I would respond with an Anthropological argument.

You see, women in many societies are task with child rearing. This causes them to seek material support from others, it being impossible to both care for a child, and provide the material support for oneself and the child. As a result, women in these societies become conditioned to view reality through their relationships with others rather than through facts.

This in turn causes women in many societies to doubt reality itself. This in turn causes them to doubt the reality of their identity, and their self-worth. This contradicts the self-evident, with objective gender-unbiased reason as the source of that knowledge. As a result, they become desperate to restore the conviction that they are unique individuals, with the right to pursue happiness within their own societies. They are desperate to reconcile their world-view with their self-evident and foundational needs.

However, because of the social conditioning they've experienced, they are fearful that they might discover that their unique identity is worthless in reality. Not because it is, but because their society has been conditioned to reject reality. As a result, they desperately seek examples of individual self-worth in others, where there's no risk to themselves. They constantly seek to give and love, or advocate for the needs of others - everyone but themselves - because they have disassociated themselves from reality.

This is why many women in today's society feel that they are not understood. Because they have been conditioned to expect that others provide for them what they can only provide for themselves: personal acceptance of objective reality, and the conviction that they have a right to pursue their own happiness.

Objective fact exists. That the 'female mind' doesn't have access to these facts is not a fact. That anthropological forces might impede women in their effort to learn truth: that's the real story.

Tell your professor: "I think I understand what you're saying. But, I maintain that women are capable of learning objective truth and indeed ought to. If I felt otherwise, it would be as if I didn't have a respect for the humanity of women. And that I wouldn't think they deserved an equal station with men, because of the meer fact of their reproductive organs."

Anyway, this isn't a theory of mine. Maybe a speculation, but nevertheless I'm making a point about the vaunted logic of sociological science.

Best response in this thread: "She speaks with such certainty, like she knows what she's talking about. She must be a dude."

Yeah, that's the point.

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