Does Gender Affect Classroom Dynamics?

The classroom is where we develop and broaden our understanding of the world, but do gender dynamics affect how students -and staff- are interacting?

On a campus with more females than males, one of our own staff members noticed something strange as she helped facilitate an event in a class:

Jesse: Recently, you went to a classroom where you helped lead an event that was focused on women negotiating their salaries. In reflecting upon this event, how would you say that gender roles and dynamics played out in that classroom?

Leanne: I am always conscious of the layout of a classroom and where individuals decide to sit. We had arranged chairs in a half circle facing the front of the room, and the two seats that were dead center facing the projector were filled by the two most vocal men in the class (this was a class of 16 students, 4 males and 12 females). By vocal, I mean always raising their hands to ask questions or add commentary and ensuring that their own voices were heard and dominant. These two men were eager to question the content of our presentation and contrast it with their own experiences. That is not to say the women in the room did not speak up, but they did so in a way that was more conversational and inquisitive; they never implied that they knew better than we did. It was fascinating to see the way the female professor of this class pandered to the males in the room, even though this workshop is intended for women, to work on a challenge that women overwhelmingly face more than men. She explicitly stated that her reason for wanting this presentation in her classroom was because the expanded StartSmart workshop we offer is exclusively for women, and she wanted the men in the room to “make that extra million dollars too.” After one of these men was making loud, comedic comments during a budgeting exercise, the professor fondly rolled her eyes and laughed, explaining that this type of behavior was “so him.” While I cannot make a judgment on whether this is the typical classroom dynamic since this was the only session I attended, it seemed as though there were concrete roles that the men in the classroom filled, while the women sort of watched it unfold. I found myself having to make purposeful eye contact with the other people in the room and request that they share their inputs so that this did not become a session only about this student and his needs.

Although there are many factors at play, this is a conversation that the Women’s Center is often engaged in. Do certain people feel more comfortable asserting themselves and speaking up? And How does this play out in other classrooms?

Walking As a Woman

Responses to Street Harassment Video

By Daniela Conde ’15

For the past four years at USD I’ve had internships off-campus. My often-daily commutes lasted a total of three to four hours a day sometimes longer on busy days, returning back to my dorm around 11pm. As an Ethnic Studies major and critically conscious scholar the first thing that came to mind when watching “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Wom[y]n” was of course the notorious gendered intimidation and violence that happens daily in our country’s streets, the racialization and criminalization of the men of color in the video, in addition to the historical pattern of victimizing white womyn and leaving the experiences of womyn of color, transgender, and Queer folks as afterthoughts.

Navigating the streets of New York and using public transportation is by no means new to me. I have had to use public transportation for the past 22 years of my life in my multiple homes of Puebla, México, Oceanside, California, Brooklyn, New York, Bayonne, New Jersey, Solana Beach, CA and now back in San Diego, CA. I developed a strategy as a 5-year-old walking down the streets of México: I would pick up a rock or any sturdy object for self-protection and I would keep it until I arrived at my destination. I also programmed myself to watch every corner I turned and practiced sporadic sprints. My independent spirit and petite stature demanded that I continue this habit as I walked and used public transportation on my own in the streets of Brooklyn, New York as an 11-year-old to get to school everyday, instead of a rock I now carried a multi-purpose filled to capacity stainless steel water bottle.

A year and a half ago, I remember being stranded around midnight in City Heights, San Diego, CA. I missed the last bus headed north and was at an ultimate high-level of stress. I sat down alone in the dark and began to yell at myself for being so poor, for not having a car, for being so irresponsible and especially for not having my stainless steel water bottle to defend myself. For me, the streets are not an option – nor do I have the luxury of making a 10-hour recording for a viral video that is limited in its commentary because it ignores the factors of race, sexuality, among others. I do not want to undermine the distress of the actress in the video yet it hurts me to realize that she will never understand what it feels like to navigate the streets of México where catcalling and verbal abuse escalates 175%, or to have to run away in despair because an older white man decided to target you in an isolated street of Brooklyn, or when you are cornered and attacked by two young men walking after school in Oceanside, or to die in the streets of East Hollywood like that of an un-identified transgender sister last month(!), October 2, 2014.

An intersectionality framework, education, creative campaigns, grassroots community involvement, and the support of allies, such as men, is key when working in gender and social justice issues like this. By inadvertently targeting men of color as the main culprits of street harassment erases the history of white men using gendered intimidation, violence, and rape as a tool for colonization and imperialism. Nevertheless, I am disappointed in all of our men of color who perpetuate and vomit the sexist sickness out into the streets as a form of internal oppression and patriarchal socialization; they are also responsible for feeding the culture of rape. Their racialization and criminalization in this video does not excuse them of their actions – it is important to critically engage men in these discussions too.

This long-term process of human dignity and gender justice, especially for some of the most marginalized groups like womyn of color, transgender and Queer folks, in our streets is a movement that requires ALL of our energies. The Hollaback! organization is doing important work regarding street harassment in addition one of my personal favorite artists Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, based in my home Brooklyn, New York, is creatively and critically taking part in this transnational movement. In “Stop Telling Wom[y]n to Smile” an art series and social justice campaign “attempts to address gender based street harassment by placing drawn portraits of wom[y]n, composed with captions that speak directly to offenders, outside in public spaces.” Fazlalizadeh does not leave the voices and stories of womyn of color and other oppressed folks behind, but rather centralizes them and creates an empowering and aesthetically enlightening aura of hope in the streets for womyn like me.

We must continue to work together through intersectional grassroots initiatives and collectives who are slowly uprooting the white heteronormative patriarchal foundation in this country and the specific problems in each community. We need to collectively affirm the dignity of all womyn; for we are sacred, self-determined, and powerful beings.

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When an awareness month comes to an end…

The Pledge

The Pledge

By Erin Lovette-Colyer

Yesterday we took down “The Pledge”.  It saw a lot of action in October.  It began outside of the football team’s locker room, where it was signed by many members of the team.  It stood at the steps of Torero Stadium for the Homecoming game, where students, alumni and family signed on.  It made its way to Plaza Mayor for the “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” event hosted by Alpha Chi Omega, where men stood in heels signing their names.  Finally, it sat itself down on the second floor of the SLP and challenged passersby to sign their names.  And sign they did!

Walking by “The Pledge” each morning made me feel good.  It reminded me that people care.  As I walked by, I saw the names of hundreds of people who pledged a personal commitment to help keep women and men safe from sexual assault and relationship violence.  They promised not to be a bystander to the problem, but to be a part of the solution.

As someone who seems to do A LOT of awareness raising, I experience moments (particularly at the end of an “awareness month”) where I question whether or not what we’re doing is making a difference.  Will purple ribbons, key chains and socks* make a difference?  The answer… maybe.  We spend a lot of time in the Women’s Center talking about the issues people aren’t comfortable talking about.  Heck, we aren’t always comfortable talking about them!  But we keep talking.  We keep inviting others to talk, to engage in dialogue.

Successful awareness-raising turns into consciousness-raising.  When individuals are able to speak to their lived experiences and learn ways to challenge the system, that’s when we’re making a difference.  Purple ribbons, key chains and socks are important.  But I’ve come to learn that when an awareness month comes to an end… the real work begins.  Here’s to November!

*For those who were unable to attend – our football players rocked purple socks during the Homecoming game to raise awareness around domestic violence.

It’s Halloween Costume Time

How to have a conversation with friends who are excited to dress provocatively for Halloween

By Yajaira Nuñez

What would I say to a friend who wants to wear a provocative costume for Halloween…

My initial reaction would be to ask why they wanted to do that? You’re going to be cold, and it can be an unwanted invitation for people to say things that are undesired, offensive, or objectifying. BUT, in realizing that what I just said perpetuates victim blaming, I would say: go ahead. Who am I to tell you what to wear? Be provocative. Wear the “sexy” _________ (fill in the blank) if that’s what you want to dress up as.

This is where I face an internal dilemma. I don’t consider myself an expert on costumes, but there are certain costumes that I simply would not wear. Whether it’s because I would feel uncomfortable showing too much skin or appropriating someone else’s culture, I just wouldn’t chose to wear those costumes. So, now that I have processed the two answers I was inclined to give, how then, would I really approach this situation?

Granted that I am having this conversation with a friend, I would ask why they chose their costume. This conversation could then go down many different paths, and that’s okay, because then I have planted a seed that questions the decision they have made. I could continue by asking if they are comfortable wearing what they have chosen, as well as what type of environment they will be wearing the costume in. I would probably be doing a lot of the listening and adding my perspective when needed, but, ultimately, I would hope to allow for a conversation that allows them to think about their decision out loud and come to their own conclusions about what their costume will be.

After this I would leave it up to them, because respecting the decision that my friend is making is also an important factor in this conversation. I, by then, have stated my concerns, but have not told them what to do or wear. It is important to keep in mind that even though you might be concerned about the costume choice your friend has made, it is their body and what makes them feel comfortable and empowered might not be the same thing for you. Ultimately, there is no “right” answer to this question, but by making the effort to have a conversation about provocative or potentially problematic Halloween costumes, the space for deeper understanding and reflection is opened up both for myself and for the friend who I would be having this conversation with.

OMG! Where’d you get that?

Jessica Ruiz Computer Rocks

As many of you know, the Women’s Center takes great pride in it’s swag.  This fall is no exception.  We unveiled the now famous, “Of Course I’m a Feminist” sticker here at USD.  Whether at the UC/SLP Open House, the Alcala Bazaar, resource fairs, or welcome receptions, people could be found rushing toward the sticker bowl to grab one (or ten).  Maybe people are just really excited about free sparkly stickers. (Who can ever get enough glitter?)  Or maybe people are really excited about equality…

While we in the W-C love ourselves some glitter, it’s about equality.  Its about sharing the news that we are committed to ending sexism, to ending oppression.  For those of you sporting the sticker across campus – what does it mean for you?

(Props must be given to Miranda and the Stanford Women’s Center for sharing all that glitters!)