Have We Come a Long Way, Baby?
To be honest, I've never been quite sure what the word "feminist" means, exactly. I think it was Gloria Steinem who said something along the lines of, "A feminist is any woman who distinguishes herself from a doormat." And some people (women and men) might find it a great insult to dish out when they think the situation warrants it, but if someone calls me a "feminist," I will always take it as a compliment (unless they're the same people who think "feminists" also want to kill your husbands and eat your babies).
My point is, perhaps I have on my "feminist-colored glasses" but two very small, very insignificant events over the past week have concerned me. Don't worry - I'm not about to start a bra bonfire - I'm just concerned enough to scratch my head and wonder about the world in which my students live.
Exhibit A: My advisor now has a student I had in class last spring. She told me he came marching into class last week, no backpack - nothing, sat down at a desk, turned to the female student next to him and "asked" for some paper and something to write with, which she immediately handed over. Apparently, this was not just a random female student - I guess this little set-up has been going on since the semester began. He shows up empty-handed; she gives him his school supplies. He is also engaged, so I know this female student is not his girlfriend (as if that was the unspoken responsibility of girlfriends, but maybe I could make sense of that a little more.)
Exhibit B: Today, I was with my freshmen orientation class. I have to incessantly say to myself during this class, "13th grade, 13th grade, they think this is the 13th grade" in order to muster up enough patience to get me through the hour and a half without killing myself or anyone else. Since the start of the semester, two of the most attractive students - who, I'm guessing based on demeanor and attitude - were DEFINITELY at the top of their high school food chains have sort of ignored every other student. They sit way in the back and Sporto constantly whispers to Princess, while she flips her long, perfect blonde hair around with her perfectly painted acrylic nails on the end of her perfectly "Mystic-tanned" hand and giggles at everything he says. Princess wears more makeup (although very skillfully applied) than I wore on my wedding day. I don't think Princess is his girlfriend; I'm guessing she has a hot football star boyfriend back at home, but I'll be damned if Sporto isn't VISIBLY determined to get into her pants by the end of the semester. Am I painting the picture?
I was so sick of their constant whispering that while the other instructor was teaching, I went to the back of the class and sat right next to them. (I was hoping my presence would sabotage Sporto's mission and get them to shut up for at least. one. class). They both stared at me, horrified and disgusted that I would invade their private little giggle nest. "I needed to sit near the window. I'm really warm today," I said. Then I watched Princess pull a small sheet of paper out of her backpack and hand it to Sporto. "Ah, it happens at last - she's handing over her phone number," I thought to myself. But no - she said to Sport, "Now don't forget to put your name on it." And he did. Then he turned to me and said, "Here's my verification that I went to my advising appointment last week." Then he turned to Princess and said, "Hey, thanks for hanging on to that for me. I would have lost it in about 5 minutes." And then he smiled his mega-watt smile and she blushed and giggled.
I realize a few things. I realize (feminist glasses removed or slightly lowered):
- I could be looking for some sort of major "feminist" meaning, when perhaps there is none.
- Sporto might have asked his (male) roommate to hold on to his little advising sheet and when his roommate told him to "get bent," he figured Princess would help him out instead.
- This might just be the age group - the stage they (particularly the young women) are at in their lives. And the women are still very, very concerned about guys thinking they're the "really cool girl," in their orientation class. And they're terrified of being called a bitch, or worse. I get it. I've been there.
- I can't make some great pronouncement based on two very small interactions (one of which I didn't even witness myself).
- Sporto could have one of those doting moms and he truly can't manage his life by himself and rather than figure it out, when he got to campus 5 weeks ago, he just happened to find another person (who happens to be a woman) to take over the role.
- Sporto could also be extremely organized and just used the "hang on to this for me" ruse as an excuse to interact more with Princess.
- Insert your own, "Teacher Lady, you're CRAZY" here.
But (feminist glasses back on) - aren't these young women acting in some ways like, I don't know? Administrative assistants? Mothers? Whether these young men are just lazy, clueless, helpless or all of the above, why did they choose women to step into these roles? Or perhaps the women volunteered - I don't know. But my hunch is that the second time Johnny Student turned to the male seated next to him and said, "Dude, can you hook me up with some paper and a pen?" that "Dude" would have told him to go to hell. Or the nearest Office Max. And Sporto would not have dreamed of asking a guy to hang on to his little slip of paper so he didn't lose it. I'm guessing.
So, I'm curious - although I realize I may be "pole vaulting over mouse turds" as an old boss liked to say when we got obsessed with minuatae, what do you think? No big deal? Or sign of the "Backlash" Susan Faludi warned us about 15+ years ago? Or something in between?
Labels: Inane Ramblings