I Stood Up To My Professor And This Is What Happened

I Stood Up To My Professor And This Is What Happened

I knew that this was my moment, this was my time.
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It was a typical day in my large lecture class. I'm a history major, but this class was from a different program of study, one I was not too familiar with, but a subject I was interested in all the same.

My professor was in the middle of a lecture when a student piped up. She asked why we weren't looking at women's contributions to the field. The class was silent for a moment until our teacher explained that there simply weren't that many. The lecture continued until the girl raised her hand again and explained that she just Googled women in that field during the relevant time period, and there were at least 20 results that came up from her first search. When faced with this challenge, the professor explained that there were indeed some women who were involved in the field, but they were not influential to our subject of study, and therefore are not, essentially, worth the time to look into.

Days passed. I wrote to a former teacher and expressed to her my belated thanks that she had included narratives of women and other marginalized groups in her class, and explained what was occurring in my lecture class.

Noticing the concern that his students expressed, my professor offered the class a vote to see if we wanted to have a day devoted to women in the subject. About a week later, the final results were in — and it failed, with about two-thirds of the class voting against such a lecture. My professor had, so far, only briefly mentioned one woman who was involved in the field, giving her a discussion that lasted no longer than couple of minutes. On one of the final days of class, however, he discussed one female at half-an-hour’s length.

After that class, I talked with some of my friends and expressed what I believe to be important — that we start taking a holistic look at these subjects. I understand that the women in this field were not influential. Part of it has to do with the time period in which we are studying. Women simply did not have the opportunity to get involved in this field — another issue in itself — and those who managed to find themselves in it could not achieve the great success and accomplishments of their male counterparts, for a variety of societal reasons. But what is wrong with acknowledging what they did produce, whether or not they were “influential"? Isn’t there something there that we can learn, if only for context and understanding of a time period? My friends listened and supported my position. They encouraged me to go to my professor and talk to him.

I was nervous. I’m not a confrontational person, and I’ve never been one of the students in my classes to speak up about this sort of thing. I knew that if I talked about it, I would cry. But I realized that those women — and everyone who was part of a marginalized population — deserve to be remembered for what accomplishments they were able to make in spite of their struggles. I knew that this was my moment, this was my time. The next day, I came up to the professor and asked him if I could stop by his office to discuss women in the subject. He looked a little surprised, but said yes.

I walked into his office and told him that I would have loved to have studied women alongside the men we were studying. I asked him how he chose which people to study.

It was a rational, civil discussion, but I cried the whole time. He said, "I can see you're passionate about this.”

I said that, "if we treat women as a separate issue, we perpetuate the dominant narrative that exists today." And there are so many issues that could be fixed if we can learn to liberate ourselves from the current mindset.

He said that his approach is to look at the influential people. He said that he didn’t want to study women simply because they were women — a valid point, in my opinion. And he said that it's not worth our time to look at the very tiny percentage of women involved in the field because that was simply the reality of it. He believes life isn't fair, so he is just teaching to that reality.

I said I could see his point, that that was indeed the reality of it, but again, that only maintains the dominant narrative and affects today. He said he could see that I was trying to give a voice to the voiceless, but he is trying to focus on a group of elite men who had influence in their field.

I told him that I thought it would be valuable to look at just the lives and experiences of everyone during the time period — for context and for learning. Those women have contributions that can map onto the topics and themes we’re learning and would offer a richer experience and understanding.

He said that if I'm this passionate about something, it's not something I should let go. He expressed that he wants to hear what we have to say, and that I shouldn't feel defeated, but that I need to be resilient.

I told him I could see that we disagreed on what was important to study but thanked him for listening to me.

He told me to not feel defeated and stay resilient. Then I left into the rain and pulled my hood over my blotchy face and walked back to my room, feeling defeated and proud and sad and frustrated and strong and bitter and relieved and at peace all at the same time.

I think he understood my general point, but I don't think he really understood that I was seeing this as an intentional act toward equality and justice — equality and justice for my contemporary peers, as well as for all the souls who we ought to remember. This tiny step I took certainly made me realize how much I've taken my rights for granted. Power is an interesting thing.

While my professor and I disagreed in this discussion on how to approach studying women and other underrepresented groups, it really wasn’t a defeat. I had held 40 minutes of my professor’s undivided attention, and we had engaged in a discussion of ideas that he admitted had not ever come up to him until this year. He later followed up with an email, which tells me that I got him to think seriously about this. I’ve sent a response that acknowledges the points he made yet also expresses my position in a way that draws on some of the themes from his class. We’ll see what happens.

I think my professor is valid in some of the points he made and I do think he’s a fair and good person. But it was important to me to challenge the way he is teaching, to challenge the way we approach looking at these subjects and matters, and to defend the narratives — however small or big a role they played — because we can learn so much from them. It was thinking of all the brave suffragettes, all the women who defied the standards of their day, who gave me the courage to speak up. If those stories aren't shared, how can any change happen?

There is a lot that needs to be changed, I believe, in the way some things are taught. I'm glad that I went in to talk to my professor about what I believe needs to be considered and addressed. I'm glad I didn't let my emotions stop me from coming in to talk about it. I was nervous, but I knew that doing what was right and defending my position was something I'd never regret. I'm so grateful to the friends and family who I can lean on for support. Imagine what change could happen if everyone felt emboldened to speak up for what is right.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

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No, I Don't Have To Tell You I'm Trans Before Dating You

Demanding trans people come out to potential partners is transphobic.
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In 2014, Jennifer Laude, a 26-year-old Filipina woman, was brutally murdered after having sex with a U.S. marine. The marine in question, Joseph Scott Pemberton, strangled her until she was unconscious and then proceeded to drown her in a toilet bowl.

Understandably, this crime triggered a lot of outrage. But while some were outraged over the horrific nature of the crime, many others were outraged by a different detail in the story. That was because Jennifer Laude had done the unspeakable. She was a trans woman and had not disclosed that information before having sex with Pemberton. So in the minds of many cis people, her death was the price she paid for not disclosing her trans status. Here are some of the comments on CNN's Facebook page when the story broke.

As a trans person, I run into this attitude all the time. I constantly hear cis people raging about how a trans person is "lying" if they don't come out to a potential partner before dating them. Pemberton himself claimed that he felt like he was "raped" because Laude did not come out to him. Even cis people that fashion themselves as "allies" tend to feel similar.

Their argument is that they aren't not attracted to trans people, so they should have a right to know if a potential partner is trans before dating them. These people view transness as a mere physical quality that they just aren't attracted to.

The issue with this logic is that the person in question is obviously attracted to trans people, or else they wouldn't be worried about accidentally going out with one. So these people aren't attracted to trans people because of some physical quality, they aren't attracted to trans people because they are disgusted by the very idea of transness.

Disgust towards trans people is ingrained in all of us from a very early age. The gender binary forms the basis of European societies. It establishes that there are men and there are women, and each has a specific role. For the gender binary to have power, it has to be rigid and inflexible. Thus, from the day we are born, we are taught to believe in a very static and strict form of gender. We learn that if you have a penis, you are a man, and if you have a vagina, you are a woman. Trans people are walking refutations of this concept of gender. Our very existence threatens to undermine the gender binary itself. And for that, we are constantly demonized. For example, trans people, mainly women of color, continue to be slaughtered in droves for being trans.

The justification of transphobic oppression is often that transness is inherently disgusting. For example, the "trans panic" defense still exists to this day. This defense involves the defendant asking for a lesser sentence after killing a trans person because they contend that when they found out the victim was trans, they freaked out and couldn't control themselves. This defense is still legal in every state but California.

And our culture constantly reinforces the notion that transness is undesirable. For example, there is the common trope in fictional media in which a male protagonist is "tricked" into sleeping with a trans woman. The character's disgust after finding out is often used as a punchline.

Thus, not being attracted to trans people is deeply transphobic. The entire notion that someone isn't attracted to a group of very physically diverse group of people because they are trans is built on fear and disgust of trans people. None of this means it is transphobic to not be attracted to individual trans people. Nor is it transphobic to not be attracted to specific genitals. But it is transphobic to claim to not be attracted to all trans, people. For example, there is a difference between saying you won't go out with someone for having a penis and saying you won't go out with someone because they're trans.

So when a cis person argues that a trans person has an obligation to come out to someone before dating them, they are saying trans people have an obligation to accommodate their transphobia. Plus, claiming that trans people are obligated to come out reinforces the idea that not being attracted to trans people is reasonable. But as I've pointed out, not being attracted to trans people supports the idea that transness is disgusting which is the basis for transphobic oppression.

The one scenario in which I would say a trans person should disclose their trans status is if they are going to have sex with someone and are unsure if their partner is attracted to whatever genitals they may have. In that case, I think it's courteous for a trans person to come out to avoid any awkwardness during sex. But even then, a trans person isn't "lying" if they don't come out and their partner is certainly not being "raped."

It is easy to look at the story of Jennifer Laude and claim that her death was due to the actions of one bigot. But it's more complicated than that. Pemberton was the product of a society that told him that disgust towards trans people was reasonable and natural. So when he found out that he accidentally slept with a trans woman, he killed her.

Every single cis person that says that trans people have to come out because they aren't attracted to trans people feeds into the system that caused Jennifer Laude's death. And until those cis people acknowledge their complicity in that system, there will only be more like Jennifer Laude.

SEE ALSO: Yes, You Absolutely Need To Tell Someone You're Trans Before Dating

Cover Image Credit: Nats Getty / Instagram

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Donald Trump's Sanctions Toward The Iranian Government Are Giving Us Painful Flashbacks To North Korea

Whether the sanction is effective is uncertain. But just like the North Korean nuclear problem, there will also be an answer soon.

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The recent news is that Iran president Hassan Rouhani is willing to talk with Donald Trump and the American government about newly established sanction towards Iran. Three months ago, Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would exit the Iran Nuclear Agreement and threatened to impose sanctions on Iran nuclear in 180 days. Recently, Trump tweeted what could be seen as a threat to the Iranian government.

Donald Trump wanted to force the Iranian government to change their economic policy. There are a lot of domestic problems in Iran. The Iranian government is busy expanding their power in the Middle East. The government used to support the Syrian government. The Saudi Arabian government and the West, which supported the Syrian Rebels, attempted to stop Iran from interfering with Syria. The Iranian government worried that the Syrian governmental crisis would affect their political stability. The overuse of the financial budget has influenced economics, causing Iranian people to appeal the government to revolutionize.

Compare the North Korean Nuclear Crisis and the Iranian Nuclear Crisis and we can see Donald Trump's similar strategies. Firstly, Donald Trump has put in a lot of pressure of either country to force them to give up the nuclear plan and improve economics instead. In the North Korean Crisis, last year, Donald Trump called Kim Jong Un "rocket man" and Kim Jong Un condemned him "crazy."

After temporary language confrontation, Kim Jong Un gave and was willing to negotiate with Trump beginning in early 2018. As for Iran, Rouhani also laughed at Trump's policy and criticized Donald Trump's sanction to Iran which was not supported by the European Union. But the latest is that Iran officials are still willing to talk to the U.S. In the trade war with China, Donald Trump also exerted the pressure on China in order to negotiate.

Many people dislike Donald Trump. It is undoubted that Donald Trump's sanction has effectively forced the country to open their economy to a larger degree of freedom. In the Kim-Trump Summit, the U.S. government reportedly played a video that assumed the future of North Korea.

In Iran currently, the inflation is so high that the public wants the economics to be promoted and anti-America sentiment is expected to end. As Donald Trump mentioned, the aim of the sanction is not to overturn the Iranian government, but to let them rethink how to focus on economics rather than on political stability.

Whether the sanction is effective is uncertain. But just like the North Korean nuclear problem, there will also be an answer soon.

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