My students need an urgent course in feminist theory. I didn’t have the slightest idea of how incapable they are of making an even remotely feminist analysis of a work of art. I’m a feminist and so is everybody I know. As a result, I’m completely out of touch with how infected many people are with a deeply patriarchal way of thinking. The absolute majority of my students (irrespective of gender, by the way) hold the following beliefs:
– If a woman works, she does so only because there is no man who can provide for her. There is no other conceivable reason why a woman might be working.
– If a man does not keep a woman and “has to allow her to work”, he has no choice than to feel desperate and “unmanly.”
– Women almost never leave men. Men are the ones who are more likely to leave. (This is not surprising, since in this bizarre imaginary universe where women have no income of their own, they wouldn’t be able to leave.)
– Women cannot have male friends. If a woman has a male friend, it means she is sleeping with him.
– If a man lives in a pigsty, that means there is no woman who loves him.
– Men don’t care about their appearance. But that’s OK because women also don’t care about men’s appearance.
– If a woman leaves an alcoholic husband who beats her, she betrays family values.
– If a man hugs his male friend to comfort him, that explains why women don’t like him.
– A high percentage of women who work is a sign of a bad economy.
– Unless a man and a woman have very strictly defined and very different roles in the family, the family will fall apart.
– Masculinity is a quality men acquire by paying all the bills.
I believe that we need to add at least one course in Gender Studies to the basic requirements for all students to prepare them for life in the modern world. These kids can do a kick-ass analysis of class issues, they mostly lean towards very progressive political and economic views, but in terms of gender roles, they are living in such a remote past that my illiterate great-great-grandmother would have been horrified with their opinions.
People! Friends! Citizens! Are we still living in 2012 or have we traveled far back in time?
P.S. One wonderful, amazing, brilliant student made me feel better about things when she wrote, “Only old people care about gender roles.”