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Clarissa's Blog

An academic's opinions on feminism, politics, literature, philosophy, teaching, academia, and a lot more.

Gaydar in the Classroom

This is priceless, folks:

if you self-identify as trans, queer, a person of color, female, or as a member of any marginalized group you’re given priority on the list of people who want to speak – the stack. The most oppressed get to speak first.”

Not only am supposed to guess who is trans and gay – and trans and gay students must surely love having gaydar applied to them in the classroom – I must also assign rank in terms of oppression to them. Of course, there’s nothing at all objectionable in the idea that gay and trans people can be visually identified and \ or interested in declaring their sexual and gender identity to professors. 

And what if you make a mistake? What if there’s a guy who “looks gay” but isn’t? What if he’s bisexual? Or asexual? Or unsure? How do you decide whether a bisexual student is more or less oppressed than an asexual one? What if he doesn’t feel more oppressed? Obviously, you can’t ask students because feeling oppressed is not a good measure of anything (see Trump voters). 

Racial identity is tricky, too. Do you go “She looks swarthy. Is she not really white? But what if she’s Jewish? That would make her very unopressed in an academic context. But what if she’s Hispanic? But then again, she might be a Hispanic Jew”? That really sounds like something we all want our professors to do to us. 

What if students figure out what your system is for calling on them during class and feel mortified? What if they didn’t want to be ranked as oppressed? What if they feel that you are outing them to their classmates? What if they are not ready to come out? Isn’t that a bit more important than a percentage point on a participation grade? 

And finally, while you obsess over the sex lives and the racial identity of your students, trying to judge and categorize, when do you actually teach? 

We all hate it when students or colleagues treat us as a woman or a Latino or an immigrant or a lesbian first and professor second. Why should we do this to them? Why are they supposed to like it when we don’t?

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3 thoughts on “Gaydar in the Classroom

  1. I would give priority both to students who have something interesting to contribute, letting everybody else benefit from their ideas, and to weaker students who need some remedial instruction (but not if they are too far behind, turning the lecture into a private lesson).

    I would not be interested who is “most oppressed” or who has a worse home environment or anything else unconnected to the lesson.

    Btw, a trans student may have a supporting, wealthy, highly educated family, while a WASP male student may have the least priviledge in practice. A professor cannot and should not know such personal things about every student.

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    • I once had a class with 70 students and a participation component. So I got them to work in small groups and approached every group separately. Everybody got to participate.

      There is no problem here that needs solving aside from the professor’s desire to gain power through arbitrating oppression Olympics.

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  2. Jonathan on said:

    Sometimes progressive ideas are simply terrible. Not that I would call it progressive. It is the kind of thing a right wing person might think up to sabotage the left, if a right wing person were smart enough.

    Liked by 1 person

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