Gender Differences

Back in Ukraine, the students who’d go to extracurricular events, lectures, exhibits, talks would be 100% female. Here, they are 100% male. I invited students from one of my classes to Friday’s talk. How many female students came from a class that’s 70% female? Zero. How many male students came? All of the American ones (not immigrants).

Also, here female students ask questions about what’s on the test and the minutiae of course organization. I don’t remember a single time when a female student asked about larger issues, the meaning of life, or anything I’d call a philosophical question. Male students ask such questions at every opportunity. Male students also ask questions about me, how I became interested in Hispanic Studies, what languages I dream in, what was the most memorable conference talk I’ve given, what my first day of teaching was like, etc.

The only two female students in my whole career that would come by my office to chat and not be either mousy or indifferent both had mental illness (bipolar and schizophrenia).

The funniest thing is that we have a female GA from Egypt. She’s Muslim in a hijab. Her way of interacting is much closer to an American male than American female. She’s freer, louder, more curious, and more self-assured than a typical female student around here.

I have no idea what parenting strategies around here create this difference and push women to spend their lives wondering if they are pleasing enough. It’s a mystery that I’ve wondered about for years. I make enormous efforts not to spend more time in class hanging out next to male students’ tables because they simply have more interesting, less constrained and robotic discussions.

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