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October 27, 2005

Posted by Winter in sexism.

There was some rather odd sexism going on in my class today. We were discussing essay writing. I gave the students one rather dreadful essay and one excellent essay to look at and mark together, in the hope that active engagement of this kind will be more effective than me lecturing them on the subject. Obviously the old student essays were completely anonymous but, as they worked, I realised that they were almost all gendering the writer of the terrible essay as “he” and the writer of the good essay as “she.” I drew their attention to what they were saying and they had a good laugh about it, but couldn’t really explain their assumptions. The one poor chap in the class wasn’t too amused.



1. tekanji - October 27, 2005

I wonder how much that kind of gendered assumption has to do with stereotypes of women being more creative, better at language skills, etc. Also I wonder how much of it has to do with the recent increase in women going to post-secondary institutions and whether or not that would affect student’s ideas of a “good” essayist versus a “bad” one.

Also, just ’cause I’m curious. Were the papers typed or hand-written?

2. Winter - October 27, 2005

Yes. Over the last few years in the UK the media have been running a lot of “girls doing better than boys in education” stories and I wondered if this had slipped into their consciousness. The essays were typed. We try not to let them give in handwritten work.

3. Rex Mottram - October 28, 2005

Very thought provoking….
A lot of guys I know just aren’t good at communicating, whether it be written or spoken.
(Don’t shoot me for my next comment!) Women tend to be more emotional, by that I mean they are able to get their feeling out better than a man can. Next time you’re in a public place listen the conversations of the people around you, women actually talk about something, guys limit their conversations to sports, sex, TV, and gloss over the top of the important.
So, there’s a good chance the “good” essay was by a female since they are more able to let out what’s on the inside.

Am I being sexist?

4. Winter - October 28, 2005

Well, actually the good essay was written by a woman, but I didn’t tell my class that! I don’t know whether the writer of the bad essay was male or female, and I wouldn’t want to speculate. It’s interesting that the good essay was partly about sex and sexuality and I think the students did presume this to be a topic of female rather than male interest. In my experience they’re mistaken because I always get essays about sexuality from the young men as well. But it does make sense in terms of cultural stereotypes. They may also have been drawing upon the view that women are better communicators.

5. Haplo - October 31, 2005

“Next time you’re in a public place listen the conversations of the people around you, women actually talk about something, guys limit their conversations to sports, sex, TV, and gloss over the top of the important.”

Rex – have you considered that men might not consider “the important” to be all that important?

As to the gendering question, difficult to say – in the blogosphere at least, I don’t see any discernible difference in writing quality between men and women. What is the subject of your class, winter woods?

6. Winter - November 1, 2005

It’s a literature class haplo. All the young men I teach are very articulate and excellent communicators. But of course they’re mostly from very middle-class backgrounds and have received good educations.

7. RedRabbit - November 21, 2005

And of course, “the canon” was mostly written by (white, European) men… so clearly the boys *can* communicate fairly well when the spirit moves them.

I have noticed that men seem to talk about sports and cars and so forth when relazing over a beer, but I think that, in order to have created 50% of what we call civilization, they must be communicating something right.

Not that I don’t jump on the chance to vilify men any chance I get – when it’s warranted. 😉

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