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Fighting Misogyny: What Can I Do?

Let me be clear. I’m not waving my hands helplessly in the air saying, “There’s nothing I can do, leave me alone!” This is a sincere request for ideas.

If you don’t follow news in the same circles I do, here’s a quick summary: In science-fiction particularly, female authors aren’t always treated as equals by their not-so-female peers. There have been similar “kerfuffles” in the gaming community. And if you check out @EverydaySexism on Twitter, you can see that it’s a dishearteningly widespread issue across all communities.

As an author, I have some ideas about how I can be pro-female (without being anti-male), how I can keep an eye out, how I can speak up. During the school year, though, I spend five days a week with teens between 13 and 15 years old. I feel like I should be doing something to address issues of sexism with those students, especially since the gaming-community issues often seem to be attributed to boys in that age group.

But how?

I’ve talked a few times about an individual who exhibited definite negative behavior. I pulled him aside, had talks with him, made it clear it wasn’t acceptable … and made some progress. But most students are smart enough to avoid super-overt displays of misogyny in my classroom.

One-time “serious” class discussions don’t always do very much. As a student, I know I tuned them out, waiting for the teacher to get back to the “real” lesson. Changing behavior and views takes time, right?

So does teaching math, and I clearly can’t throw that out the window. Honestly, when I get going on the math, it’s easy to get one-track about it, so it would be good to know what kind of concerted effort I should be making.

Is it a matter of modeling? Consistency in my own speech and behavior? Seizing on those teachable moments when they pop up and taking five minutes for them? (For instance, any time a boy uses a word like “girl” as though it’s an insult.)

I want to do what I can in my own little sphere of influence. It just feels so big, and I don’t know where to start.

Any ideas?

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4 Responses to “Fighting Misogyny: What Can I Do?”

  1. SC_Author says:

    I posted this on AQC, but I’ll do it here too 😀

    I saw your Tweet linking back to your tumblr (I think it was tumblr, I suck at remembering social media new stuff) and I saw the video-gaming Tweets.

    I don’t know, but I can tell you this: I had one math teacher who was, quite probably, one of the most influential teachers I’ve ever had. She was tough, strict, fun, a little proudy, and so, so strong. Like an older and meaner Ms. McGonagall. She simply oozed respect. Honestly, everyone wouldn’t dare speak up to her. When she spoke, you LISTENED. I don’t think anyone who ever had her can honestly say that all women are inferior.

    I say this story because I want you to know that you don’t have to be her. At all. It might not be you, and if you don’t ooze the confidence she had (how can you if you try to be her?) it won’t work. Simply, the best thing to do is ooze confidence. Also, stick up for your beliefs. No one dared to say anything racist or sexist in her class because, even though she never told us off for it, we knew that she would. It was just a given. If you ooze that confidence and pride, you’ll have it, and you’ll change lives (which, I’m pretty sure, you’re already doing :D).

    Hope I helped!

    • R.C. Lewis says:

      Aw, thanks for sharing that, SC. 🙂

      Maybe I can make that work within my own brand of teaching style, as far as confidence. A big part of my approach is letting imperfection show—hey, look, I make mistakes and don’t always know the answers, so it’s okay if the same happens to you. But that can still go hand-in-hand with confidence, I guess, in its way.

  2. Matt says:

    I think it’s a noble quest to continue — and not in a Don Quixote fashion. But I think ridding a field of misogyny — whether it’s science fiction or teaching or just about anything — takes years. A lifetime, perhaps. That quest includes making use of all teachable moments, those we create as well as those that occur naturally, to dispel prejudices and prove false the misconceptions. There will be many moments of frustration, but just as scientists like Bill Nye are armed to attack ignorance of those who claim the earth is only a few thousand years old or who argue that “alternative theories” of creation be taught in school, you have the advantage of knowing that you’re right. Don’t let idiots get you down, R.C.

  3. Mallory says:

    1) Mention powerful women. When giving lessions, inform students of who contributed to the research. Though mathmatics is a male dominated profession, there are some very smart female mathmeticians

    2) Geek is cool again and some of the biggest names in the geek culture are featuring powerful women. Amy and Burnadette are both super smart and beautiful.

    JJ Abrams made Uhura a much more prominent character in the newer Star Treks

    3) Say what you are thinking. 13-15 yos can handle a lot. Just have a quick, frank discussion.

    4) You won’t convince everyone. All you have to do is convince one person and you’ve made a difference.

    Joss Whedon is also known for his badass women. Agengers didn’t have as many, but he didn’t have much to work with from comic books.

    It is pretty easy to reach kids through pop culture, and there are lots of powerful women out there.

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