I get it.
I am that annoying friend that people have that believes in weird things like abortion, birth control, and equal pay. I think that I have believed in all of these since I learned that as a human being with a vagina, I was affected by all of them. However, it was not until I came to college that these ideals identified me as “feminist,” and “liberal.”
Sure. I’ll take it. I’d rather be known as any of those than as a Republican.
My first semester of college was filled with exciting feminist experiences that can now help me argue with people who believe that feminists are just angry lesbians who hate men. Let me make something clear: I am sure that somewhere in the world, there are lesbians who do in fact hate men, just like there are heterosexual women who hate them ( I do not have any comments about their mood, though). However, to be a feminist you do not need to hate anyone or to be any sexuality. You just need to stand by Roe v. Wade and believe that rape is not the victim’s fault, ever. You also need to understand that to be a feminist, you don’t have to do something, as someone once proposed. Their example was: “Just because you like science doesn’t mean that you’re a scientist.” No, you’re right, it doesn’t. However, just because you can think lots of dumb things does not mean you have to share them. Let me explain: You cannot graduate college with a Bachelor of the Arts in Feminism. It’s not a profession; it’s a state of mind.
That being established, since I took my introduction to Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies class, I have talked and argued about women in the media, rape, domestic work, the second shift, women in Disney, the different meanings assigned to the brave, courageous people who have “balls,” and the weak, flimsy ones that are “pussies.” I have talked about gender inequality in the classroom, and about how unfair it is for women to have to settle for the scraps of a teacher’s or a professor’s attention because her participation is not expected (if this is news to you, I encourage you to look into it. Just Google it, and you’ll see that it is a big deal).
It was always just talking, but never had I actually experienced it, until last night, when I learned that sexism is not just printed into scholarly texts or Justin Bieber’s music videos; it is everywhere.
Due to any combination of factors including the lack of course availability at a convenient time, and my need to fulfill math and science requirements if I ever want to see a college degree, I ended up taking some or other astronomy course, which happened to contain a little bit more Math than I bargained for. Now, I realize that a girl writing about how much she sucks at Math is not really anything new, but I went to an all-girls school for a good portion of my life, and although some were destined to become scientists and physicists, I was not one of them. Math and I have simply never been friends. But I was ready to rekindle our relationship in a class that was supposed to be more content, and less numbers, and that had a book with cool pictures of planets and stars.
Come the first homework, however, I realized that it was going to be more challenging than I had hoped, so I decided to go to the TAs office hours so that he could help me complete these problems, because, quite frankly, if I was stranded on an island right before Christmas, stuck somewhere between New York and England, the last thing I’d be concerned with is finding my latitude with a stick.
Regardless, I decided to give it my best shot, I filled my brain with positive thoughts, which are supposed to make everything better (it’s not a foolproof method, but it does work sometimes), wore my Elmo hat, and headed out in the cold and in the snow to figure out how to calculate my latitude and longitude because you never know when you’re going to need to find out your latitude and longitude when you are stranded in an island in the Atlantic Ocean.
Here’s a hint: never, because there is nothing but water between England and New York.
Regardless, I climb the hill that leads to the building, exhausted because of a long day packed with classes, absurd amounts of reading for said classes, and overtime at my job, and I get there, heroically, ready to humbly ask the TA for help.
So, this is the scenario: an assortment of guys, the TA, and me, the only girl in the place.
I was there for a good hour, trying to learn, to get my questions asked, hoping to get an answer, but, unfortunately, it did not happen. While this man spent all the time in the world to answer all the other students’ (male students’) questions, he could not even dedicate 15 seconds to mine.
While everyone was volunteering and shouting out answers, the ones that I said, were all, every single one, questioned, probably worse than in a CIA interrogation, because he wanted to know where I had gotten my answers from, how I knew that number, how I knew how to solve the problem.
Sure, feel free to ask me why I know the things that, you know, the class is teaching me. But if you’re going to be so aggressive and question everything I say, do it to absolutely everyone else. If you do not think that my explanations are good then explain things yourself. Don’t just say “You’re wrong,” and move on. And if I happen to be wrong, then explain why just like you did with everyone else. That way, you wouldn’t be sexist; you’d just be an ass. And don’t complain about how people are going to office hours, because guess what: you offered to have them at that time. Although this particular comment was not directed at me specifically, it was as arrogant as every other one of his actions which seemed to only be targeting me.
Was it my gender? Was it my sex? Was it my ethnicity? Was it my Elmo hat?
I ended up dropping the class because the questions that this man could not answer did not suddenly unravel themselves while I slept. Instead, someone else helped me do them, leading to this unfortunate time constraint where I either did strange longitudinal things, or I studied for German. I realized how time consuming the class was, and, quite frankly, I did not want to be in an environment where I was going to be at a disadvantage because I don’t have a penis.
I considered wearing a strap-on for the next office hours, but my paycheck has not come in yet, and it is honestly not worth the investment or looking like a trend-setting hipster.
It feels like he won. He won because there is now one less female and one less Hispanic in a math or science course. He won because, incidentally, I could not take the course due to the fact that I do not know, nor do I want to learn quantum physics.
But maybe he did not win, because I claimed my education.
I attend a school that has laid out several options for me, where if I need to take a science class, I can choose from a plethora of courses. If someone is going to behave like a sexist pig, I do not have to stay there and see them doing it. I can simply walk out, and appreciate myself, because no class, no matter how interesting the subject can be, is worth me being humiliated.