Today, I left class early during our final presentations. I am aware that it probably appeared extremely disrespectful.
However, I’m sending you this email because I am troubled by the fact that you let the discussion of our final assignments go in the way that it did. Our assignment was to write a scholarly paper that compared the theme of multiple novels we’ve read this semester. You asked us to present to the class, briefly, our ideas and literature selections so that you and our classmates could give us advice.
We are doing the exact assignment in my world literature class as well. 11 out of 19 students in this class discussed feminism in some sort of way. My paper was about empowerment through sexuality. My classmates and I discussed our opinions and held a great amount of respect for one another.
In your class, however, I didn’t write about feminism. A majority of your readings were about sexuality and gender roles, so I avoided this kind of paper so that you would not be bored of grading redundant essays. When I presented my paper on isolation in Heart of Darkness and Bend in the River, you tore apart my thesis suggesting that the main character of Bend in the River is not an outsider to Africa because he is Indian. Last I checked, India is not Africa, as both novels are set in the deep HEART of the continent and culture. Anyway.
When I left class today, it wasn’t because you ignorantly ripped apart my thesis and it wasn’t because I pulled 3 all-nighters this week to save my grade.
It was because the girl that presented after me, well, she started her presentation with “well I’m sort of a feminist, so…” and then said “…I wrote about Daphne de Maurier’s Rebecca.”
I expected this girl to say something like, “I wrote about how Maurier depicts women unrealistically, advocates domestic violence and even murder against women, and supports the fact that husbands have authority over their female counterparts.”
Because that’s what that novel does. We didn’t even discuss this in class. But as a senior Literature student, I can spot a misogynistic novel faster than a bloodhound can a mortuary.
So I should have left class when we discussed this novel months ago and you did not even mention that the “hero” of the story killed his wife and then found true love and lived happily ever. I should have left class when we read the novel Disgrace. It was about a professor that womanizes his students, rapes a girl his daughter’s age and thinks about his own homosexual daughter’s relations with other women. Maybe literal pornography is your thing, but I didn’t find much more thematically in that novel other than, “this man is a pig.”
But today I did leave class. Because the “feminist” presenting after me advocated that the unfaithful dime-piece wife of the protagonist was the “female ideal.” This was a two-faced woman who did not work or complete any womanly duties except for arm candy for the protagonist. She didn’t cook, mother a child, love her husband or contribute financially or emotionally to the dysfunctional up little family she was in. This character didn’t even establish a voice in the story because the “protagonist” (ironic diction there) murdered her and, by the way, suffered no repercussions.
And when that chick today said that she wrote about the beauty of this woman, when she suggested that this woman satisfies the “female ideal,” I started packing my backpack.
There is no such thing as a “female ideal”. Suggesting that there is a female ideal suggests that women have something to live up to in terms of domestication and beauty and that… that sounds a little misogynistic to me. If there is a “female ideal,” there must equally be a “male ideal,” so what is that? Being the breadwinner? Being the strong, protective, patriarch of the household? If a man assumes that role, wonderful. But don’t think that women are still sitting at home scrubbing dishes in a sundress while the man makes money and that is an “ideal,” because I have a dishwasher and two salaries sounds a little more “ideal,” to me than one.
So, yeah, that’s why I left class.
Because you nodded, professor. In one little head nod, you told this young woman, your student, that this mindset is acceptable.
You may not be a feminist, and you certainly do not have to be, but you are still an educator. And you are responsible for the morale that you advocate to us, your students. And when you support the idea that there is such thing as a “female ideal,” and furthermore that the “ideal,” is to be a materialistic, lazy, unfaithful wife, you are degrading not only yourself as a woman, but you are supporting the thought that your students may grow up to model this mindset. With your head nod and smile and dainty little “very good,” you suggested to the men in our class that women are subordinate. You suggested to the women that our education, the one paying your salary, is not a necessity to our future because, you know, Rebecca was perfect and she didn’t have to do a thing. Because she was, you know, pretty.
People — people like you — that think they are advocating feminism by supporting beauty standards are equally sexist and contributing to a gender hierarchy. Yes, gender inequality is natural and biological. But saying that one can achieve a gender “ideal,” is destructive to any young person. This is why parents aren’t telling young boys to “man up” and “grow a pair” anymore. This. Is. Why. Girls. Wear. Pants.
So have fun making sandwiches, Professor. I have to go to work.