Sexism in a College Classroom: If he can so can she

Women are mistreated due to preconceptions of a “the traditional woman’s role” that still exists today. This idea leads individuals specifically men to adhere to stereotypes and sexist comments specifically prominent in college classrooms.

Sexism or gender discrimination is prejudice or discrimination based on a person’s sex or gender. Sexism can affect either gender, but it is particularly documented as affecting women and girls. It has been linked to stereotypes and gender roles, and may include the belief that one sex or gender is intrinsically superior to another. Extreme sexism may foster sexual harassment, rape, and other forms of sexual violence”.  Sexism can transcend to all different areas such as in social, educational, political and even family environment.

After conducting two separate studies of asking questions about sexism being prominent in college classrooms, 50% percent of the people surveyed including women have witnessed or experienced sexism while the other 50% have not. For the first study, six women were asked three basic questions to if that had experienced any sexism in a college classroom setting. The first three girls, Sadia, Katley, Neha had answered they had not encountered any sexism in a college classroom.

So far with a year I have spent attending DA (De Anza Community) and FH (Foothill), I am relieved to say I have not experienced or noticed any favoritism towards boys over girls within the classes I have taken at least” said Katley.  Yet among the girls who have not encountered any sexism through the college educational experience, they do recognize sexism playing a huge role in academic environment.

“Personally, I think it all depends on the teacher and if they are displaying acts of inequality and sexism in the classroom, then the students will notice and think it’s okay to follow that. But in those cases, I believe we need to be strict and establish rules in classrooms stating that it is unacceptable to treat anyone unequally, regardless of who they are, everyone deserves to be treated equally and with respect” said Sadia Hasan, 19, psychology major.

Sexism plays more into the circumstance of where ot would take place compared to idea that sexism goes beyond the lines a place, state or institution.

Regardless, De Anza Community College provides equality that is felt amongst many female students. “It honestly depends on the setting of the classroom. For example, there might be a mistreatment of women in classrooms somewhere in Alabama or in Arkansas but in California, equality is emphasized a lot so I don’t see any different treatments here.I have never experienced gender inequality/sexism from my teachers. If anything, they promote equality and peace” said Neha Dehal, 19, nursing major.

On the other hand, two girls that were interviewed experienced sexism in a college classroom, especially coming from a professor. Sydney Torrens, 20, film major describes her experiences in one classroom “I’ve been in a situation where I had to confront a male teacher about his mannerisms towards young girls in class. I had stopped going into office hours and seeking guidance on assignments because after a point I felt that his uncalled for comments on my physical appearance hindered my ability to respect his teaching methods and tainted my views on his class.”

“I stopped believing that his praise of my work was genuine. The guys in his class felt comfortable with this teacher, and hadn’t experienced the side of this teacher my fellow female students had. To them, he was clearly a “bro”, and his explicit language during lecture was not to be taken seriously, but rather, fostered an easy-going and accepting learning environment. In a way, this is the worst kind of sexism. It parades behind a mask that claims to be pro equal-rights and yet inadvertently acts in an opposing manner without the knowledge of, women’s greatest ally; me” said Torrens.

Another way sexism is present in a college classroom is women apologizing for “speaking up”or giving “their opinion”. Marc Coronado, a professor of Women’s Studies at De Anza college said that she notices sexism in a classroom the most when women do not take the lead on assignments, “won’t contradict their male classmates in a debate or apologize for having their own ideas, when they say things like:  “I’m sorry, it’s just my idea but….””

Sexism exists not just verbally but through physical appearance as well, “I think they’ve been conditioned by parents, peers, instructors in K-12, their workplace and the media to believe that they are less smart, less worthy, and less important than the men around them.  They also sometimes perceive being smart in school as unattractive to potential partners” said Coronado.

A student has actually witness what Coronado talks about, Wrenna Young, 21, film major explains “Like I was saying above, often boys feel a lot more comfortable stating their opinions than girls. Boys in the classroom will say “This is true” where as girls will say “I think this might be true, you know?”

De Anza Community College can surface sexism in college classrooms according to Wrenna.“Rarely at De Anza have I felt that there is blatant sexism in class, but in certain classes, teachers or students will make jokes that aren’t really appropriate for class. When teachers make these kinds of comments it makes the students think it’s ok to do this and think like this. Especially when the teacher is presenting it as just a funny joke” said Young.

How can women combat sexism either as big and direct or as small and direct?

Marc Coronado, Women’s Studies professor  informs women should be “Sometimes it can be as simple as believing that what they have to say is important, or backing up another woman when she is trying to make a point.  This goes for men as well…. they need to support smart women by acknowledging their abilities, and amplifying their voices when they are overlooked”.  

According to one of studies conducted on sexism in De Anza College, out of 32 responses, 66% of men have not witness sexism in a college classroom while 34% of men have.



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