I’m finding it…

I'm finding it surprisingly difficult, getting my students to connect with the 70s feminist fiction we're reading. I think the problem is that most of them haven't encountered much overt sexism yet. They don't resonate with the frustration, depression, anger, fear that suffuses these texts; it's distant to them. I am thinking that I might need to show them the first episode of _Mad Men_ next time I teach this course *before* they start reading these stories, just to get them a slightly more visceral understanding of where these writers were coming from.

And I wonder whether the world has really improved so much for women in one generation (they are mostly in their early 20s, compared to my early 40s), or whether they are simply sheltered. So far, from our discussions, most of them mostly only notice sexism in aspects like who their parents allow them to date, or how far they're supposed to go sexually, or what they're allowed to wear, or what careers they're supposed to choose. So some overt pressure from parents (explicit or implicit), and some subtle cultural pressure re: clothing choices / slut-shaming / etc.

Whereas I know multiple women who have encountered domestic violence and/or sexual assault. I know lots of women who have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace, to greater or lesser degrees. I know lots of women, especially in sciences and tech, who have run up against men who didn't think they belonged there. I know many women who have felt pressured to stop working when they had kids because they couldn't afford decent childcare and their husband made more money than they did, so it just made sense that they were the one to stay home. I know many women trying to get back into the workplace now that their kids are in school, finding the way far more difficult than they'd anticipated. I know women writers whose husbands don't support them in their writing, because it's just a silly hobby she has. I know women who fight bitterly with their husbands about the pitiful amount of housework and/or childcare he contributes. Etc. and so on and so on.

If I ask these young women again in ten years, or twenty, I wonder whether these stories will resonate more strongly then. I hope not.

1 thought on “I’m finding it…”

  1. With luck, in 10 years or so when it becomes more relevant they will remember what they read in your class and it will help them.

    It took me at least 7 years in the workplace before sexism actually affected me. Give them time.

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