Female student demands men 'step back' in class discussions

Male students who talk too much in class are oppressing their female peers, a Wesleyan University student contends in a recent op-ed.

Tara Joy, a freshman who came to Wesleyan from an all-girls high school, writes in The Wesleyan Argus about how the excitement of her first year of college was dashed by the realization that some of the men in her classes “talked constantly.”

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“Despite making up less than half the class—[male students] managed to dominate every single discussion,” Joy lamented of her male peers in her First Year Seminar.

Joy reports commiserating with her female friends about this, only to hear a near-universal response that “of course the boys talk more,” and “that’s what boys do.”

Joy paints this as a manifestation of oppression and gender inequality, arguing that despite constituting 57 percent of the college population, women are consistently denied the same classroom opportunities afforded to their male classmates.

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Joy does not entirely blame male students, however, asserting that teachers and professors also play an unconscious role in enabling men to dominate classroom discussions by creating a “chilly climate” that implicitly or explicitly encourages male participation over female participation.

“There are countless ways for teachers to contribute to this climate,” she declares. “Instructors at virtually every grade level have been found more likely to call on boys, more likely to tolerate interruptions coming from boys, more likely to address boys by name, and more likely to give long, thoughtful responses to boys’ questions and comments.”

While conceding that instructors must “make a constant, genuine effort to listen to and respect their female students,” and that female students must “remind themselves that they deserve to be heard,” Joy concludes by rebuking male students for taking advantage of the opportunities presented to them.

“As a group, there’s no denying that men are taking up more than their fair share of class time,” she asserts. “Men? You guys need to take a step back.”

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Joy told Campus Reform that she was a feminist before she came to Wesleyan, and that she wrote the op-ed to raise awareness of gender inequality.

“I feel that this is a pretty universal experience for students, as well as a facet of gender inequality that doesn’t get discussed that much, so I thought it was worth writing about,” she explained, elaborating that she views men interrupting women as a manifestation of male privilege.

“I have so many well-meaning, reasonably progressive male friends who keep interrupting or even ignoring me and other women,” she asserted, inferring from this that “men in a room are only really listening to each other.”

Further, she noted that when women do speak up in class, that men often “mansplain” over them.

“Mansplaining definitely can happen in response to women who try to express their frustrations or describe their experiences to men,” she said. “Even the most feminist man can still harbor unconscious biases. Once [men] accept this it’s much easier to think critically about your own behavior.”

Follow the author of this article on Twitter: @Toni_Airaksinen