What to do

Posted: October 29, 2010 by Jender in Do try this at home!, sexual comments

The department where I received my Ph.D. has never been known for having lots of women (at most, there were five out of 30 or so graduate students). 2004 was my first year and I was one of only two incoming female students. It was somewhat disconcerting, although at that point I was used to being the only woman in a room full of men — my undergraduate institution had no active female majors besides me and no female faculty members.

During my first semester of graduate school, I took a metaphysics course with one of the elders of the department. I was one of only two women in the course (the other was an undergraduate). We were discussing uniqueness of persons and my professor entertained the notion that someone might make a molecule-for-molecule copy of his wife. One of the male undergraduates made the comment “That would be great — one for the bedroom and one for the kitchen!” The rest of the male students laughed. I was, of course, deeply offended and it must have showed on my face. To my pleasant surprise, my professor looked very unhappy with the male student. He said in a very flat tone, “The women in the class did not appreciate that comment.” I admit I didn’t have high expectations, since my professor was from an older generation. It was so nice to have him actually acknowledge my offense instead of just carrying on.

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