Which behaviour is rewarded, and which is discouraged

Posted: April 18, 2011 by Jender in Uncategorized

As a (male) undergraduate at Midlevel State University, I once sat in a final-year capstone seminar with three other students, led by one of the department’s graduate faculty.

The two other students were “Grace” and “Judith”.

Grace babytalked, punctuating every sentence with giggles and winks and squeals. Grace never contributed to the discussion unless she was specifically called on, and would burst into tears (occasionally fleeing the room entirely) any time someone was even mildly critical of her arguments. Grace never did readings or turned in assignments on time, and always tried to wink-and-smile her way out of these situations, often successfully.

Judith was, by comparison, was shockingly normal. She knew her stuff, kept on top of her readings and assignments, was more than prepared to contribute to the discussion and defend her arguments, and always demonstrated an appropriate level of respect and charity in addressing the arguments of others.

Yet it was Judith who got lectured by the instructor (in front of both of us!) about appropriate behaviour when Grace burst into tears in response to a mild and appropriate criticism for the umpteenth time. It was Judith who got called on the carpet (in front of both of us!) on the only occasion she hadn’t done a reading, despite an otherwise unblemished record. It was Judith who was excluded from a “little coaching session” that the (male) professor held with Grace and me at a campus pub, at which he offered to “put in a good word” with any contacts he had at other programs we might be considering for grad school. And it was Judith who, instead, was invited to a private meeting where he encouraged her to get out of academic philosophy altogether, because she “just didn’t seem cut out for it”.

I’m happy to say that Judith has since moved on to a prestigious MA program.

I’m a little disappointed to say that Grace has, too.

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