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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » should i confront my prof?

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Author Topic: should i confront my prof?
pcwhite
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Member # 41633

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Hi everybody. I'm feeling really conflicted about something my psych professor said yesterday, and I'd like some advice.

We're learning about development right now, and everything was fine until we got to the section on "development of sex and gender." The first problem I could see was that we only talked about the biology of sex differentiation, not gender...but I thought okay, that's not the hugest deal in the world, maybe she mislabeled the slide or had to edit something out, no biggie. But then, as is perhaps inevitable, she started discussing people with atypical karyotypes (like XYY, XXY, XXX, XO, etc) and intersexed people. This is when I started getting pissed.

I remember grating my teeth at a lot of the things she said, but the most salient part I remember was when she described the case of a woman with androgen sensitivity syndrome who didn't realize that she was "really a man." Honest to god, those were her exact words, and she repeated the phrase a few times. She mentioned that the doctors involved in the case decided not to tell this woman that she was XY, said something about the decision being "controversial," and then moved on.

My problems with her treatment of the issue are
1) calling a woman with AIS "really a man" is offensive and factually wrong (she could have just as easily said "she didn't realize she was XY")
2) by framing the issue as simply "controversial", she's implying that the decision to lie to intersexed people and the decision to tell them the truth are equally acceptable.

Writing this, I'm remembering some more snippets of the lecture that I thought were kind of ignorant, but these were admittedly pretty subtle. It was stuff along the lines of "catching" the syndromes early, so the people could develop "normally" or the way they should (with prescribed hormones, of course). I was irritated at the value judgements inherent in this type of language, because biology isn't teleological, and there is no developmental path a body "should" take...the only reason people think males and females should be discrete and easily distinguishable is because they're uncomfortable with sexual sameness. It also assumes that all intersex people want to alter their bodies in order to conform to the gender binary...some people do, of course, but that attitude renders all the people who choose to eschew treatment invisible.

I was getting visibly upset in class and I was really determined to go up and talk to her afterwards, but the person sitting next to me completely undermined my confidence by telling me I needed to stop overreacting. Ugh...so I did nothing. And now I'm unsure of what to do.

So, should I confront my professor about this? Am I overreacting, or was she out of line?

Posts: 21 | From: guelph, ON | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Heather
Executive Director & Founder
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I think this is rock star stuff on your part and that your critiques all sound 100% spot-on.

Personally, I would bring this to your prof, and it sounds like you felt pretty capable of doing that, the person next to you just made you second-guess it, perhaps because of their not having the level of sensitivity/awareness you clearly had with all this.

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Posts: 68290 | From: An island near Seattle | Registered: May 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
orca
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You have to look at it this way: it's her class, and she gets to decide what she teaches and how. Can you have a discussion with her about how you disagree with her teachings? Sure. But I would try not to be accusatory about it. Professors aren't preaching the gospel truth. They are giving you the facts as they interpret them. You aren't always going to agree with them, and that's fine, but it's important to remember that it's their class, not yours. You might talk to her about why you feel it is important to talk about that issue from varying perspectives, though. She may also just not have had enough time to talk about it more in-depth and have been trying to phrase it in a way that she felt the students could understand.

As for her using the word 'controversial' I really don't think there is anything wrong with it. Yeah, further discussion of why it's controversial would have been best, but again, there could have been time constraints. If this is an intro course, then that's especially likely, and you may find that more consideration is given it in the upper level psych courses.

Anyway, that's just my take on it. I know there were times when my mother couldn't cover a topic as much as she liked. I think it's always okay (and encouraged even) to have these discussions with your professors.

[ 01-30-2009, 09:54 PM: Message edited by: orca ]

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Posts: 2726 | From: North America | Registered: Apr 2007  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
pcwhite
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Thanks for replying, you guys. orca, I agree with you, and if I do bring this forward I will keep calm about it and try not to be accusatory. Maybe I've come across that way because I was still pissed off when I was writing this :x

So, I hope I'll get up the nerve to actually go. The spirit of what I'm going to say would be more "I think you could have handled this more senstively" than "OMG I HATE YOU!!!" I just hope she'll actually listen to me :/

Posts: 21 | From: guelph, ON | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
NonStraightAnswers
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quote:
Originally posted by orca:
Professors aren't preaching the gospel truth. They are giving you the facts as they interpret them. You aren't always going to agree with them, and that's fine, but it's important to remember that it's their class, not yours.

Sometimes their interpretation is flat-out bigoted. One of my high school's "family life education" teachers made a point of saying that homosexuality was removed from the DSM as the result of lobbying efforts. Her "interpretation" basically justified homophobia, and her position as a teacher gave that extra weight. Yes, it was her class, but I still regret not reporting her.
Posts: 63 | From: DC, MA, IL, IS - changes every couple years | Registered: Dec 2008  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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