Why having a sexist sense of humour is dangerous as an educator
The one thing most students can agree on is that your professor will either make or break your overall experience in a class. Genuinely interesting content can be ruined by a monotonous, non-engaging professor, or a tedious, boring subject can be brought to life by an engaging teacher.
But what do you do when your overall experience in a class with a prof was treacherous, flabbergasting and just downright insulting, yet some of your classmates enjoyed the course for the very same reasons you despised it? Well, for starters, you write an article about it.
Last winter, during my first year at Concordia, I took MARK 201: Introduction to Marketing Strategies as an elective, thinking I’d enjoy it. From an objective standpoint, I did enjoy the content of the class, the projects and all the different types of networking that came from it. It was all extremely interesting, however, attending lectures became not only a chore I grew to despise, but listening to some of the things the prof would say were both shocking and saddening.
A male professor who has been part of the department for many years ended up being my professor for those long, cold, dreary winter months. In a nutshell, he had an ostentatious sense of humour that was almost solely comprised of sexist jokes.
As a disclaimer, I should mention I don’t have any recordings or documentation of my experiences in this class—this is a personal recount. However, if I did possess any I’d likely have enough content to fill an entire book with the number of times this professor degraded his wife and their marriage, and even mocked his own children in front of our class of more than 150 students.
The professor would joke about how, once you’re married, your wife never touches you and about how a man needs to keep his wife happy, or be prepared for the worst—to which he’d allude to that the only way to satisfy a wife is by buying expensive baubles. Literally, every class, multiple times per class, jokes of this nature and worse were made with zero regard for how his students felt about them.
The worst part about these jokes wasn’t how stereotypical they were about women, but how much the class actually laughed along with them. Sometimes it was a mixture of males guffawing and women giggling, although it is safe to say women, generally, weren’t the ones to laugh.
The professor’s jokes also went far beyond his wife and his marriage—any class discussion about cosmetics, accessories or even cookware was partnered with a slew of one-liners and anecdotal stories about women and their follies. He even made blonde jokes. Yes, a professor working at a progressive, liberal and an otherwise amazing educational institution in 2016 truly thought blonde jokes appropriate during a lecture.
One particular instance stands out in my mind as the moment when any of my remaining respect for this professor was catapulted out the window. The class was having a discussion about the marketing strategies of CAA, the roadside assistance service. The professor started pitching CAA’s services to the class by describing a scenario in which a person has to call for help because their car has broken down. He said women benefitted most from these services, indicating that at some point, every woman would find themselves stranded on the side of the road with a broken car they essentially knew nothing about, without a man at-the-ready to save us.
To my absolute shock, this comment was met by either giggling or absent-minded head nodding by a good number of my classmates, both male and female. I remember feeling two things: first off, I was really disappointed a professor would make such an ignorant, blanket statement so casually, particularly because I worked at an auto repair shop. The second thing I remember thinking was I was probably taking this too harshly, and I shouldn’t speak up, even though I had a personal experience that would disprove what he said.
Thankfully, a girl sitting ahead of me raised her hand and said, with applaudable sass, that women are just as capable of fixing cars as men. Hats off to you, girl. This reaffirmed that others likely felt offended or fed up with the jokes this professor was making, that this wasn’t simply me needing to learn how to take a joke.
There’s a time and a place for certain types of jokes. I mean, I think we can all admit to smiling at a properly-executed or well-timed “…in the kitchen” or “my wife…” joke at some point in our lives. However, for a professor to employ that sense of humour in every one of his classes with absolutely no consideration for how it will affect the overall educational experience of his students is completely unacceptable.