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September 23rd, 2009


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03:11 pm - Perk
The vice-chancellor of Buckingham University writes:
"Most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays. What to do? Enjoy her! She's a perk."

Some people will think I am being a humourless old bitch to object to this. But I can remember being a teenage student and this sort of thing would have made it difficult for me to pluck up courage to ask any of my lecturers for advice on my essays. Not because I was so vain I thought they would be attracted to me, but rather the reverse. I would have been mortified to think that they would interpret my actions as 'flashing my admiration'. God knows, male academics are vain enough as it is. I used to sometimes get the impression that some of the crustier old philosophers secretly thought I had a crush on them. Yuck. And you can't say 'Oh, and by the way, I don't fancy you.'

And what is the alternative? To be a quiet little mouse, to never say anything? And surely that is the ultimate purpose of this sort of thing: to make it impossible for women to ask for advice on essays because they - you know - want to learn something.

(36 comments | Leave a comment)

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From:lamentables
Date:September 23rd, 2009 02:21 pm (UTC)
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Blech. Colour me a humourless old bitch too.
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From:communicator
Date:September 23rd, 2009 02:57 pm (UTC)
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Apparently his article 'reaches back to origins of humour itself' (at least in his own opinion).
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From:altariel
Date:September 23rd, 2009 02:35 pm (UTC)
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The vice-chancellor of Buckingham University ought to be sacked. Badly, badly misjudged piece of writing, to say the very least.
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From:communicator
Date:September 23rd, 2009 02:55 pm (UTC)
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I think the misjudgement arises from assuming that he is communicating with an audience of heterosexual older men, and will be indulged by them. Which is probably what his life is like.
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From:dremiel
Date:September 23rd, 2009 02:44 pm (UTC)
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Yes, because God knows nobody (male or female) would ever as a lecturer for advice on academics without an ulterior motive! Its not like the lecturer is there to teach or lead or guide academically!

Stupid sod!
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From:communicator
Date:September 23rd, 2009 02:58 pm (UTC)
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At that age you always feel so awkward and shy (well I did) that this is the last thing you need
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From:several_bees
Date:September 23rd, 2009 02:49 pm (UTC)
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My goodness. Having looked at the original article, the whole thing is just astonishing. The assumption that students are female and lecturers are married heterosexual men (at least, the ones who count). Using a fictional character as written by Tom Wolfe as evidence that women will "force themselves" on "heroes".

But his university was founded by libertarians from Oxford who thought the government was interfering with higher education too much, it had Margaret Thatcher as a chancellor, Kealey wrote a book about why public funding of the sciences is evil. He's not just a bumbling old academic with some depressingly outdated views - he's basically the enemy. In that context I find this less upsetting.
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From:communicator
Date:September 23rd, 2009 02:53 pm (UTC)
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You are right. If that's the context he's basically dismissable as a waste of space.
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From:watervole
Date:September 23rd, 2009 03:01 pm (UTC)
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I am reminded of my great aunt and uncle. The lecturer married the student. (I don't know if she regarded him as a 'perk'...)

But she was the lecturer. Even back in that generation, there were some women higher up the tree. And not in the social science either - my family produces female geologists.
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From:communicator
Date:September 23rd, 2009 03:06 pm (UTC)
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Don't tell this guy his head would probably explode
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From:khalinche
Date:September 23rd, 2009 03:11 pm (UTC)
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It is really, really nauseating and you make a very good point about the implications of female students being disadvantaged by this. I was also made extra vomitey by the way he suggests that leching over female students is 'a good way to spice up nightly sex with the wife'. It's like he's aiming for daring and transgressive and just ending up in a pit of ickyness.
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From:communicator
Date:September 23rd, 2009 03:26 pm (UTC)
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Perhaps his wife will have a few words on the subject when he gets home
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From:mraltariel
Date:September 23rd, 2009 03:15 pm (UTC)
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Can I join the humourless old bitch club? You see this guy in academia, in business, on the TV; he usually thinks he's being funny (q.v. the guy I used to work with who worked the N-word into "inauguration" and considered this to be a hilarious commentary on the Obama presidency), he is usually over 50, and he is usually enabled by a bunch of younger men who snigger and go along with it.

Personally, I'm thoroughly ashamed that I've ever tolerated it, but it has taken until my mid-thirties to feel sufficiently confident to speak out (even if somewhat mutedly) when it occurs in my hearing. Sadly, I don't see it fading away.
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From:communicator
Date:September 23rd, 2009 03:41 pm (UTC)
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I find it very difficult to follow through when it's a social occasion and there's a terrific expectation that one will manage the social space in an amiable way
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From:azdak
Date:September 23rd, 2009 03:38 pm (UTC)
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"Enjoy her. She's a perk" is just about the most revolting way of putting it I can think of. I bet he picked "enjoy" deliberately because of the ambiguity of whether he means "Fuck her brains out, she's a perk of the job" or "Enjoy her flashing her admiration at you but for God's sake don't lay a finger on her or the Harrassment Officer will be down on you like a ton of bricks."
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From:communicator
Date:September 23rd, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
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Yes, he's being yucky on purpose
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From:glitterboy1
Date:September 23rd, 2009 04:29 pm (UTC)
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I'm not generally given to swearing, but I did just then.

Having now read the BBC news article (but not the THES piece), I see that it's intended to be humorous, and is in a particular context. But it's a misjudgement of staggering proportions, and shocking from someone in such a position of authority and trust.
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From:julesjones
Date:September 23rd, 2009 06:42 pm (UTC)
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I didn't find it funny at all. And if he genuinely thinks that it will be seen as advice to *not* sexually harass female students (which is the way he's now trying to spin it), I'd like to know what colour the sky is on his planet. of course, I don't think that it *is* a genuine attempt -- not with those snotty remarks about having to watch out for harassment complaints, which struck me as very much "ha ha, only serious".
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From:trixieleitz
Date:September 24th, 2009 12:58 am (UTC)
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Because objectifying members of a group is the perfect first step to protecting them from harassment *eyeroll*
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From:katlinel
Date:September 23rd, 2009 06:56 pm (UTC)
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I'll join all those in the humourless old bitch corner too. This makes me steaming mad. And it makes me more mad when I recall that one of my fellow tutees (male) remarked that it didn't matter what he said in our tutorials because the tutor spent the whole time just staring at my tits, something I hadn't actually noticed because, you know, I was thinking about the texts we were supposed to be studying, which didn't, as far as I was aware, include my tits.
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From:emeraldsedai
Date:September 23rd, 2009 07:12 pm (UTC)
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Well, it's just Privilege Day in my LJ world. I read the BBC article at your link, and I'm having a hard time seeing the supposed humor, the nuance, the multi-leveled text (perceptible only to academics, though--so, invisible to lowly BA me) that this person is excusing himself with.

Is "admiration" now a euphemism for breasts? Bottom? Undergarments? And doesn't referring to one's spouse as "the wife" belittle HER, on top of all the other belittling going on?

Amazing. Definitely count me in the humorless old bitch club.
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From:kerravonsen
Date:September 23rd, 2009 09:25 pm (UTC)
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Sssss! I've had enough of this sh*t. Women are the only "minority" who make up 51% of the population. Sssss.
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From:dalmeny
Date:September 23rd, 2009 10:24 pm (UTC)
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Revolting.
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From:trixieleitz
Date:September 24th, 2009 12:51 am (UTC)
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Nothing much to contribute here, just chiming in on the general outrage.

And what is the alternative? To be a quiet little mouse, to never say anything?

To express one's questions in terms that make you come across as a ball-breaking bitch? Which requires a confidence that would probably not be intimidated by some objectifying old misogynist, anyway.

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