Casual Sexism in the Classroom

“At the time, during the mid to late 1960s, the women’s lib movement was new, strong, and vocal. I suggested that the resort owner ban women snowmobile drivers and issue a press release proudly announcing this face. He did and the publicity went national. He rescinded his ban and the snowmobile sales grew dramatically from national publicity and attention.”

The above passage appears in a textbook that was assigned to my mother for a UCLA Extension course on copywriting. After a cursory glance through the text, The Adweek Copywriting Handbook by Joseph Sugarman, I found several more tidbits of misogyny sprinkled throughout.

My personal favorite was when Sugarman described his interaction with a would-be client named Ginger who, according to the author, offered to have sex with him in exchange for some editing help. He goes into such excruciating detail on the encounter that he might as well have blown up helium balloons that spell out “JOSEPH SUGARMAN HAS A BIG DICK,” if Robin Thicke hadn’t used that trick first.

This textbook made my mother so uncomfortable and alienated that she dropped the class a couple weeks before it finished.

The sexism in this textbook is not incidental, and it is not confined to a couple of examples. The professor that designed this course would not have missed it even if he only skimmed the text. He chose to use this book knowing that there would be women enrolled in this course, and that to do the classwork, they would have to read it.

I can’t figure out whether the professor chose this book because he truly thought the sexist comments inside it were insignificant, or because he thought that nobody would read it anyway.

In my own experience as a student here, I have certainly seen casual misogyny in the classroom, though never to this extent.

I have had professors that make dismissive comments about feminism, for example. The worst incident I can remember is a history professor reading a poem that related a country beaten in war to a woman who had been raped. But, it has never been more than one or two things here and there. I have never felt unwelcome in a classroom the way my mom did.

This seems so un-UCLA that I cannot wrap my mind around it. Mostly, I am just shaken by it. I’m shaken by the fact that this book was approved for a UCLA course, first of all. Beyond that, though, I’m shaken by the idea a professor chose a book that they knew would alienate half of their students and decided that it was fine.

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