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Friday, September 19, 2008

Is "gender" a consideration anymore? Or is the Weasel still running wild?

Hi Everyone-
I'm a new tutor at Boise State and I wanted to comment on a piece of an essay we read in our 303 class written by Elizabeth Boquet ("Snapshots of Life in the Center"). This is a very good essay, and I wanted to comment on one smaller part of it.

Boquet used her difficulty with dealing with a fellow tutor "Bill" to express gender concerns within the Writing Center. If you read this piece, "Bill" can be summed up as nothing more than a weasel because, at the time when Boquet wrote this essay, "Bill" "lorded" over the writing center with his vast computer knowledge, which enabled him to avoid serious tutoring responsibilities and gain advantages. "Bill" also, according to Boquet, lied about teaching a female colleague about a computer program. Is "Bill" an appropriate example of typical male behavior?

Boquet quoted Tannen,"men's communicative strategies are primarily heirarchical, while women focus on connectedness. For this reason, women are more likely to involve others in operations involving them while men are more likely to view a teaching situation...as an opportunity to assert dominance and control." (126)

In order to get to my questions/thoughts, I'll just sum up some further points in the piece. Men (like Bill) do most of the talking in sessions, they dictate. Women are empathetic and better listeners.

I have seen weasels like "Bill" in company settings. He and his kind are still walking around the halls of companies with their clubs, no doubt.

But in my brief exposure to the Writing Center at Boise State I have not seen the kinds of gender issues which Boquet alludes to (student writers unwilling to work with tutors of a certain sex, male tutors telling writers what to do, women tutors passively listening, etc.)

Do experienced tutors working at Writing Centers today see some of these gender-based issues today? Are these issues still "real" concerns or have they retreated into a different, modern subtle form? Has my graduate student status insulated me from this?

4 comments:

  1. I don't believe using the gender card is the right way to consider manipulative behavior in my experience. I've had just as many women try and lord it over me as men; and I've had just as many men bat their eyes at me (sometimes even literally) to get me to do something for them instead of doing it themselves. It's all in how cranky I'm feeling on any given day. Since my class is still in observation mode at the BSU Writing Center, it's sort of fun to see how other people deal with manipulative behaviors, but I know it won't be so fun when it's my turn.

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  2. First of all--yay for sock monkeys!

    Secondly, yes I can say gender is definitely a consideration of sorts in the Writing Center. Just last week a student and I had a session, which he said was very helpful. I wasn't aware of any gender considerations until together we were looking to set him up with another appointment: he refused to work with a male tutor, because he didn't want to get "bossed around by a guy." We set him up at a time he liked less, but a gender of consultant he liked more, and he left.

    Afterwards, I was left wondering. We had just had a session--had I bossed him around, and he was just cool with that since I was female? Or is he under the impression that any male consultant would be one of those guys "walking around...with clubs" that Bruce described? Did I perpetuate his misconception by bending to his request for a female consultant?

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  3. I agree that gender is still going to be a consideration, though not always in the way Boquet describes it. I don't know about other WCs, but ours attracts tutors who are open-minded, easy-going, and generally pretty liberal. The guys don't drag the knuckles on the ground or "lord over" and the women. And even if they tried, the women in our Center aren't the kind who would take that; they're strong and independent and not afraid to speak up.

    But gender issues do crop up, like Elizabeth mentioned, when tutees come into the mix. I've had a numer of female students this semester who very much fit the feminine stereotype: What, little old me? Why, I don't know what I'm talking about kind of behavior, and a few of them really let it get in the way of their writing. Their passivity became an issue we had to deal with in the session, because it was blocking their writing.

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  4. Yes, sock monkeys can be cool.

    I think I line up with Andrew and Big E with this one. It comes up, but the portions of Bouquet Bruce quotes actually makes her sound a bit sexist and over the top. Yes gender plays a role, but the conversation about "Bill" strikes me as a worst-case situation.
    Gender has been an issue only twice in my experience. The first was a male client who refused to work with a woman because it was not their place. He was also a real pain to work with as a male because he had a master's degree from a university that the US did not recognize.
    The other time was actually directed at me. I was accused--by another consultant--for not doing a specific task around the center because it was "woman's" work. She was actually quite angry and combative. With the help of another consultant we were able to reconcile the situation, but it awkward working with her after that.
    I guess what I am getting at is that gender is an issue, but it does not have to be a big one. It is something to consider, but I think there are better things to focus on.

    (For those who can, I was accused of not doing transcriptions because it was "woman's" work. Apparently she was the only one not around when I explained my hearing loss that makes it very difficult for me to understand the conversations and the hand injury that made it painful to type.)

    I always feel like I am preaching to the choir.

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