What’s up, girl?
I’m assuming that you’re female, because I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there seems to be a lot more ladies working at writing centers than gentlemen.
Why is that?
Probably because people think women are better writers and teachers. I don’t think that women, by nature, are better writers. I also don’t think that women, by nature, are better teachers. I do think, however, that there is a stereotype that says that women are better at both of these skills. Maybe that’s why all of my English classes have a significantly higher number of females than males, and maybe that’s why when I look around my writing center, I see more ponytails than crew cuts.
I can hardly blame anyone for associating women with writing and teaching. I didn’t have my first male teacher until sixth grade, and he was my band director. In middle school and high school, the only core curriculum classes I ever had that were taught by males were math and science classes. I didn’t have a male English teacher until I came to college. Many of you have likely had similar experiences, considering that recent data from the National Education Association confirms that only 25% of public school teachers in America are male. As much as I hate to admit it, I can’t help but to associate “teaching” with women.
But women aren’t just “teachers,” they’re “writers.” According to Forbes’ “Stem Fields and the Gender Gap: Where are the Women?” one in seven engineers is female, and women hold just 27% of computer science jobs, despite the fact that women hold 60% of all bachelor degrees. Well, Forbes, many of these missing women can be found in the liberal arts college writing papers for their sociology, English, anthropology, communication, and international studies courses.
Now is when you’re thinking, “Wait a second! Men are writers! They’re the ones who publish books!” and you’re right and wrong. Men are the ones who get their stuff published. For example, out of 106 Nobel Prizes in Literature awarded since 1901, only 13 have gone to women. However, this doesn’t make men “writers,” it makes them “authors” (stereotypically speaking, of course; I am a feminist after all). These words have awfully similar definitions, but different connotations. A writer is someone who writes a lot, and is good at it, but it’s a broad definition. A novelist, a journalist, and an English teacher can all be writers. An author sits behind a desk and writes books and articles for the New York Times. Stereotypically, men are the ones that get stuff published and go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. In fact, maybe a “writer” writes quantity, but an “author” writes quality. In our minds, men are “authors” and women are “writers,” and “writers” work at the writing center. It’s in the name for heaven’s sake.
So now that we’re able to recognize the existence of these stereotypes, the next step is to address them in order to diversify our writing center staffs. Check out my next blog post, “Why Your Boy Friend Should Work at the Writing Center,” for my take on the importance of male consultants, and what we can do to get guys to apply for these positions.
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I have posted a poll in the IWCA forums: IWCA Forum: Peer Tutor => What do we call ourselves: the poll! It is a part of an earlier discussion that kind of petered out about the titles used for writing center workers. Please take a moment and vote! If you don't have an account on the forum, you can register for one by clicking on the "Register" link (next to the rocket icon in the top-right of the page.) Don't forget to state your institutional affiliation when you request and account. (That's how the IWCA Forum keeps out spam accounts.)
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