Saturday, November 22, 2014

scantily-clad students but we have to pretend it's not distracting. from programming patty.

Our dormitories are in the same building as the classrooms, so we're used to seeing students attending class in flannel pyjamas. But I just saw a young woman emerge from a classroom in a flimsy spaghetti-strap tank top and tiny French knickers, along with fuzzy bedroom slippers. Belly button exposed. No bra and the nips plainly visible. Butt cheeks hanging out because the shorts were so short (like tap pants, if you know what those are).

How can this not be distracting to others, especially men? But I am not allowed to say that publicly, because the official line here at my university is that if men are distracted by half-clad women, that’s their problem for being such perverts. However let’s leave aside the Pollyannish expectation that 18-year-old boys will not ogle bare female flesh. What about respect? Respect for your classmates, for your professor, for the institution itself – how bout respect for the very process of learning, for the luxury of spending four years dedicated to edifying yourself – a luxury that few of our grandparents were afforded?

I can live with the flannel pyjamas, even the slippers, but not a flimsy tank top that looks like it’d slide right off if she sneezed, or skimpy satin shorts that would reveal all if she bent down to pick up a pencil. But due to the climate here at Politcally Correct U, I cannot even say that sexy skimpy pyjamas are inappropriate for class. That would make me part of the oppressive rape culture victim blaming patriarchy. So I just have to pretend like that’s perfectly normal, legitimate fashion choice for a 2:00 p.m. history class.

22 comments:

  1. If a portion of a student's unclothed posterior touches the seat, ask the student to first lay down some paper towels. That allows you to sufficiently embarrass the student while being able to claim that you are concerned only about maintaining sanitary conditions in your classroom.

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    1. That's a brilliant idea! But she wasn't my student.

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  2. " I cannot even say that sexy skimpy pyjamas are inappropriate for class. That would make me part of the oppressive rape culture victim blaming patriarchy."

    How the hell do you figure that?

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    1. You missed the part about me being at Politically Correct U. Also the satire. We do have a dress code that forbids lewd or inappropriate attire but no one has bothered to define that. Therefore, no matter how skimpy, we can't say anything about female students as the Gender Studies Department would be so outraged that I'd fear for losing my job.

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    2. If you work at "Politically Correct U," you're part of the problem. Suck it up and admit the thing you're fighting is you.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. Send an email to your whole class about the importance of titles, but call it "titties" and see if anyone gets the hint. heh.

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    1. When I first read his comment above, I did not know that Prof Chiltepin had referred to the very next post on this blog, as I had yet to read the latter. Quite good, this coincidence of these posts appearing as a pair.

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  5. Tricky, tricky subject. I agree that the outfit you describe is inappropriate for classroom wear, but it's hard to describe why without resorting to arguments that could also, taken to an extreme, support a requirement that female (and perhaps male) students wear burquas to class. If you were teaching a lab (or a sport), you could cite health and safety concerns (and as Ben point out, you possibly still could). The respect for self/others/the process of education one somewhat works for me (but I'm also open to the arguments that privilege the mind/ideas over the body, which leaves open lot of clothing possibilities that someone would consider "disrespectful"; I really don't care how informal or even decrepit my students' clothing is, though I would prefer that it cover at least the great majority of the territory between the collarbone and the knees). Distraction/hygiene arguments might work, given the possible parallels to what one could or should do if a student clearly isn't bathing, and smells really bad as a result, but I'm pretty strongly in the camp that says that men (and women) are responsible for managing their own sexual reactions (see burqua argument, which may or may not be a reduction ad absurdum, above). On the other hand, I'd have absolutely no problem telling a student who showed up to class naked to go put some clothes on. Of course, (s)he would probably be violating local ordinances. I'm not sure what, if anything, I'd say to a shirtless male, which is probably the closest male equivalent to the female attire you describe.

    P.S. Maybe you could object to the fuzzy slippers? They probably aren't actually fur, but the allusion to actual fur might be offensive to students with PETA-type inclinations. This would work better, of course, if you weren't wearing leather shoes yourself at the time of the conversation; most days, I'd be busted on that one.

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    1. CC, the "tricky" bit you describe is because nobody has a lick of sense any more. If they did, they'd know that "dressed like a Vargas pin-up" is not the way to go about in public. But we can't tell that because then we'd be "intolerant" and, taken to the extreme, everyone would have to wear a burkha.

      I thought the slippery-slope argument was considered invalid. Or, to sum up, "zero intolerance" policies don't make any more sense than "zero tolerance" policies.

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    2. I'm with you, introvert. Low cut blouses, skirts the size of postage stamps, halter tops - okay, we accept that's just the way teenage girls dress. But can't we draw the line at lingerie (because you'd buy this sort of sexy sleepwear in the lingerie department)? And those who stare are the ones with the problem? I mean, we don't live in a vacuum!

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  6. Professional dress should be expected in any professional environment. So, you could take that track.

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  7. I've considered including a "respectful dress" clause in my syllabus, not so much because of women's dress as to try to cut down on t-shirts with messages I find offensive enough to constitute a distraction, if only to me who has to look at them for 50 minutes. I haven't figured out how to word it, though.

    As a general rule, could any clothing that would be considered exploitative if a picture of it appeared on a man's shirt be considered out of bounds?

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    1. The Matt Taylor rule. I like it! (Though it may be unfair to attach his name to it, since he made what strikes me as a genuine, unqualified apology -- a rare and precious thing these days).

      Parallel approach: if using a photograph of a woman in said garb as one's screensaver, or posting it in one's cubicle, might be seen as creating a "hostile work environment," then it's out.

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    2. You can enter me as a "ditto" for CC's approach to inappropriate dress. Fortunately I'm at a midwestern, religiously-affilicated SLAC so I haven't had to address this problem. Now, what counts as "normal" dress isn't like it was back in the Iron Age when my parents were that age, but that's the way it goes.

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  8. At the place where I used to teach, the administrators were concerned about creating a "safe learning environment" and making the students "comfortable". Unfortunately, they never really defined what that was. When pressed for clarification, they always fell back on that student-as-customer phrase: "meeting or exceeding their needs and expectations".

    Of course, it was all bafflegab. One was expected to "know" what was permissible or otherwise acceptable, and that included student apparel. Woe betide that instructor, however, whose standards were considered objectionable by one of the "customers". (I got into trouble once because a student wore an outlandishly large hat on Hallowe'en. I found it distracting and told him to take it off. Never mind the fact that if he had turned his head, he could easily have smacked one of his classmates in the face with it. However, my departmental superiors soon heard about it and, of course, weren't amused by my apparent lack of judgement.)

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  9. Another possibility is to decline to police dress, and ask your college administration to do so. The student who is under-dressed in your class is also under-dressed in other classes, and under-dressed on campus, even that means just the public areas of a dorm complex. If other students are distracted, male, female, or anything in between, they should complain to your administrators, not to course instructors. Just a proposal, but it addresses the problem of mission creep in classrooms....

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    1. No one complained. I'm sure the guys in the class loved it. After ShirtGate it does seem a shocking double-standard.

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    2. Well, that's kinda my assumption -- but the blog says "How can this not be distracting to others..." when maybe what that meant was "distracting to the author of this blog post..." Does this fall into the same category as: I'm going to grade you down for poor grammar in your essays, but it's not my job to teach you grammar...?

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    3. Are you saying it was distracting to me, a middle aged female adjunct prof who saw her for 30 seconds, but not to her 18 year old classmates nor to her male professor who saw her for three hours? And no, it's not my job to teach her not to dress like a victoria's secret model for history class. I merely noticed that she was dressed like a tramp. Not sure why you construed this to be my problem. But sure, let's go ahead and pretend nipples and pubes aren't distracting. And might as well buy into every other student-served bullshit they foist on us, like pretending I respect her as much as a student wearing actual clothing to class. And why not take on the responsibility of teaching the little darlings how to dress appropriately since parenting is now the responsibility of college professors? What else is now my job - spoon-feeding, hand-holding, and molly-coddling?

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    4. nipples and pubes....

      "But I just saw a young woman emerge from a classroom in a flimsy spaghetti-strap tank top and tiny French knickers, along with fuzzy bedroom slippers. Belly button exposed. No bra and the nips plainly visible."

      How did the commenter know she wasn't wearing a bra? I've worn a heavy sweater with a bra and had nipples poking. Maybe I should tape off these obviously sexual-use-only bits.

      I'm confused about the pubes bit though. Where did pubic hairs get mentioned?

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  10. To clarify, it wasn't my student. But I did let one of mine wear a baseball cap that said "Back off motherfuckers" in class, even though that was a clear violation of our vague dress code *(it forbids lewd attire and I think swear words fall into that category). I let it slide because you have to pick your battles around here and it really wasn't worth it to me. I think if Ms. Nip Slip were in my class, I'd have said something to her.

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