There I sat in my Psychology personality class— plagued by and disenchanted with the discussion of Freud’s personality theory. To stimulate class participation Dr. Nelson has students brainstorm— shout out facts and theories of the psychologist assigned for the period. In reference to Freud the phrase “sexist” nearly left my lips when a fellow (male) student shouted out “he was sexist against women!” Yes! So refreshing. It is fairly commonplace that a feminist would be at odds with Freud. In fact feminism and Freudianism mark the polar opposites of the gender debate. According to Freud women are fated to forever envy the male genitals and hate their mother for it. His views are obviously sexist; yet acknowledging that they are such has for so long been a taboo infiltrating western society. Certainly Freud is criticized in the broad scope of psychology academia, however, I theorize that this recognition is beginning to be vocalized at our conservative campus of BYU. This was evident by my classmate’s bold remark about a dead white psychoanalytic that was previously dubbed “untouchable” and “beyond criticism”.
The fight against sexism was not only evident in that one student’s remark, but I have noticed repeated incidences where women and men have proclaimed a call for equal respect for the sexes. In the same personality class mentioned above my female professor continuously addresses gender. In fact, with every issue we discus the particular psychologist view of women! Systematically gender issues and sexism are being addressed and both genders point out that sexism is a huge flaw in many philosophies.
In contrast, a female professor of different class made quite a sexist remark, and a student’s response was perfect. She was attempting to explain why the IRB considers pregnant women to be a “Potentially Vulnerable Population”. She exclaimed that reasons include: first, their body is physically altered and more susceptible to harm; and second, that researchers might not want to test pregnant women because they are “a little crazy.” This statement reinforces centuries of sexist beliefs about the inevitable incompetence of pregnant women and their societal placement next children and handicaps. A pregnant student in the front row fiercely exclaimed, “I am pregnant, and just as competent as I was before I got pregnant.” Amazing! The class was silent . . . the teacher mumbled something about her emotions when she was pregnant . . . and class moved on. It was moving that this pregnant woman defended herself in spite of the potential repercussions.
A similar event occurred just last Wednesday in yet another one of my classes. The male teacher was attempting to get the classes’ attention and several classmates (all female) and I were discussing the previous exam. In a joking matter the professor singled out our discussion group and said, “Oh they’re just girls.” Immediately I blurted “were just girls?” The girl behind me jumped in, “what does us being girls have to do with talking. The entire class was talking.” A third female student piped up, “Do we get extra credit for the teacher being sexist?” Wow! The professor nervously chuckled. I know he is a really good professor, and I know he never meant to degrade women, but my peers and I called him on it and I believe that this is what needs to happen. If we do not recognize sexism in our culture, then we will never defeat it.
These stories illustrate my belief that students (even at BYU!) are becoming more aware of the sexist undertones prevalent in western cultures (and pretty much every culture). The great thing is that they are beginning to speak up. More girls are participating in class discussions. Students are calling professors and prominent figures out on sexism. This is the generation who will change the world for women and I want to be a part of it.