Too friendly? [Tell Your Story]

21 Mar

I’d like to bring up the subject of male professors.

Not because they are misogynistic, or biased, or sexist, or just hit on their female students all the time — although ALL of this can be true.

I’d like to focus on the respectful ones. The ones who are intelligent, thoughtful, good listeners, and are willing to engage their students in discourse regardless of that student’s gender.

My issue is this: as a student who also happens to be a hetero woman, I am hesitant to get “too friendly” with a professor who happens to be a hetero man, because I am afraid of what would be implied.

I don’t worry about this with my female professors. As a result, I feel like I am really missing out on some great mentorship opportunities. Any suggestions/insights?

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One Response to “Too friendly? [Tell Your Story]”

  1. Jen March 21, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

    I have seen this both from female students, and from male professors who worry that they should not give bright female students attention lest they seem “creepy.” From either perspective, it is unfortunate. The cultural paradigms that reinforce this notion that men and women should only speak when sexual attraction is the topic is sick and unsustainable. We have to push through it. We have to. Speaking enthusiastically about ideas is not being “too friendly,” and having something to contribute to a conversation does not make you a “flirt.” I think we have to push on these impulses and fears as much as possible in order to break the still-lingering impulse to conflate women’s intelligence with women’s sexual appeal. This is not to say the two can’t coincide, but that they are irreducible, and that your opinions and thoughts are worth sharing with anyone, be it man or woman. I don’t have any recipe for breaking through these fears, but I know you can do it.

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