Saturday, November 16, 2013

Cultural attitudes towards sex in the Writing Center

This is another topic that I have not personally had problems with in the WC, but have been hearing about from coworkers. There is always a fine line to walk when it comes to the cultural beliefs of others, so is it fair for tutors to stop sessions when a tutee does something offensive? Is it fair for a tutee to expect that tutors put their own beliefs aside? It is a difficult situation that I have no real answers for.
When I was teaching in Japan, I had several students that were very vocal in their (from my cultural perspective) sexism. It was mostly older men that believed women were biologically incapable to work in management positions. Several of them actually used the archaic "medical" term "hysterical". Not the modern usage, but the old school "anyone with a uterus is subject to random bouts of madness" form of the word. I was in a bit  of a bind- do I ignore this cultural stance that is strongly against my own views or put them in their place? I took the middle road in these situations and explained that in America and many western nations that older view of women's capabilities is no longer culturally acceptable. Instead of saying it is wrong (although it really is) I just pointed it out as a cultural difference that they should be careful about in business dealings with westerners. Is it my place to tell them how off-putting their misogyny is? No, but I can discuss how the cultural difference in views can be problematic.
I had a Japanese tutee come in with a paper about sexism, but he was taking a stand against the cultural norms of his elders. His paper was about gender segregation in Japanese workplaces, and we had a great conversation about personal experiences with this problem. I have seen his progressive attitude in many younger Japanese people, so it is clear that there is change happening. I only wonder, is the change from realizing that sexism is wrong or is it from merely aping other cultures?


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