Class of Women

November 12, 2003

Some semesters I have more men, others more women.

Traditionally, history classes have been disproportionately male. Over the last couple of decades this balance has shifted so that, across the discipline, we have about equal numbers of male and female history majors. Some classes, women's history and civil war history in particular, have strong gender biases in the classrooms.

Normally when I teach the survey I have classes that are about evenly divided, often with a few more men than women even though there are more women than men enrolled in colleges these days.

Not this semester. This semester I am about 3/4 women in both sections. This is a good thing in many ways - there are enough women that the women are not being afraid to talk and to challenge me. It is also an odd thing - we do a lot of political and economic history, I like to use students to demonstrate economic and political transactions, and by and large I grab women to play these roles. 18th and especially 19th-century society had strong gender roles, strong gender identities, and people defined their daily lives in gendered terms. It always leads to a moment of cognitive dissonence when I talk about [female name] looking for a wife or raising sons to follow after her or displaying her "manliness" by standing up and voting.

I do prefer to teach women. I do not know why. I started to speculate about the why, re-read my words, and deleted them as specious drivel.

Posted by Red Ted at November 12, 2003 10:15 AM | TrackBack