My First Week of the Semester or White Whore Put in Her Place by Male Students

As I’ve mentioned before, I am a university instructor of writing, academic English, and general speaking classes in China. I’m 43. I don’t practise femininity, although everyone easily knows I’m a woman cuz I have tits. You’d think that I’d become a little more invisible because of my age and androgynous clothing, but sadly, that is not the case. I’m reminded on a daily basis that I’m a woman and that I exist as sub-human, a sexual object, and there primarily for male use.

When you teach in China, unless you are teaching at an all-female school or are teaching non-science or non-technology majors, you are stuck with classrooms full of dudes. Female students still face many barriers to entry into these ‘male professions’ here, and of course, China is missing millions upon millions of girls because of selective abortion resulting from the One Child Policy. I teach at a technology university, so you know what I’m stuck with. Wall-to-wall dickitude.

Last semester, I was fortunate to have a lot of English-major classes (almost completely female), tourism classes (female-dominated, male minority) and business grad students (equal gender divide). I knew I should cherish that time, and that I would be unlikely to be so fortunate again. Having predominantly female students is a very different experience from having a predominance of male students. It’s a more pleasant, non-aggressive, and intellectual experience. You get more questions about real issues. And all of this matters even more when you’re a female instructor trying to preserve your safety, sanity and dignity.

After such a positive semester of academics and womanhood, this new semester began in stark contrast. Aside from having to tell classrooms full of young men to shut the fuck up and listen every five seconds like they were out-of-control toddlers, misogyny reared its ugly immediately.

First, there were endless comments from the males about what a shame it was that there ‘weren’t enough girls’ in their classes. (I think there were five women in total out of 140 students.) Now, the concern wasn’t because these young men wanted to see equality in science and technology, or that they wanted to do something to rectify China’s history of gynocide, or that they wanted more opportunities for women, in general.

Simply, they wanted more and convenient access to pussy.

To all men in the world, these Chinese boys included, women exist to be looked at and used sexually. So, I wasn’t fooled. These privileged dudes weren’t feeling sorry for women. They were feeling sorry for themselves. It was all about their entitlement.

I watched the faces of the few girls in the class when these comments were made amid the snickers of fellow male classmates. The young women’s faces reminded me of those being victimized in porn or in violent scenes in film/tv. Checked out. Blank. Knowing full well they had no escape from the misogyny of the four years of their degrees or the lifetime following graduation. Knowing that speaking up and defending themselves would unleash the hate and violence that lives in all males. They were trapped and according to Chinese culture, had to accept their fate as objects. It is rare that women speak up for themselves in China, and I’ve only ever witnessed it in one-one-one discussions or in my classes where women predominate. I feel for these young women, and I’ll stand for them as much as I can in class.

And then there was the misogyny directed towards me.

Keep in mind that both elders and teachers are *generally* still given respect in China – unlike in the West, where both older people and teachers are constantly criticized and regularly disrespected, even by small children. So when you see disrespect in China, it is a big fucking deal.

Respect in China, I’ve learned over the years, is meted out differently to men and women. As a woman, and especially as a foreign w̶h̶o̶r̶e̶ woman, I can be easily and justifiably disrespected. And I am constantly disrespected. Out of three classes I conducted during this first week alone, there were three notable instances of disrespect that no man, Chinese or foreign, would experience. Chinese women are not on par with men in this culture either, but I guarantee they are not on the receiving end of unwanted touching or solicitation in a university classroom. So upon first meeting of their university instructor, my classes of dudes gifted me with the following:

  1. My ownership status was questioned. In an introductory exercise meant to get students thinking about asking questions, I had my surname put on the board. They were meant to come up with: “What is your family/last name?” But no one thought of that. One dude immediately came up with “What is your husband’s name?” (I have to justify my non-married AND childless status every goddamn semester. My male counterparts don’t.) Instead of a justifiable, but unprofessional “FUCK YOU” directed at the student, I decided instead to let the boy know that the name was mine (technically, my rapist, wife-beater grandfather’s…) and that neither was I married nor did women ever need a husband. The class laughed. Of course they would. Women’s words and needs can’t be taken seriously.
  2. One male student tried to hug me. China is not a cross-sex touchy culture. And you definitely don’t touch strangers, even of the same sex. And no Chinese student over the age of 5 would EVER attempt to touch a teacher, especially on the first day of class. But I am a foreign woman. Thanks to misogynistic Western media (primarily American film and television) and thanks to Chinese misogyny, white women (not black or hispanic or other women of colour) are seen as sluts who are not only obsessed with sex, but who are open to being touched and fucked by every single interested male on the planet. “No” isn’t in our vocabulary. ‘Sex in the City’ is frequently watched here, and provides a model of the typical white, Western woman as public fuck toilet. As a woman who is personally well-acquainted with assault in many countries, I am hyper-vigilant about men, regardless of colour, when they are near me. Nevertheless, I’m frequently surprised by men trying to objectify me, touch me or otherwise assault me in this country. When it happens in the classroom, I get really pissed off because I am not some random, nameless stranger men can rationalize abusing by ‘othering’ me, but a teacher who, according to culture, should be automatically given a modicum of respect. One of my quite young (24), white, female colleagues has told me that the sexual disrespect from males in her classes is quite frequent. She doesn’t know how to deal with it, she admits. I would have thought that being 43, authoritative, very confident, and not overly thin or super attractive would have done the trick, but alas, it appears no woman can escape misogyny. I don’t have a lot of advice for her other than to maintain as much professional distance as possible. She isn’t paid to be either their friend or fuck toy.
  3. I was asked either as a joke or in seriousness (I’m still not sure, to be honest) in front of a class of 40+ young men whether I could go on a date one of the student’s room mates. I can’t even imagine such a disgusting and disrespectful question being asked publicly of a female prof in a Western university classroom setting. So experiencing this in a Chinese classroom was an incredibly huge insult. Again, no Chinese teacher or foreign male teacher would be so disrespected here.

So in short, that was my first week of teaching. I’ve accepted that every time I leave my apartment, I am at risk. I’m constantly ogled, sometimes assaulted by local men and laughed at when I vocally oppose the assault. But even in my classroom, I’m disrespected and have to be very careful about the actions of my male students towards me.

A white, British, male colleague of mine can’t for the life of him understand why his health thrives in China, but mine is actually worse than when I live in the West. (I suffer chronic depression and anxiety, and I get sick frequently as a result.) He is a white male, the ultimate symbol of power in the world. White men here, as everywhere, are on the top of the heap. Unless rich, they do have fewer rights than Chinese men, of course, simply because working foreigners have fewer rights than say, Chinese tourists in our own countries,  but foreign men can walk around in safety in China.

I, on the other hand, have discovered through years of experience in China, that I represent the universal whore – the white woman. Valued for skin colour, seen as animals rather than humans because of our varying eye and hair colours, viewed as sexually insatiable and omni-available thanks to American entertainment, and not taken seriously in any professional way whatsoever. My male acquaintance and I have had very different experiences. Women of other colours are also treated very poorly, but in different ways. Race and sex interact in different ways in different parts of the world, but one thing you can count on – women ALWAYS lose.

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Feminism, atheism and other stuff

Posted on September 4, 2015, in Conversations with Men, Education, Human Rights, Male Privilege, White Women and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on My First Week of the Semester or White Whore Put in Her Place by Male Students.

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