There’s nothing funny about sexist jokes.

This happened to me during my first year of teaching – with my first group of adults, which I was really excited to teach. There were 7 students – 3 men and 4 women. During the first lesson when we were getting to know each other, one of the girls said that she worked for a publishing house. “A public house?” – asked one of the guys and started laughing, because in Russian it means “a whorehouse”. Another guy joined in on this laughter. I told them I didn’t understand why it was supposed to be funny, and the first guy said: “Of course you don’t”.
That was just the beginning. Two of the guys teamed up and every lesson made it their job to squeeze sexist, really insulting comments into every discussion. The other man just said nothing. It was everything from “women have no brains, do they?” to “you better go, fix me a sandwich”. After a short while three of the girls stopped coming to our lessons. I tried to ignore, tried to ask them to stop, but they just laughed – it was clear that that was a very enjoyable game for them. Once I tried talking to them after class. I asked them “Why do you do this?” – and one of them simply said “You’re just so funny when you get mad, shorty, it’s a good laugh”.
I tried talking to the management. Our ADoS said that they hadn’t received any complaints from the students, so I was just exaggerating. Couldn’t I take a joke?? I guess she thought I was incompetent. I still sometimes think I was – and that I should’ve done something differently, said something to stop them insulting not just me, but also other women in that group. I insisted on our ADoS observing one of the lessons. It was one of the worst lessons. Of course they didn’t make any of those comments, they just sat there, looking bored and not saying anything the whole time. In the end they said that they didn’t understand anything, because my explanations were unclear. My ADoS in the post-observation feedback agreed with them. She said I was unfair to them, they were bored because of the lack of understanding, etc. She said I had to work harder, and that it was probably a bad idea to trust me with a group of adults because I clearly wasn’t coping well with the challenge, given the failed lesson and the drop-out rate.

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