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Role Reversal – Crying wolf a little early? Preference vs. Understanding

Let me just first say, that picking up the Women and Gender Studies minor was one of the best things to ever happen to me at JMU. It opened my eyes and taught me more about privilege and discrimination than 19 years of existing. It’s shaped who I am today, and built my critical eye for social missconstruction (see what I did there?) more than I could’ve ever imagined.

So in a surprising twist, this week I found out about a pretty interesting guy who goes to University of Toronto named Wongene. At first he actually sounded similar to me sophomore year-
Continue Reading shy, confused with what direction he wanted to take his life and looking to try new things. So he did exactly what I did and signed up for a Women and Gender Studies class because it fit his schedule, and he probably thought it sounded interesting. Here’s the twist though, when he showed up to class the first day he was the only male! Oh my! And apparently, as a result of “shyness” he felt so uncomfortable being surrounded by female students that he refused to participate or show up to class. Naturally, because he refused to attend class OR drop it, Wongene ended up failing the course with flying colors.

Here’s the part where the story gets plain silly. When he tried to argue about participation with his professor, she wouldn’t budge. Not even a little. So obviously, this meant the next logical step was going to the Universities’ Human Rights Tribunal to argue about classroom discrimination. Now most people’s red alert should be going off right now- a guy yelling discrimination since he failed a class he refused to attend because, and I quote “40 women were sort of sitting in a semicircle and the thought of spending two hours every week sitting there for the next four months was overwhelming.” There’s just something ironic about a light-skinned male complaining about feeling uncomfortable. Remember, he actually never went to class. Ever.
So as I try to make sense of it all- I’m really scared for Wongene. And I’m really scared for all the people out there like Wongene who refuse to engage and give other’s a chance because of personal preference. The thought of a world where people can just make excuses in order to bash others or not give them a chance; it sounds despicable. But in all reality, I’m not scared for those people at all- I’m scared for the victims, for the people who get discriminated against for being themselves. I’m scared, because at the end of the day not everyone has the luxury of being born with the privilege to judge others through personal partialities. Thankfully the Human Rights Tribunal didn’t even give this kid a chance- or even allow him to make a mockery of equality.

Locking back, when I got the chance to sit in Wongene’s shoes in 2010, I can boldly say I went the other direction. Every day since then has been a journey in understanding. I can only hope that one day, everyone who has a “fear” of someone else, whether because of their religion, color, sexual orientation or gender, can learn to understand the beauty of equality.
For a link to the original article, click here.

3 Responses to “Role Reversal – Crying wolf a little early? Preference vs. Understanding”

  1. Guest Member

    1. Why did you take the class?
    The course was called, Studies in Post-Colonialism. I would like to point that people misunderstood the course title as, Women & Gender Studies.

    The course description, “Examines gendered representations of race, ethnicity, class, sexuality and disability in a variety of colonial, neo-colonial, and post-colonial contexts. Topics may include the emergence of racialist, feminist, liberatory and neoconservative discourses as inscribed in literary texts, historical documents, cultural artifacts and mass media.”

    I took the course because there was a 1st year course that had good reviews from students, published by ASSU Anti-Calender. There was a wait-list for that course and I had a time conflict with another course I was taking. So I found a course that fit my timetable, didn’t need an extra day to commute to the campus and wanted to explore what type of courses were taught in the university. I had looked for other courses, most of the courses offered by the Faculty, but it either had a time conflict with another course or it would require a separate day which would require me to commute there (1 hour), and back resulting in a round-trip (about 2 hours) for just one course! I currently live in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area).

    2. How did you imagine the grading scheme to work minus 15 per cent of your mark?
    I asked if there were “any alternative ways” to mark the attendance/participation marks such as redistributing the marks to my 3 assignments. People think that I asked the professor to waive the 15 per cent of the mark earned by class participation and attendance. Therefore, I did not ask the professor to receive full marks on attendance/participation.

    3. What was your final grade in the course?
    NCR (No credit received). I had taken the course as a CR/NCR, which does not involve an actual grade in the final mark.

    4. What was your experience like in the class(es) that you attended? How many classes did you attend?
    I do not have any problem being around women, or that the class was a semicircle. It was not that I did not want to interact with the other students because they are women but the lecture had aprominent discussion about feminism movement, than the course description described it as, which left me rather disappointed.

    I attended a few, but not the full length.

    5. How did you receive your grades?
    Pretty much all courses update the marks online, called Blackboard. She gave the assignments 6 days before the drop date deadline, and I had been waiting for the course blackboard to update. I had been taking other courses at the time, so it wasn’t my only concern. The course drop date deadline was on the weekend, so I found it inappropriate to meet with her. I was also medically sick on the weekend.

    6. When did you speak to your professor about the issue?
    In the beginning of the course, and at the end of the course. I had been communicating with the professor during the course, through email, such as signing up for a keyword for the 1st assignment. The marks being updated online was found out much later.

    7. What was the process like with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal?
    I did not receive an actual hearing, so basically the application was filed through email, and I had a tele-conference.

    *Interesting discussion*

    There was this controversial decision, when compared to mine, that the university agreed with a woman (or a group of women) to open a private swim times with the windows and door windows blocked off so no men can see them.
    When bringing the issue of “equal” rights on both issues, I think that we can’t have one way or the other. In this case, if the university provided this “accommodation” then isn’t it contradictory? If they felt uncomfortable then they should have stayed home. Swimming isn’t essential to life like having to go to the wash-room, therefore, it is just a “preference.” The university emphasizes that safety is the reason for the accommodation to have a private swim times for women. I don’t think that the risk of any danger is high enough for this accommodation, as swimming isn’t essential so they should just stay home, not that I have any problem with having a private swim times.
    Safety and shyness are not the same. Woman wanting to exercise/swim in a place where she is not watched by men is not shyness but isn’t it really a preference which the HRTO doesn’t approve either? If it is really safety, then couldn’t people who want to lose weight, because of obesity, want their own swimming hours so that they can reduce the health risks of obesity?


  2. Dennis

    What if won gene decided to attend class wearing a dress how would you feel then? Would you gender equality be threatened? Would individuals rights to freedom of expression feel challenged? Just something to think about,sometimes it’s not just about male vs female.



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