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Sexism & the writing center

I've been prepping for our regular before-the-semester staff meeting/discussion and was thinking of using "You Fix it For me: A Lesson in Women's Work and Cultural Misunderstandings" by Kim Zabel in the latest Writing Lab Newsletter. In the article, Zabel describes a tutorial session in which she was the subject of sexist behavior in the writing center, and how she was verbally attacked by a male client for "shaming him" by not doing the work that he was demanding from her. Zabel then goes on to explore the cultural ramifications, as the student was a recent refugee to the United States from a culture that demands women take on certain roles and always defer to men.

Given that I've witnessed sexist behavior in the writing center before, and how tutors who are women deal with it, I thought this would be a good article to spur a beneficial conversation. I think it is important to discuss this matter, as well, since the majority of the tutors who work in the Student Writing Center are women and I believe they face challenges with sexist behavior from male students that our male tutors don't necessarily face. (I might point out that sexist behavior knows no cultural bounds.)

With that, I started to dig around on Google scholar to find other articles to build a bibliography for the tutors should they wish to pursue the topic. I was actually a bit surprised by the lack of attention to the area. I know there are pieces in the Writing Center Resource Manual and a few others that I can think of (but can't remember the titles of) in Writing Center Journal. I'm pretty sure if I keep digging around I will find a wealth of articles on the subject (perhaps not specifically related to writing center work, but tangentially so through subjects like sexist behavior in the classroom with female teachers).

In any case, this spurred an idea that I don't think has been approached before in writing centers: a survey of tutors who work in writing centers about sexist behavior they've been subject to. I'm no sociologist, so I'd like to collaborate someone in gender studies or sociology to construct a suitable survey.

I'll keep you posted.

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