Monday, September 17, 2007

Gender and Emails

Many, many people have noted how the widespread use of email as a form of communication in academia has often created more work for faculty. Others have also noted that the medium of email tends to encourage students to be a lot more informal and even rude toward faculty. What I want to add to this list of concerns is an observation that students tend to use emails to beg off class, work or other obligations. In particular, I have noticed over the years how willing many students are--male and female--to share intimate details about why they are begging off to female faculty.

Today my female colleague got an email from a student begging off class because of a yeast infection. My first reaction was TMI! But, then I started thinking, hey, would she send the same message to SteveG?

When I was a graduate student and taught feminist theory sections, I was confided in more than once by students telling me of the need to get an abortion, or miscarriages. I could never sort out of they were telling the truth or appealing to what they thought would be my sympathetic feminist worldview.

I could be all wrong about this, so I am asking. How many male faculty out there have gotten email messages like the one above to my colleague?