I promise that in the future I will wear underwear while teaching class.

Lately I’ve been looking through old teaching evaluations. About a year and a half ago I taught a “monster” course, meaning the initial enrollment was 300 students.

My biggest challenge with the class was to keep it a human environment. Under such circumstance, it is really easy to depersonalize students, and for students to depersonalize an instructor.

I pulled up those teaching evaluations today. There was a lot of negativity, but one comment leapt out at me in particular

“It would be nice if she would wear undergarments because many people have noticed it when she is walking around the room trying to get to know us.”

I had to laugh, but WTF? I am guilty of many a fashion crime (ugly shoes including Birkenstocks and sandals with socks comes to mind), but failing to wear appropriate foundational garments (bra and undies) doesn’t happen.

Studies show that the chief targets of student incivility are women and young faculty members. It’s pretty easy to conclude this is probably a disgruntled male student making a derogatory sexual comment to me.

I am certainly not the first female faculty member to deal with comments like this. (Aside: if you have any gems, please do share so that we can all appreciate them.) My immediate supervisor was appalled at the comment, and said “I have NEVER seen you inappropriately dressed or without undergarments!!!” Since I’m unlikely to be interviewed for the university paper, I probably won’t have to put up with a hostile follow up conversation with the dean either.

Along the way of joking and thinking about this incident today, I read about

  1. The not-so benevolent nature of benevolent sexism
  2. Dressing for academia (as a woman)
  3. That I should wear makeup in order to look more competent.
  4. Handy tips for our male allies in academia.