After an odd night with a toxic soul I decided to read some feminist commentary to reassure myself that my principles are accurate and not wrong-headed nor unreasonable. More importantly, to console myself that I am not “crazy,” “nuts,” “unstable,” or “indecisive” like all women are according to the septic tank who spoke so eloquently about women last night in the presence of . . . women.
This is where Bitchfest comes in. Bitchfest is a fantastic anthology of some of the best cultural criticism (as the cover attests, to the left) on paper. So, the last essay I read earlier today was “Hot for Teacher: On the Erotics of Pedagogy” by Jennifer Maher published in the Spring 2004 issue.
Her argument discusses the commonly seen father/lover teacher and smitten female student dyad that is pervasive in movies and books. She quotes Regina Barreca’s 1997 book, The Erotics of Instruction: “Sometimes we sublimate effectively, and become the beloved in our own classes, imitating, perhaps unconsciously, the mannerisms and habits of an influential professor. Sometimes we sleep with the teacher . . . Often we translate our desire into the love of the subject, or the text, or the way light hits a four-o’clock window in a November classroom.”
Believe it or not, she is arguing for the virtues and advantages of eroticism in the various relationships involved in one’s learning process. What?! Most importantly, WHY?! She briefly says that the erotic desires which can be directed in one or all of three ways helps to inspire motivation, passion, and commitment to the subject matter. Um . . . okay, but why eroticism?
She discusses the commonly seen pairings and wonders why there is not more variation, especially when it comes to female instructors and female students and/or male students. She criticizes the few times we do see female instructors as being portrayed as maternal which undermines her status as an authority figure OR the female instructor will be portrayed as overbearingly authoritative and unsexy or asexual. She cites the movie, Mona Lisa Smile as an almost optimum ideal type or at least a better example of the diversity of erotic relationships in the classroom. Sure, there’s a problem with instructors being pigeonholed because it limits their potential to impart information and be an effective teacher or professor. But, I don’t think eroticism between a teacher and student should figure into part of the equation. To even acknowledge this type of relationship as a necessary or even enriching part of one’s high school and/or college education seems ludicrous. Not to mention, there is no discussion of students who find nothing erotic about their teacher. Worse, and perhaps more damning is the lack of erotic feeling on the teacher’s part for the student. Is that going to affect the teacher’s ability to be objective and impartial? To truly evaluate whether or not a student’s work deserves the grade it receives. What she is advocating is almost social inequity, a way to increase the educational gap. Professors and teachers are not above the corrosive messages society socializes us to desire and internalize. Are thin blondes and Grecian jawlines going to be the ones who receive better grades? It is absurd to advocate something so frowned upon which she insists is not taboo.
In short, I have been living in the Theatre of the Absurd for the past 48 hours. The argument is simply laughable.