On the subject of boycotts

My only real boycott.

My only real boycott.

BOYCOTT: A boycott is a form of consumer activism involving the act of voluntarily abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with someone or some other organization as an expression of protest, usually of political reasons. (according to the wiki).

A proposition from me: You must inform the target of your boycott that you are, indeed, engaging in some sort of consumer activism and inform them of your reasons and your goals – so that they understand that they are the target of a boycott. I may be wrong about this, but I think I’m pretty right, actually.

So, I had to define a boycott before I could really get to the heart of this matter – and let you all know what I think a boycott is, of course. A boycott, to me, is when you withhold money from a company until it meets your demands. Or, at least to show that you disagree with its politics or dissent from its opinion and majority opinion about that corporation/company/etc.

So what might it mean to boycott a professor?

I have a professor right now who believes that I am boycotting his class. Though today I find out that it has gotten bigger than that – he thinks most of the students in the department are actually boycotting him, and I think he might believe that I somehow organized it.

Some history is necessary here.

1. He used to be my committee chair. I asked him to step down so that I could have someone with more expertise in symbolic interactionism once I finished narrowing my topic. Also, someone with some experience and intimate knowledge of Goffman and social psychology since the topic is now framing.

2. I took a class with him last year. I contested a grade I got by approaching him directly. He flipped out and notified the department chair (who was on sabbatical) and the acting department chair – and threatened to stop being my committee chair. After talking things over with some other people, I tucked my tail and apologized for some inflammatory comments I had made to him and begged his forgiveness. Though, I still think I was right – and I didn’t get what I wanted/deserved out of that situation. However, I will admit that I contributed to things getting blown out of control.

3. Fast forward to this semester when I’m taking a class rooted in sociobiological theory. Not my forte, but one of my majors in undergrad was a natural science/hard science and I’m not opposed to science or to biological influences on the social world and on people’s personalities. We were reading the David Reimer case in a course about human sex differences, and somehow it was my turn to talk. I made the argument that the reason so many intersexed babies are turned into girls is that society values the penis (and malehood/masculinity) on such a level, and has such a high standard for its ideal presentation, that anything less than a larger-than-average perfect penis cannot be socially valuable. The detriment to male child’s and preadolescent’s psyche because it has a small or deformed penis would be so large that allowing it to still identify as male is a problem and a mistake.  I made the argument that more intersexed children are turned into “girls” or genitally mutilated at birth to appear to have female genitalia and are raised as girls because girls are considered less socially valuable – “girl” and thus “woman” are the dump categories – the trash heap – where everything not fitting into ideal traditional heterosexual masculinity can be thrown without being missed – and without challenging the meaning of womanhood which is defined in opposition to manhood. He yelled at me. “You are so paranoid!” And I quickly just shut up – realizing that he wasn’t really up for arguments… he prefers to believe he’s right, and would prefer there be no argument. At the end of that class, he apologized publicly.

4. A few class periods later he said “we have three females in this class…” but here were four of us, and I’m not straight. He only counts straight women as females.

5. We had another argument in class about the meaning of what women who read romance novels identify with and prefer in both female and male characters in romance novels. He argued that these preferences were related to biological differences in men and women. I argued that women enjoyed identifying with female characters who were allowed to be intelligent, strong, and empowered because that is not how they are allowed to be in society as a whole. He argued that women liked reading about those women because that’s who they are and they really liked reading about male characters who were handsome, muscular, and stupid, because they prefer strong men who can overtake them. I think he’s wrong. He just put his head down and shook it hard because the three straight women in the class (the only three women according to him) agreed with me.

6. I stopped going to his class… after talking it over with my therapist and realizing that I don’t always make decisions that are good for me, I realized that a choice I could make that would make my life easier and sanity/relaxation easier to achieve would be to avoid his class.

7. Another graduate student who is in that class tells me one afternoon that he believes I am boycotting his class.

8. Today a different grad student who is not in that class, but who is considering taking another of his classes next semester, told me that he mentioned to her that he thought people are boycotting his class and him in general because of his perspective.

So, that’s the background… the question is: Am I boycotting?

I say – NO. If I were boycotting, I would submit to him a list of demands that would lead to my return to class. And I would certainly tell him that I was boycotting – in those terms.

Also, I have never met a professor so insecure that he took a student missing class personally.

So, on the subject of boycotts: The only one I’m consciously participating in is a boycott of Wal-Mart because of their corporate and environmental practices. Oh, and Starbucks because they have shitty-tasting coffee. Otherwise, I’m pretty much not boycotting – unless I’m allowed to boycott single digits in the A.M., in which case, I’m so there.

3 Responses to “On the subject of boycotts”
  1. hussyred says:

    this is absolutely not a boycott. don’t boycotts have to be conscious decisions to, in fact, boycott?? i wish i could say that i’m shocked by this kind of stuff happening in graduate school between professors and students, but i’m not. i bet we could fill an entire blog with our stories. this is obviously a case of extreme insecurity because you challenged him in ways he found convincing, things he couldn’t quite so easily dismiss. what a passive aggressive way to handle this situation. i call bullshit.

  2. It is so total bullshit. I’m going back to class on Tuesday (dec. 2)… mostly because he’ll be reviewing shit and then he’ll hand out the take-home final on thursday… and if I don’t get it, I can’t write it. BTW, I’ve gotten two As from him this semester for my perfectionist attention to detail and the tedium and nuance of argumentative writing…

    Maybe I should bring with me a list of demands? But then again, it doesn’t make sense since I’m not boycotting his class… however – I think I would have good reason to if I wanted and so chose. But, I’m not in the mood for confrontation with him again.

    I’ll keep everyone posted on the saga that is this story… geesh… it’s like going to a family reunion just to get up in the morning and go to school – I know there’s going to be someone there who dislikes my personality… and takes it personally. Yikes.


  3. Grégoire says:

    My goodness, what memories this brings back.

    Not quite related, except in a general way… I had a Spanish professor when I was a freshman at the University of Utah (being as specific as I can, just in case anyone else out there might know him) who spent long periods of time making looney political tirades, talking about his sex life, talking about bars and nightclubs he had been to the night before (he was in his 50s, mind you — yuck!). We didn’t learn much, but it was quite amusing to attend his course.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: