The musings of a feminist

“The fact that good pedagogy requires emotional intelligence has been demonstrated time and again by educational researchers. The effective exercise of our profession requires us to tap into our own and our students’ feelings”. This piece from Palmer resonated so much with me because I was reminded yet again why I want to be a lecturer.

I was in a science faculty in Ghana and the only female lecturer I had in my four years as an undergrad was a lady from the arts department who taught us communication skills, a mandatory course for all freshmen in the university. After my first year, I did not encounter any female lecturers. The common explanation for this, coined by students and even lecturers alike, was that science was a field mainly for men and that the few women who got into science lacked the tenacity for higher education in science, hence the low number of female science lecturers in the universities in Ghana.

According to a study by the University of Pennsylvania, girls who had been randomly assigned to an all-girls classroom were more engaged in physics and less likely to agree with statements such as “physics is for boys.” On the other hand, girls who had been randomly assigned to coed physics class were more likely to agree that “physics is for boys.” I ask myself why this is so and I am tempted to believe that some emotional intelligence, like Palmer puts it, is acquired by the girls in the all-girls classroom through their interaction with each other.

What tipped the scales in favor of this perception, is an ongoing phenomenon in Ghana. For a while now, the issue of alleged sex for good grades has been rampant in university campuses in the west of Africa. Usually referred to as an “A for a lay”, students are propositioned frequently by their instructors to exchange sexual favors for good grades. For my friends who were not lucky enough to do so well in examinations, this was a very common situation that they always found themselves in. While for most of my friends, such situations mortified them, I had my career defining moment when one of my friends who had slept with two of the men on her defense committee, expressed her feelings about her proposition with me. In words that I will never forget, she told me that she felt empowered when lecturers propositioned her because although she could never get to their level educationally and they seemed so brilliantly superior, she was satisfied with the fact that during those short moments when she was in bed with them, she could feel her own power.

I remember as a 21 year old, full of pride and ego about my intellectual prowess, I asked her, but most importantly, I asked myself, why she was obliged to think that she could never get to their level educationally and she only felt her power in bed with them. I decided there and then to strive to be a lecturer in the university so that no other girl after I am a lecturer, will think this way ever again. I feel that it is the job of women to encourage women, like no man can. I want to be that lecturer that taps into both mine and the feelings of my students, especially female students, to propel them forward. At the risk of sounding too much of a feminist, I know that women can transfer emotional intelligence to other women more easily, than men can. And I am reminded that I can be that professor that my students can connect to emotionally, has that emotional intelligence, and therefore, give them a more total education than the current school system offers.


I am ashamed with the men that would take advantage of students in that way and equally sad that she would only feel empowered by sleeping with them. I applaud you for encouraging women in a way that men cannot. At the same time, I want to also strive to be a man who puts an end to practices like this that take advantage of women. I am proud to call myself a feminist, and for as much as you can do for women by also being a woman, I want to be a supporter of this as a man and as a human being. One of the major reasons I went into the counseling field was to end injustices such as these, so I want to support what you stand for in this post. Thank you for these powerful words!

Dalya Ismael

Iris, I enjoy reading your blogs since they mostly relate to personal stories you choose to share. The ability to to “encourage women, like no man” can is an important trait that I believe is missing especially in certain parts of the world. One of the blogs I read this week mentioned how female students are always known to be bad at maths. These assumptions discourages them in general. No assumptions should be made on gender, race, culture, or religion. as future professors we need to propel all the students forward.


Thank you for your post and courage. I really liked how you integrate a part of your identity in teaching practice to responding to the structural differences between students. Your following sentence fully resonates with my experience: “I want to be that lecturer that taps into both mine and the feelings of my students, especially female students, to propel them forward. “

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