As I promised once upon a time, I have some things to say about Carleton’s school newspaper, The Charlatan.
Before getting in to all that, I’d like to share my amusing contributions to the “Overheard at Carleton” column with you. (The column, as I’m sure you can imagine, accepts contributions from staff, faculty, students, and other members of the Carleton community. The more ridiculous, the more likely they are to be published. These are all true.)
International student (PhD in Civil Engineering): Does Canada actually have any history?
International student (PhD in Canadian Studies): No.
Student at the library: Po[st]mo[dernism] is *long pause* *sigh* awful. [much later] And capitalism is… um… yeah.
Student 1: “Hey, we found these cookies on the floor. You want one?”
Student 2: “I’m submitting that to ‘Overheard at Carleton.'”
Grad Student 1: What’s another word for b*tchy?
Grad Student 2: Uh… critical?
Professor: Despite your Masters degree, you won’t have mastery.
Professor: Ew! Post-modernist! *stab stab* No money!
Canadian Studies Prof: Here’s the problem — I don’t think Canadian Studies actually exists any more… In the same way that Canada doesn’t exist.
Canadian Studies Prof: Writing on Canada is generally a GOOD THING in a Canadian Studies program. As long as you’re in Canada, at least pay some lip service to it.
Student: How do I get my A- up to an A+?
Prof: Well, be smarter.
Prof: One of the joys of being a post modernist is you can invent words.
Prof (hopefully): Did you bring beer?!
Prof (disappointed): Oh.
Prof: Is 2003 when the Conservatives came in?
Student: No, 2003 was Paul Martin.
Prof: Same thing.
Student (eating an Obama cookie): These cookies taste like freedom!
Student 1: So, what has changed since Canada’s golden age? What is worse about the world we live in today?
Student 2: Neoliberals.
Student 3: Neoconservatives.
French Student: Americans!
American Student: The French!
Along with some gratitude for this slew of submissions, the 2009-2010 Op/Ed Editor had this to say:
If possible could you let me know whether the students speaking are male or female? If you can’t remember it’s not a big deal, but for some of these (like the Obama cookie one) it seems strange for us to write “Student” as opposed to “Guy” or “Girl.”
I replied, in true graduate student form, with the following Lesson For Today:
The Obama cookie thing was said by a woman. I tend to prefer “Student” because it is gender neutral, and sometimes it seems like “Girls” say lots of really dumb things. (Not that all people don’t often say really dumb things, exemplified by the handy outlet of Overheard @ Carleton.) If you prefer to randomly assign Lady / Dude designations to the various conversations, I won’t make a fuss about it. Just wanted to let you know my opinion.
Ye olde firstname.lastname@example.org replied with the following (unedited):
If you’re worried about it seeming like girls say more dumb things than guys, then send me lots of dumb things you’ve overheard guys say. I tend to print a pretty mixed bunch of overheard conversations, I haven’t noticed a trend towards more dumb comments from the girls side. But if you’re worried about it, that’s my advice to you, I’m not going to arbitrarily assign people a gender. For style sake it looks better printing overheards with the people labeled by gender, makes it easier for the reader to imagine the voices behind the comments. In prof/student convos it works to leave the genders out, because the prof/student labels give the reader a better idea of the relationship between those speaking, which allows the humourous nature of what’s being said to be more obvious.
I don’t recall exactly how this came out in print, and I haven’t done a full, proper content analysis of “Overheard at Carleton” in The Charlatan, but I would venture say with some certainty that the comments by “girls” in “Overheard at Carleton” are almost unequivocally sexual or idiotic in nature. My point, which I think was lost in the email exchange, is that distinguishing between “girl” and “guy” is irrelevant. Even though a woman made the comment in question, I think it should be funny on its own merit as an ungendered comment.
During the 2010-2011 school year, I submitted the following:
“What could you possibly do in Canada that would require you to resist gunfire for 24 hours?”
The Op/Ed editor’s only reply was “Thanks :D btw, was this a guy or a girl who said this?” In my rage, I forwarded the email along to my partner, who pointed out that this was actually said by Jeremy Clarkson on Top Gear. I followed up regarding my faux pas, but it was too late! The comment was printed.
In conclusion, the cycle continues; I submit to “Overheard at Carleton,” the Op/Ed editor(s) ask the girl / guy question, and I refuse to designate genders in my submissions.