Don't call me a woman!

At least, don't call anybody at Mount Holyoke College, a women's college, a woman.

The prestigious women's college in North Hadley, Mass.,has announced helpful, new guidelines for the faculty that ban just assuming that a student at the all women's college is a woman. The guidelines are entitled "Supporting Trans and Non-Binary Students." Here are some tips:  

·Pass around an attendance sheet, asking students to write their names, their roster names (if different), and their pronouns.

Pass out index cards or first-day surveys, asking students to write their names, their roster names (if different), and their pronouns. Some professors also ask for other relevant information, like Year, Major, Languages, Anything I Should Know (Commuter, Student Athlete, Coming to See Me About Accommodations), Why Are You Taking This Course, and so on.

Don’t assume you can tell what pronouns someone uses based on their appearance.

When you begin the semester acknowledging that pronouns and names matter, students are more likely to feel comfortable in your class, and thus be able to focus on the material you’re teaching.

In order to avoid the ultimate faux pas of assuming a student at a women's college is a woman, the guidelines also offer helpful hints on "gender neutral/affirming ways to address your class:"

  • When discussing the student body, say ‘Mount Holyoke students’ rather than ‘Mount Holyoke women.’
  • Avoid making statements like ‘We’re all women here…’, or referring to ‘…the two genders…’
  • Invite your students to let you know if you misgender them so that you can avoid doing so in the future.
  • Use gender neutral language whenever possible, but certainly in your syllabus and other general written communication.

I am assuming that if a student self-identifies as a woman, she can be called a woman?

Tactfully ferreting out a student's gender identity is just the beginning. In companion guidelines entitled "Intersectionality in the Classroom," the Mount Holyoke community is advised:

We are all located at the intersection of multiple identities. That is, there is no single African-American, female, cisgender, working class, or first-generation experience. Taking an intersectional approach to our classrooms means becoming aware of the multiple forms of oppression and privilege each individual faces and how they interact with one another. Two transgender students from different class or racial backgrounds are going to have different perspectives and life experiences, even though they have one identity in common. An intersectional approach attunes faculty and staff to the wide range of experiences in our student body, allowing them to better support students as they navigate their time at Mount Holyoke.

When I was in college, having "multiple identities" meant "The Thee Faces of Eve," a movie about psychotic split personalities.

I just hope grads can get all their multiples to work together to pay off the college loans for such a prestige education.