When I signed up to take an economics class with a professor who occassionally guest hosts on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show and thinks gender bias and pay disparity are myths (not to mention global warming), I knew I’d eventually hear some theories with which I disagree. I did not expect I’d be besieged with casual sexism cloaked as “humor.”
The man, in his 70’s, makes economics easy to understand. But he seems to be preoccupied with male/female relations and uses interactions between the sexes in almost every real-world example he gives us. I am still thinking about something he brought up yesterday.
While teaching about price elasticity (the measure of change in the quantity demanded for a good as a result of a change in price of that good), he drew a graph on the board that said “lashes” on the Y axis and “wife’s behavior” on the X axis. He used domestic violence to illustrate price elasticity of demand. He smugly explained that, if a man (of course) wanted to change his “disobedient” wife’s behavior, he’d administer a certain number of lashes. He drew a curve representing the magnitute of the change in behavior in relation to the quantity of lashes delivered.
As he developed his little story, clearly pleased with himself, I looked around the classroom hoping to meet the eyes of other disapproving students. Some of the other women must be as disgusted as I. But everyone laughed. He laughed. Then he moved on to the next topic. What is going on here!? I thought. Who does this jerk think he is?! But the laughter of his students, at least 50 percent of them women, gave him approval and permission. My silence gave him permission. I’m sure some now consider him a hero for being so “politically incorrect.”
At least one, if not more, people in that classroom must have grown up in a house plagued by domestic violence. At least one, if not more, had experienced intimate partner violence themselves. But even if nobody in the class had first-hand experience with it, the professor was wrong to make light of a serious (and often deadly) issue that primarily affects women and girls. Intimate partner violence is happening now; it is not a relic of the past (and it wouldn’t be OK in that case, either). I am disturbed by the reactions from my fellow students. Domestic violence is a joke; a hilarious scenario used to demonstrate economic concepts.