Back when I was in grad school, lo these many moons ago, one gal in the department started up a weekly (maybe monthly? I don’t really recall) meeting of those of us who spoke French. She’d been in the Peace Corps in north Africa and felt like her French was getting rusty. I’d become reasonably fluent while studying the language in college, but I’d also gotten less so with disuse, so it sounded fun to me. It would also be a break from All The Science.
So, we’d go over to her apartment, bring wine and snacks and converse in French. There were like five or six of us and it just so happened that we were all female.
Well – this drove the guys NUTS! We were a fairly small department – Zoology & Physiology – and all knew each other pretty well. We had Friday afternoon brown bag discussions, where we took turns giving presentations on our research (which included beer and frequently culminated in a mas migration to the campus beer garden) along with weekly department seminars, joint classes that we both took and taught, frequent potlucks and barbeques, etc.
The guys kept asking us, “What do you do? Do you sit around in lingerie or something?”
We’d answer, “We drink wine, eat snacks and gossip in French.” They were welcome to join us, but they protested that they didn’t speak French. We told them it was no different than other parties, except we spoke French.
They simply could not get their heads around it and wouldn’t let the topic go.
I think it had to do with feeling closed out of something, which I understand, but also the male/female dynamic played in. I think if even one guy had been part of French Club, they wouldn’t have thought about it. But something about the women getting together without them got under their skin. They also sexualized it – with a lot of their questions along the lines of the lingerie thing and pillow fights.
I’m thinking about this because of some groups wanting to create “safe spaces” on the internet – which can mean females and female-oriented topics – and men objecting to it, calling it cliquey and elitist. I can understand the feeling left out, but… I dunno. Sometimes I think it’s okay for people do things without others looking over their shoulders.
Also, my French is nearly nonexistent now. Alas.