Cambridge professor says ‘genius’ is a sexist word
History tutors at the University of Cambridge have been told to stop using the word “genius” in the classroom because it offends women.
Published: June 15, 2017, 6:22 am
“We want to use language that is transparent,” said dr. Lucy Delap, a British history lecturer.
“Some of those words, in particular genius, have a very long intellectual history where it has long been associated with qualities culturally assumed to be male,” Delap said. “Some women are fine with that, but others might find it hard to see themselves in those categories.”
She told the BBC that a “male-dominated environment” at Britain’s best institutions must be challenged.
The department is currently planning to re-write the first two years of its History degree to get rid of “sexists terms” like “genius,” “brilliance” and “flair,” the Telegraph reported.
“We’re rewriting our first two years of our History degree to create a wider set of paper choices, to make assessment criteria clearer, and to really try and root out the unhelpful and very vague talk of ‘genius,’ of ‘brilliance,’ of ‘flair’ which carries assumptions of gender inequality and also of class and ethnicity,” Delap said.
Word like “brilliance,” “genius,” and “flair” have too often been used to describe men, and so women may have difficulty thinking that they are “brilliant” because the word has historically been associated with men, Delap explained.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, Delap said: “If you look at just something as simple as the art on the walls of a college, they’re often by men and they depict men and often they’re white men as well.
In 2015-16, 31 percent of women students gained firsts in history at Cambridge compared with 39 percent of men. In 2015, only 15 black, male undergraduates were accepted into Cambridge.
Of 3 449 students accepted into Cambridge during the 2016 academic year, 38 defined themselves as black, a proportion of just over 1 percent.
Cambridge is one of 27 universities that are currently members of the Race Equality Charter (REC), a scheme to boost ethnic minorities.
In March it said it was applying for an REC bronze award – which are given to universities with a “solid foundation for eliminating racial inequalities and developing an inclusive culture that values all staff and students”.
Oxford University’s History department has meanwhile changed its final exam policy after a study revealed that men are more likely to get a first class degree in history than women. One of the department’s five final exams will be designed to boost female performance.
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