I sat in shock and sadness, trying to not let too much emotion register in my face or body, as my director sat in front of me, informing me that my class was cancelled. She did not know that I commuted from an hour and a half away, or that since classes were cut in the summer, I had not worked since the spring and was extremely tight financially. They had cancelled my class without allowing it to run the first week of the semester, when likely I would have been able to add enough students to keep the class going. My director was very apologetic and told me that the new dean did not ask her about it first, or she would have advocated for me. The previous dean had allowed me to keep my classes, and I knew that she would look out for me. The new dean, a male, thought it was more important to follow protocol instead of looking out for his staff. At such a small campus, where everyone knows each other, I was saddened that there was not more of an attempt at communication made, and that saving money was more important than serving our students and protecting our staff.

     I had been with this district for three and half years, and only now was eligible for rehiring rights. I was told that I was a very good teacher, and my evaluations from my directors and students, including www.ratemyprofessor.com were filled with shining commentary and accolades, yet I did not have job security or get paid at the proper rate for my education, training and experience. Every semester I waited to see what classes I was given, and was grateful to have the opportunity to teach. I had enough to get by, but finding a full time position in higher education was a rarity, and to really play the field I would have to be willing to move anywhere in the country where I was offered a position. Since my husband and I were determined to stay in Northern California, near our family and friends, and wanted to raise our children in an open minded and progressive culture (especially since we are an intercultural couple) trumped the need for a full time professorship in the nearer future.

     Despite my disappointment I thanked my director for letting me know, and expressed gratitude for the classes that I still had. As I drove home, I thought of how I could reframe the situation to make it into a positive one. I decided that I would have more time for writing, and building my counseling practice, and have the energy to establish myself in our new place of residence. Even though I tried to convince myself that things would be okay, even gazing up at the cloudless sky to tell myself was a lovely day I was, I felt some old resentments come to the surface.

     I felt hurt, let down, and to a degree disrespected. Being a teacher is such important work, as we share knowledge and giving skills to others. The quality of education in a country defines the population, determines the GNP, domestic and international trade, and marks our pace, position and wealth in the world. The U.S. is lagging behind many developed countries in its education, good teachers are always needed, yet we are not treated or paid particularly well. Someone like me is left hanging, in spite of my high performance and skills. I began thinking about fields of work that are dominated by women are often undervalued and underpaid.

     Nursing is an incredibly important job, and as I have worked in healthcare, I witnessed how the majority of work in patient care was done by nurses, from basic care to checking patients in and out. Yet nurses are paid a fraction of what doctors are paid, and do not receive the same reverence in society. Caretaking is typically done by women, as a nanny, home health aide, a caregiver for the elderly, children or those with disabilities. Yet despite the sensitive nature of caregiving is something that is undervalued and not paid well. Domestic work of cleaning, doing laundry, cooking, things where there is a disproportionately larger number of women in those jobs receive lower wages comparatively and often find themselves being taken for granted.

     In fields where women are the minority, we see larger incident of women being passed over for promotion, being underpaid, and having to tolerate harassment without proper due process. I remembered that in traditionally feminine roles, women are often underappreciated and taken advantage of throughout history in patriarchal cultures. I tried to think of solutions to this national, if not global problem. Other than having a revolution to overthrow the sociocultural norms and values and replacing all world leaders with feminism-oriented leadership, completely changing how we think and function, I had some thoughts about more immediate action that I could take.

     I could choose to stand up for myself. I could approach the dean and ask him about my situation and suggest that I be given a mid-semester class. I could let my director know that I would be available for more classes and that I very strongly would appreciate more opportunities. And as a teacher, I could include themes about gender equality, inclusivity, and critical thought and discussion about our culture and how to change it for the better.

     In the middle of the following week, I received a call from my director that they were, in fact, adding a mid-semester class, and despite the fact that other colleagues of mine had their classes cut as well, I was the first one that they contacted. I happily and gratefully took the new class, and was glad that I had chosen to be proactive and not just mope about the situation. For the past five thousand years under patriarchal cultures, women are seen as inferior and are treated as such. In choosing to speak up for myself and show my worth, I demanded that they take a second look at me so that I was not easily dismissed. As women continue to be undervalued and objectified (even while we have a popular female presidential nominee) it is important that we choose to claim our power by asking for what we want and need, and not slide into the victim or martyr roles. We literally have to teach people how we want to be treated. We are going to be undervalued so long as we allow ourselves to be.