Cherchez la femme: sexism in French class

“Turnez a la page cent trente-neuf,” instructed my teacher (except that she had all the right accent marks), and obediently, I turned to the page, where I found the following:


Okay, okay, I know it’s illegible. And in French. Translated, this is what it says:

Exercise 1. Jay or Oprah?

Listen to the following adjectives. Does the adjective describe Jay Leno (masculine form) or Oprah Winfrey (feminine form) or is it impossible to distinguish?

Example: You hear: generous (f.)

You mark: Oprah

My teacher read the adjectives arrogante, creatif, franche, drole, nerveuse, optimiste, folle, and interessant. Funny and optimistic were impossible to distinguish. Which means that Jay Leno is creative and interesting, while Oprah Winfrey is arrogant, frank, nervous, and crazy. Yeah.

It’s pretty typical of the book to test us on gender things by giving us people for each column, and also typical for those people to be famous, but I hadn’t previously noted such a stark difference between who gets what. It’s probably because this is our first chapter to even have ajectives– previous exercises on similar lines had to use sentences like “she likes to swim” and “he is from Paris” which are harder to attache gender fucked-up-ness to.

It may have just been a bizarre coincidence, but je ne suis pas optimiste! On the next page, we have the following:


Bill and Hillary Clinton! Are they compatible?? Clearly, it is our business to determine!

I dread finding out who is hardworking, frank, honest, and kind, and who is…not. At least it looks like we get to write our own sentences for this one. If it’s assigned for homework, I just might turn in an angy rant essay on the topic.


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