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After a female neurology professor had a viral tweet about the sexism of Rate My Professors chili pepper (hotness) rating, the website has removed the feature.
BethAnn McLaughlin, a professor at Vanderbilt University, tweeted her complaint about the hotness rating on Tuesday, calling it “obnoxious and utterly irrelevant to our teaching.” She also linked to a study on sexual harassment in science academia, engineering, and medicine, highlighting that Rate My Professors is playing into an existing system of sexism and sexual harassment in academics.
Life is hard enough for female professors. Your 'chili pepper' rating of our 'hotness' is obnoxious and utterly irrelevant to our teaching.
Please remove it because #TimesUP and you need to do better.
Female College Prof
— Not Mrs McLNeuro (@McLNeuro) June 26, 2018
McLaughlin spoke to Buzzfeed News about the sexism female professors face in the classroom, and the effect it has on them, “They’re often targets of comments about how they look and how they dress, and it undermines their credibility.” This sentiment was echoed across responses to McLaughlin’s tweet, with many professors sharing their own stories of how being measured by sexiness hurts their ability to work.
yeah I looked up my ratings once and it broke my heart.
written evals were worse, maybe 90% comments on my body and clothes
— Shalyndra (@shalyndra42) June 27, 2018
.@ratemyprofessor it's about damn time to end the 🌶️. Any instructor who has witnessed her students mentally undress her as she lectures can attest to the creepiness inherent in encouraging this behaviour, & the misogyny that seems inherent in the old boys' club of academia. https://t.co/3YlJVfAZAq
— 하나 바나나🍌 (@hannashoshana) June 27, 2018
I agree. I was sharing with high school students yesterday how difficult it is for female professors as we are often scrutinized and criticized for our appearance (including attire) much more than male professors are. I would prefer my student respect my brain than my hotness. https://t.co/mWTj2bGFbK
— Valerie Lemmon (@vlemmzwisdom) June 27, 2018
Rate My Professors responded to the criticism, saying they had removed all chili pepper references from the site, while also saying the chili pepper is meant to reflect “a dynamic/exciting teaching style.”
.@McLNeuro The chili pepper rating is meant to reflect a dynamic/exciting teaching style. But, your point is well taken and we’ve removed all chili pepper references from the Rate My Professors site.
— RateMyProfessors (@ratemyprofessor) June 28, 2018
Some Twitter users have pointed out past ways they used and referenced the chili pepper rating, such as a “Date My Professors” joke, as well as previously having lists of hottest professors, which have since been removed from the site. While the rating may be gone now, people seem to feel that mischaracterizing its usage was insulting to those levying complaints about it.
Come on, it's not like they've ever suggested in anyway that the chili pepper might mean anything but… pic.twitter.com/WdUqnik68l
— MadScientistPhD (@MadScientistPhD) June 27, 2018
Oh, for real?? 👀 pic.twitter.com/cAwCjpi6Wr
— Benjamin Saunders (@BenSaunders) June 29, 2018
McLaughlin has been an active voice in the #TimesUp movement in academia. On her Twitter, she shares the stories of others’ experiences with sexual harassment in the profession, and in May she began a petition to remove sexual harassers from the National Academy of Sciences. Getting rid of the chili pepper from Rate My Professors is just one of many steps she’s working on to bring equality to the academic workplace.
H/T Buzzfeed News
Alex Dalbey is a writer and zinester currently working out of St. Paul, Minnesota. They have bylines at The Daily Dot, Kill Screen, and Bullet Points. Follow them on Twitter @thedialogtree