Shyness: not a human rights violation.

wongene-daniel-kim

Sorry, Men’s Rightsers. If you were hoping to make a test case for your ideology out of this guy, the facts of the matter have just made a hash out of it:

The Ontario Human Rights Tribunal has dismissed a complaint by University of Toronto student Wongene Daniel Kim, who accused his professor of discriminating against him as a male when she docked him marks for not coming to class because he was too shy to be the only guy.

The second-year health science major arrived at the opening of a Women and Gender Studies course for which he had signed up in the fall of 2012 — “It had spaces left and fit into my timetable” — only to discover a room full of women and nary a man in sight.

“I felt anxiety; I didn’t expect it would be all women and it was a small classroom and about 40 women were sort of sitting in a semicircle and the thought of spending two hours every week sitting there for the next four months was overwhelming,” said Kim, 20, adding he manages a part-time job with women because there are also other men.

“I’m generally a shy person, especially around women, and it would have been a burden if I had had to choose a group for group work.”

He didn’t stay for class — that day, or ever — but continued in the course and asked Professor Sarah Trimble to waive the 15 per cent of the mark earned by class participation and attendance.

She refused.

Which is only fair. Everyone is expected to do the same work; a gender-based pass for Kim wouldn’t have been fair to his classmates.

In other words: The work women have done over the past few decades to eliminate sex-based discrimination hasn’t created a situation of reverse discrimination; it has created, rather, a level playing field, where men and women are expected to work together no matter the gender ratio, and where marks are based on how well they do, not on what reproductive plumbing they have.

So far, so good. But then this happened:

Kim got poor marks on assignments and ended up failing the course, which he said he found frustrating after spending the money on course materials.

He asked Trimble to reconsider his mark. When she refused, he complained to the Human Rights Tribunal that she was penalizing him because he was male.

Which, clearly, was NOT the case. Class attendance counted for 15% of the mark — no exceptions.

And if he was being discriminated against on account of gender, why was there not a sign on the door reading “NO MEN”? Or a marker on the course calendar indicating “Female students only”?

Oh yeah, that’s right: because THAT would have been sex discrimination. And that would be, if not outright illegal, certainly unethical.

Kim said he had been unaware how poorly he was doing until it was too late because Trimble didn’t post marks on the course website. She handed assignments back in class.

“We live in a digital era, why couldn’t she have posted the marks online?” Kim said in an interview. “I believe if you want to attract more males to these courses, you have to work with them. My request for accommodation was reasonable.”

Except that no one else was asking for special accommodations; everyone else was happy to comply with the course requirements, and didn’t find them at all unreasonable.

Given all the whining from the “manosphere” about how women are always expecting special treatment (with lowered expectations, natch), it’s hilarious and ironic that when someone does demand just that on the basis of sex, it turns out to be a male. And he’s suffering from the very affliction that supposedly makes women too delicate to live in a man’s world: shyness.

“The applicant has not satisfied me that his claimed discomfort in a classroom of women requires accommodation under the (Ontario Human Rights) Code,” wrote adjudicator Mary Truemner. “He admitted that his discomfort is based on his own ‘individual preference’ as a shy person . . . and stated he thought they (the women) would not be willing to interact with him because of his gender.”

This was “merely speculation as he never gave the class, or the women, a chance,” wrote Truemner, vice-chair of the tribunal.

Kim had no evidence of being “excluded, disadvantaged or treated unequally on the basis of” his gender, she said.

This is true. Kim was the only person keeping Kim from attending on the basis of gender.

I can attest that classroom participation was actually a great help in overcoming my own once crippling shyness. Many third-year classes were small seminar-style courses, in which the big, anonymous lecture hall of the first and second years was gone, and the students and prof all just sat around a square of tables, discussing things like Old Norse sagas and Beowulf. Despite the initial linguistic challenges (imagine having to learn two new languages in one year!), I found that I was finally in my element. After that, I was able to speak up anywhere, without stage fright.

Here’s another salient point: I also availed myself of the university’s counselling service. That’s what it’s there for: to help troubled students before they’re forced to drop out. I got tested, found out that introversion is natural and normal, and that you can learn to live with it, and yes, even succeed with it. And I did.

It’s a matter of being able to distinguish between the political and the personal. And to not hide behind the one when the other is the real issue.

In this case, there was no discrimination on the basis of sex. Kim didn’t recognize in time that his own shyness was tripping him up. Maybe next time, he’ll seek help. It’s a lot easier to go in for a few counselling sessions than it is to sit through the ignominy of a failed human-rights complaint, when all’s said.

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