Thursday, February 07, 2008

My First Blogging Rant

My brain is absolutely fried. I don't know why I am writing a blog post, except that I like to make it seem as though I try to keep up with this thing. I spent pretty much all day yesterday trying to make sense of Kant. I know this is practically impossible to do on the first try, so I tried several times. I felt like I had a pretty good understanding of him, but tonight in my class we never really got to talk about it.

The reason why is that my teacher also assigned Aristotle and Plato. This is a theory class, and she wanted to give us a working background to begin our quasi-history of literary criticism. Rather than just regurgitate the information that she gives us, she wants us to engage with the criticism and debate it in class.

This guy in our class, let me tell you about him. Normally, I like to talk to the people in class who say things I agree with. Call me elitist, but really it's just a case of wanting to talk more about ideas that are interesting. More generally, however, I like to talk to people who are outgoing and have strong opinions. Unless they're idiots. I, of course, am an idiot, so I really shouldn't be judging others, but I do. At least I'm honest. So there is this guy in our class who seemed to be very composed and articulate and have strong opinions. I figured we would like each other (not like that).

But then I noticed that he held the door open for me when I came in. When he referred to what other people were saying he said, "this young lady." This guy may have a few fine lines around his eyes, but he's really not old enough, or rather of the generation, to refer to women as "this young lady." I also noticed that he was very impatient with our professor, who also has a few fine lines around her eyes but talks like a smart, over-enthusiastic, slightly spastic valley girl. I got the gut feeling that he was dismissing her.

There is another man in our class who was in my T.S. Eliot seminar last semester. He's old, like gray hair, WRINKLEY, either bordering on senility or of a different time when one expressed one's thoughts differently. I think I'm being too nice. He essentially dismissed all biographical reading of T.S. Eliot without good cause. Last semester, the cool, smart guys all agreed with him. This conversation deeply bothered me, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

Tonight the first guy disagreed with my teacher's proposition. She was arguing that one could relate Plato's metaphor of the cave to our current situation in Iraq. I raised my hand and argued that, like Plato, we are recreating a situation that positions us as the heroes of a contrived situation. Blah blah blah, right? The rest of the class did not respond to what I said. Then the old guy said he didn't like what she had said. The first guy agreed with her, calling it "anachronistic." Unlike my teacher last semester, this women argued outrightly and challenged him to prove his argument. I sat quiet. He fumbled on a minute point and she essentially shamed him. It was really tense. He responded to her very sarcastically at one point.

After the break, he didn't come back. I bet he'll like write a letter to the dean or something about how she's unprofessional. I was just happy to see him put in his place. And why? You know? It's not like she was right. She really did handle the situation poorly. If I were him, I would have probably gone outside and cried a little bit.

But I guess why I'm writing this (besides the fact that my brain really is fried and I must not be using my best judgment) is that I'm disturbed by this really subtle, almost unnoticeable sexism that exists.

But that is problematic, and I may be wrong. Because after he left, another woman sort of took his place. I said something about plot versus character and how I am one of those people who believe that whether or not something is fiction or non-fiction matters, and she looked at disapprovingly.

What disturbs me most is that I care. This really fucking disturbs me. I want so badly to succeed at what I am doing. I want to "get it" and I want to be able to articulate what I feel and think, and be able to support it. I understand that I am in grad school in order to be able to do this, and I can't expect myself to be perfect, but it fucking bums me out to not be heard and to not be understood. When I say things, I feel like people think I am a dumb girl. I know I am not a dumb girl. But why do I come off that way?

I think I am just venting. I remember feeling this way at the beginning of my T.S. Eliot class last semester. I think the best paper I wrote last semester was that paper, too. I think this is all just a part of the process. It's gnarly, though, to see sexism and elitism in person. I am not above these people, however. I'm certain--absolutely certain--that I am sexist and elitist myself. It just sucks, and I don't know how to get around it. I am sure, however, that I will.

If you've read this far, god bless you. Amen

1 comment:

Mac said...

Part of coming to terms with things like sexism and elitism is recognizing them in ourselves. If you don't realize you have a problem, then you can't fix it.

If I want to bring in the war to class, I would ask something like, "Can this be related to our situation in Iraq" and never would say "This is like...."

Sorry things suck. Lit Theory classes can be really farking hard; just pick a good topic for your paper and knock her pantyhose off (Is that sexist?).