Today I finally finished grading. At the end of the semester, my students submitted over 1000 pages of writing. Most of it was pretty good, if I do say so myself, but I'm glad it's over. My head feels like I broke something, and my brain's rolling around like a marble.
It's good to be done.
Thank you to everyone who sent me a note while I was finishing off the semester; I can't tell you how much those little comments added up.
At the end of the semester, I camp out in my office, where I grade like a madman. As my students come in to drop off their papers, I take advantage of the distractions and have little talks with some of them. A lot of my kids just want to say goodbye, and reminisce over the semester, but some of them really want to have serious conversations.
One of my kids, who's been a little prickly all semester, decided that she wanted to have a serious discussion with me. The woman in question is in her early twenties, and is a local, which is a somewhat sensitive subject. While she realizes that Southwest Virginia is a little backward in its attitudes, she has a protective attitude towards it. It's like her retarded little brother--she makes fun of it, but gets a little upset if outsiders attack it. I can understand this, as I'm the same way.
In the course of our discussion, she told me, with granite-faced gravitas, that she's a feminist. She said this as if it was a revelation, or an admission of a lifelong vocation. I neglected to tell her that I, too, am a feminist, because I wanted to hear what she had to say on the matter. As we kept talking, I realized that my student's definition of feminism was pretty much your standard, college undergraduate, "women have been victimized for thousands of years and now it's your turn, buddy" defensive misandrony.
I treaded carefully for a few reasons. First of all, I have found that the sufferers of this particular delusion tend to be like sleepwalkers; if they awaken too quickly, permanent damage might ensue. Also, they often seem threatened by open discussion of their perspective, and react with defensiveness and lawsuits. So, anyway, I listened to my student list the same endless, ragged list of man's crimes against women. Foot binding? Check. Uncomfortable undergarments? Check. Domestic slavery? Check. Legal restrictions? Check.
Never mind that my student had never met a foot-bound, corset-wearing, housewife who had been legally raped.
(Of course, I'm only guessing that this is true. I thought about asking her if she had been foot-bound, or wore a corset, but decided that it would be in poor taste, and might be interpreted as a come-on. Besides, as she was blonde, blue-eyed, and had a southern accent, I thought the foot-binding thing was very unlikely. Also, she was wearing sneakers.)
In short, my student had internalized what a friend of mine calls "victimization trumping." This is the idea that one's value is dependent upon the degree to which he or she may claim victim status. Thus, a woman is more valuable than a man. Similarly, a gay person would be more valuable than a straight person, and a "person of color" would be more valuable than an albino. A non-christian gets more points than a Christian, and an amputee is be more valuable than a person with all his or her limbs.
Of course, in this particular perspective, a one-armed, one-legged, single, pregnant, african-american lesbian who worships Zoroaster would be the ultimate winner. She would have total bragging rights, and would reign victorious over her minions. At the very least, she could anticipate numerous offers for tenure-track positions at universities across the country.
Lest you think I'm joking...well, I am. But only a little.
Anyway, to my student's credit, she was willing to discuss these prejudices with me. She even laughed a little when I told her my personal solution to the prejudice problems of our society. I told her that prejudice will be solved when I am free to despise a woman, a gay person, or a person of color without reference to his or her gender, race, or sexual preference. Part of this, of course, is that gender, race, and sexual preference couldn't be used as a defense by the person in question.
I think the test case on this one is Condoleeza Rice. If I was free to hate Condi for her politics and her moral lassitude, without reference to her gender, race, or presumptive lesbianism, we'd be halfway there. If none of these three elements could be used to justify or explain away her moral failings, then the end of prejudice would be in sight.
I hope we get there within my lifetime.
Labels: feminism, grading, misandry, prejudice, Rice, Virginia Tech