31 August 2012

Why I Didn't Want To Go Back

This week I went back to school.  I don't know whether anyone's noticed, but I've been more withdrawn than I usually am when I'm on campus.  People tried to engage me in conversation; I was finding things I had to do and places I had to rush off to.  Or I was just nodding and giving monosyllabic answers, but initiating no verbal exchanges.

At one point I even locked myself in a bathroom stall and cried.  When I thought I couldn't cry anymore, I came out.  I got maybe three or four steps from that women's room and felt the tears ready to gush. Back into that stall I went.

I don't know how long I was there.  Somehow I made it to my classes and did the things I was supposed to do.  But when I walked across the campus "quad," I simply could no longer hide, no matter how much I wanted to.  A professor who had always been friendly, sometimes agressively so, stopped and asked me what everyone asks, but nobody really wants to know, at the beginning of every semester:  "How was your summer?  What did you do?"

At that moment, I found myself absolutely despising her.  I knew, even then, there was no rational reason why I should have felt that way, even if she had been invading my personal space (which, truthfully, she wasn't) or my privacy.  But then I had a similar reaction to other profs I passed, or who passed me.  Fortunately--for me, anyway--I don't think they noticed me.  At least they didn't try to engage me in conversation.

Now I am realizing why I was feeling such revulsion toward people who have treated me respectfully and, at times, warmly.  They are, like most liberal academics, well-intentioned but utterly misguided.  And they are so clueless about some things that they couldn't even know just how clueless they are.

They're the sorts of people who talk about "the one percent" and see themselves as members of some oppressed class.  They'll talk about how great the Occupy Wall Street protesters are, but have never been in any sort of physical or financial risk. 

Most important of all, I'm realizing, is that they have more in common with the "one percent" that they rail against than they will ever have with me.  You see, the police, the agents of government and all de jure and de facto authorities are on their side, and work for them--but not for me.  I saw that the first time I went to the police precinct to file a complaint against the man who was harassing and spreading false rumors about me.  I faced indifference from a female officer who was supposed to help me, and harassment from a bunch of male officers who'd been working out.  They were in civilian clothes and weren't wearing their badges, so I really couldn't identify them positively, let alone make a complaint against them.  Besides, I can only imagine what the consequences might have been if I'd made their behavior public knowledge.

I know I shouldn't be resentful toward people who have had--or seem to have had--lives that are easier, in one way or another, than mine.  But it's difficult for me to not see them as smug in their innocence, and not to feel that their pleasantries and courtesies are weapons of condescension, if not outright contempt. 

And they think they know about me because they took a Gender Studies course.  They know me like they know about the oppression they're always railing against.

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