My teacher asked me to meet with him to discuss my midterm. While I found his grading, and class, absurd, I was happy to comply; I hoped to glean some idea of how to prepare for the final. The meeting was as unhelpful as his classes. He told me what he didn’t like about my answers and refused to address any questions. The only thing he let slip was that the final would be different from the midterm. I thanked him for his time, and was packing up my papers when he started talking again.
“I hope you don’t mind my saying this, and I assume you already know,” he began. “I’m sure you’ve been told this before, but in case you haven’t I thought I should mention it. You speak with confidence.”
I stared at him curiously. I generally speak loudly, but that’s more a reflection of my impaired hearing than confidence. He kept talking, so I didn’t interrupt to explain.
“You really shouldn’t speak so confidently. It makes you sound like you know what you’re talking about. You sound certain, and it makes people believe you. I believed what you said last class. I thought I was right, but you sounded so certain that I backed off. And you were wrong and now you have egg on your face.”
During the prior class the teacher had brought up the legal structure of a local government agency. Since I work closely with the agency I had corrected him and assumption of the article he’d quoted. I’m still pretty sure that I was right, since I’d discussed the exact issue with an employee at that office the prior week. But now – I’m questioning myself.
“You speak strongly. I can’t tell if this is intentional or not but the way you speak makes you sound dismissive of other students when you say things which counter what they’ve said. I’m only saying this to help you. You should find a way to say things so that when you’re wrong you don’t wind up with so much egg on your face and disregarding other people.”
Believing my teacher had his students best interests in mind when giving that rebuke, I took his words to heart. Once I was done crying, I told my sister the story.
“He would never have said that if you were a man,” she said bluntly. “Or if he did, it would be as a compliment.”
I’ve never felt anyone behaved criminally against me because I’m a woman. But there are actions more insidious than crimes. Actions which we must first recognize as wrong before they can be stopped. Circumstances can only change if we, as sisters and brothers, stand against them.
Because as 2pac – who, despite his gross misogyny, conviction for sexual abuse, and other crimes, had the occasional discerning idea – sings,
But please don’t cry, dry your eyes, never let up/
Forgive but don’t forget, girl, keep your head up