Worlds & Time

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

UNM Asking For It

I know I haven’t posted in a while. Sorry. I was writing this short story, and I had these big plans about posting the rough short story and then deconstructing it, explaining what I was thinking and how I would improve it. Perhaps I would post a revised draft.

Of course, like always, it turned into a novel. I’m still working on it, and maybe I’ll still post it.

In the mean time, I’ve also been reading A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers. Someone loaned it to me because they know I applied for the Real World, and it has an entire section that involves the author’s audition interview. As a tribute to nonfiction, I’m going to post a recollection. I got a phone call from the “Cherry & Silver Society,” which is the UNM Alumni association. They wanted money. I pointed out that after UNM tried to throw me out my last semester, they probably shouldn’t expect much money from me. I think the woman on the phone understood, because she hung up very quickly.

That’s not entirely true. The real story is that my professor tried and succeeded at throwing me out of her class. So there you go, Cherry & Silver, a bitchy grad student lost you money from now until forever. Have fun with that one.

Anyway, the class that I was kicked out of was Creative Writing: Nonfiction. I wanted to be in Creative Writing: Fiction, but once again my scholarship had come through late so I had trouble signing up for my classes. By the time I got my account unlocked, there were no positions in any of the fiction classes left, all of the poetry classes were filled, and so nonfiction was my last chance to graduate on time.

Rape is probably the main issue about which I get accused of sexism. Men can be raped. They aren’t raped in numbers anywhere near as high as women, but it’s possible to rape them. There’s always somebody bigger, stronger, or who have enough friends or a good enough understanding of chemistry to rape you, no matter who you are. If you watch L&O: SVU you probably know this phrase: Rape isn’t about sex, it’s about power.

I found out in one of my American Studies classes that the feminists that I knew in college didn’t see it that way. To them, it is about sex. I’m equivocating that definition though, be careful. It’s about sex as in gender, not about the physical act of sex.

You see, to these specific feminists, rape is all about a man forcing himself on a woman. If you’re a man, you’ll never understand the trauma of rape, even if you’re a man that has been raped (that would violate the definition, you see, so it’s a oxymoron).

I haven’t been raped. Let me just make sure that’s clear. I wouldn’t want these specific people to actually think that my arguments have any sort of validity.

Anyway, when I see this position, it has some rather bizarre consequences. If only a woman can be raped, you would think that only men can rape, right? Well, no. That would deny the inherently equal abilities, so both women and men can rape someone else, but only women can be raped. And, of course, that can’t be a bad thing, so it must be a good thing.

So . . . the ability to be raped is something that women should be proud of. Women that have been raped have an understanding that no man can share.

Don’t look at me like that. I don’t believe any of that crap, but this is my eventual understanding of the bizarro world feminists’ position that I was dealing with. Perhaps (in fact I would bet that) I don’t understand their position, but they won’t listen to what I say, and it’s hard to communicate if one party won’t listen to the other.

One of the first books we read for the nonfiction course was Atlas of the Human Heart by Ariel Gore. It’s an interesting book, but she is raped early on. Somehow the subject came up in class, and I pointed out that I didn’t think that it was well dealt with.

Rapes are vicious, painful, life changing events, and even though the rape is mentioned in the first section of the book she never deals with any of the consequences of the rape. I have a friend from the University of Rochester that was raped. It was still affecting her life five years later, and she eventually dropped out of school because of the depression and recrimination. I haven’t talked to her since I left, but at the time it was destroying her life.

I pointed this out in class. It struck me as an unintended validation of the rape. Ariel Gore never cries about it, or is depressed or worried. She never locks herself in her room. The rape is mentioned, and then ignored. To me, the absence was glaring. It was like it didn’t affect the author at all, and I was worried that people would get the wrong impression from the rape. If a woman can be raped and then shrug it off, she was saying that rape didn’t matter, that it doesn’t hurt anyone.

I wrote her a letter. Her email is listed on her website. I stuck it at the end of a list of questions, but the entire letter was so that I could ask her about the consequences of the rape. She told me that she was affected by it, but she was trying to get the reader to bring their own emotions to the situation so she didn't talk much about the emotions that she went through.

The people in the class, including the professor, seemed to think that I was trying to argue that rape doesn’t affect women, and as soon as people thought that, they stopped listening to me.

That was the first strike against me. The second one was that I disliked nonfiction. I don’t often write about myself. This blog is the closest thing to a journal that I keep, and it’s relatively new. I don’t particularly like my life, and I don’t like to think about my past. I’d rather concentrate on something recent or something in the future instead.

I made that clear, and I think that the grad student professor took it personally. After all, if I didn’t like nonfiction, and she was involved in nonfiction, obviously I must not like her.

The third strike was the essay. It was two days before the essay was due, and I had nothing to write about. I simply couldn’t come up with a topic that I wanted to write about. I like to write about what I care about. I’ve never been good at arguing from a position that I don’t share.

I was sitting around, and finally I came up with the idea to write about her. I suppose it was a jab at this grad student professor, but I felt it was a reasonable one. After all, we were supposed to write about ourselves. It was a nonfiction class, so I wrote a non-fiction essay about how I was dealing with being in all of these classes, and I included the professor as a character. I also twisted my first sexual experience and made it the resolution and tied everything together through it. I haven’t been raped, but you wouldn’t know that from reading the essay.

I turned the paper in, and a few days later I got an email from the professor, asking that I not come in to class.

You know what the best stories are? The stories that make you feel something. The ones that grab your heart and pump it or stick a knife in your belly and twist it around in your insides. My story made her feel something, and it certainly made me feel something.

I just read the paper again for the first time since that semester. It’s not an easy read for me.

The professor couldn’t handle it. I haven’t seen her since. She took it up with the head of the department, and I ended up in private tutoring with the head of the Creative Writing program for the rest of the semester. I wrote about a particularly nasty hospital stay, which turned out well.

Normally, I’m not so much for personal insults, but I still dislike her, so I might as well. She was a butch woman, between the tattoos, the dogs, and the motorcycles. You can’t judge people by their outward appearance, but you can’t stop yourself from making assumptions. I didn’t know if she was a lesbian, but it wouldn’t have surprised me.

She isn’t. She’s actually quite homophobic, actually. She said that lesbian is an insult, anyway, and if you’re not homophobic you probably wouldn’t think that was an insult.

I didn’t like UNM very much. I didn’t like the University of Rochester either, actually. What is it about college administration that breeds incompetence? But there were smart people in both places, and I miss that so much, being surrounded by people that could talk intelligently.

Still, I don’t think they’ll manage to get much money from me. The school doesn’t create those people, or even shelter them. I think that the good parts happen despite the interference of the school.

Hopefully they’ll stop bothering me now.

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