Monthly Archives: March 2008

In which I am unfair.

In my department, we have some policies, which are presented to students in handouts. Now, these policies outline our expectations with regard to things like spelling and grammar, and citation in essays. Essentially, they outline the bleeding obvious for the intelligence impaired. (You know, like Homer Simpson says, “Because of me, now they have a warning”.) I like to think of them as “Don’t Staple a Dead Duck to Your Essay” policies. I give these policy handouts to my students at the start of semester, and I also make mention of them in my Course Outlines and Assignment Handouts, and I remind them, a couple of times before work is due, not to duck up.

You know where this is going.

The Duck files. Conversation 1.

Little Miss Mallard: I see I got a D for my essay.
Me: Yes. That would be a D for “duck”.
LMM: Well, I did ask you if you wanted this work in “essay format”.
Me: Well, yes, but to me “essay format” means something quite different to “with a duck on”.
LMM: My prof last semester said it was okay to hand it in with a duck on.
LMM: Yes, you can ask him. It was Professor Algernon.
Me: I will do that. If you go take the duck off and reprint your essay, I will, out of the goodness of my heart, reconsider your grade.
[Interval of a day, during which I ask Prof Algy about his duck policy, and he claims that no ducking way did he say anything of the sort.]
LMM: Here’s my essay!
Me: There’s still duck parts all over this thing! The D stands.
LMM [bursting in to tears]: No fair!

The Duck files. Conversation 2.

Muscovy Chick: I see you applied the duck policy to my essay. I just wanted to say that it’s not fair.
Me: How is it not fair? Did you know about the policy?
MC: Yes.
Me: And you have copy of the handouts where I explain that the policy applies to your essays in this class?
MC: Yes.
Me: I am failing to see where this unfairness lies.
MC: It isn’t fair.
Me: Are you suggesting that I don’t apply this policy equally to all students?
MC: No.
Me: Then I have to ask, how is it unfair?
MC: It isn’t fair.
Me [bewildered, and admittedly getting tetchy]: What about it isn’t fair? You said you knew about it.
MC: Well, it didn’t seem to me that I would get penalised for stapling a dead duck to my essay.
Me: Even though I said you would?
MC: Yes.
Me: So essentially, you are saying that people who have standards and then hold you to them are unfair?
MC: Quack.

The Duck files. Conversation 3.

Cayuga Girl [snivelling, which makes my score of criers for the week 3]: I have to talk to you about this. [“This” being her god-awful essay, and they always say it in that tone.]
Me: What about it?
CG: I can’t get this mark.
Me: Well, clearly you can, but you don’t want it.
CG: What did I do wrong? It’s not like it has a dead duck stapled to it, like last time.
Me: True, but it does have a metric duckton of, to put it mildly, infelicities and inaccuracies in it. Like this part where you say “anthropologists agree that women are genetically inferior to men”. Why drag the poor anthropologists in to it? This is a Chaucer essay.
CG: I meant “physically inferior”.
Me: I’m not sure that that is an improvement.
CG: Anyway, that is only one thing.
Me: It was your thesis.
CG: Well, what else?
Me: There’s this part where you go on for a page about the bourgeoisie in the 14th Century.
CG: My history professor does that; I thought it was okay. [You note this is a common theme? It makes me wonder what my students blame me for when they are arguing with my colleagues.]
Me: And there’s this part where you say that medieval women never talked about sex. What about Margery Kempe? She went on and on and on about sex: having it, not having it, wanting to have it with some guy other than her husband… You have no evidence for your claims.
CG: I did a lot of reading. And also, no duck!
Me: I saw that. But overall, it’s a clusterduck. You read all these feminist critics. I don’t think you really grasped what they were on about.
CG: So what do you want me to do?
Me: Me? I have no desires here. You wrote an essay, I marked it and gave it back. As far as I am concerned, this is the end of the transaction. Don’t make this about me.
[Long pause. Clearly this conversation is not going the way she wants. I think I was supposed to apologise and promise never to do it again.]
CG: What if I rewrote it?
Me: The last time I let you have a rewrite, you took the duck off and replaced it with a goose. I need some guarantee that letting you rewrite won’t result in more duckwittery.
CG: You are really unfair. [Exit, huffily.]

The Duck files. Conversation 4.

Snippy Duckling: What’s this D doing here?
Me: It’s a D for “duck”.
SD [with a real tone]: So. You’re telling me, I got a D just because I stapled a dead duck to my essay?
Me: Yes.
SD [tone now moving from snippy to threatening]: Interesting.
Me [thinking]: At least she didn’t call me unfair.

In other news, Gender Genie thinks I am a dude.

Happy Easter and other crafty pursuits.

Hem. I have been slack. This is due to many factors, but I put most of the blame squarely on knitting, which I have been doing a lot of. Also hanging out on ravelry, because that is what us knitters do, nowadays, apparently. (If you don’t know about ravelry, it’s like Facebook for people who knit, except that it has actual, useful applications. Also, I am sorry to tell you, if you don’t know about ravelry, you are tragically non-hip.)

I learned to knit in my teens, when it totally wasn’t cool, out of a book my mother gave me which had nice, clear instructions for how to make more hideous garments than you would ever care to shake a stick at. She did this because she already, at that age, had me pegged as “crafty”; better at womanly pursuits like cooking and sewing (I was making my own clothes by the time I was 12) than she was. Which was a slight contradiction, because, in fact, she was the one who taught me to sew, but I committed the cardinal sin of apparently enjoying it, rather than seeing sewing as a chore, or a frugal duty. My mother was a pretty strong feminist, you see; not that I am not, but she definitely had that whole doing things that are gendered female is bad thing going on. At least in some areas. One day I will tell you all about her 3 husbands. But I digress.

Well, not entirely, because I kind of wanted to write about this tension between craftiness and intellect, clearly exemplified by Stephanie in this post. Stephanie is quite possibly the most intellectual person I know, and her blog is smart and funny and highbrow and sometimes very moving (and again, if you don’t read it: tragically non-hip), and yet it made me really uneasy to see her expressing that idea that somehow talking about crafting objects is inappropriate; like somehow admissions that you are good with your hands maybe means you are less good with your brain. Or maybe that’s just my issue showing.

The other side of the coin, which really doesn’t help with the whole “smart feminists can’t also be knitters” meme, is that conversations on ravelry’s forums show a tendency (horribly common in female-dominant communities) to succumb to pressure not to express unpopular opinions, because, however civilly they are expressed, saying contentious things is “not nice”. And heaven forbid that women utter any words that are “not nice”, because of course that opens them up to being labelled as bitchy.

Unfortunately, I cannot point you to the discussion to see for yourself, because ravelry discussions are only visible to members. The discussion was about Yarn Harlot, and whether her humour is gendered, but it rapidly descended into a whole bunch of shrill “You can’t talk about her! She’s a member here! You are not nice!” hysteria. Even though the discussion was exceedingly civil, and in some cases quite literary critical, rather than personally critical (my opinons were of the milder sort, but unpopular – I don’t think she’s very entertaining, but for god’s sake don’t tell anyone). You’ll notice the strong strain of anti-intellectualism mixed in with the whole “be nice” directive here, too, dear reader.

Having managed to alienate another mostly female community by (according to my adversaries) “overthinking and bringing feminism and literary criticism into everything,” I felt I knew where this was going, but at the same time, I don’t want to leave it alone. It bugs me that I cannot be a smart woman who thinks about stuff, and at the same time, a woman who is good at traditionally female activities like knitting or sewing, or who has an interest in Boarding School Stories for girls, or a Nintendo obsession.

I don’t have an answer, or a pearl of wisdom, here. Apologies if you were looking for closure.

Also, we made some kick-ass Easter Eggs.