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Old 03-26-2013, 09:30 AM
Tor
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reposting from members only - bit long

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On a February’s day in 1970, Victor sat uncomfortably in a classroom on his first day in a community college having just recently gotten out of the navy. After all the confusion of registration and what felt like a mountain of foolishness he waited for his sociology class to begin. A bell rang and into the classroom marched a large young woman wearing work boots, a flannel shirt, long skirt and a bandana tied on her head.

"My name is Ms. Paula Kline" she announced, as she wrote it on the blackboard.

Victor noticed that the "Ms" was written larger and darker than the rest. Victor noticed details, he always had - he couldn’t help it.

Ms Kline went on to say, "This class will change what your ideas are about society."


The last half of the "Sixties" were swallowed up by Victor’s Navy years. From 1966 to1970 he was away from the "real world". Little in the Navy had to do with life in the normal world. So entering normal life and college which he was discovering to be another world by itself. He had seen in the anti-war demonstrations and the flocking to the colleges by millions attempting to avoid the draft that college was going to be a place that he had never experienced or even dreamed of.

The most common social rules, things he had been brought up to live by, seemed utterly changed. The "Sixties" had been poured all over academia like hot fudge on an ice-cream sundae. Being brought up in the "fifties", Victor felt like he had stepped through the looking glass into wonderland.

Luckily for Victor, there were many newly discharged military people attending the Community college where he started his college education. As a group these returning Vet’s were surprised, annoyed and delighted all at the same time but at least they understood each other. Part of their education (maybe the largest part) was learning to assimilate into the current culture; some of them never were able to do this. But Victor was so involved in college that it took awhile for the full implications of the "times" to "sink in".

One thing was clear to him, however, that was how much "older" his Navy experience had made him. Even people a few years younger than him seemed like kids. He was not nervous in class (after facing an enraged chief in the navy, a professor inspired not a shiver). Many of the professors at his college were about his age or younger and had never been out of an academic environment. This often caused confrontations between ex-service men and their teachers. They had been out in life being responsible for themselves, making their own decisions and dealing with the consequences caused by their actions. Having their studies dished up to them in predigested form was not palatable and they often spit it out demanding the "good stuff".



Victor thought, Ms Kline might need some socialization herself, as she seemed to have missed the lesson on dressing appropriately. But then he thought "Who am I to judge another's taste in clothing or to judge them by how they look? I wore a uniform for four years. Surely", he thought, "I am not that shallow or shouldn’t be."
So he decided to give her and this class his best effort. After all, he was here to learn.

But before ten minutes of the class had passed, Ms Kline had begun a tirade listing the many offences society (and men in specific) had heaped on women.

It was not that Victor disagreed with all her points but her angry confrontive style made listening difficult. It felt like a personal attack on him. But, he thought, "I might need to hear these things and be open to looking at the world from a new point of view." So he gritted his teeth, held his temper in check and forced his mind open.

Victor managed to behave well in that first class but was not happy about what seemed like endless male bashing. However, he listened to her and admitted to himself that some of her points were well taken. What he did not hear was any "balance" of "women's issues" with "men's issues". He knew from sometimes bitter experience that men had "issues", as did women.

Arriving at the second class, he discovered a list of items written on the blackboard. This it turned out was a listing of several "things" done to females by our society. For example: 1. female babies were always clothed in pink or yellow, 2. girls were encouraged to play with dolls, etc.

When the class began, Ms Kline read each item and explained what each of them did to females.
"Yellow or pink are taught to be feminine colors - dressing babies in those colors reinforces the female stereotype in our culture", she stated. "The playing with dolls was the culture's way of preparing girls to unquestioning acceptance of the nurturing role of Mother", she went on.

With each item and explanation the cultural conspiracy grew and thickened. Victor felt his frustration level rising - again no mention of males and social stereotypes.
 
 
Finally he had enough and raised his hand. Ms Kline called on him and he pointed out the omission of similar male items. She stated that these things happened to women much more than to men. Victor read each item on the board and stated how that same item applied to males, as well. "Blue" instead of "pink" but the issue was the same. "Guns" instead of "dolls", teaching "war" not "motherhood".

Ms Kline's smile tightened and got tighter as he went down the list. By the end of the list it was more like a scowl and she only had time to say through clenched teeth, "interesting point" as the bell ending class rang.

As he stood to leave, Victor noted she was glaring at him. He smiled, said "Good bye" and left, knowing that this conversation was only beginning.

Their relationship remained hostile and cool for a few weeks as they mentally circled each other. There were controlled verbal volleys in just about every class. But nothing major, until one day Ms Kline was talking about negative stereotypes and a young man who had never spoken in class raised his hand.

He was clearly very uneasy about speaking in class but said, "I know what you are talking about. The other day my Chick…"

That was as far as he got. Ms Kline pounced on him like a vulture too hungry to wait for her prey to die.

"Chick!" she said, "Calling a woman a Chick is like calling a black man a nigger!"

At the very start of this outburst, the young man assumed the crouch of a trapped forest creature mindlessly frantic to escape. He flinched at each word as though each was a stabbing knife.

That did it. Victor could take no more.
He stood up pointed his finger at "Ms" Kline and said loudly, "I am appalled at your behavior! You have the nerve to call yourself a teacher. This guy was responding to your questions for the very first time in this class, for all I know for the first time in any class, and you cut him down because you did not like a word he used."

She protested, "I feel strongly about that word."

Victor said, "You are here to teach him not to cater to your own needs. Handled in the right manor he would have learned better ways to express himself. You, today, have reduced his interest in being sensitive – when he tried you beat him up in public. I am so disgusted I can not even be in the same room with you right now."
With that, He stood up, picked up his books and spinning on his heel left the room without a backward look.

The next day Victor arrived at the classroom just before Ms Kline began the class. As he entered, he made eye contact with her and then made his way to his seat.

Once he was seated, Ms Kline made eye contact with him and in a very calm voice said, "Victor, I think we have a communication problem".

He maintained eye contact and replied, " I don't have a problem understanding you. Did you understand me, yesterday?"

She admitted that she had but felt we should talk outside of class. Victor stated that he saw no purpose in outside class discussion with her but if she wished would do so. She seemed content with that response and started the class. He wondered what this conversation would be about, in the same circumstances he would do the same thing. During the class, he was polite but insured that the class was "balanced" (men's and women's issues).

At the end of the class, Ms Kline suggested they have a coffee at the student union and have a talk. Her tone had changed, no longer distant and superior – now friendly and something else. He did not understand this change, only yesterday he had publicly told her off. What was this about, he wondered? Needing some time to think about this turn of events, he suggested the next day for coffee. She agreed and said it would be good to get to know him better. "Know me better? Was she coming on to me?", he left confused.

They met in the Student Union at 2PM, purchased coffee and found a table. He did not buy Ms Kline's coffee or pull out her chair for her. He half expected she would do these things for him but that did not happen. He had no idea what to expect from this meeting and was interested to see what would occur.

There was the prerequisite small talk (you know weather, campus goings on, etc.) and then Ms Kline slipped smoothly into "woman's issues". This he expected. Clearly, this subject was the center of her life and she was passionate about it. He listened for a while but soon heard and felt "male bashing" insinuating itself into her monologue. Bitter experience in the classroom had taught him that once on this road Ms. Kline rapidly picked up speed and sensitivity became road kill.

He thought, "I better put on the brakes." So he gently tapped the conversational brakes by commenting "I hear what you are saying. Isn't it funny that so much of that applies to men as well as women."

He got that "look" – something like a praying mantice eyeing its prey.

He continued, "This is all very confusing to me being brought up in the 50's. During that time, the "roles" and "rules" were Ozzey and Harriet clear. I may not like my role but I understood it. Now, not only do I not understand my new role but also I am being damned for my old role."

Ms Kline considered this quiet rant and then said, "Just because men didn't see what they were doing as wrong doesn't make them blameless".

Victor’s turn to stare. He had offered her the "olive branch" and she had hit him with it.

He stated, "The way to change behavior is by helping people to learn better behavior and rewarding them when they perform the better behavior. Beating people up for past inappropriate behavior does not help and only hardens resistance to change".

She was starting to reply when he said, "This discussion is more appropriate to the classroom and that is where I will continue it with you. Now is not the time. I need to find out more about this "woman's movement" before I have a position on it."

"Well I can tell you more about it" she offered.

"Thank you, but I think I understand your position and I need to talk to others about their position." he replied.

There it was again, a soft look in her eyes. What was that about? She went from practically yelling at him to flirting. He stood up told her, he had to go to class, said goodbye and left. He did not want to hurt her feelings but did not want to date a "sparing partner".

They never became more than acquaintances. But had lots of fun sparring through out the remainder of the sociology course.

Ms Kline was Victor’s first encounter with an active participant in the "movement" and he wondered why she would be attracted to him – a man who had stated vigorously that he was against the apparent one-sidedness of it. At times this "movement" made him just a little crazy, women often ended up beating up their supporters. Men sympathetic to the "cause" listened endlessly to how "bad" men were, while men who could care less either ignored or ridiculed it.

As he watched the women at college, he came to know who were active in the "movement", he saw that often they were as confused and uneasy as he was. They knew the "party-line" but felt uncomfortable with, at least, parts of it. But he knew one thing for sure – the world he had grown up in was in a time of continuing change and would never be the same. All of us, male and female would have to adjust or be left out.

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Old 03-26-2013, 11:46 PM
Pylgrim (Offline)
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I like it. The one thing i do have to say negatively about is that you tend to clump a lot of information in a small amount of time. Like the first paragraph for instance. It's 1970, he is in a class, he was in the navy, the class is sociology, and then a woman walks in. all in a few lines. space it out. set us up for this stuff.

I do like the story though. thank you.
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Old 03-27-2013, 06:47 AM
Tor
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Thanks Pylgrim, I was worried that I went on too long - I do have that tendency. but will try to incorperate what you said.
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Old 03-30-2013, 06:43 AM
XavierAlex (Offline)
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Hi Tor,

Very vivid scenes here. I think the beginning and ending are a bit general; however, the relationship between the teacher and student is very firmly developed.

If I were writing this, I would add more scenery and atmosphere; perhaps less about the ideas and more about what inspires the ideas. What I mean by that is to elicit the ideas of Male-Bashing, the 50s versus 70s eras, the Navy. Hint and nudge at those ideas with concrete images.

One very good image is when she writes Ms. on the board. That was very intriguing and I wasn't quite sure which way the relationship was going to go. The tension whether it was intellectual or flirtatious was very well done.

Thanks!
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Old 03-30-2013, 07:26 AM
Tor
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Hi XavierAlex,
Thanks for your thoughts - I have rewritten this story serveral times over the years and now am encouraged to do it again. This is a true story (as I remember it) so at times I wonder how much people want to know. This was a rich time with alot of change and from the view point of a person pulled out of mainstream society for four of these wild years and then dropped back in to it - it was intense so there is much to say.

Thanks
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Old 03-31-2013, 07:44 PM
JustcallmeEd (Offline)
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I have the same problem sometimes, of wondering how much to say. I've found that if I don't say it all, it lessens the impact. Let it all hang out.
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Old 04-03-2013, 07:29 AM
Tor
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Justcallme0Ed,
thanks for the input -I think there is a larger and longer story here and will write it.
Many do not want to hear this story because it gives the other side of liberation but if we all want to be free of sterotypes then we have to be willing to admit them and give them up for everyone
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Old 04-05-2013, 09:49 AM
JustcallmeEd (Offline)
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How true.
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Old 04-05-2013, 03:15 PM
Tor
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Amen
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Old 04-06-2013, 04:53 PM
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I have to say, I really enjoyed the curiousity with which you arrived into your story. You present a character to me who is bold, brave, and courageous and yet he is willing to expose himself to the idea that there is something more. Your character development for yourself is fabulous.

I became confused however, when I wasn't sure if your story was going to lead me down a road of feminism or deeper into the irony of your relationship with your teacher which would lean more towards a personal essay/ inspirational message. I wasn't sure if I needed to pay more attention to the logistics of the argument you present ... or the unfolding of the irony in the relationship.

Honestly ... when you make the comment ... "Chick ...." and are cut off ... I was half waiting for you to come back shortly after over coffee and really hit her hard with the reality that you were implying one of your farm raised chick's. lol Just my own weird sense of story lines.

You have a beautiful foundation ... I am looking forward to what you are going to do with this!
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Old 04-07-2013, 09:20 AM
Tor
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Ravensquiliz,
Glad you like the story. It is based on a real hppening. Those were dfficlult and confusing times to live through. Men brought up in 50's America and returning from military service into the political boiling pot of the 60's had to adjust but life in the military had taught them how.

I will be working on the story more. thanks for your interest.
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