How Feminism Helped a Bad Student

A reader just wrote in to say that she enjoys my stories about the Soviet Union. (Thank you, kind reader!) So I decided to share yet another story. It is post-Soviet but still fun.

In Ukraine, I was a university student at the Department of Foreign Languages. The way the system worked was that an oral final exam counted for 100% of the final grade. You had to show up a the exam at the end of the semester, choose a random piece of paper among the many on the professor’s desk, take a few minutes to prepare, and speak on the 2 or 3 topics on your paper. In some courses, you needed to write a final essay to be allowed to take the exam.

I worked hard to make a living when I was a student. For this reason, I rarely showed up at the university. Normally, I’d just read the textbook the day before the exam and get a top grade as a result. The quality of education was pathetically low, and I saw no reason to waste my time coming to classes where the professor did nothing but read the same textbook out loud.

One of the courses I had to take was Sociology. I didn’t attend a single lecture or seminar. At that point in time, I was busy finishing a big translation for the Academy of Arts and Sciences of the Russian Federation. There had been an accident a little while before where I had suffered severe burns to my arm. I still had to type up my translation for hours each day, which I did while shrieking in pain from my damaged arm and hand.

So, of course, the Sociology course was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t even find an opportunity to go to the library and take out the textbook before the exam. For my final essay, I went to the British Council, took out several books on feminism, and used them to write my essay. I translated the sources and even quoted them. I was very interested in feminism at that point and cared little that nobody around me had any knowledge about what the word stood for.

When I arrived at the exam and took the paper with my questions, I realized that I had not the slightest idea what the terminology used in the questions even meant. I had no textbook or notes or anything with me. So, of course, I prepared myself to failing the exam very spectacularly.

The professor in the course was a young, nerdy-looking guy. Since I had never come to class, that was the first time I saw him. Now I not only had missed every single day of class and came to the exam unprepared. I had also handed in an essay that passionately defended feminism to a male professor in a rabidly patriarchal society.

As I was sitting there, staring despondently at my questions, the professor suddenly asked,

“Which one of you is called Clarissa?”

“Me,” I answered in a tenuous little voice.

“You are the student who handed in an essay on feminism, right? It was absolutely brilliant! I loved it,” the professor suddenly announced. “You can go now, I will give you an A for the course.”

As I crept out of the room, I mused that feminism was even better than I’d thought before.

8 thoughts on “How Feminism Helped a Bad Student

  1. You wouldnt happen to still have that essay, would you? Would have been hilarious to see what you had to say about feminism years ago.


  2. Finally, somebody paid attention to my beautiful little story. Everybody wants to talk about burqas and prostitutes, while the story sits here all sad and abandoned. 🙂

    I don’t have the text any longer, unfortunately.


  3. I am interested too! Few comments don’t always mean lack of interest, f.e. I enjoyed this post, but what could I write “Great story!” ?


    1. Why not? I always welcome this kind of comment.

      When there are no comments one gets a paranoid feeling that everybody is keeping a polite silence because they hated it and don’t want to hurt your feelings.


      1. This showed up as a link on your Soviet Girl meets America post, and I’m glad it did,because it’s a great story. There’s a saying around here that God watches over drunkards, fools and small children, and I’ve always mentally completed it with “and students who barely show up for school”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.