You Know What Really Bugs Me?

When people hear my passionate denunciations of pedophiles or read my posts against child abuse, they immediately assume I must have been a victim of pedophiles or child abusers. And this is patently ridiculous. You don’t need to be a victim of any particular injustice in order to be bothered by that injustice.

I support the fight for the rights of gay and transgendered people, and I’m neither gay nor transgendered.

I believe in the rights of the HIV positive people, and I’m not HIV positive.

I feel very disturbed when elderly people are mistreated or live in poverty, and I’m not elderly.

Hell, I even feel pain when I see a mistreated and tortured animal, and I’m not an animal.

Of course, it’s very tempting to dismiss anybody’s legitimate political activism on behalf of a certain group of people by pushing it into the realm of personal grievances. “Oh, you just care so much because you must have been traumatized and now you can’t be objective” people often try to say. Well, they are nothing but idiots. You don’t have to be a victim of anything in order to be bothered by the victimization of others. You just have to be a decent person who is capable of feeling the pain of others.

Relationship or Rape?

There is a really nasty double-standard in the way child rape cases are reported. I did a search and immediately alighted on the following report (emphasis is mine):

A 36-year-old village woman has been charged with first-degree rape, a Class B felony, after being accused of raping a 12-year-old boy.

Police arrested Tara Porter of 3 Bartlett St. on the evening of Tuesday, Nov. 8. An intensive investigation followed a report early that afternoon from the Child Abuse Hotline, which was notified anonymously that a sexual relationship was going on between the two, Ellenville Police Chief Phillip Mattracion said. . .

The relationship had reportedly gone on for about six weeks.

On what planet is it acceptable to refer to a rape of a 12-year-old child as “a relationship”? We have become enlightened enough as a society to stop referring to little girls who are raped as being “in a relationship” with their rapists. Isn’t it time to recognize that when this crime is perpetrated against boys it is just as horrible and unacceptable?

Until such crimes are defined strongly and exclusively as rapes and not “relationships”, we can’t expect victimized boys to report being raped more often.

The reason why there is such a reluctance to refer to sexual abuse of boys with the word rape is the long-standing patriarchal belief that women are always passive objects of sexual acts and can never be active subjects of sex. This is one of several issues where the beliefs of so-called radical feminists and anti-women defenders of patriarchy coincide.

What If the Students Just Can’t Be There?

The following question has recently appeared on College Misery:

What do I say when students ask me to loosen the attendance policy for them, their emergencies, the things that get in the way of their attending class? These range from “Baby Daddy is in jail and I had to bail him out,” to “My job with the transit authority changed hours on me for 2 weeks.” These are often good students, hard workers. Their excuses seem real. I tell them the policy and they stare at me with big eyes and say, “Well, how am I supposed to be in class when I have to pick up my kid?” “How could I make class at 9 when my shift changed?” “Did you want me to leave my brother in the emergency room so I could come here for a quiz?”

I know exactly what this prof is talking about. Most of my students don’t live on campus. All of them have at least one part-time job. Many work full-time. Quite a few are primary caregivers for ailing elderly relatives or small children.

Traditionally, campuses were structured around the lifestyles of students who lived in the dorms, maybe did a few hours of work in the cafeteria or the bookstore, and used the college years to slowly mature intellectually and personally. Today, with the advent of what we call non-traditional students (low-income, blue collar, black, Latino, etc.), we have to accept that students are often prevented from being on campus because of the pressing personal concerns and work obligations.

I know my students and I know how hard their lives are. This is why I never ask them, “Why did you miss the mini-quiz?” Instead, I ask, “When will you be able to come by the office for a make-up mini-quiz?” I now have make-ups for all of my exams and mini-quizzes because I know I will have to accommodate students who simply can’t be there. I also make sure that the grade distribution is designed in a way that a student who is forced to miss quite a few classes but is willing to do extra work outside of the classroom can get a good grade.

I don’t remember a single occasion when I didn’t let students take make-up quizzes or exams. If a student tells me that she couldn’t sleep all night long because the baby was sick and crying non-stop and this is why she didn’t do well on the exam, I always let her rewrite the exam. If a student says he will have to miss 3 last weeks of class because he needs to drive his father to chemotherapy, I deliver the material to him outside of class hours or online.

And I find that when you treat students like human beings and show that you understand their hardships, they never abuse your trust.