Residency Reflection: Socializing

My Masters was done through an online program.  There are a lot of pros and cons to such a program.  I had never done online classes before, and it is a very different style of learning that I needed to get used to.  The university does have a physical location and a residency requirement (which I’m obviously attending as we speak) that does set it apart from solely online universities that offer similar degrees.  I can cover the program itself at another time, but the online nature of the program naturally limits some of the person-to-person interaction that comes with education.  This program in particular highly stresses discussion and virtual communication, so I had lengthy conversations about the coursework and various history topics with my fellow students.  Residency, however, was designed to give an opportunity to put faces to names and extend those conversations to another level.

I had my doubts about it when I got here for several reasons.  I did my undergrad at this same university (a separate post altogether) and in general I struggle with socializing.  I’ve been doing super well with being social while I’ve been here though.  I’ve been talking with lots of people, and I’ve been giddy over the fact they’re all history nerds just like me and actually interested in the same topics.  I’ve been talking about history with these really cool people both my peers and professors who were including me like peers.  It was really nice.  I was having a good time and was super proud of myself for being so social.  I’ve been to pub several nights with a bunch of guys after our last lectures (which was totally amazing–the lectures not the pub) and we discussed so much history.  It was great.

On the first day of class back when I started my Masters we were required to read an article about “traditional” military history and how it’s often unfriendly to women and “soft” history topics like race and gender.  Oh how welcoming for a younger woman without military experience per se.  The program is organized into small groups that you go through the program with, and my particular group had a lot of hobby historians who were retired, very pro-military guys.  My name could be both male and female, and they chose to assume I was a fellow dude.  I chose not to correct them because I didn’t feel totally welcomed as myself, and I was a little worried my ideas wouldn’t be taken seriously.  I guess some of that confusion was thus my fault.

I got here at residency anxious to see what my group thought about my “real” identity.  They were not happy.  They have avoided me this entire week.  They happened to be sitting in front of me during a lecture yesterday in a stadium seating-style lecture hall, and they were writing back and forth in a notebook the whole time.  These dudes are in their 60s and 70s, so it wasn’t very covert.  I could look straight down at everything they were writing.  They were talking about me.  They were not saying nice things.  It really bummed me out for the rest of the lecture.  Seriously, these guys could be my grandfather, and they’re acting like this?  Are my feelings too sensitive because it really hurt.  I guess I assumed they were more embarrassed that they thought I was a guy, so that’s why they were avoiding me.  I went on to the pub and tried to forget about it, but I came back to my room at the end of the night and I had obscene stuff writing and drawn on my white board in the hall.  Nobody else had stuff written, and we weren’t given white board markers either.  I have no proof that these guys did it.  It seems unlikely that such old guys would do such a juvenile act, but what am I supposed to think?

It just really, really sucks because I was so pumped about being out of my shell.  Now I don’t want to talk to anyone.  I was so excited about my field and having such a good time actually doing it with other historians who are excited just like me.  This makes me feel so unwelcome.  I hate these people for saying such mean things, but I hate them more for ruining such a good moment for me.  No one else here has treated me differently or even expressed surprise that I would be interested in the military history field.  It’s all been about my ideas and passion.  In no way do I blame the program for the small minds of these few guys.  My brain can kick their asses any day.  It hurts though, and it makes me appreciate the awesome people I have met even more.

I have talked to a published writer about everything regarding the Civil War, publishing, researching, and writing.  I’ve hung out with a dude from Louisiana and compared struggles over writing our theses.  I’ve met two amazing Canadians who I respect immensely for researching pre-modern history (which poses unique challenges) and staying true to his roots by researching the less popular Canadian history.  It’s not an easy road either direction.  I talked with a total character last night who’s a veteran from Michigan who decided to examine Roman-era stuff, a huge undertaking.  There’s been tons of other people, and I can’t list them all.  The professors here are leaders in their respective concentrations, and I sat at lunch with some yesterday and talked about history and education system and just bull shitted for a while.  It’s an amazing opportunity to be considered peers with these guys.  I’m so glad I am mentally able to take advantage of it and put myself out there and initiat conversations despite pathetic, small minded people.

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2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Wiley
    Jun 24, 2010 @ 09:27:03

    Hang in there!

    Actually, no.. scrap my last. Don’t just hang in there, take it to the old guys! Your brain could kick their arses, so why not let them have it. I don’t mean confront them, just maybe have a few debates with them about mil history. You never know, some of them might actually come around and respect you for what you know. Or you could just bluntly point out the next time you see them (preferably in a public forum) that you didn’t realise how much your breasts got in the way of your thinking, and thank them for making you realise that. Trust me, they’ll want to dig their way to China then and there.

    Don’t let the petty-mindedness of others ruin your awesome time. Grab this opportunity and wring it dry, girl!

    Reply

  2. solwindchime
    Jun 24, 2010 @ 12:16:50

    Thanks for bit of girl power moto there! I’ve contemplated several forms of medieval torture that could be appropriate. I’m still deciding.

    At grad rehersal this morning the guy in front of me was another person from my group who I hadn’t run into this whole week. He was so happy to finally meet me, it restored my faith in humanity. You can’t change the minds the the truly ignorant, and they may be earning their degree along with me tomorrow, but they’ll always be dumb as rocks in my book. I just feel sorry for their wives.

    Reply

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