My question was answered within the first hour of class.
We were discussing a research article and a classmate made the observation that the condition being studied was more prevalent in mothers 30 years old and older. The classmate shared, "This makes me nervous because I am getting close to 30." So regardless of what comments, if any, followed my classmate's comment, the fact is she just shared a very personal (and some would even say very private) worry with our class. And what does the professor do? She blasts all of us, effectively shutting everyone down. I saw it happen before my very eyes. Not only that one classmate, but at least a quarter of the class immediately stopped participating in discussion. And then the professor had the gall to tell us that we were "awfully quiet this morning, even more quiet than usual." Wow. Talk about not being able to read a room... Additionally, talk about being a thoughtless and insensitive person... So what was it that the professor said?
The professor (weirdly looking directly at me, more on that later) said:
"It's a major problem when women wait until they're 35 to have their first child."
She said that.
I can't even make this stuff up.
So... Let's unpack this...
- As I said above, my classmate just shared with the class a very personal concern of hers regarding a very sensitive issue and the professor provided no support and instead fueled her fears.
- My professor, who is not a medical doctor, stated her opinion extremely strongly and aggressively even though it was not necessary or even directly related to what we were discussing that day.
- My professor played into the fears that a lot of my classmates have, who are delaying getting pregnant because they are in this graduate program where we have been explicitly instructed not to get pregnant. (That in itself is messed up. I've said it before, but you cannot dictate other people's reproductive timelines.)
- The professor went on to talk about how women are the most fertile in their teens and early 20s and that it wasn't right that so many women "waited." First of all, I would bet a million dollars that this same woman would judge any teen pregnancy HARD. Don't have them too early (irresponsible), but don't have them too late (idiot), am I right? UGH!!!
- Furthermore, does she really think all people CHOOSE to WAIT? Maybe people don't want to have children until they can, oh I don't know, afford food, clothing, and shelter. Not to mention day care, health insurance, a car, car insurance, and everything else that costs money and adds up quick. Maybe some people don't meet their partner that they want to have a family with until they are 30 or 40. Maybe they spent their 20s overcoming an addiction or an eating disorder or cancer. Maybe a million other things that are out of people's control...
SO. MUCH. JUDGMENT.
I was disgusted. Of course, I had a visceral reaction. My body immediately got warm, and, even though her comments and attitude were so outrageous they didn't even warrant a reaction from me, I still got angry. I looked down, took some deep breaths, sent out love to all of my classmates whose fears were just preyed upon, and pictured my husband who has told me repeatedly, "Just don't cuss anyone out. You are almost done with these classes. Those professors are not worth your time or energy."
I said nothing. I am not here to argue with her. I am not here to educate her on the intricacies involved in the wrong assumptions about childlessness. I am here to learn as much as I can for my future profession (which apparently includes experiencing how I do NOT want to treat my future patients). I am here to keep my head down, mouth shut, and graduate. I cannot fix the culture of that terrible place. Not when the professors hold all the power and have no accountability to anyone.
But later I was thinking about how she looked directly at me when she said it. Now I know I can be hypersensitive, maybe even a little paranoid, but I have come a very long way in my recovery. I don't personalize everything anymore. I have lowered my expectations. I know this world doesn't understand my reality and when people say their ignorant comments it is about them and not about me. But I still thought about how she looked right at me. And then later that day while I was exercising, it clicked.
She knows I wanted children and she knows I don't have them.
And she is blaming me.
What a terrible, unhappy person.
I put a couple of pieces of information together in my head. I wasn't doing this consciously. I really want to spend as little energy as possible on those professors and that educational institution. I just want to learn the academic material and graduate with my degree. But my subconscious put it all together and the realization just rose to the top.
There was a short essay I wrote first semester. There was an email I sent second semester. There were the innocuous comments I made when participating in class discussions. I have never explicitly stated anything, but, regardless of her negative traits, she is a very smart woman. She connected the dots and you cannot convince me that she doesn't know, at least in vague terms, that my not having children wasn't my choice.
And this makes her cruel and evil.
I have nothing to say to her. I have no points to make. I will not change her mind. But what I can do is reach out to my classmates and agree with them that this woman is not a nice person. We are all sticking together to get through what has been an extremely disappointing experience.
I am fine. Don't worry about me. The situation has reached a point of ridiculousness that it's not even hurting my feelings anymore. I've told all of my classmates that if they ever find themselves in a similar situation in a future job that they should just quit. This is not normal; this is not okay.
Have I mentioned that I'm looking forward to finishing my coursework?
I have to say it -- the instructors in your program seem really strange at best and cruel at worst. I agree with your husband - just get through these and learn what you can but I'm really sorry (for all of your classmates too frankly) that you have to deal with this level of behavior.ReplyDelete
It's almost unbelievable, isn't it? It is completely outrageous. I really wonder what is wrong with these people--why are they so incredibly unhappy? And, more importantly, why are they teaching? Especially in a healthcare profession? I will never know the answers to these questions, but I will be out of there very, very soon. I pray for peace and patience every day.Delete
Wow. Even reading this makes me angry.ReplyDelete
I think you are handling it extremely well. And I am glad that your class is sticking together.
Snowy greetings from Switzerland!
I am so thankful for my class. The majority of them may be from a different generation than me and they may have grown up completely differently than I did (sadly, they do not know a world without the internet and smart phones), but they are kind-hearted, hard working people. The program has been such a massive disappointment for everyone, but it has also made us all really look out for each other. Nothing brings people together like a common enemy I suppose. What a weird situation.Delete
What a terrible, cruel and evil professor you have!ReplyDelete
I agree with your husband - you are there to get your degree and then you are forever done with her.
But this is just fact of life - there are lots of cruel and evil people. I bet your professor was already a cruel & evil child. I learnt early about cruel children (being bullied when I was from 7-10 years just because I was fat).
But because of that experience I have always treasured the kind people around me.
Head down. Mouth shut. Graduate. That is the plan. And I remind myself of it multiple times a day. You know it's a toxic environment when you get physically sick (headaches, nausea, feverish) every day you go to campus.Delete
And, yes. Unfortunately, cruel and evil people are a fact of life. I didn't think I needed any more life experience in learning how to deal with them, but here I am. And I am handling this situation much differently than I have in the past. Previously, I would speak out and stand up for myself. But that never really got me anywhere either. Now I am older and I just want to get my new life started, so I refuse to let them goad me into doing anything that will jeopardize my opportunity to join a new profession. These professors, while awful and horrible, are only in my life temporarily. I can stomach it for a little bit longer. Especially with everyone's support here! <3
I agree: kind people are such a treasure!!
I think that, once your program is done & you are "safe," you need to write a letter to the department head. Or a very detailed course evaluation. ;) You should not have to put up with this kind of crappy treatment. (((hugs!)))ReplyDelete
I agree. I don't want this behavior to continue and I don't want my alma mater to have such a crappy program. I am thinking about letting everyone know: the individual professors, the head of the program, the campus director, and the dean of the school. I don't want to go off on a malicious rampage. Rather, I want to factually communicate my experience with everyone that needs to know. The professors need to know individually and the people in charge of the program and the school need to know as well. (Once I have graduated of course) This week I started making a list of my observations and experiences. I want to write everything down while it is still fresh on my mind.Delete
Oh holy jeezum. That is beyond AWFUL. What you said is so accurate -- you don't always CHOOSE to wait to have children! It is often totally beyond your control. And to take someone who is worried and expressed that and then shame them, while silently shaming you with eye contact... why is this woman teaching? Why is she not in some field where she can stay way, way far away from other humans? I am glad that you can talk to your classmates and let them know that this is NOT normal, and that they deserve better when they have choices. Is there anything you can do in terms of complaining (after the course is over, since you know, she sounds like she'd be vindictive) and letting administration know that while teaching a sensitive topic she is totally insensitive and even cruel? They need to know. Cruel people are a fact of life but maybe there are ways to change the balance and to hold them accountable, especially if they are in a position of power and supposed to be providing education services. Grrr. I'm so sorry this keeps happening! How many weeks until you are done with this awful human?ReplyDelete
I really wonder why she is teaching. She is very smug. I get the impression that she thinks we are all idiots and have never experienced any hardships. I have no idea why she is the way she is.Delete
I am happy to say that I am on spring break, a very much needed spring break. My body and psyche are exhausted on a primal level. I need to relax and recharge so I can get through the rest of this challenging semester.
Fortunately, when I return I will only have six weeks of classes left and then final exams. I can do six weeks. I've already done a year and a half at that awful place. And before that, I dealt with heartbreaking, soul-crushing infertility for five years. I can definitely do six more weeks.
And yes, I am going to speak out once I am free to do so. Not only just to the people at the top, but I want to let these individual professors know how they made me feel as well. I don't think some of them even realize I am in their peer group.
Karma. That is all. 👩🏻🎓ReplyDelete
Seriously! I can only do what I can do. I'm not the one being mean. And I am working hard. The rest is out of my control.Delete