Best Sexism Analogy Ever

by Belle Waring on August 21, 2015

I’ve mentioned before that I was sexually harassed by a prof as an undergrad. (This isn’t even the point of this story, but whatever.) From the perspective of an older person I can see that my professor hadn’t actually been teaching female students for all that long, since Columbia was so late in going co-ed (Columbia was holding out in the hopes of a Harvard-Radcliffe-style full merger between it and its sister women’s college, Barnard, which never happened.) I think Barnard students were already able to take some Columbia classes prior to 1983, and it’s not like I think it’s an excuse, but there you are.

In any case, this caused my boyfriend at the time to question whether I really deserved my A+. Not supportive, dude. It made me a little anxious about the idea, but not so much, because I really was an excellent student in this class, and my GPA was above 4 already that term. In college I had a strategy of studying for exams that was fool-proof. I write quickly, and would take reams of notes for each class. Then when exam time rolled around I would re-write my notes in a condensed form (and re-read the main texts, because I also read fast.) Zoë is dyslexic and finds all this supremely irritating for obvious reasons, but is nonetheless interested. I once helped a friend who had been skipping class half the term pass the final for a Central and South American Art History class with only a single night to study. He was resigned to failure and thought he wouldn’t graduate on time. NOT ON MY WATCH, HOMES. [This is not to say I’m amazing or anything; being good at studying for college exams is a skill with limited utility, and not necessarily a predictor of whether someone can, just pulling an example at random, finish her f$%king PhD dissertation or anything. Further, I must allow I chemically enhanced these abilities in a way that is not recommended for extended periods.]

The notes I made for Roman History were so good that people learned about them [?]. (I did give them to two friends, with whom I actually studied.) Thus a frat bro whom I didn’t know from Adam approached me one day and asked if he could have a copy. What? What?! Who does this? I declined, obviously, but with insufficient scorn, simply because I was so baffled and astonished. Zoë’s response to this is the best: “did he think you were an NPC?!” I think this is exactly right. Dudes like this think lesser beings are actually non-player characters in the video game of life. Like Minecraft villagers with boobs or something.

{ 285 comments }

1

HoosierPoli 08.21.15 at 8:48 am

I think this is probably a good analogy for all kinds of careless or thoughtless behavior, not just sexist behavior. We treat other people too often as set pieces (or as you put it, NPCs) in our own lives instead of what they are, which is (sometimes similar, sometimes very different) versions of ourselves.

2

John Quiggin 08.21.15 at 9:12 am

Interesting as regards note-taking. I can barely write, and never learned to take notes. So, I paid attention in class, and read the textbook (like you, I read fast). I used the time saved dealing with notes to write prepared answers, which I then tweaked, politician-style, so that they could be used regardless of the question actually asked. Worked for me.

Also, great sexism analogy!

3

Saurs 08.21.15 at 9:14 am

It is a good analogy. Better than and a step up from Scalzi’s because it recognizes the full force of gate-keeping, I feel.

I think Barnard students were already able to take some Columbia classes prior to 1983, and it’s not like I think it’s an excuse, but there you are.

I know you’re not excusing Your Harasser, but chances are, he’d probably met some women before he went to / taught at university*. How’d he get by, not-harassing up until then, I wonder? I know the answer, but I like the question.

(My revision strategy was much the same as yours, although the outcome was less phenomenal. First-draft, long form notes; re-writing and annotating the notes; condensing them; revisiting the literature; another bout of new notes, and repeat.)

*if only troublesome “co-eds” had the prescience and the decency to stay away, so many male lives might not have been ruined, inconvenienced, punctuated by bouts of casual and consequence-free harassment, &c &c

4

Belle Waring 08.21.15 at 9:31 am

Saurs, I know. Seriously, he was a total dick.
John: I tend to zone out in class unless I write every single thing down.

5

ZM 08.21.15 at 10:29 am

“In college I had a strategy of studying for exams that was fool-proof. I write quickly, and would take reams of notes for each class. Then when exam time rolled around I would re-write my notes in a condensed form (and re-read the main texts, because I also read fast.)”

I used that note taking strategy too for exams :-) I am not the fastest reader though unless it’s very easy reading or I’m scanning for information, but I take lots of notes from the readings which can subsequently be re-read and condensed.

NPC is a good sexism analogy and also applies to people who use other people instrumentally or don’t really see them as people in themselves. I went to a talk on evil and the colonial legacy the other day, and it was pointed out that an ongoing evil is that indigenous people did not consent to be governed under settler laws. The speaker mentioned Martin Buber’s work on conversation ( in I-Thou and other works) and said she thought that liberal theory – which was the model of thought underlying Anglo colonialism in Australia and NZ – lacks a concept of conversation, of listening to the voices of others, and of the need to take other people seriously.

6

Lynne 08.21.15 at 12:21 pm

Yes, good analogy.

I haven’t played Minecraft—are the villagers male? I keep hearing about this game. Maybe should try it.

7

harry b 08.21.15 at 12:31 pm

11 year old girl who hangs out with my 8 year old boy– totally delightful kid but moderately Aryan looking–told me yesterday that she had just spent 3 hours alone playing Mein Kampf.
Took me several queries to find out, to my relief, that it was, in fact, minecraft. Bloody midwestern accent.

8

LFC 08.21.15 at 12:51 pm

harry b @7
Most amusing comment I’ve read on CT in quite a while.

(p.s. Not that I know anything much about Minecraft or any other video game; I’ve never played one and have no interest in doing so.)

9

Bob Gillette 08.21.15 at 1:04 pm

I had the weirdest disconnect when you used the acronym NPC as my first thought was non-profit corporation. Of course, that sort of works too.

10

Mr Punch 08.21.15 at 1:12 pm

Your note-taking strategy is basically Pauk’s Cornell method. When I was in college in the ’60s college stores sold notebooks designed for this, with a vertical line about 40% of the way across the page IIRC. Still may, for all I know.

11

Rich Puchalsky 08.21.15 at 1:59 pm

The notes thing strikes me as perfectly normal behavior. When I was an undergrad I’d write up notes for a class and when I’d done a good job of summarizing them or whatever I’d pass them around and complete strangers would sometimes ask me for copies. And on days or weeks when I’d missed class I’d ask other random people taking the same class for copies of their notes. Lectures are super boring and unless I was writing up a study document or something I’d just generally try to skip them entirely.

12

jake the antisoshul soshulist 08.21.15 at 2:08 pm

I am glad that you explained what NPC was, though I could have probably found it on TV Tropes. This is probably a good analogy for just about any situation in which one has more power than another. I suppose that sexual harassment is a particularly gratifying way of using that power. I don’t say abusing, because I feel that using personal power is abuse. Power means you do not have to ask consent. Though decent people will ask.

13

bianca steele 08.21.15 at 2:09 pm

Normal or not, the chances are the frat guy intended to put Belle’s notes in a file for current and future brothers to share, which makes it even worse.

14

sanbikinoraion 08.21.15 at 2:13 pm

At uni I had a technique that worked well enough to get me the 2:1 I was looking for, which was to get hold of as many of the past papers as possible and go through them and learn how to answer all the questions. (This is CompSci).

For a computer graphics exam, this came in real handy as I just could not remember how to do matrix multiplication — but the prof had given *exactly* the same question as the year before, and I simply happened to remember the matrix, which I dutifully wrote out. Got a 1st for that paper, probably would have got a 2:2 if he had even bothered to add a factor of 2 to the question.

15

JanieM 08.21.15 at 2:13 pm

Belle should have made a second set of notes that was just subtly wrong all over the place, and given that to the frat guy. :-)

16

Belle Waring 08.21.15 at 2:33 pm

Rich, seriously? I would have given someone my original draft notes for a class they missed, although I would feel a bit put-upon if I didn’t know the person. (There were maybe 60 people in the class.) But the typed, condensed notes with references/outline for the whole class? Fuck that. Especially since people would be studying from it for like ten years, as bianca points out.

17

Bloix 08.21.15 at 2:39 pm

1) I was a student at Columbia College in the mid-1970’s. At that time there were co-ed dorms and IIRC Barnard College students could enroll in all Columbia College courses for credit and vice versa. But Columbia had and still has a required core curriculum (surveys of literature, humanities, music and art) that Barnard didn’t share, and those classes were all-male, because Barnard students didn’t choose to take them. And students generally stayed on their own side of Broadway unless there was something they wanted, like a specific professor. So yes, a Columbia professor in the 80’s would not have had much experience teaching women.

2) It’s my recollection that we shared notes freely. I might not have agreed to give my notes for a whole term to a total stranger, but I did allow people I had just a nodding acquaintance with to photocopy notes and I expected the same from others. If a total stranger had asked for a whole semester’s worth of notes, I might have said no, but I might have said yes. I wouldn’t have thought of it as an offensive request.

I think this may be a generational difference. I was at Columbia at least a decade before you, Belle. The student strikes of 1968-72 were still fresh in people’s memories, and there was still a lot of rebellious sensibility among the student body. One of the manifestations of this attitude was the conviction that tests were oppressive and grades were bullshit. I never felt that I was in competition with other students. I wasn’t personally aware of actual cheating, but sharing notes was something like solidarity against the man.

3) Oh, and another difference – “frat bro.” The frats were in what seemed to be terminal decline when I was there. One frat I knew of was investigated by their national association because the members weren’t behaving like proper fraternity brothers and were running it as a rooming house – a coed one, at that.

18

bianca steele 08.21.15 at 2:46 pm

Bloix,

By 1984 Barnard women could take one core class, I think. There was one woman from Barnard in my CC section.

At that time Columbia had a reputation for not being very sociable. I’m actually trying to imagine the reaction if someone started talking to strangers in class, as Rich suggests, and trying to get them to share stuff. The frats weren’t huge, but they were there (especially after the drinking age went to 21 in fall 1984 and oncampus alcohol and party rules changed) and were rumored to have good relations with some profs who’d been against coeducation in the first place.

19

Dan 08.21.15 at 2:47 pm

Two things I learned here:

1) GPA above 4 = grade inflation is alive and well, even at Colombia.

2) Helping some slacker who blew off class all semester to pass (protecting him from the consequences of his actions) is an act of awesomeness. Because college isn’t about the process of learning and the love of gaining knowledge – it’s about passing and getting a diploma.

Your bragginess aside, I do like the NPC observation.

20

Belle Waring 08.21.15 at 2:47 pm

I don’t think the Minecraft villagers were intended to be male anymore than the default player-character Steve was, which is to say, they are male. In the latest version you can opt to play a female avatar (you’ve been able to get custom skins/mods prior to this.) It’s a fun game. I don’t like enemies and there’s a creative mode in which you simply build things, and are not creeped out by explosive creepers, and suchlike (you laugh but the noises are scary :/ ) A guy has made a working 16-bit computer in Minecraft using torches and such, IN SURVIVAL WHY DUDE?! Also, maybe try to cure cancer instead?

21

John Garrett 08.21.15 at 2:52 pm

After years of taking notes and then forgetting them, I came up with a strategy — odd though it may seem — that worked for me through school. If I did not take notes, or look at the lecturer, but instead made complicated little line and number matrices on my notebooks, I found that I remembered the lecture nearly word for word, and could recall it on exams. The equivalent in reading was to read important passages out loud to myself.

JG

22

otpup 08.21.15 at 2:53 pm

Belle, You were at Columbia in the 80’s.?!? I had a brother that was president of his senior class in the late 80’s/early 90’s. Actually did his senior thesis in sociology trying to track the influence of frats/secret/senior societies. Small world.

23

Belle Waring 08.21.15 at 2:54 pm

I actually contributed to the not particularly tragic boot of a frat from its parent organization for being insufficiently frat-like. My mixed-gender group of friends spent too much time there. But there were still frats. I had a paper stolen also (one was meant to pick it up from the prof’s box) because it was for the core humanities class. My professor fatalistically explained it would be copied yearly by frat dudes. I was annoyed.

24

Kalkaino 08.21.15 at 3:03 pm

Belle,

For an such A+ student you’re a bit clueless about your historical pop-culture/dialect invocations: I believe the formulation you were reaching for was “Not on my watch, Holmes,” which, by the way, would have been an oblique reference to the actual porn-star, not the fictional detective.

25

hix 08.21.15 at 3:11 pm

This one completly threw me till i rembered my comperative culture class, which did explain the oditiy to be offended by a requst for study notes rather well :-). For us its completly normal to share class notes, including sharing them with strangers, giving them to the stud representatives who shre them with everyone etc. In fact id be rather offended if the request is declined in particular from an a+ student.

26

JanieM 08.21.15 at 3:12 pm

@John Garrett — I doodled my way through high school — got mostly A’s and won an art contest senior year with a collection of my doodles. Research shows……

Unfortunately for my one art-like “hobby,” I have managed to organize my adult life so that spend very little time in meetings and classes, so my doodling has deteriorated in both quality and quantity. Not a bad trade-off, I suppose.

27

Belle Waring 08.21.15 at 3:16 pm

Kalkaino: it can be either but “homes” is more common I think. Would you say “holmesslice”? I think not. Is your “homie” your “holmesie”? Nuh uh.

28

MPAVictoria 08.21.15 at 3:16 pm

“Belle should have made a second set of notes that was just subtly wrong all over the place, and given that to the frat guy. :-)”

Ha! “The first president of the United States, Thomas Jefferson, wrote the Declaration of the Rights of Man in 1763….”

29

Belle Waring 08.21.15 at 3:21 pm

To the general point I’m apparently an uncharitable person who knows there’s a curve/is pointlessly competitive after years at prep school/doesn’t like laxbros to reap the harvest of my labors. I’ll think about it, seriously.

30

JanieM 08.21.15 at 3:25 pm

It’s all well and good to say “be nice and share” if that’s the culture you’re embedded in. If the culture you’re embedded in is cutthroat and non-reciprocal — would the frat guy have shared his fraternity’s library of notes and papers with you? riiiiiiiiight — then IMO it’s a different story.

31

harry b 08.21.15 at 3:32 pm

Is this kosher? I found out by accident that one student’s lecture notes were way better than mine. So I asked her if she would supply them to me after every class. She did so cheerfully — to the extent of getting them all xeroxed perfectly, by the ROTC program!

Um — I was the lecturer. She is now very high up in the Department of Homeland Security. I still have the notes, though mine are now much better than they were, and I try to lecture a lot less than I did.

32

Bloix 08.21.15 at 3:36 pm

PS- I do love the idea of NPC. But I’m going to have to figure out how to use it since most of the people I talk to won’t get it.

33

Belle Waring 08.21.15 at 3:38 pm

Maybe I need to post an update explaining that this was more like the study guide for the exam than notes for a given lecture. But even so some people would give that to strangers after working on it in a small group for 5or 6 hours? I would have been happy to supply my notes to any prof not actively harassing me at that time ;)

34

Plume 08.21.15 at 3:45 pm

Belle,

I’m no doubt missing something. But what was it that made you think the frat guy was being “sexist”? Tone? Body language? Presumption, Etc. etc. Because simply asking for the notes and treating you like an NPC, as your daughter mentions, doesn’t really get there. My experience with the Greek system in school — over the course of three decades — leads me to think that this is all too common for them, regardless of gender. All too common, especially frat guys from wealthy families.

Of course, to go a bit deeper, that was my experience with many a rich kid, Greek or not.

I was that odd mix, both a “townie” and a college student. Usually, you’re one or the other, not both. And the college kids from out of state often treated us “townies” — male and female — as if we were NPCs. Or worse. This interaction no doubt created prejudices on both sides and led to lousy overall dynamics, with exceptions. As in, it wasn’t exactly like the movie, Breaking Away, but it wasn’t that far from it, either.

Anyway, could you describe this jerk’s non-verbal approach a bit?

35

Lynne 08.21.15 at 3:45 pm

Belle, it’s easy for people to say what they would have done. But did they do it? Maybe some did, but come on….One time I was applying for a large, prestigious, hard-to-get grant, and while and there were a few of us sitting in a prof’s office, another student asked me casually to help him apply for the same one. I stared at him in disbelief, and refused. Some people are users.

36

Adam Roberts 08.21.15 at 3:52 pm

In 2012 Will Self wrote a rather good LRB diary piece about hanging out with his teenage sons when they played video games: Skyrim was the game of that particular moment. I like this bit in particular:

“Compared with the shattered industrial infrastructure that formed the backdrop to his Black Ops game play, the pinewood pixelscape of Skyrim seemed positively bucolic. Gone was the crazy yawing about of the adrenaline-fuelled first-person POV, and the crackling radio comms informing him of more homicide lurking round the next piece of warped corrugated iron. Although when first seen, girt in his ebony Daedric armour, my son’s character was beating a bogie-beast to death, there was still a refreshing lack of bloody splashback. (Apparently ‘gore packs’ are downloadable for the PC version of the game – but so are higher resolution graphics that bring definition to every blade of mythic grass.) It could be because the nomenclature of Skyrim – Aela the Huntress, Malacath, Yngvar and Windhelm – is triply derived (out of Norse sagas, by way of Tolkien and his film adapters) that the scenario seems so cosy. Even after my son’s proxy resurrected the bogie – ‘I do that a lot. I bring him back and then I punch him to death again’ – I still kept faith with the game, which also involves the reading of quite large chunks of runic text. I was right to, because eventually, once we had defeated various frost trolls and sex-changing lizard men, and reached Windhelm, it transpired that my son had built a gabled house in this Arctic community, and even acquired a wife. ‘My wife is a very nice lady,’ he told me, as a rather cowed-looking figure in a rough woollen dress shuffled about in the background. ‘She runs a store and gives me money every few days.’ ‘Oh, really,’ I said, desperate to clutch at these straws of domesticity. ‘And what’s your wife’s name?’ Without pausing in the ceaseless toggling of thumb-on-lever he said: ‘I don’t know.’”

37

Plume 08.21.15 at 3:56 pm

I should add: I was also on the other side of the ledger, going to another university and graduating out of state much later in life. Being older, I probably seemed “foreign” to pretty much everyone there. Though it wasn’t really important to me at the time to “fit in,” I wanted to delude myself that I could, even in my 30s. Looking back, though, that was silly. I was definitely a fish out of water in that scene.

Fitting in. Humans are such a strange lot and mix of insecurities. It’s probably why we feel the need to join tribes — and the Greek system is perhaps the best example of early associations to ward off those insecurities. Everyone has them, but folks choose different ways of coping, blah blah blah. Even those of us who wanted to think of ourselves as “outsiders” and above the joining of tribes . . . . well, we kind of had our own, too. In books, perhaps, and about books, maybe.

38

Belle Waring 08.21.15 at 4:05 pm

I’m clearly defensive about it now; I’ll flesh out the analogy in another post the context of which is not me being a grade-grubbing asshole. But obviously the unpleasantness of the actual class experience (running commentary from the prof on my clothing choices at the start of each lecture!) colored my view of the situation, as well as the fact that another prof regarded my paper’s being stolen for use at a frat with fatalism.

39

Plume 08.21.15 at 4:13 pm

Belle @36,

Thanks. That puts things in a much better context, at least for me. But from the original OP — before the follow up — the guy who comes off the worst, IMO, is your boyfriend of the time. My guess is you dumped him soon after, and I think you’re being far too nice with the “Not supportive, dude.”

Anyway, looking forward to future posts.

40

Kalkaino 08.21.15 at 4:27 pm

Belle,

Just so, through the calumnies of time, it can be “I could care less” or “I couldn’t care less.” Nobody will arrest you, and people will generally get what you mean. But one form is like spinach in your teeth.

I think it a false etymology that substitutes homes, from homeboy, for Holmes from John. It’s also a bowdlerization, or perhaps a “minced oath” (like “goldurn it”), that blunts the resonance of the slightly risqué original.

41

Bill Benzon 08.21.15 at 4:39 pm

Can’t remember any notes sharing at Johns Hopkins in the mid-late 1960s. Might have been going on, but I didn’t see it.

I took notes, also doodled in my note books. Nothing special. However, one philosophy professor, Maurice Mandelbaum, gave excellent lectures. He’d put an outline on the blackboard at the beginning of class that was two or three levels deep and covered two boards. And he stuck to the outline. His lectures were so good, and the exams coordinated to the lectures so well, that you didn’t need to read the books.

42

Rich Puchalsky 08.21.15 at 5:07 pm

“But the typed, condensed notes with references/outline for the whole class? Fuck that. Especially since people would be studying from it for like ten years, as bianca points out.”

If / when you become an academic, you’re supposed to write things that other people study from for years. It’s supposed to be a good thing if people find what you wrote valuable and want to copy it and pass it on to other people. Even complete strangers. Isn’t this sort of what you’re doing now? You write blog posts for free, people link to them and send the links to strangers, etc.

I gave out condensed study guides whenever I made them: after all, it didn’t hurt me if other people studied from them. Maybe it was supposed to by raising the curve? But if you care about your place on the curve you’re usually going to do better by being the one making the study guide than by being the one reading someone else’s study guide, so other people can’t actually catch up by reading your notes.

As for the concept of asking strangers for free stuff, clearly I benefited from sexist privilege in that I didn’t have to be cautious about approaching people, but basically as an activist you’re asking strangers for stuff all the time — “come to this demonstration”, “you might like to join Amnesty International, we’re writing letters at X time/day”, etc., so what’s one more “Hey, can I copy your notes?”

43

bekabot 08.21.15 at 5:13 pm

did he think you were an NPC?

Slytherclaw to Slytherclaw — this is pure Slytherin mentation. He knew that if he never asked he’d be depriving you of an opportunity to say yes.

44

Omega Centauri 08.21.15 at 6:16 pm

But laxbros who learn the art of stealing other peoples hard wrok will become very successful corporate manager types! You just don’t appreciate true get-ahead talent.

Glad you defined what NPC meant, I was clueless.

Minecraft can’t be sexist, it is Sweedish!

I was the opposite sort of student than you. Never took notes, I always figured we had advanced since the pre printing press days, and text reproduction was better done by inorganic technology. My way was to read the material ahead of time and have enough concentration on the material to interrupt the class and ask for clarification of anything I didn’t grok. Worked fine as long as I was the only one audacious (or maybe anti-social) enough to do that. Of course
STEM stuff was harder to fake via plagerism (assuming they do change the details from class material or past tests..).

45

Ben 08.21.15 at 6:18 pm

Richard Pryor used Holmes, occasionally the full John Holmes

#TeamHolmes

46

Trader Joe 08.21.15 at 6:45 pm

John Garrett@19

Did much the same thing, I had a rule that I never used more than a single page of notebook paper for any individual lecture and mostly listened to the prof and drew a relational word diagram of what was said – as I studied, I could call to mind what was said so clearly it was like having a tape of the class in my head.

If there were short answer essays on the exam I liked to answer by writing ‘As you said in class on X date at aY time, “blah, blah, blah” and quote as close as I coudl remember to what they said…several profs commented on it being a little creepy to see their words read back to them.

I’d share my notes when asked, but most people I knew didn’t ask as they were largely unsharable, half the information was in my head. I had a roomate who could use them, but only in conjunction with his own notes. They were worthless on their own since half the information was in my head rather than on the page. I was always happy to share my tests/papers for study files if they were returned (most weren’t).

47

bianca steele 08.21.15 at 7:09 pm

My prettier roommates got asked for their notes relatively often. One of them got a Spectator column out of it.

48

bianca steele 08.21.15 at 7:34 pm

Wait, no, that time one roommate asked an upperclassman to borrow his notes and he said only if she could get him, at minimum, an introduction to the really pretty roommate. Sorry not really on topic.

49

dsquared 08.21.15 at 7:58 pm

Just so, through the calumnies of time, it can be “I could care less” or “I couldn’t care less.”

No. Pedants are wrong on this.

Saying “I couldn’t care less” is self-contradictory (oh all right, Professor Austin, self-defeating-in-utterance, are you happy now). Because if you didn’t care about it at all, you wouldn’t even have made the effort to alert someone to the fact that you didn’t care about it very much. So anyone who says “I couldn’t care less” does at least care about it enough to express an opinion, even if that opinion is one of indifference.

“I could care less” is clearly shorthand for “I could, of course, care less than the very small amount which I do care (ie, there is a possible world in which I do not care at all, see above), but not very much less”. In other words, it’s saying “I care about this only enough to express indifference to it, which is not literally[1] the least amount it is possible to care, but is very close”. A perfectly sensible thing to say.

[1] don’t start

50

The Temporary Name 08.21.15 at 8:10 pm

51

Lynne 08.21.15 at 8:11 pm

dsquared, That is interesting, but not how I think of it. I think both are fine because “I couldn’t care less” means just what it says, and “I could care less” is short for “as if I could care less” or “like I could care less”. I’m trying to think of something similar, but naturally can’t, on the spur of the moment.

52

engels 08.21.15 at 8:16 pm

I recommend sidestepping this controversy by using the phrase ‘couldn’t give a rat’s arse’.

53

D.C.W. 08.21.15 at 8:16 pm

I’m with Rich@11, I don’t see any problem with asking for the notes. If Belle@16 is planning on selling them for profit, fine, decline to hand them out for free. If the class is graded on a curve and you want to preserve your competitive advantage, fine, just say so and keep them to yourself until the end of the semester. But if you have put a lot of work into creating a useful resource, why keep it from others? The more people that learn the material the better, no?

54

Anderson 08.21.15 at 8:38 pm

I’m fine with Belle’s not giving away her hard work for free. No reason why she should’ve, and even on educational grounds, the notes’ benefit is partly the effort of making them, not just reading what someone else wrote.

In law school, course notes (“outlines”) done by previous students were passed around, though I was too aloof even to know what an outline was until 2L, by which it was mostly too late. This was apparently considered ethical – these were, after all, future lawyers!

55

Rich Puchalsky 08.21.15 at 8:55 pm

“This was apparently considered ethical”

I don’t understand how it can possibly not be ethical. You are supposed to read textbooks for a course so that you learn the material. How is it any different to read some other texts?

56

ckc (not kc) 08.21.15 at 9:04 pm

If there were short answer essays on the exam I liked to answer by writing ‘As you said in class on X date at aY time, “blah, blah, blah” and quote as close as I coudl remember to what they said…several profs commented on it being a little creepy to see their words read back to them.

If I were your prof I might have been tempted to comment on “comprehension vs memorization” … (without penalty, probably :)

57

Lisa Rivera 08.21.15 at 9:11 pm

The pleasure of transcribing is real. I was also a very fast writer and I am entirely sure that many of my excellent grades in college were due to my notetaking perfectionism. I also did the rewriting-of-notes-technique to study. I used to rewrite long passages in books or journals until I thought I understood them. Now that I’m older I realize that much of this was adaptation to my attention span–to create an attention-engaging challenge of writing down almost everything the professor said or writing when reading to keep my mind from wandering. I wanted to virtually reproduce the whole lecture from my notes later so I created lots of abbreviations and weird marks to indicate emphasis and tone.

I kept my college notes for over a decade—finally putting them in recycling was kind of painful. They were my only keepsake from college and the most meaningful ones.

I still love writing notes but I do it so infrequently by hand that I sometimes don’t know what I’ve written. The invention of the laptop ruined my skills but I’m still ritualistic about the pen I use (black, must glide smoothly–in college it had to be Papermate but now some gel pens are OK) and the notebook (looseleaf on a clipboard but I switched to legal pads in grad school). Notetaking might be a lost art. I lost it, anyway.

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harry b 08.21.15 at 9:13 pm

I think Lynne (34) gets it. There’s no harm at all in sharing notes, and no harm in asking for notes, if that asking is done in a spirit of open reciprocity, or at least some sort of modesty. Kids all the time ask if someone has some notes because they missed class, or if someone takes particularly good notes whom they could chat with. They want to learn, and in the first case missed an opportunity, in the second case are looking for an opportunity. Asking for someone notes when one clearly is just trying to avoid learning is different. From Belle’s OP I just assumed that she was approached in that latter spirit (but, how could she tell it was in that latter spirit? Probably because she, even then, was at least minimally competent at reading people — regular readers of her posts have ample evidence that she was). So, I don’t think you should be feeling defensive, Belle.

My own interjection was not meant as a criticism, just as whimsy. I remember the kid often — so smart, right-wing, evangelical, and entirely delightful, and my status clearly shot up sometime during the notes conversation she learned I was (still am) friends with the Sergeant who had taught her to use explosives. I hope she’s doing well.

59

harry b 08.21.15 at 9:17 pm

Daniel.
So you are telling us that, just as “literally” often means “not literally”, “I couldn’t care less” often means “I could care less”?

Sidney Morgenbesser Joke #4

60

Bloix 08.21.15 at 9:32 pm

#50 – a decade ago, “could/couldn’t care less” was a hot topic on the Language Log blog, which is run by board-certified Linguists(TM). You can find their Care Less Archive in the last post of the series, The Care Less Train Has Left The Station,
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002253.html

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Bloix 08.21.15 at 9:51 pm

#53 – “I’m fine with Belle’s not giving away her hard work for free.”
What does free have to do with it? Would it be more ethical to refuse to give it but be willing to sell it?

In the world that Belle is reporting on, notes were an item of value outside commerce that could be given freely as a gift as a manifestation of friendship, or as part of a reciprocal relationship of exchange (i.e. given in “gratitude” for a prior favor). The giver thereby gains status and establishes relationships of loyalty and moral indebtedness with other students. The notes had no monetary value but they were not free, and seeking them from a stranger, Belle reports, was a presumptuous and even hostile act.

This is what Belle is saying, I take it, when she says the request was sexist: that a powerful man felt that he had the right to demand notes from a woman without having the ability or intent to provide any of the social capital that the note-taker would normally receive in exchange. He wouldn’t, she implies, have felt the same entitlement if the note-taker had been a man.

But in that era, I think, the idea of a student selling notes to other students for cash would have been seen as repulsive.

Still, I’m no anthropologist, which is what you’d need to understand the exchange culture of an insular group like students.

62

Saurs 08.21.15 at 9:59 pm

I for Am Surprise how dense the ‘splainin’ is in here. Like a fog, it be.

63

Saurs 08.21.15 at 10:03 pm

Crooked Timber Particular. You never can tell* when it’ll roll on in.

*you can, though.

64

Bloix 08.21.15 at 10:08 pm

Saurs, here’s a suggestion: If you have nothing to say, don’t say it.

65

Saurs 08.21.15 at 10:38 pm

Erm, I do, and I did? And I’d do it again, thanks all the same, babe.

66

Plume 08.22.15 at 12:05 am

Okay, but hoping the train aint left the station yet on “center around.” That’s always bugged me. Cuz it’s physically impossible. You can’t “center around” anything.

Though, I suppose it might be a great Zen Koan to study for 50 years and then suddenly find enlightenment like a thunderclap. My guess is, though, the Roshi would be whacking you on the shoulder blades for most of that time, as you continuously come up with the wrong epiphanic outcry.

Center on. Can’t center around.

67

Bloix 08.22.15 at 12:19 am

Saurs, demonstrating that you’re aware you’re asshole doesn’t make you not an asshole.

68

Bloix 08.22.15 at 12:23 am

Oh, I see I made a typo. Let me correct that: you’re an asshole.

69

JPL 08.22.15 at 12:40 am

dsquared @ 48
Lynne @ 50
Bloix @ 58

WRT “I could care less”, I would suggest deriving it from a fuller version, “I could hardly care less”, with “less” standing in for the minimal amount expression, such as “give a damn” or “lift a finger”, meaning “not even the minimal amount”. E.g., “Like I could give a damn” or “As if I could lift a finger” seem like they would be possible, to probe Lynne’s tacit knowledge for a moment. ‘hardly’ expresses negation: “couldn’t hardly” would be a double negative. ‘care less’ would be a “negative polarity item”, like some others: we would not say, “I lifted a finger”, or “I gave a damn”, or “I budged”, or “I cared less”. The negative polarity items alone can apparently carry a meaning of negativity. (This is like Lawler’s explanation, except that I’ve added the relation to ‘hardly’.) (I’ve got to go, no time to edit, sorry.)

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js. 08.22.15 at 12:45 am

“Center” should just not be used as an (intransitive) verb at all. Ever.

71

js. 08.22.15 at 12:50 am

On topic, vaguely: I completely understand not giving the notes/study guide to a frat dude. It’s definitely what I would do too (in the distant possible world where I had legible handwriting and took notes that would be useful to another human being, rather than being some scrawled semi-code). If it’s just someone who needs the notes, or even if it’s because they’re lazy and didn’t bother to show up to class, etc.—then, fine, I can understand the opposition. But the almost systematic exploitation of other people’s work that frats rely on? Fuck that and fuck them.

72

Belle Waring 08.22.15 at 1:01 am

Saurs has an 100% valid point. Why do so many people doubt my ability to discern whether a person is being a sexist douchecanoe? I have met hundreds. Why is it so difficult to accept my explanation of events I actually lived through? Why should I need to present supporting detailed evidence about body language? This thread happened like this:
1. I don’t see why you didn’t just give him the notes, like a reasonable person. I’m a little surprised that you, of all people, are such a dick about helping your fellow-students.
2. You’re so sensitive. Can you at least give us detailed information on the approach of the alleged douchecanoe so we, as unbiased readers, can form our own correct opinions? You’re probably just misinterpreting the guy. It’s not always about gender. Maybe it’s about class, did you even consider that?
3.You may have a lot of book-learning missy, but you’re a cultural moron because you used the incorrect spelling of “holmes”–in fact your spelling was, linguistically speaking, a back-formation from “homie.” We, and the English language, are the poorer for it.
4. Reprise of #1.
GET IT TOGETHER PEOPLE. This isn’t to say you can’t explain you have a different attitude about sharing notes–there are innocuous comments along those lines. But what does this post say?
1. I was getting sexually harassed by the prof in this college class.
2. A male fellow-student approached me and asked for my study guide notes in a way I diagnosed immediately of being male entitlement combined with a sense that I should be lucky a person such as he were talking to me.
3. My daughter came up with a great analogy for sexist entitlement (and probably other types as well).
What would it be most productive to discuss in this forum? I know! Why I’m wrong about #2!
I know that if you can’t stand the heat you are meant to go into the living room and such, and that I need to work harder on not giving a fuck about anything you people say, but it would be awesome if something I posted didn’t LITERALLY keep me up at night checking my phone and grinding my teeth. I left my bite-guard in the states and haven’t had a new one made yet; I don’t need no reasons to grind my teeth extra.
Separately, I did not break up with boyfriend guy till we were at grad school in 1996. Hollow laughter ensues.

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Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 1:04 am

js: “On topic, vaguely: I completely understand not giving the notes/study guide to a frat dude. […] But the almost systematic exploitation of other people’s work that frats rely on?”

Every now and then — all right, on every other thread — I write about how one of the factors holding the left back is some people’s unwillingness to let other people have more money even if it doesn’t hurt them. How is this any different? Let’s say that frats systematically exploit other people’s work: they are “welfare cheats”. You can’t deny them freely shared notes without also denying them to everyone else, assuming that the notes that you give to non-frat-dudes then get passed on to frat dudes secondhand anyways.

I mean, I wouldn’t deny anyone the joy of personally turning down the frat guy’s request. But it’s a problematic principle.

74

js. 08.22.15 at 1:12 am

Yes, Rich, frat boys are the “welfare cheats” of the college system — especially at a place like Columbia! I can’t even…

75

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 1:20 am

At Columbia the true “welfare cheats” were the ones who waited till the last minute to write a paper, and were like total ditzes, and still got an A! I know, right? (I’m still trying to match the effervescent prose style of my roommate with the Spec column. Sorry.)

76

Bloix 08.22.15 at 1:20 am

#47 -it’s perfectly on topic. What’s an appropriate item for exchange? Besides, it reminds me vaguely of a movie plot from the ’70s. Elliot Gould could play the guy. Marsha Mason is the girl who asks for the notes. After lots of hijinks, he realizes that Mason is the one. She forgives him, and they kiss. Fadeout to some nice music. That’s a pretty good ’70s movie, isn’t it?

77

Bloix 08.22.15 at 1:22 am

Or maybe better as a Love American Style episode. I think I have a promising career as a screenwriter behind me.

78

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 1:25 am

Oh, it was so much weirder than @74.

79

bob mcmanus 08.22.15 at 1:38 am

Okay fine, people as NPCs. Not at all bad, something I think about, ya know, Lacanian Discourse Analysis, Levinas, Sartre, etc. Been thinking about it for hours. Some anime make the artistic choice of not “filling in” street level NPCs, leaving white blobs. XXXholic.

So…who has agency and who is the zombie in this thread, Belle Waring or anonymous frat boy of yore? Who is being objectified, categorized, reducted and abjected, here and now? Frat boy may have seen you as a prop in his play, but he isn’t around here today.

The serious person grapples with whether we are all NPCs in each others’ games.

“NPCs” ain’t bad in part because by subtracting agency from the NPC you pass agency onto the game designer or scriptwriter or “system” or Symbolic…but goodness, I don’t get mad and blame the storekeeper for not selling me the +7 sword or the street urchin for stealing my lantern fuel. Ok, yes I do. Funny about that.

The funny thing is when someone wants to transfer past slights or experiences of being objectified into a different and separate discourse as a form of capital. My working hypothesis is that a predictable reaction (or range of reaction) is expected if not demanded, which would make the readers into NPCs for the writer. Kind of a shared Imaginary.

80

Bloix 08.22.15 at 1:48 am

#77 – I’m sure it was. Seventies movies had a way of making genuine cads who went around hurting women into heroes. They come around in the last five minutes, in time to get the girl, but it’s just a wink to make all the crap they dished out in the first 85 minutes seem okay.

A few years ago I happened to come across Five Easy Pieces on TV and decided I’d wait to see the Jack Nicholson toast scene again. I couldn’t watch it – the waitress was doing her job and he was a complete jerk. It was pure punching down.

Not to get off topic or anything.

81

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 1:57 am

bob mcmanus: “Okay fine, people as NPCs. Not at all bad, something I think about, ya know, Lacanian Discourse Analysis, Levinas, Sartre, etc. ”

If you want to track this theme back on the left, I think of William Morris. His “The Well at the World’s End” is supposed to be the first fantasy novel that takes place in an imaginary world, rather than a mock-medieval setting or some kind of fantastic setting on our Earth. So it grounds the whole 20th century fantasy genre in some sense. And one of the things that struck me about it is that it has an in-universe indication of who is a PC: some people have (are born with?) these medallions that make them want to go on the quest to find the Well. Naturally, those are the people who move around, who encounter everyone else as part of a more or less fixed setting. And if they succeed in drinking from the Well, they get a kind of heightened charisma: they become natural leaders and it’s assumed that most people will follow them.

82

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 2:05 am

Bloix,

Yeah, I think you have to start noticing things like that (the whole Jack Nicholson persona), and once you do, you can’t help noticing them. But if you don’t, you don’t. I mean, why aren’t those movies really about the redemption of the guy who looks like a cad, who realizes he’s just as much a great guy as any man can be? That’s how I learned to interpret them, from my mom but also from all those reading comprehension multiple choice tests we used to get. A while back, my husband and I watched Five Easy Pieces and Easy Rider. He liked the first and disliked the second, and I felt the opposite way. I felt like after the first few minutes of FEP, I GOT IT ALREADY. He didn’t like his life and what was expected of him and stuff. I didn’t need to have it hammered over my head without finding out anything new about the character, that he was so miserable he took it out on everybody else, but he was still the center of the universe for at least the two hours I had to sit through the DVD. I’d already seen that story. In the 70s that was new and it’s artistically important and all, and in 20 or 30 more years maybe we’ll be able to watch it and all the movies like it without either ignoring the people who get kicked for no reason or focusing only on them. (I can’t remember at the moment why I liked ER. I think I also liked Mean Streets more than he did, for what that’s worth. Someday I’ll have to re watch Billy Jack too.)

83

Belle Waring 08.22.15 at 2:07 am

Rich, that is literally the weakest weaksauce I’ve ever seen you ladle out. Frat boys who create folders for various classes which contain old tests (usually illicitly copied), other people’s papers (often stolen as my first-ever college paper was), and notes (which one can apparently get from that one chick with the good notes, as long as she’s not, like, being a bitch about it) do not in any remote fashion resemble one’s impoverished fellow-citizens who need more than what the government of their state will give. ALSO CLASSES WITH A CURVE ARE ZERO-SUM IN A MEANINGFUL WAY. (You may think this is a bad learning decision, but it’s not something students can do much about in medias res Why should I privilege this particular frat over other individual fellow students who didn’t have the stones to just walk up to a complete stranger and ask she hand over the product of many hours of work? Why am I obliged to be a Kantian about Roman History exams? Think, he didn’t even bother to figure out if he knew someone who knew me. If an actual acquaintance to whom I had ever uttered word one had asked, I probably would have handed them over! He wasn’t asking because he thought information should be free. He was asking and expecting–with absolutely certainty–that I would say yes just because of the type of boy he was! One to whom life has been served, so far, on a silver platter And this wasn’t about money or anything (hoMES probably wasn’t even IN the Social Register) it was him thinking that as a lowly sophomore I would be gratified that a good-looking senior laxbro was even talking to me. I am not, despite what tenor of this thread would have you believe, an unusually dim person, socially, who is blind to relations around her. Will you not cut me ten fucking points of “Belle is a barely adequate judge of other humans, as I have learned from reading a hundred thousand words of her (not unanimously correct, mind you) observations over the past ten years or some shit?” This doesn’t come down only to the question, “was Belle an unusual person with weird, inconsiderate notions about sharing notes?” Rather the question is “Belle just told me some guy was a sexist douchecanoe, and that his class-5 rapids-running douchecaonery was the obvious motive force in him asking her for her notes in an entitled and dismissive way. Should I take her word for it, or redirect the conversation to a pointless debate about how people with the wrong politics are elitist jerks, generally, and how this can easily be seen from their reactions to a request for their notes?” God I hate my blog.

84

bob mcmanus 08.22.15 at 2:07 am

Okay, I think maybe I am missing something, because if daughter is saying something like “he is making me feel like an NPC in his story” or ” I accept the gaze/role of NPC” I have a little trouble getting there, the place where I surrender my agency and self-respect and just grovel away as somebody else’ object. Maybe that shows my privilege. Still thinking.

85

Belle Waring 08.22.15 at 2:16 am

bob: I agree that in a more general sense every person other than the one whose consciousness is the center of a given situation can be conceptualized as an NPC. Sociopathy is probably well-defined by this very thing. And clearly it is relational. Nonetheless I stand by the claim that it’s a good lens through which to view specific power structures like the patriarchy.

86

Belle Waring 08.22.15 at 2:22 am

Five Easy Pieces is a flawed movie but far better than Easy Rider. Like so much better. bob: she is saying “his request was one that an actual player would make of an NPC.” As if I were just standing there with an arrow over my head and you could press A to talk to me, at which point I would reveal information that’s crucial for the hero’s quest.

87

Bloix 08.22.15 at 2:24 am

Belle, we had 61 comments in a row where everyone was polite, friendly, and argumentative. Many people shared their own experiences of what Columbia/Barnard were like, what notes mean, what it means to exchange them. You were part of that conversation and people deferred to you. Some people got off topic but that wasn’t bad, there were lots of conversations going on. And some comments were stupid, and some were bloviating. Which is what even the best conversation is like, isn’t it.

Then someone who hadn’t contributed a fucking thing came along and said, you’re all fuckfaces and I’m not. Babe.

I get that this is not strictly speaking a feminist blog and maybe that pisses you off. If you want to write on a feminist blog, Feministe could use you. And if most of the commenters here including me were to comment over there, we would get our heads handed to us in minutes. Boy, are those comment threads policed.

But the commenters here don’t in the main police each other. So you get comments that may make you roll your eyes. That comes with the blog. I say this with full understanding that sometimes commenters say clueless and hurtful things. And with gratitude for your excellent, amusing, enlightening writing, which I have read with pleasure for years and hope to continue to read as long as the pixels do shine. And I’m sorry to hear about the teeth grinding.

But we don’t need some asshole to pop up from nowhere and tell us to shut up because we’re not what we know we’re not and don’t want to be. That’s not a contribution. That’s a derailment.

88

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 2:25 am

Impoverished fellow-citizens who need more than what the government of their state is willing of give have an entire right-wing mythology built up around them, right? Right wingers are unwilling to give these people the resources they need because they are “welfare cheats”.

In the left-wing currency of knowledge — rather than the right-wing currency of currency — frat boys are welfare cheats. They are legacies, so they didn’t earn their place in college, they were just born to it and expected everything to be handed to them. They copy other people’s work and do the minimum that they need to do to skate by. They’re petty criminals, copying papers without permission and begging for notes.

So yes, there’s pretty much an exact similarity for the purposes that I’m talking about. There’s a large population of non-frat-boy people who would benefit from sharing things, but we shouldn’t share because of the moral indignation that frat boys would then get the stuff too.

Classes with a curve may be zero-sum, but so what? If you’re the one making the notes that other people want, you’re going to be at the top of the curve. Does it have some kind of bad effect to put the people who copy your notes up higher on the curve than the people who didn’t copy your notes? But people could be higher or lower on the curve for all sorts of reasons, including that they happened to study or not study all sorts of things.

89

js. 08.22.15 at 2:42 am

There’s a large population of non-frat-boy people who would benefit from sharing things, but—and give it up for the strawdude! we shouldn’t share because of the moral indignation that frat boys would then get the stuff too.

Clarification added.

90

bob mcmanus 08.22.15 at 2:42 am

Well, I got this rip snorting Kinji Fukasaku version of the Hakkenden with the legendarily kawaii Hiroko Yakushimaru to watch…wait where was I.

Richard Seymour posted a long long piece on “The White Unconscious” which is more Lacan than Du Bois but might be structurally applicable to the Patriarchy.

I apologize for 83, which was maybe snarky. I am so close to the hut on the mountain that I have forgotten how to care what other people think of me or do to me.

91

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 2:44 am

Belle @85: Five Easy Pieces is a flawed movie but far better than Easy Rider. Like so much better.

I’ll have to watch it again to see, though probably not soon. I agree it’s definitely more in the line of what’s considered great (and more like what most CT readers probably appreciate, if they’re not, like Bloix, making an effort otherwise).

As if I were just standing there with an arrow over my head and you could press A to talk to me, at which point I would reveal information that’s crucial for the hero’s quest.

At the risk of sounding like Bob, and not very flatteringly (or seriously), I think some commenters have something basically neoliberal in mind, comparing you to a corporate software manufacturer who won’t share their source code. I admit I don’t really know why so many people have fastened onto such a narrow question of morality, so eccentrically applied.

92

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 2:48 am

Bloix@86: But the commenters here don’t in the main police each other.

With exceptions (grumble).

93

Saurs 08.22.15 at 2:55 am

Men would make much better women than the women we’ve got now, eh?

94

Francis Bond 08.22.15 at 2:57 am

G’day,

just wanted to say I liked your daughter’s NPC analogy. It reminded me of something in Rite of Passage by Panshin, where the protagonist suddenly realizes that other people had their own lives: she said she had thought of them as spear carriers in a play, in which she was the lead (≟ NPC), but then realized that they were the lead in their own lives, …

And FWIW, I think you are totally entitled to share or not share your notes as you see fit and completely trust your judgement as to whether someone is a sexist asshole or not.

95

Saurs 08.22.15 at 3:02 am

Then someone who hadn’t contributed a fucking thing came along and said, you’re all fuckfaces and I’m not. Babe.

Howls of derisive laughter, Bruceabe.

96

Plume 08.22.15 at 3:02 am

Belle @71,

You don’t owe us anything. Nada. Not more elaboration about what you experienced. Not fleshing out your blog post. You don’t owe us the blog post, period. However, I think it’s fair to ask for that elaboration in order to better understand what you were trying to communicate to us . . . . and you must have wanted to communicate something to us, or you wouldn’t have bothered in the first place.

So, okay, this is what you wrote about said douchecanoe:

The notes I made for Roman History were so good that people learned about them [?]. (I did give them to two friends, with whom I actually studied.) Thus a frat bro whom I didn’t know from Adam approached me one day and asked if he could have a copy. What? What?! Who does this? I declined, obviously, but with insufficient scorn, simply because I was so baffled and astonished. Zoë’s response to this is the best: “did he think you were an NPC?!” I think this is exactly right. Dudes like this think lesser beings are actually non-player characters in the video game of life. Like Minecraft villagers with boobs or something.

If this had been a mystery story, and we were supposed to solve the puzzle of the random douchecanoe frat boy, that’s just really not much to go on. That part in bold, etc. I’m an aspiring novelist meself, revising several works right now, and I’ve been told I don’t always paint enough of a picture for the reader to really “see” the characters and their context, etc. That’s one of my weaknesses as a writer. Just saying your post could use at least a coupla more details . . . .

Again, you owe us nuttin’. No thing. But if you want us to connect somehow with what you experienced and why it pissed you off, yeah, we need a bit more input. Well, at least I do. Of course, you could just say, feck off, and you probably want to at this point . . . .

I think we’ll all survive, regardless.

97

Belle Waring 08.22.15 at 3:03 am

[insert gif of JLaw saying “oh, OK.”]

Bloix, I appreciate the kind words for my writing, and I’ve had many pleasant and interesting and civil exchanges with you over the years. Nonetheless, “if you want fewer comments that get on your nerves, why don’t you just go blog for Feministe, then” is an unpleasant thing to say. Likewise, I am not just “some asshole popping up out of nowhere,” I am an actual person who often uses experiences from my own life to illustrate ideas. It is perfectly reasonable to prefer that people talk about the ideas rather than disputing the facts of the experiences themselves. Obviously I was conceptually wrong about some things illustrated in this post, namely, lots of people don’t find the concept of the note request irritating. That’s interesting to know! I’ll strive to be less annoyed by comments.

98

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 3:05 am

js: “Clarification added.”

I wrote that I wouldn’t deny anyone the joy of turning down the frat guy. So what more is there to say? I accept that the particular frat guy who asked for BW’s notes was a jerk and that it was fine to tell him no way. But there is no way to share things widely and not also let obnoxious people get them.

I still don’t get the “not ethical” thing (written by Anderson). The purpose of a class is to learn things, presumably. Notes help you learn things. If the curve is zero-sum, OK, but the curve would still exist even if everyone in the class got the notes and therefore understood more. Is the concern that notes just allow you to rote memorize rather than really understand the material?

99

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 3:07 am

Plume,

You’re saying a blog post has to follow the rules you’d expect of a published novel? I think that’s kind of extreme. There may be rules for blog posts, sure, if you were interested you could probably find someone who’d explain them to you. But they’re nothing like the rules for a novel.

100

js. 08.22.15 at 3:14 am

So what more is there to say?

Just that at least on this thread, no one is asserting the position you’re arguing against.

(And with that, I’m going to stop taking part in the derailment. Or at least try my hardest!)

101

Saurs 08.22.15 at 3:31 am

Dearest Belle, are you sure a bit of familiar Caló slang isn’t really a reference to Conan Doyle, the Easton Assassin, or a large-penised man from the 1970s?

Sincerely yours, a gender-neutral robot on the interwebs who is Concerned About These Things But Really (you wouldn’t believe the paces I put the dudes over at LGM through when they talk about “catsup,” this is not a cooties thing where I feel a pathological need to correct you because as I might have mentioned I am sex-blind)

102

Belle Waring 08.22.15 at 3:31 am

I didn’t mean that anyone and everyone should be barred from talking about whether it’s a good idea to share grades, or that it’s off-limits to question my authorial authoritah. Just that the thread, taken as a whole, got on my nerves. I’m not right about everything that’s ever happened in my life, but I have privileged access to everything that’s ever happened in my life in a way that commenters do not, simply in virtue of being me. As I say, I was obviously wrong about how people feel about being asked for outlines for class. But I think you can disagree with me on that front without disputing my impressions of the person who asked me. I think the NPC analogy is interesting, but this clearly wasn’t the way to go writing about it, since the discussion it provoked was entirely on the ethical status of college-note-sharing. I feel sick and miserable generally and maybe this is making me irascible/overly sensitive to perceived slights.

103

Belle Waring 08.22.15 at 3:39 am

Saurs: in the words of Pogo to Postman, “you is harsh, but just.”

104

Bloix 08.22.15 at 3:49 am

“why don’t you just go blog for Feministe, then”

Sorry, that’s not what I meant. I didn’t mean to imply that you should get out of here. I meant that there *are* feminist blogs, where the commenters don’t say clueless things – they may say stupid or smug or cheerleading things, but not clueless, because they are always au courant on the latest clues. If they’re not they are hounded into oblivion. And I read Feminist and am dismayed because Jill Filipovic doesn’t write there anymore. Not that you have any interest in writing for another blog, but if you did I would read you wherever you wrote.

And I wasn’t calling you an asshole, of course. I was calling Saurs an asshole, for popping up out of nowhere to sneer at everyone who’d been chatting quite amiably for 61 comments.

My first reaction to your post was, hmm, social mores among students in the 80s seem to have been different from my experience in the 70s. That might be right as a stand alone observation, but it probably had nothing to do with what you were saying, because (1) you weren’t talking about a few days’ ordinary hand-written notes but a study guide and (2) frat bro.

So, then I wrote a comment that said, more or less, in my usual admittedly ponderous wordy way which is the way old folks who had too much education when they were young like to talk, hey, maybe I got it wrong and, given what sharing of notes is, which is a sort of South Sea Island gift exchange, the frat bro was being hostile and menacing.

And the next thing you know, there’s Saurs, with You old folks doin’ a lot of ‘splainin’ round heah. Babe. Erm. Urp.

WTF? I mean W?T?F?

105

Saurs 08.22.15 at 4:25 am

It really is like rain on your wedding day, or a thread that proves the post!

To celebrate, the first verse of an entirely original ditty of my own making which belongs to me (I own it, and what it is, too, etc):

If I were a co-ed /
I tell ya what I’d do /
I’d share class notes with a douche-canoe or two /
(‘cos) A’hm crazy about (mah) patriarchy /
Cra-azy ’bout this patriarchy! /
I’ma fangirl this patriarchy until some internet toughguy tells me to pull over ‘cos I’m doing it wrooooooooooong

Oi, Bloix-babe!? Why don’t you piss off somewhere else instead? This is Belle‘s fucking blawgging home, bro. Asking her if she’d feel better at the little ladies’ corner, for her little lady feelings, so her little lady prejudices will never be challenged, is decidedly not on.

106

Meredith 08.22.15 at 4:25 am

When a student has missed a class or a number of classes, I advise her or him to get notes from other students or, more often (especially since I don’t teach many lecture classes), to talk to other students in the class about what went on. Of course, I share with these students information about what they’ve missed and ways they might catch up (some books or articles to read, for instance), but I see missed classes (for the students who consult me about them, at any rate) as an opportunity to encourage students to think of learning as a shared endeavor. (At least once, my efforts to promote student-sharing led to a marriage that is still going strong, as far as I know.)

I have never been much of a note-taker during lectures, much less discussions. I was once a good note-taker as I read and have recently returned to this practice (ditching reliance on notes in the margins or highlighting). It’s a good practice. You remember/internalize more when you write, and when you write in your own space — and I mean write with pen on paper, not type on your computer (turns out there’s lots of research in support here).

I am always made nervous when students are taking lots of notes, certainly in a discussion class. Shouldn’t they be too eager to speak to be so absorbed in what’s just been said by someone else? How do I get them to stop scribbling? The moment I become aware of the note-taking is a teaching wake-up call: change course.

Had no idea what an NPC was at first, but yes, great analogy! I do think that women with negative experiences of sexual overtures from profs (harassment is a term that came along after my early years of teaching and much after my years as a student — and many years after my mother’s, who had some stories as an undergrad and grad student at NYU in the 1930’s and early 1940’s) were better off than women who felt flattered. But then again, my mother may have been in the latter category, after all, and more than just flattered, and, still, she survived (here I am). She passed on to me, when I was too young to make the connection, a gold locket her NYU prof had given her. (One of his books was on the shelf nearby.) My mother must have understood — intended — that I would one day make the connection. Why did she do that? Was she sharing with me the possibilities in her life that had not materialized? Which fact, of course, we all with time have to come to terms with? The mysteries of the human heart. I miss my mother sorely. (Belle, you bring out the public confessional in me.)

107

Saurs 08.22.15 at 4:32 am

My buddies an’ me, we’re getting real well-known /
Yeah the co-eds know us and they give us their notes

108

Saurs 08.22.15 at 4:35 am

(Eep. Sorry about enclosing your comment with dumb lyrics, Meredith. They are not a comment on it or its substance.)

109

Plume 08.22.15 at 5:17 am

Bianca @97,

No, no, no. I didn’t say or suggest it has to follow any rules, much less those of a novel. I just said it was fair to ask for a bit of elaboration, while repeating that she owes us nothing, etc. I brought up the novel bit as my own analogy, which apparently didn’t work, either.

Basically, I’ve been told, midst some general praise for my works in progress, that they need more scene-building here and there, and a person very close to me said she understood why this happens. That I see it. I see the world I’ve created very clearly. But the reader doesn’t, unless I transcribe it for them.

In the case of the OP, Belle had an experience that stayed with her and pisses her off to this day. She sees it all very clearly, and she knows what she knows. As mentioned above, she has “privileged access.” Obviously. But for the reader to see this too — we can’t ever be her, of course — requires a bit of scene-painting. Again, Belle doesn’t have to do this. There are no “rules” saying she has to do this. But “good connections” generally require it.

110

Bloix 08.22.15 at 5:24 am

Saurs, you caper and gibber like a village idiot smeared with his own shit, and your pleasure in your rude stupidity shines from your eyes as if a flashlight were shining through your empty head. There’s nothing to you but a sneer and no response to make to you except to say, fuck off.

111

Marshall 08.22.15 at 5:52 am

It kinda bothers me that it’s obvious not to share the good stuff amongst the peers. Circumstances alter cases and I get the point about freeloaders, but still. Something to do with why I live in the woods, I suppose.

112

Bill Murray 08.22.15 at 7:51 am

Being lazy, but with a good memory, I went to class, paid attention and made a few cryptic notes, usually about equations and their terms and did no traditional studying. My method of studying was pretty straightforward — we’d get most of the class together and those of us that thought they understood the materials worked to explain it to those that thought they didn’t and answered any questions. Probably explains why the two of us that did the explaining most ended up as professors.

113

Ronan(rf) 08.22.15 at 8:35 am

“maybe I got it wrong and, given what sharing of notes is, which is a sort of South Sea Island gift exchange, the frat bro was being hostile and menacing.”

Coincidentally I heard the term “dochebag potlatch” recently , which might be apt.

Afaict the main peculiarity is that of the “frat boy’s” behaviour. This is what needs to be accounted for. From my (admittedly rough and ready) observations it seems that most people would prefer to die than ask a stranger for a favour.

114

Belle Waring 08.22.15 at 9:21 am

Bloix: ah, I assumed you were calling me an asshole, which seemed intemperate. Bill Murray: perhaps if I weren’t such a miserly human being in this regard I, too, would be a university professor. There are so many untaken paths in life, aren’t there?

115

Belle Waring 08.22.15 at 9:27 am

Ronan(rf): how well does this map onto the constant demands random men make on women’s attention and behavior? “Smile!” This is a request for help changing the wallpaper of some rando’s world. Dudes will pull the earbuds out of your ears so that you must listen to them chatting you up on the subway. Yank out a stranger’s earphones and expect a happy new friend–what even? “I heard your notes were awesome, and you should feel flattered by me knowing that. Give them to me.” This is not an admission of helplessness or of needing assistance. It’s just entitlement and there’s nothing mysterious or rare about it.

116

JPL 08.22.15 at 9:31 am

The grammatical detour I was responding to at 68 above has not been resumed, but I had to break off my comment before it was finished, which bothers me a little bit, although I’m sure people have ceased to care for now, so please skip this comment if you are interested in the main thread.

Lawler (in his account linked in the Language Log post) noted that the force of “care less” as a negative polarity item without the overt negative expression (like “hardly”) seemed to depend on it being in the context of “could”, but his further explanation is perhaps incomplete. I would suggest that ‘can’ plus the past tense morpheme, resulting in “could”, along with the present time reference of the relevant uses, makes us interpret “could” as a counterfactual (or “contrafactive”), so that the phrase is interpreted as something like: “(my) ability to care less is contrary to the fact”. Thus the meaning of “I could care less” is slightly different from the meaning of “I couldn’t care less”, but both are acceptable.

117

dsquared 08.22.15 at 10:51 am

I feel sick and miserable generally and maybe this is making me irascible/overly sensitive to perceived slights.

The hypothesis “nope, they’re just assholes” is in my opinion a long way from needing to be given up on.

What would have happened if Belle had just walked up to a randomly selected fraternity guy and asked him for a copy of some of the past course notes that they kept in their folder? I’m guessing they’d have said no, but surely the more relevant point here is that nobody has given that possibility a moment’s thought because it would never happen. Because, NPCs.

118

saucyturtles 08.22.15 at 11:25 am

One date point: my first mentor was a Barnard alumna who took at least one Columbia course while there. I don’t know what years she was there exactly, but she was born in 1916.

119

harry b 08.22.15 at 12:50 pm

Belle – please, please, don’t go somewhere else to blog. Or blog less here. Blog more! Honestly, its taken me years to learn how to read your posts, getting used to your eliptical style and the fact that you used words I don’t understand, and I enjoy them so much, and I only read two other blogs, and that’s not going to change. If Daniel reads this, and is open to requests, I’d like him to blog more too.

I didn’t have an opinion about the analogy, because I’m still ingesting the idea of an NPC. I misread the initials at first, as NCP (in the UK I grew up in this stood for National Car Parks, or New Communist Party, a tiny ultra-Stalinist split from the CPGB based in Surrey, knowing the latter of which tells you something about the UK I grew up in, though it wasn’t in Surrey).

One nice upshot of the thread for me was finding the ROTC/DHS student on linkedin, and getting a nice email from her this morning.

120

Anderson 08.22.15 at 1:01 pm

One thing I’m gleaning is that some commenters here like having NPCs, tho they won’t admit it.

121

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 1:08 pm

Anderson: “One thing I’m gleaning is that some commenters here like having NPCs, tho they won’t admit it.”

This is elliptical enough so that it could mean anything. But in general I think that the argument that js claims no one here is making is not very far below the surface of some people’s comments. “Requests for stuff from strangers” = entitlement and treating other people as resources, right? Not in the context of a personal experience that (of course) can’t be challenged because it is personal, but generally.

122

JanieM 08.22.15 at 1:18 pm

d^2 @117 What would have happened if Belle had just walked up to a randomly selected fraternity guy and asked him for a copy of some of the past course notes that they kept in their folder? I’m guessing they’d have said no, but surely the more relevant point here is that nobody has given that possibility a moment’s thought because it would never happen. Because, NPCs.

Moment’s thought, just long enough to dismiss: me @ 30 would the frat guy have shared his fraternity’s library of notes and papers with you? riiiiiiiiight

Being nobody ~ being NPC

123

Anderson 08.22.15 at 1:31 pm

Rich seems to put the notes on the level of a student asking another student for a pencil. “Requests for stuff from strangers.” Which is silly, at best, and even Rich knows this.

But another thing I’m picking up about some of these males’ responses is that they claim they wouldn’t feel Belle’s reaction, on the same facts. And probably not, I agree. Because they don’t live their lives being treated like NPCs. One bold adventurer’s request to another? No problem, fellow hero!

124

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 2:03 pm

Anderson: “Which is silly, at best, and even Rich knows this.”

No, I don’t know this, and it’s not silly — if a copying machine exists nearby, the “cost” of letting someone copy the notes is waiting while they go to the copy machine and come back. Otherwise any cost of sharing your work is psychological, which is exactly what I’ve been talking about: “I worked hard to make this: why should those freeloaders get it?”

And as I’ve mentioned upthread, being an activist means routinely asking strangers for much larger things: “Please come to a 2 hour demonstration and risk getting arrested.” Don’t generalize from your life to other people’s, thank you.

125

Lynne 08.22.15 at 2:05 pm

“It is perfectly reasonable to prefer that people talk about the ideas rather than disputing the facts of the experiences themselves.”

Yes, it is.

@115 YES.

@117 “The hypothesis “nope, they’re just assholes” is in my opinion a long way from needing to be given up on.”
Yes, I hope Belle will revisit that one.

126

Lynne 08.22.15 at 2:08 pm

Rich began by saying “The notes thing strikes me as perfectly normal behavior. When I was an undergrad I’d write up notes for a class and when I’d done a good job of summarizing them or whatever I’d pass them around and complete strangers would sometimes ask me for copies. And on days or weeks when I’d missed class I’d ask other random people taking the same class for copies of their notes. Lectures are super boring and unless I was writing up a study document or something I’d just generally try to skip them entirely.”

and everything else you say follows from that. You share your notes, when you bother to go to class and make them, so when (most of the time) you don’t bother to go, you get other people’s. Sounds like you gave very little and felt entitled to a lot, and are judging Belle because she refused someone else who felt entitled to a lot.

“Entitled” is an excellent, under-used word.

127

Anderson 08.22.15 at 2:10 pm

Because they are freeloading, in school, where you are supposed to do your own work. It doesn’t map onto the economy at large. Nothing in Belle’s story suggests the guy was unfortunate in some way that he’d been unable to do his own work.

Dismissing ethics, honor, and pride as “psychological” – as if the mind were a negligible part of one’s existence – well, whatever.

128

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 2:19 pm

Ah, now we’re getting to it. Lynne thinks that sharing notes among people in a class demonstrates entitlement, because naturally in a class of double-digit numbers of people, you’re going to be getting notes from other people more often than you’re giving them out. Anderson thinks sharing notes is freeloading and an afford to ethics, honor and pride. But none of this is at all like the right-wing belief that people have to work for themselves and not be “takers”.

129

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 2:22 pm

“an afford” = “an affront”

130

Anderson 08.22.15 at 2:30 pm

108: right, it’s not. As I distinguished in my comment.

I suspect if the guy had told Belle, “hey, I hear you take really great notes, and I’ve missed some class because I have to work two jobs to pay tuition” – etc., the stories suggest themselves – she’d have been fine with that.

Mapping every human interaction onto pseudo-Marxist bullshit isn’t going to impress smart people. In real life, yeah, even left wing folks expect folks to work, under fair conditions, if they can. “From each according to his abilities?” That’s not a Romney quote. Acting like political leftism is about supporting people’s right to freeload plays into the “takers” discourse Rich claims to be rejecting.

131

Stephenson-quoter kun 08.22.15 at 2:43 pm

dsquared already said exactly what I was thinking: the key issue here is reciprocity. Would random frat dude have given Belle a copy of his notes, presuming that he had any worth asking for? (We have some evidence on this matter: he wouldn’t be asking for notes if he had his own already). And if RFD was acting with an expectation of being able to cadge notes off obliging fellow-students, then we could say that RFD’s entire strategy was based around exploiting the hard work and good nature of others. This sounds plausible, doesn’t it? If there was a norm of mutual aid and assistance between students, what was RFD doing to uphold this?

There’s a reasonable counter-argument, which is that sharing lecture notes is pro-social and altruistic act, the kind of ‘baseline communism’ that society needs to function without devolving into dog-eat-dog hypercompetitive game. Fine, a reasonable position to take. But if you think Belle should have shared the notes, you also have to think that RFD and his friends should have done something of equal or greater value to benefit Belle or her friends, and that seems really quite unlikely. I have a deep and abiding belief in the potential of other people to defy our expectations, but in this case I think it’s pretty likely that RFD really was just being entitled.

With that out of the way: videogames! Adam Roberts made a good point up-thread, that videogame NPCs are a bit like the stereotypical notion of the ‘wife’ as someone who enables their spouse’s heroism, by taking care of the kids, house and so on (citing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim). I should point out that Skyrim is somewhat more progressive than the quote indicates: the protagonist can be female or male, and non-human, and can marry individuals of either gender (though I do recall that there are no marriageable lizard-people). And most NPCs do have some sense of fairness – any quest that involves asking a person for information or access to some place or physical item normally involves have to perform some minor side-quest for them first. Aside from the basic “what’s the local gossip?” or “where’s the nearest blacksmith?” kinds of questions, NPCs generally expect something in return for their help.

Still, the fact remains that they’re put there for your entertainment – the Elder Scrolls series has been designed with this goal in mind for over two decades. Here’s a relevant quote from my favourite video game manual of all time, Daggerfall (1996):

You are the protagonist, the hero of the game – the story is what you decide to make it. There are going to be foils to your character: people who will try to stop some of your more grandiose goals, and people who are there to help if it serves them. But it is your aims and ambitions that frame the story. After all, role-playing games are plays in which the stars are members of the audience. Given a large, well-appointed stage, a supporting cast of improvisationalists, and an alert backstage crew, they are capable of anything. And the best thing we game designers and programmers can do is give you what you want, and get out of your way.

It sounds plausible to me that RFD and his ilk do view the real world somewhat like this. Other people can present interesting challenges, be dangerous rivals or provide helpful assistance. But as the protagonist, you have an expectation that if your role in the game ever comes under threat (by, say, failing an exam), you can rely on a helpful NPC to wander by with a handy healing potion set of lecture notes to bail you out.

(At the risk of going a bit meta, I suspect that the reason why Morrowind is the Elder Scrolls game that stands out as the most emotionally-resonant of the series is precisely because the game-world seemed much more indifferent to the player’s existence than the later games, thus allowing the player to assume the role of hero gradually without the illusion-breaking that happens when the world pushes you towards heroism: Oblivion opens with the Emperor telling you that the fate of the world is on your shoulders, and Skyrim with an attack from a dragon that leads swiftly to the discovery that you, the protagonist, are ‘dragonborn’, but Morrowind opens with your arrival at an Imperial immigration office, fresh off a prison ship. It’s a story of heroism for people who don’t like to be hit over the head with the assumption that they’re the hero).

132

Marshall 08.22.15 at 2:49 pm

Serendipitously this showed up on my facebook feed this morning. The opposite of NPC is encounter.
http://www.ted.com/talks/amanda_palmer_the_art_of_asking?language=en#t-808824

133

JanieM 08.22.15 at 2:57 pm

me @ 30: reciprocity is an important part of the question.

d^2 @ 117: nobody has given a thought to the reciprocity question.

me @ 122: being “nobody” is a lot like being an NPC.

Stephenson-quoter kun @130: dsquared says the key issue is reciprocity.

NPCs: we’re everywhere.

134

JimV 08.22.15 at 2:59 pm

I did a fair amount of trying to help people academically in college – explaining math and chemistry problems, critiquing English papers (hard as that may be to believe). Looking way back, some of those people I helped probably saw me as the dorm NPC-nerd. One guy did for sure, who came into my room half-drunk around 11 PM and woke me up to check his English paper. I could tell my room-mate wanted me to tell him (drunk guy) where to go, but hey, being the NPC-nerd is better than being ignored. So I corrected a couple of grammar errors. Later a couple of other guys whom I had been explaining calculus problems to all term played a prank on me and I lost it, and stopped speaking to them. Which in hindsight they didn’t deserve, because pranks were part of dorm life and I had participated in a couple myself. I don’t recall the term NPC being invented way back then ( I first saw it about 30 years later, in “Might and Magic”), but it expresses now my sense of betrayal – I thought I was their buddy but I’m just their NPC (although, again, that was an over-reaction).

It’s none of my business, but … the Comment Policy says something about “comments which are personally defamatory or insulting” not being allowed. Just sayin’ (not that my hands are totally clean, one does get annoyed at times).

135

Anderson 08.22.15 at 3:10 pm

134, there’s a Bloix exception.

136

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 3:14 pm

Janie, I’m sure the answer is patriarchy. :)

To be fair, d2 and many others probably don’t spend much time on every one of the mass of commenters and might miss a little here and there.

137

Stephenson-quoter kun 08.22.15 at 3:20 pm

JanieM: It does seem that you have caught me out. As the thread is fairly long, I read enough to understand that people were challenging Belle’s reasoning for not giving a copy of the notes, decided that I found this disagreeable, then skipped to the end and read back a few to figure out where we were up to, which is where I found dsquared saying pretty much what I had been thinking, so I acknowledged that in my comment. I didn’t pick up on the fact that you had made the same point earlier, despite you commenting to that effect after dsquared’s comment.

I can’t say for certain that I missed your original comment because it came after the point where I decided to start skimming, or if it’s because I subconsciously dismissed it (or that I read both yours and dsquared’s, and subconsciously gave greater weight to his opinion). Either way, I acknowledge your observation of the importance of reciprocity as being correct and much earlier than my own, or any other. Reading the actual comments in order certainly looks pretty bad, and although I can’t introspectively pinpoint a moment where I decided to ignore your contribution in favour of someone else’s, that nevertheless is a Thing That Happened and I should be more careful in future.

138

JanieM 08.22.15 at 3:25 pm

bianca — ah, yes, patriarchy. ;-)

To be fair, I myself rarely read all the comments on a thread. Then again, I don’t make sweeping statements about what everyone, or no one, has said. Then again again, d^2 didn’t literally comment on what we had all said, he commented on what we had all thought. Obviously he operates on a different plane, which has long been apparent in any case.

It’s symptomatic both ways.

139

Lynne 08.22.15 at 3:31 pm

Belle, I’ve been thinking about this: ” how well does this map onto the constant demands random men make on women’s attention and behavior? “Smile!” This is a request for help changing the wallpaper of some rando’s world. Dudes will pull the earbuds out of your ears so that you must listen to them chatting you up on the subway. Yank out a stranger’s earphones and expect a happy new friend–what even?”

Really, a stranger has pulled the earbuds from your ears so he could talk to you? Really?? This is unbelievable. At least, I wish it were unbelievable. As for being told to smile, I couldn’t count the number of times that happened to me when I was a pretty young woman. Perfect strangers, always men, would say that to me on the street when I was walking along, minding my own business. It happened so often that I concluded that I must not have a neutral expression, that my default expression must be sad. It made me very self-conscious and resentful at the same time.

140

Belle Waring 08.22.15 at 3:32 pm

Stephenson-quoter-kun: nice to see you! WHAT ABOUT LIZARD PEOPLE JUSTICE THO? Also, that Daggerfall quote is awesome. Also also, probably a shoutout to JanieM is in order. I’m…trying to make a joke about her being the Shoutout Mapes toiling away, all unappreciated, in the depths of the palace in Arakeen, but it’s not coming together. Let’s just stipulate that I did so.

141

Belle Waring 08.22.15 at 3:34 pm

Belay that order, then.

142

JanieM 08.22.15 at 3:40 pm

S-q kun: Our comments crossed. Thanks for the thoughtful reply.

Partly I was annoyed at being ignored (all the while telling myself: there are commenters I habitually ignore, and as I already said, I often don’t read all the comments in a given thread , not to mention that dsquared is a proprietor and well known here and I am not); partly I wanted to poke at the fact that the thing we are talking about is, in a way, embedded in our way of talking about it.

*******

Shoutout Mapes? I will treasure the joke as stipulated.

143

bob mcmanus 08.22.15 at 4:11 pm

Reciprocity…well, I do have to pay the smith for the +7 sword, which makes the game more interesting and enjoyable than if all the goals were trivially easy.

Complications, nuances, intricacies of interaction are what makes games and life fun, and create socio-economic systems, but do not turn our NPCs into subjects. We simply map our own desires and goals onto the desires and goals of others in such a way that their desires and problems become useful to us. And usually of course, as in capitalism, we say that the interaction is good for both sides, I serve their needs and desires by fulfilling my own, etc.

Classic: eroge games and harem comedies: lead, maybe 70% of the time male, 30% female, is designed to be hopelessly bland nondescript without goals or character, his/her love-objects have all the backstory and most of the development and emotional depth. Yet the story still revolves around the main character choosing a best girl/guy, it’s his story. (Which is always about making someone else happy, at best ending with everybody happy. This is a win for him.)

What makes a NPC into a subject, from the external standpoint of the player or main, is not reciprocity or complication or history or emotional depth or empathy but our submission, our absolute and infinite denial of our own desires and subjectivity in service to the Others’. Everything else is just economics.

144

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 4:16 pm

Plume,

I went back and looked at your first comment on this thread, and I can’t see this as consistent with your later comments about novels. You didn’t make a comment about the way the OP was expressed, even to say it was terrible, as you did later, you assumed you could tell what really happened. Is this really the way you read novels? Is this the kind of reaction your own manuscripts have met with? I can’t believe that’s so.

145

bob mcmanus 08.22.15 at 4:27 pm

Puchalsky, albeit clumsily, does make an important point, about individuality vs community, identity/affinity analysis vs class struggle.

What is it with the frat boy and notes, we just damn it do not want to be used? A source of surplus profit and exploitation? There are fair exchange price schemes here: smiles, a little conversation, some recognition of my unique human worth, whatever the going rate.

Affinity socialities, identity groups, remain merchant communities of exchange and barter, where joining gets you membership privileges and expectations, and everybody keeps accounts, and those who don’t pay their dues are locked out and fair game for hunting season.

146

Plume 08.22.15 at 4:34 pm

And what of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl? Could it be that the poor, deluded frat guy wanted to be saved “from depression and ennui by a fantasy woman who sweeps in like a glittery breeze to save you from yourself, then disappears once her work is done”?

But I should clarify a few things here. The trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl is a fundamentally sexist one, since it makes women seem less like autonomous, independent entities than appealing props to help mopey, sad white men self-actualize. Within that context, the phrase was useful precisely because, while still fairly flexible, it also benefited from a certain specificity. Claire was an unusually pure example of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl — a fancifully if thinly conceived flibbertigibbet who has no reason to exist except to cheer up one miserable guy.

And, finally, Nathan Rabin’s condensed apology:

I’m sorry for creating this unstoppable monster. Seven years after I typed that fateful phrase, I’d like to join Kazan and Green in calling for the death of the “Patriarchal Lie” of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl trope. I would welcome its erasure from public discourse. I’d applaud an end to articles about its countless different permutations. Let’s all try to write better, more nuanced and multidimensional female characters: women with rich inner lives and complicated emotions and total autonomy, who might strum ukuleles or dance in the rain even when there are no men around to marvel at their free-spiritedness. But in the meantime, Manic Pixies, it’s time to put you to rest.

147

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 4:38 pm

Reciprocity frankly does not work in large societies. Reciprocity becomes market exchange, basically. In the U.S., means-tested programs predictably take a beating and then go away, and only universal coverage ones stay.

This thread shows how it works: people decide that when someone says “Hey, some people share as part of their regular social arrangements: it’s not something that can be described with ‘Who does that?'” they must be personally criticizing Belle for not sharing with a jerk, so they teleport in and denounce this view which they’ve made up. Meanwhile the actual practice of sharing things freely is “entitlement” or “unethical” or some other word that implies that something wrong is happening.

People might want to think about why the actual professors here who’ve commented don’t have a problem with students sharing notes. They don’t seem to think there’s anything wrong with it, because really, the entire academic way life is based on sharing notes.

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Armando 08.22.15 at 4:40 pm

I’m pretty much with Rich here.

Which is to say, that no one is obligated to give if they feel uncomfortable with the situation – no explanations are really needed to justify the subjective – but promoting that to an ethical principle is pretty much what lefties argue against and righties argue for when it comes to welfare, redistribution, etc. The fact that we have comments (Anderson above) pretty much introducing the exact analogue of the deserving poor shows how correct Rich is that this is the same discussion.

FTR: as an undergrad I gave all my notes and solutions (it was math) to anyone who asked and never asked anything back. I even gave it to the rich entitled guy who thought peasants like me didn’t belong at an elite uni (I’m not exaggerating). Partly, I just knew that the value in producing my own work was really the point, and partly because principles sometimes have personal cost. Righties often accuse lefties of being unwilling to accept that last point for themselves and some of the discussion here kinda reads like that. (Not from Belle though.)

149

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 4:52 pm

I’m just not getting this at all. What I see is people who are reducing a real life situation to a Roger Schank kind of AI scheme where all “transfer of object from one person to another” is equivalent. Thus, “at my university, it was common for students to form groups where only one attended any given lecture, and the rest shared their notes,” becomes “at all universities, it must be necessarily the case that students share everything they are ever asked to share, and by the way I and my friends are all the most moral people who ever lived, and in X other situation, powerful people share too, and who are you to criticize them by saying I’m wrong that you’re wrong?”

150

JanieM 08.22.15 at 5:02 pm

bianca — The mind boggles. Belle writes a post about entitled users and the cool analogy Zoë made to how such people treat other people, and it gets massively thread-jacked by superior self-righteousness about sharing notes. I had given up on trying to characterize the process, so I’m glad you made the effort.

151

Plume 08.22.15 at 5:03 pm

Bianca @144,

In my first comment, I asked for more details. I didn’t assume I understood the setup. Third comment, I mentioned that her reflection made her boyfriend come off the worst of the bunch. Didn’t bring up novels until #96. The previous few “weren’t consistent” with that because they didn’t bring up the topic, at all.

Honestly, I’m not getting your critique. Could be the fault of my poorly worded comments entirely for the miscommunication. But I don’t think so. At least not for most of it.

But I’ll try again. For me, Belle wrote about a memory she had that still pisses her off. And she’s obviously entitled to be pissed off. I’m just saying that we — or at least I — need a bit more to go on, regarding his behavior, if we’re to understand why this stayed with her and caused her to write the blog. That in no way, shape or form calls her memory into question. I assumed from the start that she had excellent reasons for thinking this was a sexist encounter. But being a nosy reader, I wanted to see what she saw that day, and I tried to get more details. Admittedly, I probably chose the wrong angle, by suggesting other possible explanations and my own analogy. That’s not always the best route toward the one in question, and it probably caused more static than intended. Boiled down, I just wanted to hear more.

Unlike many others here, I don’t have a problem at all with her saying no, and I do think it’s pretty odd to walk up to a perfect stranger to ask for notes. Though, that depends a lot on the approach. I think all of us, in our college years, did similar things, all too awkwardly, and often simply to make friends. It’s not that far from “What’s your major?” At least it can be along those lines. In short, in that encounter, there were two human beings. Both have their own stories to tell. Belle can tell hers here. We will never hear his. I just wanted more from Belle. Selfish, nosy me.

152

Plume 08.22.15 at 5:07 pm

Oh, and again, I think Zoe’s analogy was cool.

153

Anderson 08.22.15 at 5:12 pm

So, in an imaginary society completely unlike our own, Belle would’ve been acting inappropriately. Got it.

154

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 5:16 pm

Plume,

Belle described a situation. Belle described, very briefly–it’s a blog post after all–the parts of the situation that any observer could see, and she described, very briefly, a summary of what was actually going on in the situation. She did not include all details: of the situation itself, of previous experience with the guy and other guys, of how Columbia worked in her experience, and so on. If she were writing a novel–and you were her reader, not her editor, not her creative writing teacher, not a member of her workshop–you’d accept what the text said happened as what happened.

But instead, you decided that she was upset about something in the past and so her account must have been emotionally colored. And you imagined a plausible scenario and a plausible emotional reaction, and deduced a different version of the past than what Belle remembers. You don’t know more about the situation than Belle does, or did at the time. You don’t know more about the guy than Belle does.

So what gives you the right to “remind” her that the guy was a human being (like her, no NPC) and she doesn’t seem to be taking his point of view into account?

What makes you think it’s probable that she distorted her story?

155

Bill Benzon 08.22.15 at 5:24 pm

“Reciprocity frankly does not work in large societies.” Well, yeah.

But we live in large societies through our participation in smaller groups, some quite small, some a bit larger. Columbia university is not society as a whole; but it’s not one’s local neighborhood either. It seems to me that reciprocity is legitimately in play within that context.

156

Plume 08.22.15 at 5:33 pm

Bianca @154,

But instead, you decided that she was upset about something in the past and so her account must have been emotionally colored.

No. Absolutely not. Not in any way, shape or form did I assume her account “must have been emotionally colored.” Nor is that in any of my comments, anywhere. And two can play this game. What gives you “the right” to invent/distort what I said in order to create a conflict that only exists in your own mind?

Thus a frat bro whom I didn’t know from Adam approached me one day and asked if he could have a copy

That’s all Belle tells us of this event. That’s it. That one sentence is the alpha and omega of that encounter. It’s not at all wrong to ask for a bit more. It is wrong, however, for you to try to turn that simple request into sound and fury signifying nothing.

157

bob mcmanus 08.22.15 at 5:40 pm

Socialism, even liberalism, means if anything giving to people you don’t like without getting back. Yup, gonna get used.

We have had the “give to people like me who treat me the way I want and give back” for a long long time. Only the bosses have changed, and will change again.

154: So what was demanded in the thread was a discussion of how entitled males treat women (and maybe affiliated identities) as NPCs, and ain’t it terrible. IOW, feminism.

Guys are resistant to that stuff, because they don’t want to be NPCs in feminist discourse. Helpmates ain’t subjects.

It is of course interesting in the general universalizing style of most of the males here (including me), and the particularism (or even singularity) (it’s just Waring’s story, why can’t she tell her story, these commenters suck ) of the women. Feminism says that is the historical pattern of patriarchal intellectual oppression. I find the isolated anecdote as argument equally a rhetorical weapon and strategy, attempting to initiate a non-rational process, instilling empathy as a way to bypass intellectual discussions of policy and process.

158

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 5:41 pm

Janie,

Thanks.

159

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 5:47 pm

JanieM: “superior self-righteousness about sharing notes”

BW: “As I say, I was obviously wrong about how people feel about being asked for outlines for class. But I think you can disagree with me on that front without disputing my impressions of the person who asked me.”

I wasn’t disputing BW’s impression of the person who asked her. But she followed that impression with “Who does that?” and with general incredulity about the idea that anyone regularly does that. When I write that some groups of people do really regularly do that — that, in my personal experience, which is just as unchallengeable as anyone else’s, it happens quite a lot — it’s not “superior self-righteousness about sharing notes.”

160

Plume 08.22.15 at 5:49 pm

Also:

What makes you think it’s probable that she distorted her story?

What on earth makes you think I think this? Certainly none of my comments. It’s not there, Bianca. Not in the sub-text, either. You’re inventing this.

Again, I don’t think she distorted anything. I don’t think her recollections are “emotionally colored.” I think she is very likely quite accurate in what she says about that encounter — going by previous blog posts by her, all of which I’ve enjoyed. She’s just, IMO, keeping too much of it off the page — which is her right. She has the right to ellipses and even silence, if she so chooses. But, we readers can at least ask for further details. Doesn’t mean we’ll get any answers. But we can certainly ask. Or do you think we shouldn’t be able to do that? Do you think this is a crime, or something that automatically should be seen as sinister, somehow?

161

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 5:53 pm

Plume,

I misread this

we — or at least I — need a bit more to go on, regarding his behavior, if we’re to understand why this stayed with her and caused her to write the blog.

and you’re right, that isn’t a statement that Belle’s story is emotionally colored. Sorry about the misreading. But why do you need to understand Belle’s emotional relationship to the story at all, her motivation for writing, and so on? She explains her motivation for writing perfectly well. Why do you think she needs to provide more details so you’ll believe the most important thing in the situation was sexism?

To be clear, if you had said, that sucks, and it happens to townies, too, I would have read your comment differently. But what you did was challenge Belle to prove that her description was accurate.

162

Plume 08.22.15 at 6:20 pm

Bianca @161,

Why do you think she needs to provide more details so you’ll believe the most important thing in the situation was sexism?

To be clear, if you had said, that sucks, and it happens to townies, too, I would have read your comment differently. But what you did was challenge Belle to prove that her description was accurate.

You make good points above. I should have said that sucks, and it happens to townies too. I did the latter, but not the former. Thing is, if Belle had said something like, “His tone was really condescending, and he had this little smirk on his face, as if he were doing me a favor by asking for my notes. I was ready for him to call me ‘babe.'” . . . . I would have, immediately. Perhaps it’s my failure of imagination, but I just didn’t get enough from her story to jump right to that. Close. But not quite there. And I wanted to. I actually wanted to be as pissed off as she must have been at the time.

Believe it or not, I’m very much a He for She guy, and come by that honestly. My family is filled with great and amazing women, female trailblazers and role models going way back, and that’s what I grew up with. To the degree a guy can be a “feminist,” I am. But I’m also a secular humanist. The two don’t have to be in conflict, etc. etc.

163

Lynne 08.22.15 at 6:26 pm

Bianca @149 and JanieM @ 150, Thanks for these. The thread has been feeling quite surreal.

164

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 6:36 pm

Armando: “The fact that we have comments (Anderson above) pretty much introducing the exact analogue of the deserving poor shows how correct Rich is that this is the same discussion.”

The deserving poor, pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps, the social reality of competition and how you’re a doofus if you try to evade it, the person who asks people to share as one of the entitled elite, showing off their self-righteousness … yep, it’s all here.

I don’t see how the left in general expects the right to recognize this when they can’t even recognize it in their own context.

165

bob mcmanus 08.22.15 at 6:38 pm

To the degree a guy can be a “feminist,” I am. But I’m also a secular humanist. The two don’t have to be in conflict, etc. etc.

Yeah, they do.

Feminism is a committed political project based in women’s particular experience and dedicated to the liberation and empowerment of women, exclusively. It is not generalizable to the equal liberation of men or humanity, and efforts to draw humanist ideals from women’s experience is formal colonization.

You can’t be a Ukrainian Nationalist either.

166

JanieM 08.22.15 at 6:42 pm

I don’t see how the left in general expects the right to recognize this when they can’t even recognize it in their own context.

That’s not superior self-righteousness either, I’m sure we have Rich’s own word for that.

167

bob mcmanus 08.22.15 at 6:55 pm

The step from “asked for my notes” to “sexism” is a commitment, and a commitment and political project not in seeing sexism, but in stopping there, and not moving on to selfishness, or class/white privilege, or humanism.

Just exactly as moving from #BlackLivesMatter to #AllLivesMatter is a racist move.

168

bianca steele 08.22.15 at 6:59 pm

Bob,

That’s nonsense, but if we’re at the point where we’re considering Columbia fraternity members in a classics course taught by a sexist professor as an oppressed class who are only banding together to protect themselves against the wealthy and the cutthroat who are trying to divide them by ranking them according to test scores, we’re in Never Never Land and beyond argument.

169

Plume 08.22.15 at 6:59 pm

Bob, in the sense that a fully liberated humanity includes women. In the sense that we make sure everyone gets out of (metaphorical and real) jail, not just “representatives” of certain groups. In the sense that we end all apartheid, not just some of it.

A “diverse” ruling class isn’t really progress, per se. Nor is a “diverse” underclass. Getting rid of class entirely is. Getting rid of those divisions is. That takes care of the empowerment issue, whereas a group-based plan can’t. As long as it leaves class divisions in place, “empowerment for all” is impossible.

Within feminism, there is the critique that it’s primarily for the empowerment of white, upper-class women. There is anger between feminists because of this. There is another when it comes to generations, sexuality and so on. All the isms have sub-ism battles, blah blah blah.

So my conception of “humanism” is to bag all of that and include the whole lot. But not under a Eurocentric or American or Enlightenment or Anti-Enlightenment banner. But literally, human qua human qua human. There is only one tribe. Our economic and social systems treat us as if we’re several different species . . . . The truly humanist critique is to say that’s insane.

170

Plume 08.22.15 at 7:14 pm

Bianca @168,

You’re describing, at least in part, the “men’s rights” movement. It’s also not that far away from the Christian right, which sees itself as the powerless victim, under constant assault. And that’s not too far away from conservative visions of persecution in general. They must take their country back!!!

171

novakant 08.22.15 at 7:17 pm

As for being told to smile, I couldn’t count the number of times that happened to me when I was a pretty young woman. Perfect strangers, always men, would say that to me on the street when I was walking along, minding my own business. It happened so often that I concluded that I must not have a neutral expression, that my default expression must be sad.

For what it’s worth that happened to me a lot when I was a young man (and I still get that sometimes) and I used to be similarly self-conscious about my facial expression.

172

bob mcmanus 08.22.15 at 7:45 pm

171: Well, as I have said in many ways before, nobody appointed me as general representative to speak for (and if nominated, I will not run etc )

your paragraph one 1) “fully liberated humanity”
two) the classless society
three) “enlightened feminists”
four) and I really don’t have a good “conception” of what is human

The move to appoint oneself as the default universalizer, he who finds his useful generality in somebody else’ particular and calls it good or bad, is the precise move of the patriarchal capitalist fetishizing reifying racist authoritarian.

You can’t instrumentalize Waring’s anecdote.

171: Do you think your experience as a man is at all commensurate or comparable to what women endure?

173

Plume 08.22.15 at 8:10 pm

Bob,

Not sure how much of your comment is tongue in cheek, though I suspect most of it is. And, not quite sure about your usage of the post numbers here. But a surface rebuttal goes like this:

I haven’t and don’t appoint myself as universalizer, default or otherwise. It doesn’t take a universalizer to recognize humans as humans. Unless you do believe we’re made up of many different species.

I speak for myself, from my own perspective, as do you. I’ve read Nietzsche too, and anti-Nietzscheans, and post-anti-hoc-ergo-ad-hoc-Nietzscheans, etc. No one in this thread, that I can see, called Belle’s particular “good or bad.” The rest of that sentence really does appear as a send up.

On that note, it’s long past time to find some sunshine.

174

Lynne 08.22.15 at 8:19 pm

novakant, that’s interesting! Was it men or women who told you to smile? Really, some people have a lot of nerve, don’t they? to comment on a stranger’s appearance that way.

175

Tom Bach 08.22.15 at 8:28 pm

Academics is about “sharing notes” with, of course, attribution. So if fratguy entitled jerk who demands, which is how I read BW’s story, her intellectual property at the point of privilege was engaged in academic sharing his exam would have to include either an acknowledgements page or footnotes making clear that all these answers are dependent on BW’s labor. Admission of influence and the importance of others’ work is central to the academic enterprise. Anyone think that the fratboy would, in fact, acknowledge BW’s role in his (undeserved) grade had she shared?

Plus and also, as Anderson thus blogged, out education isn’t something that can be, as it were, taxed and redistributed like robber barons’ ill gotten gains. To argue that it is, is like the Fox Channel’s surfer dude buying shrimp, or whatever it is, in reverse.

And Plume, whose embryonic novel is being praised by all and sundry, the demand or request for more, to be honest, is evidence of lazy reading. BW, at least as I recall her posts, cleaver and insightful and funny so when she writes about some entitled jerk being jerkily entitled in regards of a demand for notes it’s the readers responsibility to fill the missing jerkiness by, you know, imagining how an entitled jerk would ask for notes. It’s true, she could have included a bit on how exactly the jerk came up to her and with no introduction or attempt at a personal connection his eyes cast either into the middle distance or scanning the surrounding for (female?) students for short shorted rearends, his backward facing cap announcing his love of lite beer and his pink shirt an adoration of alligators with collar upturned and his hair a testament to the enduring importance of Miami Vice for a certain kind of American male in a voice dripping with both condescension and impatience asked if he could, like, have her notes for the X class. But she chose not to and my day is slightly better for having the chance to think of how exactly a sexist jerk would, you know, express the privilege, condescension, and impatience implied but, thank the lord, not spelt out in the OP.

So, thanks, BW for another great post which not only illuminates how a “sharing economy” reinscribes the power of the powerful but also for the chance to think about, and see, how many are the ways that jerks are given the benefit of the doubt when justice and common decency demand condemnation.

176

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 8:48 pm

Tom Bach: “Academics is about “sharing notes” with, of course, attribution. ”

You’re free to put your name on the notes. When people take tests, though, they don’t attribute in the sense of “I got this answer because I read a textbook written by X authority.” If they’re writing a paper on Roman history and they use notes written by someone as a source, then they are supposed to attribute, but really the source is indirect enough so that they’d be better off looking up a more primary one. If you’re writing up notes and giving them to other people, you’re practicing for higher levels of academia where you get to be a producer of documents rather than a reader of them.

So you can blithely dismiss this as how the “sharing economy” reinscribes the power of the powerful, but it’s not an economy, it’s not a new or tech-related thing, and you’re not describing the process by which someone actually becomes powerful in academic subculture.

177

Anderson 08.22.15 at 9:05 pm

Tom Bach: there’s no arguing with the Black Knight, I’ve decided. They’re all flesh wounds.

178

Keating Willcox 08.22.15 at 9:10 pm

1. Paul Erdos, famous mathematician, always hand copied any paper he was interested in so that he could understand it better.
2. Classics Illustrated comics always put in plot or character modifications so that savvy teachers could spot children who wrote reports on the comic book instead of the original book.
3. Men don’t see women as NPC. They live in the world of “Men on Strike” A superb handbook and user’s guide to the modern male.

179

Saurs 08.22.15 at 9:16 pm

“So, thanks, BW for another great post which not only illuminates how a “sharing economy” reinscribes the power of the powerful but also for the chance to think about, and see, how many are the ways that jerks are given the benefit of the doubt when justice and common decency demand condemnation sexism.”

I think we’ve reached guillotine humor at this point. Or stake-burning.

180

Tom Bach 08.22.15 at 9:27 pm

Yes indeed, the more primary one, in this case, being one’s own notes and thoughts on the same rather than, like some small bird demanding mommy cough up the predigested bugs, worms, and small seeds, someone else’s. Demanding the predigested is like reading Syme and insisting you did all the work your own self, isn’t it.

181

Saurs 08.22.15 at 9:29 pm

But your sandwiches taste so much betttttttttttter.

182

Tom Bach 08.22.15 at 9:30 pm

And also too, when I used to grade in class essays if a student cited a source they got extra points because they showed that they had read and understood the primary and secondary source I had collected for them to use as raw material creating their own interpretations of the issue under consideration.

183

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 10:09 pm

So, if you’re the one writing the notes (in the form of coherent summaries) that other people want to use, you’re going to be one of the best students and don’t have to worry about the curve? I wonder where I’ve seen that before. And students will actually get a better grade if they do the reading? Oh the injustice.

So notes can help some people skate by and get a minimally acceptable grade with little work. (You’d think this would point out a problem with the tests, rather than simply with the students, but never mind.) I would say that they can also help a larger pool of students who are at risk of being confused enough by the subject so that their understanding really is improved over what it otherwise would have been by reading someone’s notes. You can’t help the second group without also helping the first.

184

Lynne 08.22.15 at 10:17 pm

bob mcmanus: “Feminism is a committed political project based in women’s particular experience and dedicated to the liberation and empowerment of women, exclusively.”

No, it isn’t. The opposite of patriarchy isn’t matriarchy, it’s an egalitarian society.

185

Bill Benzon 08.22.15 at 10:21 pm

Jesus H Christ on a friggin’ stick. This is absurd. All this earnest twiddling on behalf of some fraternal douchecanoe from days gone by. Before you know it Donald Trump aka The Donald will have become President and appointed lord knows how many douchecanoes to cabinet posts.

186

Tom Bach 08.22.15 at 10:30 pm

Rich P, rather than dismissing I am, in fact, explaining how one becomes an academic player: others cite your work. Imagine if BW’s prof had confronted say 7 out of 15 essays citing BW’s notes as the source of their essays. Would he have put aside his asinine comments about how, as fetching as the frock was, cornflower blue was the wrong shade for her eyes? Well, I doubt it.

But the basic point is absent others acknowledging an academic’s work no one is going to become “powerful.” To be frank, if one wanted to be “powerful” being patron would be the way to go.

If students find the class so confusing that their own notes are of little or no use: study groups, discussion sections, go to the professor’s office hrs, etc. Demanding demandingly that some one cough up the goods isn’t, you know, redistribution it’s dumb old Dennis Moore riding through the land.

Also, too, as well, test are only, as a rule, one of many ways of sussing out a student’s understanding of the course. But, given your academic expertise, you already knew that. Also, in addition, and on top of, the point of grades, like it or not, is to come to something like an understanding of how well this or that individual understand that or this course. No really, it’s true. Grades are supposed to reflect a student’s engagement with and understanding of a course’s content. But, again, your boundless knowledge of the ways of academics and such like mean, no doubt, that you were always/already aware of that.

187

novakant 08.22.15 at 10:56 pm

Lynne, just about anybody, sometimes with sexual intent (both women and gays), sometimes the crazy Jesus lady on the tube or the barkeeper in a club. Truth be told, my expression is a bit like Clint Eastwood on a bad day in photos and my wife does have to remind me to smile so that I don’t scare the in-laws. Nevertheless I did feel a bit ostracized and wondered if something was wrong with me when I was younger, a feeling that wasn’t helped by being a melancholic type. I’m sure this can be worse for women, though.

188

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 11:17 pm

Tom Bach: “But the basic point is absent others acknowledging an academic’s work no one is going to become “powerful.” ”

No undergraduate is really going to get academically powerful through authorship of class notes, whether the people who copy the notes are academically good and cite them or academically bad (like everyone agrees about this frat guy) and use them without attribution. The point is that the author of notes is doing something that prepares them to become academically powerful later on: the copier of notes is not. If you want to call this “reinscription of power by the powerful” when everyone agrees that people should be free to turn down the rude frat guy, you can.

But, as Armando wrote above, when it’s elevated into an ethical principle — that students sharing outlines is an affront to honor and pride, that only entitled people would even ask for copies of notes, that people need to make it on their own and not ask people to share things that they can share without hurting themselves etc. etc. — it’s not an ethical principle that’s a familiar one to either academia or the left.

189

Collin Street 08.22.15 at 11:32 pm

I just said it was fair to ask for a bit of elaboration, while repeating that she owes us nothing, etc.

There’s no “just asking”. The act of asking a question stems from the presumption that you’re entitled to, if not the answer then at least for the question to be “considered”. But you don’t have that entitlement; people are entitled to be able to ignore you.

But they can’t, if you’re asking a question. Even refusing you — even ignoring you — takes effort, effort that you’re not entitled to.

Being asked a question is not cost-free. Since noone has an as-of-right entitlement to even the labour of others in telling them to fuck the fuck off, noone has an as-of-right entitlement to ask questions. “I’m just asking” isn’t an adequate justification or explanation or excuse-for-your-actions: unless your questions are reasonable enough and important enough that you can show an obligation on the part of the person you’re asking to give them even a tenth of a second’s consideration, the questions are an unreasonable imposition and should not be asked.

This isn’t I think hard. Unless, you know, you treat people as not having any interests of any importance compared to your own desires, regarding other people as, you know, NPCs.

[the link to empathy problems and my theorised link between unrecognised empathy problems and politics I leave as exercises for the reader.]

[if you’re making an error the fact that you are making an error will — fairly obviously — be invisible to you, even under close observation.
A: “according to my brain, X+Y =>Z”
B: “actually, X+Y => W”
A: “I’ve just checked with my brain, and it tells me that X+Y => Z, so I’m afraid you’re wrong”.
This mechanism means that introspection is less helpful than you might think in spotting or identifying your own errors, and you should put more emphasis on what others are telling you and less on your own thoughts.]

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Saurs 08.22.15 at 11:35 pm

Self-made Randian figures certainly never partook (if partook is what I’m after) of other folks’ labor. That’d be communalism, or summat.

Womanly hands just do the laundry better, is all. Sorting out the whites from the tights, co-mingling the softening stuff with the bleaching potions. Highly complex alchemy. And we’re all the better for their sacrifices. And them, too. Probably.

191

JanieM 08.22.15 at 11:39 pm

If you focus your awareness only upon your own rightness, then you invite the forces of opposition to overwhelm you. This is a common error. Even I, your teacher, have made it.
— The Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam

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Tom Bach 08.22.15 at 11:39 pm

Rich P
The principle, as laid out in the OP, is that jerkily asking for notes is being a jerk and deserves being turned down. The idea that, as someone above notes, BW might share notes when notes deserve to be shared equates never sharing notes is your own Dennis Moorelike, which is to say dumb and – considering the context – sexist, take on a post that has nothing to do with sharing when sharing is the correct course of action. You, and Armando, would be better off responding to what was written rather than insisting that turning down a jerk means never sharing. Unless, of course, you throw your lot in with the privileged jerks of the world, which isn’t, is it?, the point of left redistributionism, should that be a word.

As I read, and still read the BW post, it’s about not agreeing to be a willing participant in a sexist game in which heads they win tails you lose.

193

Tom Bach 08.22.15 at 11:47 pm

Oh and Saurs, y0u were right, of course, to point out that I made what was a clear condemnation of sexism into something else. All apologies. Like most of us, I think, I am a prisoner of my own privilege and, without the aid of others pointing out my errors, would wallow in that endless whatsit of error.

194

Rich Puchalsky 08.22.15 at 11:51 pm

Tom Bach: “The idea that, as someone above notes, BW might share notes when notes deserve to be shared equates never sharing notes is your own Dennis Moorelike, which is to say dumb and – considering the context – sexist, take on a post that has nothing to do with sharing when sharing is the correct course of action.”

Actually, the bit about the ethical principle wasn’t in the post. It was claimed by Anderson, Lynne, and various other people in comments. BW straightforwardly wrote what was obvious: that her experience was her experience, and that she hadn’t been aware of other people’s experiences of places in which it’s actually pretty common to ask strangers for notes.

Since you’ve felt free to call my take dumb and sexist, I’ll point out that you apparently can’t read. Maybe you should read the thread next time, instead of falling over yourself to write a lot of nonsense.

195

Jack Morava 08.23.15 at 12:08 am

Apologies, I’ve arrived pretty late at this party: for Belle with best regards:

from http://laudatortemporisacti.blogspot.com/ (11/26/014)
A Reason to Marry F.F. Bruce (1910-1990), In Retrospect: Remembrance of Things Past (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1980), p. 48 (on Alexander Souter at Aberdeen University):

He was much criticized for being more interested in later Latin than in classical Latin. He thought it right that his students should have at least an introduction to later Latin, so he regularly gave this to his second year class, working according to a quadrennial cycle, in which the set texts were (1) Apuleius’s Cupid and Psyche, (2) the first half of Tertullian’s Apology, (3) the second half of Tertullian’s Apology, (4) Augustine’s De Catechizandis Rudibus. One scholar of my acquaintance affirms that he married his wife, who was a student in the year after him, because he had the notes on the first half of Tertullian’s Apology and she had the notes on the second half, and he wanted to have the complete set.

196

Saurs 08.23.15 at 12:09 am

No worries, Tom Bach, I just find all this studied ignorance about What This Post Actually Is About amusing. Everybody missed the title, I guess. Meanwhile, Belle’s not being a good leftie. As we all well know, women have achieved so much in the last century, serving up their cheat sheets to the prog bros who have, in turn, helped make them more Liberated.

197

Tom Bach 08.23.15 at 12:15 am

Rich P.
Kind regards to you as well. Oddly enough, I wasn’t responding to what I don’t think others were arguing. I didn’t and don’t read the various post supportive of BW not sharing as being arguments for never sharing. You may, of course, do that. But given that your first post insist that asking for notes is perfect normal ignores the reasons provided in the OP for not sharing, I am less than convinced that you, writing before whoeveritwas you insist was elevating not sharing to an ethical principle, were in that post responding to them. Maybe you ought to read your first post and explain how moving the conversation from a specific act of not sharing for cause to an attack all acts of not sharing was trying, you know, to make a legitimate case of not sharing into an attack on sharing.

198

Rich Puchalsky 08.23.15 at 12:45 am

Tom Bach: “You may, of course, do that. ”

Since the comments that I responded to claimed things like (paraphrased) “it’s unethical to share outlines” and “you’re entitled because you asked other people for copies of their notes, even though you always gave out copies of your notes” then I will, thank you.

Here’s the “reasons provided in the OP for not sharing”: “Thus a frat bro whom I didn’t know from Adam approached me one day and asked if he could have a copy. What? What?! Who does this? I declined, obviously, but with insufficient scorn, simply because I was so baffled and astonished. ” BW then goes on about how this guy was a jerk, which I believe. But I was responding to the “Who does this?” part. Actually, lots of people do this, and there are some campuses on which it’s routine. In both the undergrad and grad school that I went to it would have been unusual not to share notes.

199

Belle Waring 08.23.15 at 12:54 am

GET OUT OF MY MIND!

200

Tom Bach 08.23.15 at 1:06 am

Rich P:
Comment 11 from you
“The notes thing strikes me as perfectly normal behavior.” Not one of the comments previous make any claim to or attempt at turning note sharing refusal into an “ethical principle.” Indeed, one must argue, you attempted the opposite. Note sharing is in all circs is normal and, therefore the implication is, not agreeing to share the notes with sexist aholes is not allowed because: reasons. You argued that that not sharing notes with a sexist asshole was abnormal. Maybe the lack of reading ability lies not with your interlocutors, falling all over themselves to write nonsense, but with your own inability to read what your write.

201

Anderson 08.23.15 at 1:23 am

Saurs, yeah, I’ve been thinking Rich finds it ideologically questionable for a woman he’s never met NOT to make him a sandwich. Forward the revolution!

195: I love that blog.

202

js. 08.23.15 at 2:28 am

I’m sure this can be worse for women, though.

I perpetually wear a scowl on my face when I’m walking around by myself. I know this because several friends have pointed it out—also, sometimes, my face hurts when I’ve been walking for a while.* No stranger has ever told or asked me to smile. There are of course exceptions, as your case seems to be, but men just don’t get anything like the treatment on this that women do.

*This is only slightly an exaggeration.

203

Plume 08.23.15 at 3:43 am

Collin @189,

This is a blog, with a comments section underneath. To question our right to question is questionable, to say the least.

This is also not the barricades. No great battles won or lost here, no matter what one might think in their own self-righteous bubble . . . . which is all too often how these things tend to spin out.

But I’ll do some spinning as well.

Belle, IMO, has earned a presumption that she knows what she’s talking bout. Not an unquestioned one. No one gets that in my book. No one. But a presumption that she describes her life experience as accurately as she can.

As a general rule, however, it’s not the best idea to just accept what anyone says, cuz: “privileged access.” This, obviously, cuts both ways and gets some pretty despicable people off the hook. As in, it’s a two-sided sword. Should we cease all questioning of, say, a Darren Wilson, and just take his word for what happened in Ferguson? Me? I don’t believe a word he said beyond stating his name. Or Zimmerman? No way. Should we accept what Bush said about the reason for invading Iraq? Again, I didn’t believe him then and still question everything he ever said. But he had “privileged access,” right? And, of course, even in BW’s original scenario, what happens if the douchecanoe in question comes here, writes his own blog, tells his side of things? Is it then “wrong” to question his take? He, too, has “privileged access.” What if his version of events differs a great deal from BW’s? We’re going to have to question someone’s story then, despite “privileged access.” Does that make us monsters? Of course not. And to ask in order to learn more, to fill in lacunae?

Questioning stuff on a bulletin board is harmless. It’s not a “micro-aggression.” It doesn’t take away someone’s rights, deny them housing, a job, equal pay, custody of children, subject them to illegal searches or brutalize them in any way. It’s just words on a page, to be ignored or answered. To me, making a big fuss over something so incredibly harmless is absurd, and it points to a general devolution in American dialogue, where it seems everyone is trying to top everyone else in righteous indignation about something.

As my father used to say when I was a little kid, “Stop your whining or I’ll give you something to really cry about.” If that righteous indignation is all about the nerve that someone asks for more info on a bulletin board, in a polite and civil manner, which was the case . . . . that person isn’t going to be able to handle actually important shit, at all. Ever.

204

Saurs 08.23.15 at 4:13 am

“Stop your whining or I’ll give you something to really cry about.”

Honest-to-misandry, well-and-truly LOL. Try reading the first sentence of the post again, hun.

I guess that’s it, Belle. If you can’t admit that you’re just like George Zimmerman, you’re never going to be able to “handle” Life as some random dude on the interwebs defines it. When o when will you let the douchecanoe o’ yore tell His Side of Things? Presumably, his Side is very important and must be weighed and considered and maybe fondled a bit (harking back to those duplicitous, trouble-making, note-hordeing co-eds), but in the same breath, we’re Just Talking, Man. Sticks and Stones, bra. Something something indignation, said in a big fat whinging substance-less huff about civility and tone.

205

Saurs 08.23.15 at 4:16 am

“Lacunae,” though, and the, erm, “filling” thereof. Subtext becoming text. Throbbing, engorged text.

206

Plume 08.23.15 at 4:25 am

Saurs @204,

Thanks for proving my point.

None of that was directed at Belle. None of it. It was directed at commenters who tried to turn a simple request for Belle to fill in the gaps into some monstrous affront.

And, no, I wasn’t comparing Belle or anyone else here to Zimmerman, and I’m betting you know it. It wasn’t a comparison at all. It was an “if this, then that” logical continuation. As in, if we say a person can not be asked questions about their statements, or the gaps in those statements, because it’s somehow an affront to their person . . . then this is going to lead to some rather ugly and (perhaps) unintended consequences.

Again, it’s not about Belle. It’s about the implications for such a response to Belle’s post.

207

Saurs 08.23.15 at 4:38 am

Yes, yes, if we can no longer interrogate Belle Waring’s preconceptions about her own experiences, the fascists and the self-righteous will have truly… erm, “indignated” themselves but good. Into “lacunae,” lard willing. /wanking motion

208

JPL 08.23.15 at 6:01 am

Lynne @184

“The opposite of patriarchy isn’t matriarchy, it’s an egalitarian society.”

Thank you for that. There is much wisdom resonating in that little sentence. I wish the world could recognize that wisdom.

209

js. 08.23.15 at 6:01 am

I don’t know, maybe if people stopped doing the “someone is wrong on the internet” thing, this thread would be marginally less awful. Not that I’m suggesting anyone do this, obviously!

210

novakant 08.23.15 at 6:32 am

Well, is, currently we have a sample size of two …

211

novakant 08.23.15 at 6:33 am

that was supposed to read “js” not “is”

212

bob mcmanus 08.23.15 at 6:48 am

208: Bah. After the revolution, maybe. Won’t be any feminism then either.

In the meantime, as political praxis, pretending an ungendered feminism is like “not even seeing color”

The embodied male patriarchy is feminism’s necessary other.

Where men’s subjectivity is to be found after recognizing and abandoning the patriarchy is a very difficult question, but it will not be found in embodied women’s subjectivity, and is very definitely not feminism’s problem.

213

Neville Morley 08.23.15 at 6:53 am

No one ever asked to borrow my notes more than once, presumably due to their combination of idiosyncrasy and illegibility, but I’m completely with BW on the principle of the thing. The NPC analogy is brilliant – for the computer age; in my (pencil, paper and D20) day, NPCs were lovingly hand-crafted and messed with at one’s peril.

214

Belle Waring 08.23.15 at 9:35 am

WHY GOD. Y?

215

Val 08.23.15 at 9:39 am

“JPL 08.23.15 at 6:01 am
Lynne @184

“The opposite of patriarchy isn’t matriarchy, it’s an egalitarian society.”

Thank you for that. There is much wisdom resonating in that little sentence. I wish the world could recognize that wisdom.”

Not to be snarky or anything (not at all, I’m very glad others are saying it) but I have been saying this for some time on CT threads (and elsewhere).

Sort of feel I need to emphasise this because in the eyes of some feminists here (lookin at you JanieM), I’m a terrible person who should piss off and not comment on CT threads again – so nice to see some people agreeing with some of the stuff I’ve been saying.

216

Lynne 08.23.15 at 12:27 pm

Val, I know. I very nearly cited you as a reference. :)

217

Consumatopia 08.23.15 at 1:51 pm

Wait a second, everyone. Have we considered what life would be like if we could all really be NPCs?

Each of us writes a computer-RPG-style dialogue tree for ourselves, records a video of ourselves reading our lines in the dialogue, and then when someone walks up to us with Google Glass, Microsoft HoloLens, or similar vaporware, they can just push a button on their controller and have a real-time “conversation” with us without actually bothering us? Your dialogue tree could even have stat-checks, with everyone’s statistics rated and stored by trusted third parties. Can I have your notes? Only if you’re in my social network, your grade in the class is lower than mine, and you have sufficient reputation and charisma points! (Actually, on second thought you can’t have my notes because reading them will only make you stupider–my notes are terrible.)

Hang on, is this why Facebook purchased Oculus Rift? That decision makes much more sense to me now.

218

Plume 08.23.15 at 2:12 pm

Sours @207,

Yes, yes, “interrogate” is exactly the right word. It’s all been just like the Gestapo: “Ve have vays of makings you talk!!! Bwahahaha!!!”

Hyperbole, much?

As with so many of these threads, piling on by commenters in search of their holier than thou fix for the day makes everything seem far, far worse than it is. It’s almost as if they realize they have to nitpick things to death, exaggerate them to absurd degrees, wind them up, to justify their initial ridiculous overreaction. Enough of that and it almost does seem like something’s there. Mostly because of the back and forth between the holier than thou crowd and their intended targets. The OP becomes less than secondary through all of this, ironically. Which I think Belle is expressing in her variations on OMG exasperation.

Anyway, time to exit, stage left.

219

Val 08.23.15 at 2:12 pm

@ 216 thanks Lynn :)

Just to have a go at looping back to what the post was about (is it possible? Is Belle off somewhere gnashing her teeth and rending her hair?), the NPC concept does remind me of something a man I used to know very well once said to me. Not using this to be mean, there’s a lot of complexities etc etc, but when I went back to the study of history and women’s history had become a thing, he said that he’d always thought of history as something that men made and women followed along behind, sort of thing.

I mean he was being honest, that’s what patriarchy taught us in school until feminism taught (some of) us better, he hadn’t studied much history, Australian history at school in those days had a massive focus on explorers (White of course), and he was just reflecting on that received knowledge.

OR WAS HE?

Anyway it’s certainly a view of women as NPCs in history.

220

David Blake 08.23.15 at 2:45 pm

I feel like anNPC myself in this dialogue, since I went to a British university and we don’t have fraternities. Is it because this person is male that they are assumed not to take the author seriously? Or because he is in a fraternity?
I would think it perfectly normal to either ask or be asked for notes. In my case it would unfortunately have been pointless to ask me, since I gave up taking notes when I realised that I could not read my handwriting. For my key chemistry exam I had to borrow someone else’s notes the week before because I did not know which elements we had studied.
If your had, I suppose it would have been cyclostyled your notes and sold the knowledge in them for $50 would that have been all right? Did you feel like an NPC because frat boy assumed you were giving it away?

221

harry b 08.23.15 at 3:23 pm

He was male, and not taking Belle seriously, just feeling entitled, and uninhibited about showing it. In those days (probably less so now) being in a fraternity at an Ivy sort of sealed the deal, but it is, strictly speaking, an unnecessary condition, just a detail that makes the whole thing more vivid for US readers. If you’re English, and not upper class, but have been around people of your own age who are, you have almost certainly experienced something like it, even if you are male. (University, for me, was where I first experienced it, but, interestingly, I did again when I went back to London for a couple of years in my late-30’s, after 15 years in the US).

222

bianca steele 08.23.15 at 3:26 pm

Oh, why does no one ask Rich for more details so we can understand whether his note sharing group was really exactly as he’s represented it?

223

bianca steele 08.23.15 at 3:49 pm

My own never to be completed much less published and in fact as yet nonexistent novel already has a scene in it touching on the subculture Belle alludes to. In Classics I assume it was worse, along the lines of the students in The Secret History, which I’m sure Belle has read.

224

Plume 08.23.15 at 3:53 pm

Bianca @222,

Jumping back in for a moment. I am in no way defending Rick. I find several of the things he’s said to be nasty, offensive, petty and absurd, and because I’ve called him on it, he’s now ignoring my posts. But in this case, he seems to have spent a few paragraphs providing those details. He didn’t use ellipses. Whereas Belle utilized her wit, flare for cultural memes and links, spiced with a bit of anger, but did not provide any details about what seems to have been the core event.

Again, this is the entire description. All of it.

Thus a frat bro whom I didn’t know from Adam approached me one day and asked if he could have a copy.

Be honest. If a man had written this blog, describing an encounter in this same, exact way, would you not ask for a bit more detail about said encounter? Like, how did he approach the author? What non-verbal cues were in play? Was he condescending, dismissive, smirking, snarky, etc.?

And, as already mentioned, how would you react to the person Belle talks about above? If he told his side of things in such an open-ended, almost “neutral” manner, would you jump to defend him against requests for further details? Wouldn’t you want to get a better idea as to why he did what he did?

225

bianca steele 08.23.15 at 4:06 pm

I’d like to see statistical data on the demographics of who gets asked to provide more information or further analysis, and who gets responded to in different ways.

I say this knowing that the response will be snarky tag-ons to every comment by a woman, telling her not to engage the sexist requests for more info, EXCEPT when that’s actually what happened.

226

Plume 08.23.15 at 4:07 pm

Bianca,

Also notice this. Belle talks, at least directly, about three men. I asked for no further explication about two of the three. Because, from where I sit, she provided plenty of info about them and, while being just as brief, made them come alive in a way for me. The lechy professor who wanted to take advantage of the student; the disloyal boyfriend who questioned Belle’s agency in her own grades. My initial reaction was to pretty much loathe both of them. But the frat guy — and, again, as mentioned, I have a general aversion to the fraternity system and a large number of its members — the frat guy was not brought to life, IMO.

All I did was seek more information.

The horror!!

227

bianca steele 08.23.15 at 4:12 pm

Plume, Whole monographs could be written explaining why the “frat guy” was not brought to life (as a “character” [sic]) for you, and monographs more explaining what it means.

228

JanieM 08.23.15 at 4:13 pm

Anyway, time to exit, stage left.

Promises, promises.

229

bianca steele 08.23.15 at 4:17 pm

There is an interesting double bind illustrated by the anecdote, where if the writer emphasizes the “elite” character of the setting, the story becomes a comment on the sins of the wealthy, and if the writer emphasizes the universal-male aspect of the incident, it becomes a comment on the essentially “elite” character of maleness itself. I’m sure there’s a theoretical term for this.

230

Plume 08.23.15 at 4:21 pm

Bianca @227,

Please give it a go, then. Looking forward to it.

Now, do you feel better about jumping on everything I’ve said? Superior? Holier than thou?

I imagine you do, and I hope it sustains you right into old age.

231

Plume 08.23.15 at 4:24 pm

Bianca @229,

Yes, it’s called digging for outrage, and making sure you strike gold no matter what. Even when no such gold exists, and all you really find are shiny rocks.

232

bianca steele 08.23.15 at 4:26 pm

Plume,

If I’d believed your statement that the character didn’t come alive for you was a visceral aesthetic reaction, rather than a coy statement of some theoretical commitment that you’d like me to work hard to figure out but that you know you shouldn’t be pushing here overtly, my supercilious response would have been otherwise.

But if you’d prefer people to believe you decided to respond to a complaint about being asked for more info, by asking for more info, not out of irony, but because you didn’t realize what you were doing, be my guest.

233

bianca steele 08.23.15 at 4:27 pm

Similarly if you’d like people to believe you don’t know what “outrage ” means.

234

Plume 08.23.15 at 4:34 pm

Bianca @232,

It has nothing to do with “not knowing what you’re doing.” It has everything to do with the request being perfectly reasonable and done politely and with civility. This is the comments section of a blog, for goddess sake!! And there was nothing “coy” about any of this, despite your insistence upon reading it this way.

Notice the hypocrisy just screaming out from your own complaints. You expect readers here to take what Belle said, ellipses and all, as is, without question or comment — again, in a comments section. But you refuse to take what I’m saying on face value, and insist upon inventing all kinds of sinister motives behind it all, projecting your own preconceived notions on text that won’t support them.

Again, I’m waiting for those monograms.

235

Plume 08.23.15 at 4:38 pm

Bianca @233,

As the young kids used to say, OMG!!

Are you trying to read something sexist into the use of the word “outrage” now? Un-be-leevable. Seriously. You’ve jumped the shark.

236

Donald Johnson 08.23.15 at 4:50 pm

This thread goes beyond circular firing squads–it’s more fractal in nature. This is why I usually just lurk here, except when the subject is one of my tiny handful of pet issues where I fondly imagine I’m on firm ground. The original post was in part about an arrogant frat boy-seemed simple enough. I read about half this thread and what with people having their own pet issues and projecting them onto Belle’s story, plus personal feuds, hurt feelings, and misunderstandings–well, it seems like lurking is usually the best policy around here.

Carry on.

237

bob mcmanus 08.23.15 at 4:51 pm

This defensive panic is unbecoming Plume.

You blew your cover and Saurs caught ya bigtime. Give it a rest, sweet talkin man. The nice girls will forget and forgive in time.

238

Anderson 08.23.15 at 5:01 pm

223: human sacrifice?

… I have read that novel 10 times at least.

239

Plume 08.23.15 at 5:03 pm

Bob@237,

Not true at all. Saurs did nothing more than invent nonsense and project it onto texts that can’t support it. It’s just a silly “gotcha” game, with admittedly no escape. Justified defense just becomes more grist for the game.

Which means there’s no way out except for leaving. Which, of course, was the goal all along.

See yaz.

240

bianca steele 08.23.15 at 5:23 pm

Anderson:

Are you giving away your age? I was older when it came out and didn’t realize it had become a cult novel. The Great Gatsby was my favorite book at the time and I liked the literary allusions, which was a thing at the time in novels but doesn’t seem to have caught on.

241

Kalkaino 08.23.15 at 6:47 pm

Belle,

Although I never doubted your account of sexual harassment, and also think the frat boy who asked for your notes was being mildly dickish and you well within your rights to refuse, I’m sorry I just can’t let this go, not after you snarked on me (72, 3.), and especially after you sought to dazzle us with BS.

First, nobody was sniping at your book leaning. I’ll bet that pretty much everybody who reads this blog has a fair amount of that, probably a lot of experience of academia as well – otherwise it just wouldn’t be at all interesting to the reader. Still, even in this circle, when you drop mention of your high GPA, no matter how much you aw-shucks it, people get to twit you mildly about it.

If one were to be uncharitable, one might at this point bring up the dubiousness of the Ivy League “A,” and mention how many people with experience of teaching at such universities, and also at less august and pricey ones, are inclined to lament the outrageous grade-inflation at the former. It could well be that that the significance of the “A” is inversely proportional to the tuition charged by the awarding institution – but that would be a hard study to get funded. And surely none of this was true back in your undergraduate days.

Still, when, having bragged about your cum laudes and all, you make a teensy error, people get to twit you about that with reference to your earlier horn-tooting. You should take such twitting like a good sport, and resolve to edit yourself better and resist the temptation to drop that sort of GPA-specific information.

But, coming to the point: you are flat wrong about “homes” being a common or current back-formation from homeboy and just because you can throw out some linguistic squid-ink doesn’t change the case. Your etymology is false – plausible, but false. It’s analogous to the belief that, for instance, “satire” is rooted in “satyr.” That too is plausible, sort of interesting or resonant, but factually false. In the case of “homes,” cursory perusal of dictionaries suggests that there may have been documented usages of “homie” before this sense of “Holmes;” for example: “from the 1920s in New Zealand in the sense of ‘recently arrived British immigrant.’” Still, partly because I was in graduate school and recall English department discussion of the locution when it appeared on our pop culture screens (early 80s), I doubt very seriously “homie” had any general currency before “Holmes.” Moreover, “homes,” in your sense, has no currency in the vernacular now. When, dabbling in dialect, one uses the homophone, the listener or reader rightly assumes you mean “Holmes.” And not Sherlock either – as so many web experts have it.

The original epithet “Holmes” is black men’s funny ironizing of racist stereotype by association with a scuzzy, white, pop-culture Priapus. This piquancy is precisely why the locution became current – which is not to say that all who invoke the epithet today have John Holmes in mind. Language morphs, “couldn’t care less” becomes its Orwellian correlative; there’s not much point in gnashing teeth much about it. Still, when you insist upon “homes,” lopping off that troublesome l, you’re putting pantaloons on the piano “limbs.”

Finally, since your post claims to introduce a new and apt analogy, let me just hark back to my own analogy. The false etymology, like any solecism, is no crime, but in some circles it will, rightly or wrongly, be like spinach in the teeth. There’s nothing inherently wrong with spinach in the teeth either. There may even be cultures where it betokens high status, but it’s very rarely the move one wants to go for in ours.

242

Anderson 08.23.15 at 9:57 pm

240: I was 22 or so when it came out – the local paper ran a story when she signed her contract (Mississippi girl makes good), & I was so psyched I bought it at her book signing in Jackson MS. It’s not a great book, but it’s a fun one.

243

Saurs 08.23.15 at 10:57 pm

It’s almost as if they realize they have to nitpick things to death

Ha, hmm. Yes. Yes, it is, isn’t it.

244

Saurs 08.23.15 at 11:11 pm

Most of our lecturers forbid us from mentioning “that trashy Tartt potboiler,” except to larf at the translations. Last time I skimmed through, it felt very Nancy-Drew-Meets-and-Stands-in-Awe-of-Her-Betters, but I suppose you could look at it as humorously meta. I kind of liked Daniel Handler’s spoof on it.

Is she worth reading beyond the one, anyone know?

245

Haftime 08.23.15 at 11:23 pm

Kalkaino – you got any references for that? I did a little googling and I am not convinced.

I looked at a few ‘home’ based slang terms with equivalent meanings, and the OED has citations (in relevant senses and in the right kind of places) for

‘homie’: 1929
‘home’: 1942
‘homeboy’: 1965
‘homes’: 1970
‘home X’: (e.g. piece, slice) 1974,1980 respectively

Webster has:
‘homeboy’: 1927
‘homey’: 1945
Neither lists holmes. It seems somewhat unlikely that John Holmes would be the source of all the home based slang as his career didn’t really take off till the mid 70s (from wikipedia, to declare). I searched google books for hey holmes (to get round the false positive problem) and hey homes, and could only find examples from the latter before 1980 (admittedly, not many). It also seems that homes is more chicano slang (though not by any means exclusively) – which would also act against your theory, I think.

As you say, etymology is often difficult due to the ease of being seduced by pleasing explanations. I’m afraid I don’t have (and am not sure what would be) the canonical references for slang etymology, but from the evidence I’m not sure you should be giving out about other people’s spelling, especially when it doesn’t bear any particular relevance to the discussion.

246

Ronan(rf) 08.23.15 at 11:45 pm

This John Holmes bullshit is just an Anoraks counterintuitive mildly plausibly but utter nonsensical party piece. Having said that, If this pile of shit story laid out in 241 turns out to be true I’ll apologise profusely and declare you an etymological genius, kalkaino.

247

Ronan(rf) 08.24.15 at 1:09 am

Kalkaino, I apologise for the diatribe in the previous comment. Although i still think you’re on etymologically dodgy ground here.

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Bill Benzon 08.24.15 at 1:12 am

@Belle, 214: Sisyphus?

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harry b 08.24.15 at 1:59 am

Saurs — where on earth did that come from? For what its worth, I read the first book, and throughout the first 350 pages wondered why I was still reading, since all the characters made me want to throw up, and the author seemed to admire them but…. the last 1/3rd of the book was just fantastically good. People tell me she is laughing at them, not admiring them. I don’t know what to think. I haven’t been able to get myself to read the other books, though.

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Belle Waring 08.24.15 at 2:15 am

Kalkaino: the grades thing is fair though it seemed integral to the story. I acknowledged “holmes” as an alternate spelling and refuse to think the one more blood-precious than the other. They are both OK.

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Belle Waring 08.24.15 at 4:27 am

I agree with bianca that we need WAY more details about Rich’s groups. Were they organized for each class? How many lectures did you even need to attend once you raceme part of this informal–yet charmed–circle? If I’m straightforwardly peacocking around about my grades, is Rich #humblebragging when he explains he had loftier intellectual goals in college than attending mere lectures? Were all the people in “the ring” politically OK, or did Rich’s charity towards all and malice to no frat guy bind him to handing his sweat-stains notes over to all of Sigma Mu? Also, what about body language? I think if he wants to get his point across he’s obliged to put in a lot more detail.

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Saurs 08.24.15 at 4:51 am

I was hoping Rich might tell us what the Little Rock Nine did with their notes.

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Collin Street 08.24.15 at 5:31 am

Why, it’s almost as if there’s a correlation between “made best ‘learning’ progress reading notes produced by others” and “unable to read social implications in the discourse you’re engaging not just with but in”.

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Anderson 08.24.15 at 12:04 pm

244: The Secret History is funny. Henry translating Milton into Latin? & not having ever heard about the moon landing? The drug-abuse quiz-bowl team? Yes the characters are unattractive – they commit murder on page 1! It’s a college novel with Southern gothic touches.

I don’t know anyone who managed to read The Little Friend – I sure could not. The Goldfinch is a good read.

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Lynne 08.24.15 at 12:49 pm

Hmmm, The Goldfinch is a divisive read. People love it or hate it. My husband read it almost in one gulp (he was travelling and stuck in airports) which so astonished me that I gave it, unread, to a friend, and read it myself as soon as I could. But then I had to force myself to toil through it to the end, hoping to find what he found so enjoyable.

Different strokes….

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Anderson 08.24.15 at 12:59 pm

I’m very much a reader for the plot, which I guess is why I actually finished The Fountainhead, just to see what happened. Once the kid got to Nevada, I was hooked.

I wonder how much Tartt’s reception is affected by her being uninterested in depicting a normal post-adolescent adult. Both her male protagonists have an attenuated sexuality that has set me to googling Tartt’s own relationship history (sketchy).

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Plume 08.24.15 at 1:04 pm

I loved The Goldfinch, though I think she could have made a great many cuts to the book. Whereas I have issues leaving out too much info (in my own novels), as mentioned, and fall short in scene-painting at times, I think Donna Tartt, in that novel, spends too much time setting some of her scenes. But it’s a wonderful read, nonetheless, and stayed with me. One of my favorite novels of the last few years.

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Plume 08.24.15 at 1:23 pm

She is a really good psychologist of souls, and gets into the heads of her characters really well. Layers and layers of it. While a movie would lose this, the story is good enough to make a fine film, IMO. Hopefully it wouldn’t get the same poor film treatment as another of my favorite recent novels, The Elegance of the Hedgehog.

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Lynne 08.24.15 at 1:23 pm

I read for character, I think. Of course plot is important, but I need to care about the character, or at least find him/her deeply interesting. I didn’t get any of that in The Goldfinch. And there was no suspense. She told us the mother died long before she showed us the death, by which time I was impatient. We were meant to be surprised by the contents of the package, but I wasn’t. There were other surprises that failed to surprise, too. Just frustrating and boring from beginning to end. It was my husband’s turn to be astonished. :)

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Plume 08.24.15 at 1:37 pm

Lynne,

I can see that reaction too. But, again, I think she gave us more than enough insights into her characters to make up for any defects. One of them, I think, would have prevented an unpublished novelist from ever getting out of the pile of unread manuscripts. Her beginning was very slow, I thought. The explosion in the gallery dragged on for me.

I bought it based on rave reviews from several critics, and many a “best novel of the year” list. Unless I’m mixing up my years, it appeared along with other recent purchases like The Lowlands and The Flamethrowers, both of which I really liked as well. Currently finishing up yet another from that list of lists, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, which took a long time to get into as well. Finally to the point of real enjoyment and respect, as with the other novels.

I never do the above. Am generally more of a “wait until it’s aged a bit like fine wine” kind of reader. But I saw a consensus of sorts about these books so went on a buying binge. Anyway, my favorite of the favorites is probably Kushner’s novel, with Lahiri’s a close second. It was a good year for books.

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Anderson 08.24.15 at 3:22 pm

I thought the cruel line from the NYRB review applied perfectly to The Flamethrowers: a film treatment, not a novel.

And I am terrible at guessing what’s going to happen, so the package in The Goldfinch took me by surprise.

I do read for style & character as well, but plotting is something I’m unable to do in my own (unpublished & will remain so) writing, so it impresses me more, I guess.

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novakant 08.24.15 at 4:49 pm

PLEASE USE SPOILER ALERTS LIKE SO
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>

thanks

I liked “The Secret History” quite a bit, have bought but not read The Goldfinch – my mother didn’t like it be because of all the depravity and she isn’t very squeamish or prude, rather she thought it was boring.

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Witt 08.24.15 at 5:07 pm

I made it through about 200 comments in this thread. Kinda hoping the next time Belle posts, we can get an early warning so the first 10-15 comments in the thread can be made by people with a track record of engaging productively with her posts.

Oh, and good on Zöe. Laser-like ability to identify power differential and abstract a broader point from it FTW! Must get it from her mother.

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Anderson 08.24.15 at 6:03 pm

262: depravity? Lots of substance abuse, is all that comes to mind. Tartt could use some more depravity IMHO.

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Plume 08.24.15 at 6:48 pm

Lynne,

What recent books have knocked you out? Any that you absolutely loved?

I also recently read The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters, which I liked a lot, too. Bought that after reading a rave review by Michael Dirda of Book World, and remembered her from BBC productions of earlier books. Though I think she created a story too good for its ending. It was a bit of a let down — the last part of the book — but not enough to spoil the whole thing. She writes beautifully.

Another really excellent and recent novel is The Door, by Magda Szabo. Highly recommend it.

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Lynne 08.24.15 at 7:07 pm

Plume, I haven’t read any of the books you mention. I’m not a big fan of Sarah Waters, she seems more interested in the historical setting than the characters, IMO—Fingersmith and a couple of others are what I’m basing that on.

I recently read Mary Lawson’s Crow Lake, and liked it very much. But I’m afraid of irreparable thread drift, don’t know if we should be talking about literature here….Seeing Witt’s comment makes me wish my first comment in this thread had been more substantive. Lord, I wish Belle’s threads didn’t go south so often because I’d like more posts by her (more non-music posts, anyway. Heh.)

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Anderson 08.24.15 at 7:08 pm

Seconding Plume on The Door. Fascinating character study.

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Plume 08.24.15 at 7:17 pm

Lynne,

Thanks. Ironically, for me the only comments I’d like to see remain in the thread (from my own keyboard) are these last few. I wish I could turn back the hands of time and negate all of the above, except for those on literature.

Anyway . . . I also wish Belle would blog more, and include posts about her poetry and the poetry of others, etc. Literature, Art and Music . . . . those gifts of the human spirit are really what keep me wanting to get up in the morning. Biased, I know, but I really think it’s the best of what we achieve as human beings, at least in a tangible sense. The arts.

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Plume 08.24.15 at 7:18 pm

Anderson,

It was really fine writing, and it stays with me. Makes me want to find more of her works in translation.

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Lynne 08.24.15 at 7:34 pm

Going to look for The Door! Thanks for the recommendation, Plume and Anderson.

“Biased, I know, but I really think it’s the best of what we achieve as human beings, at least in a tangible sense.”

Yeah, I hear you.

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LFC 08.24.15 at 7:38 pm

I think The Secret History is a good novel. Some of the character-drawing and a lot of the dialogue is skillfully done. The anxieties of the narrator, who is from a somewhat ‘lower’ class background than the rest of the ‘circle’, are handled memorably.
Yes, aspects of it are funny, but Anderson’s remarks about the book seem to me sort of damning with faint praise, esp. coming from someone who says he’s read it ten times. (Possibly, in fact, that’s the problem: maybe only the greatest novels can stand ten readings.)

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Anderson 08.24.15 at 8:10 pm

My love for The Secret History is more shameful than that. I kinda wished that was how my undergrad had been (minus a homicide or two). Total nerd candy.

And, again, funny. The final exam in Invariant Subspaces? The scene with Bunny taking Richard out to eat? (Tartt chose that to read at the book signing I went to.)

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ZM 08.24.15 at 10:37 pm

Now that we are talking about books, I wanted to correct Rich Puchalsky @81

“I think of William Morris. His “The Well at the World’s End” is supposed to be the first fantasy novel that takes place in an imaginary world, rather than a mock-medieval setting or some kind of fantastic setting on our Earth. So it grounds the whole 20th century fantasy genre in some sense. ”

The first fantasy book set in another world AFAIK was by Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle in the 17th C — “The Description of a New World, Called The Blazing-World”

“As its full title suggests, Blazing World is a fanciful depiction of a satirical, utopian kingdom in another world (with different stars in the sky) that can be reached via the North Pole. It is “the only known work of utopian fiction by a woman in the 17th century, as well as one of the earliest examples of what we now call ‘science fiction’ — although it is also a romance, an adventure story, and even autobiography.”[2]

A young woman enters this other world, becomes the empress of a society composed of various species of talking animals, and organizes an invasion back into her world complete with submarines towed by the “fish men” and the dropping of “fire stones” by the “bird men” to confound the enemies of her homeland, the Kingdom of Esfi.

The work was republished in 1668 with Cavendish’s Observations upon Experimental Philosophy and thus functioned as an imaginative component to what was otherwise a reasoned endeavour in 17th century science.

Cavendish’s book inspired a notable sonnet by her husband, William Cavendish, 1st Duke of Newcastle-upon-Tyne, which celebrates her imaginative powers. The sonnet was included in her book.”

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Blazing_World

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Saurs 08.24.15 at 11:08 pm

I wonder how much Tartt’s reception is affected by her being uninterested in depicting a normal post-adolescent adult.

Hmm. What I noted (with some disappointment) was Tartt’s inability or disinterest in creating full-fledged female characters: I counted brainless shrews, nags, a manic pixie dream girl, and a fuzzy, shapeless, motiveless, and motherly dea ex machina for the epilogue.

Both her male protagonists have an attenuated sexuality that has set me to googling Tartt’s own relationship history (sketchy).

I’ve rarely encountered a sexually well-adjusted protagonist in pop literature, but fine. Do you do that with male novelists, as well, or would you be attached to your computer for the rest of your life?

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Saurs 08.24.15 at 11:24 pm

What I noted (with some disappointment) was Tartt’s inability or disinterest in creating full-fledged female characters: I counted brainless shrews, nags, a manic pixie dream girl, and a fuzzy, shapeless, motiveless, and motherly dea ex machina for the epilogue.

What I mean by this — I hate to flog a horse that’s rapidly becoming glue, but Easton Ellis did this just fine — is that it’s more than possible, of course, to concoct a male narrator who hates or misunderstands or pays no close attention to (except through his boner) women, whose misogyny clearly taints or at least compromises his reliability as a narrator of events. If I remember correctly, TSH’s narrator Richard pines for (brilliant-for-a-woman but fortunately otherwise intellectually-unthreatening) Camilla (praised initially for her femininity and girlish-ness, later scorned for being a manipulative ice queen) but reluctantly settles for a similarly intellectually-unthreatening, wholesome, and dull education major who barely has a name and who has no character at all.

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Anderson 08.24.15 at 11:56 pm

Saurs, I hope I’m not picking on female novelists in general. I am none too subtly implying that Tartt is closeted gay, based on her characters in 2 novels and on a paucity of contrary evidence googled online. Matters nada in the grand scheme of things, but we Mississippi folks do love our gossip.

****** SPOILERS, NOVAKANT! *******

I think Francis is the one who ends up with the bland girl – the conversation-killer, tho I didn’t recall her being an ed major. (Unless you’re thinking of Charles’s friend he meets in detox, also not an ed major.) Richard’s gf is a dancer who breaks up with him. And I don’t think Camilla’s an ice queen – she’s in love with Henry, and his being dead doesn’t change that. (Now, does the emphasis on unattainable relationships give Tartt a bit of an excuse to avoid describing an attained relationship, as also in The Goldfinch? Maybe.)

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LFC 08.25.15 at 1:07 am

Anderson @276
You not only don’t know Tartt’s sexual orientation; if she is gay, you don’t know whether or with whom she’s open about it, because you’re not a friend or acquaintance of hers. What you appear to mean by “closeted” is “not out to the reading public,” but ‘closeted’ is not a particularly good word for conveying that meaning, imo.

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bianca steele 08.25.15 at 1:48 am

Richard also is in love with Henry, no? I just skimmed the last chapter and that’s how it’s left. C can’t marry R because she loves H. R also loves H. In a novel, this might be the basis for a beautiful friendship. But C tells R that’s not how it works, and goes back to life out her spinster life.

This is a cool discussion. Saurs is channeling some vulgar feminist critique and is going to dismiss DT because as a women writer she’s obliged to challenge literary gender norms all by herself. (Please give us details of what truly outrageous behavior makes those characters “shrews”–do they refuse to share their class notes?). Anderson AFAICT thinks Richard is really a woman and DT’s inability to see that, makes her necessarily gay. Hooray!

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Saurs 08.25.15 at 2:56 am

Anderson, I don’t quite follow the relationship among Tartt’s critical reception, her own “sketchy” relationship history, and the sexuality of her male protagonists (queer, I’m assuming you’re suggesting). Her handling of Francis and of the twins’ incest may have made the almost obligatory homoeroticism less interesting to me.

You’re right: Bunny was the one dating a woman studying education.

bianca, I’m not educated or well-read enough to criticize a “women writer” feministically or otherwise. I did find the book cartoonish, though, and therefore do not expect someone like its author to Solve Misogyny for me. Neither do I think it’s particularly provocative to note that — surprise! — women can be unimaginative misogynists, too, and be lauded for it!

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LFC 08.25.15 at 3:09 am

bianca s.
Richard also is in love with Henry, no?

No, not in the way you mean. Richard just tells Camilla at the end that he loved (the deceased) Henry because he’s trying everything he can to persuade Camilla to marry him. You can’t just read last chapter. Have to read the novel.

Anderson AFAICT thinks Richard is really a woman and DT’s inability to see that, makes her necessarily gay. Hooray!

Anderson didn’t say that. As for the character Richard, I’m not sure exactly what Anderson meant (or if he was even referring to Richard). But my reading of the novel is that Richard is quite clearly heterosexual. He’s in love with Camilla, and he fends off the advances of Francis, the one character who’s clearly gay. (In fact Richard, as first-person narrator, has at least one passage where he talks directly to the reader about these matters.)

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bianca steele 08.25.15 at 3:55 am

@280

No, in the Plato’s Symposium, Shakespeare’s Sonnets sense. He would be in love with any or all of them, or Julian, if he could, but he’s straight–and so is Henry–and there’s only one woman among them.

I don’t know what Anderson meant, but he seems to be alluding to a fairly well known attack, and if he wants to distance himself from that very common criticism of TSH, he’ll need to provide more details.

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Anderson 08.25.15 at 9:41 am

“Anderson AFAICT thinks Richard is really a woman and DT’s inability to see that, makes her necessarily gay.”

That is so bizarre I don’t even know how to reply. How is Tartt “unable” to see something about her own character Richard? How is he “really a woman”? Women have some sort of hesitance about sex?

Theo in The Goldfinch is a reprise of Richard in some respects, particularly as relates to sex – down to the abortive gay encounter. (In TSH, R says he doesn’t know how it would’ve ended up had they not been interrupted. Southern gothic isn’t what it used to be – she has to trot out incest to find something that’s still shocking these days.) It’s hard to draw conclusions with someone who’s written only 3 novels in 25 years, but there’s a thing going on here, even if I don’t know what it is. I certainly didn’t say she was “necessarily” anything.

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Anderson 08.25.15 at 4:41 pm

Appealing from moderation-of-comments Purgatory here … thanks!?

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Suzanne 08.25.15 at 8:12 pm

Just popping in to add my voice to those who have no problem with sharing notes or even the occasional outline. Never knew anyone else who had an issue with it, either. I suppose I might get peevish after repeated requests from a chronic class-skipper, which never happened.

On on occasion in high school several guys on the football team sat next to me (we were at circular tables) so they could copy off my exam. I guess it could be regarded as male entitlement, but it was only the once, and years later I could remind one of them about it at opportune moments (and still do).

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Lyle 08.26.15 at 1:12 pm

Well then Suzanne, it looks like all is right with the world. Feminism won! /s

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