male undergrad

A frightening story

(Trigger warning for harassment, stalking, threats, and victim blaming.)

I’m a fresh computer-science grad. My major was web programming. The final semester, which happened just months ago, was rough.

One of my classes was reserved for people enrolled in one of two fields: web programming or computer programming. It was a course where the objective was to use all of our knowledge about writing, programming, the law, and ethics to create a real program or web site for a real client outside the school. This project was to be completed, as a team, by the entire class.

One of my classmates was an older man who knew nothing about web programming or web design and insisted that we were in a business class. How he got into the class in the first place, I have no idea.

He tried to mansplain dozens of things to me right off the bat, but the real trouble began when he insisted on stealing images from around the Internet to decorate our client’s web site. I told him we couldn’t do it.

Anyone who paid attention in the required freshman-level classes would have known that. Heck, tons of people who didn’t take any classes know that already because chances are they found out on the Internet. But he insisted that because I wasn’t a lawyer, I didn’t know anything about copyright law and I was not qualified to talk about it. He also said that if I was worried about the law I would have to drive to a faraway city to talk to a real lawyer and ask him to make sure we weren’t breaking any rules.

Then he told me to “stick to your programming and let the lawyers handle the law” – the equivalent of “get back in the kitchen”.

When I explained that I had taken my classes that addressed copyright law, and that the head of the department herself could confirm everything I told him, he brushed it off and said the she didn’t know what she was talking about either because she was “just a teacher”.

This is where it goes from mansplaining to something even worse, so I’ll understand if this one isn’t published.

After this he began harassing me. The verbal abuse, the on-campus stalking, the sexual harassment, and even some anti-LGBT harassment lasted for over a month. He continued challenging my knowledge of my own field, and every time he tried to assert that I knew absolutely nothing. Over and over again, he made his motive clear – that he considered telling him he couldn’t steal images a threat.

To cut a long and painful story short, it turned into a Kafkaesque nightmare with the Title IX coordinator telling me I was to blame, believing my harasser’s claims that I was the one harassing him, forcing me to attend mediation (in which my harasser threatened to stalk me off campus), and letting my harasser force terms on me to keep me completely silent and unheard in the class under threat of suspension.

I dropped the class to regain control, gained full credit elsewhere with help from the wonderful head of the department, and graduated on time as planned.

As for my harasser, by the time the semester ended he’d managed to drive away everyone but one sycophant. Together they ran the project into the ground and failed.

I later found out that my Title IX coordinator’s actions were illegal and that my harasser has a criminal record (violence, destruction of property, stalking, resisting arrest) and existing restraining orders against him. He had used his experience as an actual stalker and criminal to avoid disciplinary action when I made it clear I wasn’t going to take his abuse.

Abuse that was somehow “justified” because I corrected a man before I knew just how evil and creepy he was. And the Title IX coordinator fell for it. Wow.

Feminism mansplained to me

I worked at an historical archives center this summer alongside other university students. At some point, I was talking to a colleague about how I often thread a thin line between being angry or being amused when I read articles about women in our 1910-1930s newspaper collection. One of my colleagues (currently pursuing a master’s degree in literature) jumped in the conversation. We pretty much had the following exchange:

Him: Ha, as long as you don’t become one of those crazy feminists!

Me: And what if I am already?

Him: Ah, well, that’s up to you really, you could put that energy to better use. It’s not like there’s still sexism to fight.

Me: Oh, I can assure you that sexism still exists, even if I agree that it’s less obvious than it was in the 1930s newspapers. Just look at sexual assault statistics, the wage gap, workplace discrimination, and all that jazz. That stuff is still happening as we speak.

Him: Well, you know, that’s just the way things are. Those things are hardly important problems in today’s world, if you compare them to racism, poverty in Africa and Latin America, pollution or human trafficking. Anyway, the sexism that we have today is just the leftovers of, like, two thousand years of patriarchy! It can’t just change overnight, you know! As a matter of fact, it’s probably going to take another two thousand years before mentalities completely change. So why bother?

I ran out of time to explain to him that the patriarchy had lasted so long exactly because of the people who supported the status quo. Some supported it with their ardent approval, and some with their indifference, just like he did. Why bother, he said? Because if he, a brilliant educated young man, is still lacking the historical perspective to understand the utility of feminism all the while manipulating century-old newspapers, then the world needs change more than ever.

In which: a cis-hetero-white-male tells me a thing about the innate nature of gender

As a graduate student nearing completion of both a master’s of sociology degree, as well as a graduate certificate in women’s and gender studies, I was unprepared for this exchange in my history course on Women in America to 1890.

“Where do we get gender?” the professor inquires. I look around at my 12 other classmates, who are a mixture of graduate and undergraduate students…when no one responds I offer, “Gender arises from a hierarchical social discourse constructed via all the major institutions of society–family, church, school, polity–and is inculcated through gender socialization. It’s socially constructed and regulated by a set of privileged norms." 

Dude-Bro:  "But it’s innate…I mean, my wife was designed to hear the pitch of our son cry; I literally cannot hear him. You’re telling me that’s not from biology?”

Me:  "You’re not talking about gender.“

Dude-Bro:  "Yeah, well–you push out a baby, then maybe you’ll understand.”

__________________________________________________
P.S. Already a mother, and I ain’t got time to teach you nothing, son.

One college course > 15 years of experience

I’m a junior in a college that has a few major-specific classes that only allow students with that declared major in the class. While I’m not a neuroscience major, I’m incredibly familiar with the head of the neuroscience department due to my developmental emphasis in my psychology degree. Because of this, I was able to get into a major-specific neuroscience class. On our first day we all introduced ourselves and mentioned one or two things about us. I happened to mention I’m not a neuroscience major, but was in fact taking the class to help better understand the individuals I wanted to work with in the future. Little did I know sharing that fact would come back to bite me in the ass.

In a recent class we were listing possible and proven hereditary neurological disorders for discussion. I offered up a certain form of epilepsy that has been proven to be hereditary, a fact that I know because I actually have that type of epilepsy.

Promptly a young man in the class interrupted me and told me that epilepsy isn’t a hereditary disorder. I started telling him that yes, in fact, at least one type of epilepsy is, but he once again interrupted and said “No, it’s not. Look, I’m an actual neuroscience major. It’s not just a hobby for me. I actually took an entire course of this kind of stuff and I know for a fact there isn’t a type of epilepsy that’s genetic.”

This pretty quickly set me off. I’ve grown tired my entire life of people trying to explain my disorder to me, so I have very little patience for those that do. I explained rather curtly to him about my disorder and that there have been thousands of studies of this type of epilepsy, since it’s a rather common type, and that scientists have isolated the mutated gene that happens to cause the underdevelopment of certain neurological pathways that cause the disorder. He, once again, waived off my explanation saying that he had “heard of all that, but it’s entirely speculation, there haven’t been any actual studies or cases.” I corrected him saying that the nearby hospital alone has studied almost one hundred cases and was one of the leaders in studying the specific gene in the children diagnosed and their parents - a fact I knew very well because I happened to be one of those cases. In fact, I have been working with the neurological department for study since I was diagnosed 15 years ago.

Even after all that, he still tried to make a case about it not being a known fact, which was when my (male) professor interrupted and informed him that I was actually correct about this type of epilepsy being hereditary. Suddenly the other student was much more accepting about the idea, trying to cover up by saying that he had been thinking about another type of epilepsy.

He has since come to ignore my presence in the class, which is sadly kind of obvious since there are only 8 of us. At least he hasn’t made any more comments about disorders he knows nothing about!

Peeing from my vagina? News to me!

I am a second-year undergraduate medical student at a well respected university. In an anatomy tutorial about the urethra and catheterisation (putting a tube connected to a bag in people’s peehole when they can’t pee adequately) a male acquaintance exclaimed that men were so unlucky because it would be so painful for them (the process is usually done with only an anaesthetic lube). I said that it would be painful for women also, even though our urethra is shorter, it’s still hard to get a tube up there! To this he replied; ‘um no, the hole is huge, I mean, you can fit a dick in there!’ When I tried to explain that he was confusing the urethra with the vagina he wouldn’t believe me. So I told him that as a woman, I thought I had some knowledge of my own anatomy. Plus how did he think women could pee with a tampon in? When he actually looked it up he just stared at me blankly while simply saying 'Oh. You’re right.’ As if because I am a woman (with both a vagina and a urethra) he was surprised that I could possibly KNOW HOW I PEE.

Is that what you think feminists do?

I did my undergrad at Oxford in English, and thus the subject was generally rife with insecure mansplainers shouting their opinions louder then the female students in their classes, but one particularly egregious example comes to mind.  

In a class with two other students (one male, one female) and a female tutor, we were discussing a famous Jacobean revenge tragedy, in which the female protagonist bribes her father’s “deformed” male servant into murdering her fiancé so she can marry someone younger and better-looking, in exchange for her virginity.  Said female character then continues to have sex with the male servant for the rest of the play, until eventually she gets caught out by her lies and stabbed because, well, it’s a Jacobean revenge tragedy.  Dramatically, it’s a great play; in terms of feminist critique, it’s problematic.

In the class discussion, I was outlining my view that there was a lot of coded male fear of female sexuality embedded into the environment and settings of the play (dark, tight spaces, secret tunnels etc) and that the playwright only allowed the female protagonist to work through male agents, which she was then punished for anyway (with a nasty reference to the Biblical Eve being the downfall of mankind, as well as the aforementioned stabbing).  I was then interrupted by the male undergrad - the only male in the room - telling me how I’d got it wrong because the female protagonist was, in fact, a ‘feminist character’.

Discussion was a major part of the class so I let him talk, despite being interrupted.  He then mansplained to me how I was “interpreting feminism wrong” and that the female protagonist of the play was, in fact,  a feminist because she “went out and got what she wanted”, despite a) having known me for two years and that I was actively involved in the feminist movement and b) it was evident that in the play the female protagonist neither “went out” OR “got what she wanted”.

My response was to puncture this with the question, “She has her fiancé murdered because she doesn’t fancy him.  Really. Is that what you think feminists DO?”

Our tutor - whose specialist area was feminist critiques of 16th and 17th century drama - applauded.

HEMINGWAY

Was reading Pride and Prejudice before the start of my Writing Workshop Seminar, and a male grad student asked how I could stand the stuff. When I asked him what he liked, he said he was ‘more into [Hemingway and] modernism’. I said, 'as a feminist, I can’t really get behind his stuff’, and he proceeded to say that Austen’s characters are more obsessed with men than any of Hemingway’s, and that Hemingway’s work deals with emotion and inner turmoil to a greater degree than Austen, who is more obsessed with status and appearances. When I said I disagreed, he scoffed at me.

 In class, he proceeded to talk without end about Hemingway’s work and its value to all of our work. When I said that my work has nothing to do with Hemingway and that I barely even read all of The Sun Also Rises, he mansplained that even if I’m not aware of it, it is still an influence. 

Another time, he said Lena Dunham is a rich brat who only gets to be successful because of the funds made available to her by her father. When I said 'so she doesn’t get to be talented because her father is wealthy’, he further mansplained that 'if she’s the voice of your generation’s women, then your generation still needs men to do accrue wealth before you can express yourselves.“

Cool misogyny, bro!

Mansplaining Nightlife

I was at a coffee shop some time last year waiting for my latte when this kid I remembered from one of my freshman classes comes up to me and we talk a little. I ask what he’s been up to and he tells me he’s been writing for this campus magazine. I ask what kind of article he’s working on now and he explains that he’s writing about how women all stereotype men when they go to bars. Yes, that was what he said. The conversation went like this, “I mean, when I go to a bar, I always see these girls thinking they’re too hot to dance with me or thinking that all guys want to get into their pants when most of us are out for a good time. Not all of us want to get into your panties, so just loosen up a little!”. It was so hypocritical, I literally rolled my eyes at him. He just kept going on and on about how uptight some women can be at bars (not that they have any reason to be, right? I mean, it’s not like it’s common for women to be harassed or god forbid, drugged in bars by strange men they want nothing to do with! Women going out on the town by themselves?! Ridiculous! They want attention if they’re dressing the way they are or drinking as much as they are! But I digress.)

Instead, I pointed out to him the stereotyping women face when they step into the main street pub and then I walked away after basically telling him it was a stupid article. I wanted to look and see if anything like that ever got published in that magazine, but I didn’t, because I’d be way too pissed off if something like that got through several editors thinking it was a great article to share on a college campus. Yeah girls! You all need to calm down and give all these dudes the attention they deserve. It’s not like you’re out for yourself or anything.

"Testosterone"

I remember talking about women in sports during my sex, gender, and society class, and a particularly annoying male student commenting that women’s sports aren’t appreciated because “the worst men’s basketball team would still slaughter the best women’s basketball team.They just don’t have the testosterone for it.” Our professor, who happens to be an expert on the sociology of sport, explained that the perceived biological differences between men an women is quite small, and that any amount of training can place a person, regardless of gender, at the top. 

He continued to argue that women were just never going to be good at sports, in front of professor who not only has studied the matter all her life, but also was a college basketball player. But she’s a woman so I guess she just doesn’t know how sports work. *eyeroll*

"Are you a freshman?"

On my first day of college classes, I wore skinny-jean leggings and a nice top. A male student in my art class asked me, “Are you a freshman?” I replied, “Yes, why?” Then he laughed and said, “I can tell.” I asked him how he could tell. Was it that obvious. He replied, “Your clothes. You dressed up nice. No one does that.” He was wearing sweats and a fitted t-shirt. I was so embarrassed that I was wearing the “wrong” clothing. Turns out that guy was also a freshman…and ended up dropping out of school after the first semester. I wear whatever the fuck I want. I wore uniforms for 12 years prior; I don’t need any man telling me what to wear now.

Women Don't Play Games. It's SCIENCE.

I studied game design in university and one day, I had an argument with my group mate about sexism in games. He said that we shouldn’t have to cater to women in games because ‘women don’t play games’, despite tons of statistics and market research, AND the fact that he was currently talking to one. (Also, half of the students in our year were women - apparently none of us play games despite being in a game design course.)

Furthermore, his idea of achieving gender equality in game design was to put in pink Hello Kitty guns in Call of Duty because 'girls only care about customizing their characters and equipment.’

He also said that women suck at gaming because they aren’t 'biologically engineered to do so; they just don’t have the reflexes and problem-solving skills - it’s science!’ …This came from a guy who looks at the ground in first-person shooters because 'he needs to see where he’s walking’.

Please correct me about what phone provider I have

Firstly, I should preface this by saying that a while ago in the UK, two major phone providers (Orange and T-Mobile) merged together to form a new network called EE. Previous to this, they made a big deal over how they “shared signals” with each other and so there was a big build up. This story takes places a couple months after the switchover.

I can’t remember how, but I was sitting in class at Uni and we got on the topic of phones and so I’d casually mentioned something about still getting used to the fact that my phone now said EE when it turned on, and was then given a little lecture about how EE was a new network and that it used to be 3 but that it was now EE. I tried to politely correct them as after all, it was my phone and my network and so I think I’d know which I was using. They refused to believe me, even when I mentioned the fact that “Orange Wednesdays” had changed to “EE Wednesdays” and that’s when they pulled their trump card. 

“Oh, those aren’t the same thing. I work at a cinema and they have a different code”.

Of course they aren’t the same thing, EE is replacing it not to mention that people still use Orange, just under the EE name. 

Unfortunately the professor came in and so I was unable to finally prove them wrong as I only realised later I could have shown my texts from Orange and my screen that now says EE where the provider name is.

Because clearly, I’m just a silly girl that doesn’t know what provider I use for my phone. It’s not like I’ve been with the same network for years.

"Individual" Mansplained

I’m 57-year-old pursuing a higher degree at a prestigious university to which I transferred after graduating in the top one-half of one percent of my class from my previous college. My sociology professor asked if  anyone in class had questions about the week’s readings. Because I grew up in a different generation than my 20-something classmates, I was interested in the definition of “happiness” as seen through the lens of an increasingly consumerist society. I asked if a few students in the class would share with me their definition of “happiness.” The young man next to  me snorted in derision and in a very condescending tone said, “Oh, come ON, you can’t ask us that question; the answer will be different for each person." 

"Hence, why I asked for INDIVIDUAL responses,” I replied. But the damage was done–no one would speak up, and the prof allowed an awkward silence to ensue, then changed the subject.

Mansplaining Your Sexual Orientation For You (because clearly you couldn't know)

So one of my Uni man friends and I were discussing the new Galaxy ad today and I was trying to make clear my utter pleasure at the work that went in to creating the 3D rendering of it and in doing so said “I nearly jizzed”.

My man friend, in reply, actually jumped back and made dramatic and over-the-top noises in reaction to this. At first I thought I’d overstepped social bounds and offended him and so started to apologize but he interrupted me by saying that I had just been surprised to hear me say it, as I was the least sexual person he had ever met. Asexual, even.

Which, okay. Asexual, nothing wrong with that. I’m actually bi but okay, whatever. But also I have ladyparts and don’t ‘jizz’ so I’m a little confused as to what that comment had to do with my sexuality. When I asked, he clarified with “I can never imagine you having sex. Or wanting sex.” THEN proceeded to clarify in what asexuality was (incorrectly and rather condescendingly).

He proceeded to list off people we knew whose sexual orientation he had considered and how I was nothing like any of them and …well, he continued on for a while.

He was extremely defensive about his opinions on my sexuality, at any rate. He also took the time out of his busy dissection and dissertation on my own sexuality to clarify how this definition was different of that of the psychological definition which is actually androgyny. I’m a psych major; he knows it. When I corrected him, he just continued on his merry way, explaining the world of asexuality to me and why I was one.

How dare I suggest he couldn't do my subject just as well as me without studying it?

Looking back at my undergraduate years, I can see that a lot of my frustrations and depression came from being constantly mansplained to. This is just one instance from an inveterate offender.

I was at a party in my third year that included a chap with whom I tried to get along because he was well-like by the men in the Sci Fi and Fantasy (SF&F) society I was active with. He really liked to argue - not discuss, argue - and he frequently changed positions without batting an eyelid, I believe in part because he liked to get emotional reactions from others and knew it would unsettle them, but also because he really didn’t have a very good grasp of logic, couldn’t keep track of his own line of thought, and didn’t particularly care so long as he perceived himself to be scoring points. I think this is a common habit of the mansplainer; he doesn’t need to actually care about the facts or whether his points hang together in a coherent argument, so long as he can maintain a sense of being the expert, he often won’t even notice if his own position changes.

I was an English and Philosophy student at the time and am now writing up my PhD in Philosophy. I have a strong understanding of logic and inferential structures. I find myself completely flumoxed when faced with people who neither care whether their own arguments are valid or sound (or even inferentially reasonable) nor can be brought to recognise that there are flaws in their reasoning or that these flaws matter. Needless to say, this guy drove me potty, which is exactly what he wanted. He was also deeply and openly sexist, and would take my frustration and inability to respond to his nonsense as me being an emotional woman who couldn’t handle a simple argument.

On this occasion he started by asserting that all fantasy stems from Tolkein. I cited items from the canon that contradicted this (perhaps, A Midsummer Night’s Dream? The Faerie Queen?) - of course, these didn’t count. They were based on myth and legend, and anyway, they weren’t novels (that hadn’t been a stipulation, and seemed a not especially relevant restriction of artistic form [considering that the novel is a relatively recent form], but fine). He also wouldn’t permit any example that would permit being also interpreted as Science Fiction (despite the fact that the two are closely interwoven now, let alone in the early days of novels).

Similarly, examples from after Tolkein that didn’t seem exclusively his own were not accepted. The Chronicles of Narnia were children’s books, and anyway, C S Lewis knew Tolkein, so of course he was influenced by him. Usula Le Guin couldn’t have written A Wizard of Earthsea without Gandalf. Anne McCaffrey’s dragons were obviously inspried by Smaug, and not drawn from her own imagination, not to mention the numerous myths and legends that are a part of our culture. And so on.

Eventually I got tired. He never really countered my points, he would just ASSERT with AUTHORITY. I’ve found it’s common amongst a lot of male geeks to assume that they know geek literature better than female geeks just because, well, they’re male, they MUST have been into it longer and more intensively and know more about it. So, I thought, fine. I can play that game. I appealed to my own authority, if he didn’t care to respond to my textual analysis, he could respect the fact that I actually study English Literature and therefore speak from a place of authority when I say that not all fantasy books can trace their ideas back to Tolkein.

Apparently this was a really insulting thing to say. How dare I suggest that studying English Literature at degree level could enable me to read a text with more skill than anyone (read: any man) who could pick up a book and read for themselves. I explained that I hadn’t said that it was impossible to do, or that having a degree in English necessarily made one a better reader. Nevertheless, like any subject, being taught techniques of analysis, theories, reading widely from academic journals, does give one an insight that it is harder to come by independently.

No, he wasn’t having any of that. It was deeply insulting of me to suggest that my subject was actually worth studying and not something he could do better than me just by picking up a book and, I don’t know, working it all out for himself.

I tried to give him and example. I’d recently been studying Shakespeare and his contempories and had been greatly taken by John Roe’s analysis of Shakespeare with reference to Machiavelli’s The Prince, which there is good evidence to suggest that Shakespeare would have read in manuscript form. I explained how reading The Prince and Roe’s analysis had given me insights into Richard II and Henry V. I gave textual evidence and cited historical evidence.

This was apparently a mistake. He was a historian - doing an MA in history, in fact. Therefore he knew (better than a Shakespeare scholar whose lectures I had been to and whose articles I had read) that Shakespeare would not have read The Prince. He didn’t say why, merely that he was studying an MA in history, and therefore he could say with authority that I was wrong, and, in fact, it was insulting to him and his MA for me to persist in maintaining I had good reason to think otherwise. How dare I disrespect his subject.

Not like he had disrespected mine.

Rib injuries mansplained... incorrectly ... to a transgender man

I’ve been hesitating to submit this, since I’m a man, but I’d only just came out when this happened to me, and I don’t think the person who was doing the mansplaining really knew or understood and still considered me a woman. If you do not want to publish it, I understand.

In the absence of a binder, I had been wearing multiple sports bras layered on top of each other. I had heard that this would work and was harmless, but in my case it did not work and had damaged my ribs. At this particular time, I was in art class, on a day when the rib injuries were at their worst, and I was often wincing (or whimpering, or swearing under my breath, or excusing myself to go shudder from pain while hiding in a dark corner) because of the frequent bursts of intense, piercing pain when I moved, breathed, or even just existed too emphatically.

Art class had a lot of chances for talking, and so I said to my table-mates (a group including my girlfriend, who was at the time the strongest supporter of my recently-discovered identity as trans) that my ribs were quite hurting. A classmate—I shall call him Dave—asks how I got injured. I tell him how I hurt my ribs, and he completely ignores me, then says that they are probably hurting because of my posture (which was certainly no less upright than his own!) and that if I straightened up, raised my arms, and inhaled deeply a few times, it would all clear up.

I tell him that I know exactly how I hurt my ribs and that I have, anyway, been sure to occasionally cough or breathe deeply for the sake of my lungs. However, to humour him, I demonstrate an attempt of the manoeuvre he just suggested. All that movement causes my ribs more pain, and, additionally, aggravates a shoulder injury I got in an unrelated incident. I am in a lot of pain. I had hoped that my demonstration would assure Dave that he was wrong, so I again tell him how I injured my ribs. However, it slides off of him like water off a duck.

It left a sour taste in my mouth, but it took me the rest of the day to realize why. (And then when I tried to tell my mother about what had happened, she demanded to know how I thought it counted as mansplaining and that clearly he was just trying to be helpful.)

Where the Heart Is

I was studying abroad and I met this guy who went to Yale, and I don’t even remember how we got into the conversation but he incorrectly stated that the heart was located on the left side of the chest. I said “It’s actually more in the center of the chest, just slightly left. Common misconception.” To which he replied “Uhm, no, it’s on the left. Why do you think we put our hand over the left side when saying the pledge of allegiance?” I explained to him that my father is a cardiologist and it’s definitely in the center of the chest, he then very condescendingly replied “Your dad is a cardiologist and you still don’t know where the heart is?!” A quick google image search on my phone shut him up real quick. 

In which a male undergrad calls out mansplaining!

I was enrolled in a Digital Signal Processing course in grad school. The professor explained part of how an interesting algorithm worked and asked the class to explain another part of it. I raised my hand, he called on me, and I explained it correctly. He said “No” and called on another student, a male this time. The male student repeated what I said, almost word for word. The professor said “Yes, well done.” 

And then, the glorious thing happened. The male student replied “But that’s exactly what SHE said!” while gesturing at me. Anytime I’m down, I think of that one person, that one guy, who took an opportunity to illuminate an unfair situation.

The Oppressed White Male Philosopher

I am a graduate in a social science field and worked a full-time job, supported my ex-husband, and put myself though university on my own. 

My ex-boyfriend is majoring in philosophy and has spent the past 7 years delaying his graduation date. He once informed me that the reason is because he is a white male and that this has made his life very difficult. He said he’d rather be a black woman, because life is much easier for them. He claimed that people of color and women have an advantage over white men, because society helps them get ahead. 

When I provided examples of studies proving the contrary to be true and referenced extensive reading of research and statistics on the matter, he said that I cannot just google something and then think I am an expert in the matter. 

He insisted that I do not understand because I am not a white male, so I don’t know what it’s like to grow up in a society that intentionally makes life harder for white men and easier for women of color. He went on and on about how much he’d like to be a black woman so that he could have graduated university by now and have a great, high-paying job that some white man wouldn’t be able to get. Oh, and so that he could have higher self-esteem, because white men are taught that they are not as important or intelligent as black women. Obviously he’s using his understanding of affirmative action to make his point, but this is all with the assumption (he’s stated this as fact) that there is no such thing as structural oppression of women and minorities. It’s only a theory, he says. Only white males suffer structural oppression. 

I don't even know what that is, but let me explain it to you anyway

I was in my second year at a top English University, and I was on my way back after our Easter holiday. As my parents live in Sweden, I came from the airport.

That evening there was unexpected engineering work on my usual route, and all travel was redirected through the London Underground. I’m not at all familiar with it, so I ask one of the employees by the ticket gate. He’s really helpful and tells me exactly where to go.

Just as I go through the gate, I hear a guy behind me asking the employee the exact same question I asked. I pause, thinking that, hey, seeing as we’re both sort of lost and confused, we might as well stick together, making it easier to keep track of where we’re going. I approach him, and he agrees that this is a good idea.

He was about my age, also in his second year, and as it turned out, went to the Uni in the neighbouring city to mine. How fun, we both said, now we would have company on the 90-minute or so train ride.

He seemed nice enough at first, but it gradually became clear that he was a bit of a douchenozzle.

The obvious questions all Uni students ask each other came up: “What course do you do?” and “Where are you from?”

I explained that I was born in Sweden, but my father is English. This is usually met with “Oh, but your English is so good!” from basically everyone, so when he said this, I wasn’t surprised. I patiently explained again that my father is English, and I am in fact bilingual, and always have been.

He looks at me, slightly patronising. “Oh, you mean English is your second language?”

Me: “No, I mean I speak English and Swedish fluently. They’re both my native languages.”

Douchenozzle: “But which one is your first language? Which one do you speak better?”

Me: “I… don’t. I speak both at the same level. Native.”

DN laughs and shakes his head. “No, you see, everyone has a first language - it’s the one they speak the best. English is mine, because I was born here, and I learned French in school. Did you learn English at school?”

Me, speaking slowly: “No. I learned to speak English first, as we were living here when I was toddler. I learned Swedish at the age of 4 when we moved back to Sweden.”

DN: “Oh. So you’ve been speaking Swedish longer, then?”

Me: “What? No.”

DN: “Well, see, it’s confusing for young children to be exposed to more than one language growing up, so your parents must’ve chosen to focus on Swedish, since you lived there. Did you like, re-learn English when you started school?”

Me: “Actually, there was nothing confusing about it at all. Humans are never as good at languages as they are when they’re children. Both my sister and I managed just fine. We speak English with my dad, Swedish with mum. Always have.”

He frowns. “But you must’ve favoured one, growing up.”

Me: “No.”

DN: “But-”

Me: “No. I’m bilingual. It means I have two languages. I don’t favour either one.”

He didn’t seem to believe me, but I steered him off track by asking where he was from. Then we started talking about our courses. He was studying Ecology - “You know, nature” - and when I told him I was doing a degree in Publishing, I was met with a blank stare.

DN: “Publishing?”

Me: “Yeah. You know. Books.”

DN: “Oh, like, bookshops?”

Me: “No, like publishing. As in, the companies who edit, design, and produce books, and handle things like marketing and sales. They pay for the-”

DN: “No, but authors do that.”

Me: “Sorry?”

DN: “Authors handle all that stuff.”

Me: “Er, well, sometimes they do, if they’re self-published, but publishing hous-”

DN: “Yeah, see, authors write books, and then bookshops sell them.”

I was honestly starting to wonder if this guy suffered from some kind of mental disorder.

Me: “Well, yes, in a sense, but there’s a lot more to it than that. That’s where publishers come in. They-”

DN: “Don’t you think it’s a bit silly to study books? I mean, no one reads anymore. You won’t get a job.”

Me: “Plenty of people read. It’s a tough industry to get into, sure, but I love bo-”

DN: “See, Ecology - you know, what I study - is something that’s actually important, because people care about the environment right now.” Here followed a 20 minute explanation of everything I learned in Biology 101.

The whole trip ended with him trying to convince me to “go somewhere” with him on the train, because he could tell I was “into that kinky stuff.” When I declined his gracious offer, he treated me to a story about the evil woman who stole his precious virginity from him, because “she liked taking a male’s innocence before crushing his heart.” And I swear to god, that is a word-for-word quote, because it was so spectacular I had no choice but to memorize it. Why he thought this heartbreaking story was of any relevance is still a mystery to me.