Baklava and Euler

Some 20 years ago. Two colleagues were talking in the hallway outside my classroom when I approached. Guess they were talking about food. He turned to me and said, “I bet Fawn doesn’t know what a baklava is.” I said, “I do know,” and walked away.

What I really wanted to say: Hey asshole. Why did you assume that I didn’t know what a baklava was? You could have just asked me if I knew.

Some 5 years ago. A math professor was visiting our math project because he was one of the regional directors (or in some similar capacity) overseeing the project. At the end of the workshop, he decided to tell me about dead mathematicians, scribbled their names on the whiteboard, and then he pointed to Euler’s name and said, “His name is not pronounced like what you might think.” I said, “I say oiler, how do you say it?”

What I really wanted to say: Hey asshole. Why did you assume that I didn’t know how to say Euler’s name? You could have just asked me if I knew.

I shared two instances, sadly I have many more.

I hadn’t heard of “mansplaining” until just a few years ago.

These various encounters were always unfortunate, and I’d walked away from each one without saying what I really wanted to say. I was probably thinking, I don’t have time for the likes of you. And my anger dissolved into boredom, almost as if I’d accepted it as part of life — an element in the period table, in the inert column.

But that might be a lie because I’m reactive to it — even for the briefest moment — by being made to feel small and vulnerable, intellectually inferior and naive, dismissed and categorized.

I shall speak up next time.

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[Added 5/23/16. HT @HKhodai]

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