In the room the women come and go

Are they gone?


You have to understand. No way in hell would I send my writing to Feministing. No interest. I write a small niche blog that sees the same visitors every week: Cherry Hill, NJ; Chatham, ON; Helsinki, Finland. One reader checks in every morning at 6:15 and I wish I knew who she (I assume she) is, so I could say thanks and tell her to subscribe to updates by clicking on the “sign me up” thingy. I feel guilty when a couple of weeks go by without anything new — aaahhhh, she keeps checking! I need to get on it!

I’m not an arguer, though I admire the mad rhetorical skillz of many women on my blogroll. I’m uninterested in persuading anyone to adopt my point of view. (Everybody, h/t Nikka Costa, got their something). Most of my readers are part of a particular feminist crowd; others are into CrossFit/powerlifting or secondary-school pedagogy. Or maybe hairless cats.

But I do read Feministing occasionally, and last week they ran a piece that bothered me intellectually and viscerally. I wrote down my reaction (quickly, and without wearing any pants) and went to bed. I woke up to 3,000 hits because a friend had forwarded the piece to Feministing. Such is the nature of the Internet, yes?

I wouldn’t change a word of what I wrote, but the piece was not addressed to or intended for the Feministing author. She’s a woman writing about what’s important to her. Fine. I took issue with what she wrote, though, and my critique was intended for a specific, seasoned feminist audience.

I am a Christian with a Jewish soul: I don’t proselytize.

The negative Feministing response didn’t shock me (nor did the number of lovely, supportive emails and new readers). What was interesting was the tone of many comments I got — as though the writers were about to detonate with self-righteous outrage. My own tone wasn’t gentle, of course, but the weight and force of all the YOU FUCKING MONSTER!s was a battle axe in response to a fencing foil. It was personal (“you’re just too fucking old to understand, but…”) smug and pseudo-academic (“You may not realize the problematic bigotry and horizontal violence of your response; you need to unpack your privilege” and condescending (“Your blog post gave us all a good laugh.”) I published the ones I thought moved the conversation forward; spammed some unread because the first line was abusive or profane. These writers were going to fucking bring me into line and, failing that, were going to try to hurt me as much as possible. I was wrong, so I deserved to be punished.

Internet incivility and aggressiveness is a thing, no matter what you’re into — I mean, Elizabethan historians and chemical engineers must get up each others’ asses online all the time — but I hadn’t experienced it firsthand until last week. I’ve got friends with unpopular opinions who receive actual death threats, and it’s eye-opening to experience the tiniest, slightest inkling-hint of how that feels.

I don’t mind people thinking my opinion is derp — go nuts! I work with teenagers, so I maintain equilibrium in the face of whiny fists-in-air — but I do mind that expressing it on my own blog got me swarmed with abusive thought-policing.

I’m allowed to have an unpopular opinion. I’m allowed to think, judge, question, complain, dissent, and write a pantsless manifesto without getting a visit from the Shame Stasi and being told I brought it on myself and deserve it. Is that a familiar trope? Have we heard it somewhere before?

I am a small fish. The “bring you into line” phenomenon is writ much larger online this week. It’s a first-world problem, yes, but I find it scary. I find it problematic.

you’d think some things were obvious

I won’t be signing up for “armed teacher training,” but 600 other teachers are into it so far.

I’d die for my students if necessary. Any teacher would; that’s the easy part. (It’s the grading that’s hard; the lesson planning that’s scary). But I won’t carry a gun in the classroom. The day our school turns into an a ready-for-crossfire armed camp is the day I find another place to work, because it is the day I am no longer a teacher but a police officer. Even if I were paid to do both jobs ($37,000 + 45,000 = $82,000) I wouldn’t, because no one can do both jobs competently at the same time. You can hit the state academic standards or criminals, but you have to CHOOSE. Do we ask police officers to be ready to effectively communicate the nuts and bolts of Algebra II or laboratory science on the fly? No? Why not? Are they intellectually lazy? Not good Americans?

You yourself may not be a teacher, so I’ll detail a few of the items we keep daily track of: Keys; wallet; laptop; laptop battery*; coffee cup; library carts loaded with books; reams of copy paper; the 150 children we teach as well as 1,200 others who may need assistance or discipline at any moment; top-secret exam-key folders and confidential documents from guidance counselors and ex-ed professionals which, if they disappear, mean immediate legal action against us.

I decline to add a firearm to this list.

Once? I had to pee and left my classroom unattended for 25 seconds — enough time for a kid to steal and hide all copies of an important standardized test so the class wouldn’t have to take it. Every kid in the room saw him do this, but not one of them informed me as I panicked and hunted pathetically through drawers and under tables. Can you guess who was blamed when I had to call for replacement tests? Can you guess how this scenario extrapolates with a gun, no matter how closely said gun is monitored?

I have some non-disingenuous questions for “arm-the-teachers” people: Do I keep the gun in my locked desk, and if so, will I have enough time to reach it in case of an emergency? Or would I keep the gun between my breasts for extra security? If I need to scratch between my breasts (because they’re sweaty from the gun) what happens if I knock the safety loose? Do I get an assault weapon instead of a handgun, since most mass shooters carry magazines with multiple round clips? Can I get an accurate shot to the head with fear-shaking hands? What if the shooter is wearing Kevlar? Should I wear Kevlar to school every day, like Robocop? If so, will it take me more than 25 seconds to pee? Because, like I said, I only have 25 seconds before shit starts disappearing.

What if a kid knocks me down and grabs for my firearm? What are my legal responsibilities and liabilities in that scenario?

What about states with stand-your-ground laws? What if some unstable teacher “feels threatened”? Do you want your child in that situation?

What are the psychological effects on kids from looking at holstered guns all day, every day?

Who pays for teachers’ weapons training; physical fitness/psychological testing; and substitute teachers for the 2-3 weeks out of every school year it will take for us to complete those requirements? Do the subs get training first, so they’ll be armed while we’re out?

Do we also arm support staff? Hall monitors? Janitors?

Do students over 18 (who still need to ask permission to go to the restroom and who are constantly dropping and shattering their cell phones) get to carry guns to school, too? What does that look like when a fistfight breaks out, or someone looks at someone else’s boyfriend the wrong way?

Can someone please Google the ratio of mass shootings to accidental shootings?

I have so many questions! and this teacher doesn’t answer them. He and I want the same thing — safe workplaces; safe kids — but his solution makes no sense to me. This guy would claim that comprehensive firearm training keeps us safe from accidents as well as mass killers, dangerous students, and angry non-custodial dads, but that logic breaks down for me. Too much contradictory research; too many what-ifs; too many pockets where the unexpected can hide and go wrong, kind of  like colon cancer.

How about this for a partial solution, while we’re working on male violence/a sick, violent culture/the gutted mental-health care system: Retrofit all classrooms with bulletproof safe rooms. Not all hallways, all classrooms, because what if the shooter is in the hallway and I can’t lead the kids out there? What would be the cost of retrofitting all our public schools with safe rooms? Would eliminating music, art, and sports programs be enough to cover it, or would Americans vote to chip in? Is that too tax-and-spend?  Not good-guy-against-bad-guy-action-flick enough?

Teaching is not police work. If America wants to spring for an armed police officer outside every classroom, ready to protect and defend as the kids and I hustle into the safe room, that’s one thing. Not non-problematic, of course, but it is its own thing. Arming teachers is a whole other thing, and anyone with a day of classroom experience or the sense God gave a goat knows it’s not the thing to do.


*Yes, it was stolen once.