June 28, 2012
Thursday, 7:00 p.m.
Letter #231: I’m Taking It Too Personally?!
I really have tried to have a good attitude in the 10-week-long class I’m in: Cognitive Behavior. I want to set a good example for the others, learn what there is to learn, and be grateful for any opportunities God gives to be a witness. And even though our teacher is so inexperienced she didn’t know what Cognitive Behavior Therapy is, or the answer to 2600 + 2600, or worse, how to lead thoughtful discussions on anything other than Jersey Shore, current movies, or cartoon characters, I still try every day to make sure I keep a good attitude. I faced my greatest challenge to that today.
Every day, two guys write quotes on the board and then explain them. Today, however, five different guys wanted to write quotes, so the teacher, Ms. Tubolino, always looking for ways to kill time, let them do so.
The quotes are usually somewhat motivational, though I’ve disagreed with some (“Life sucks; then you die.”). In such cases, I’ve simply voiced why I disagree with the quote … until the last quote was written on the board today. Because it used profanity, I can’t write it here, but the “clean” version would go something like this: “I’d never slap a woman, but I’ll always slap the [crap] out of a [derogatory term for a woman].”
I was stunned as soon as I saw the words proclaiming violence against women, but I thought for sure the teacher would set the writer straight. Unbelievably, however, the class’s reaction was instant support, as they laughed and shouted out, “That’s right!” and “Exactly! Me too!”
Ms. Tubolino looked over at the quote, smiled, and asked—just as she had done with every other quote—for the guy to explain it! The guy said, “Well, I’d never hit my mom or grandma, but all day long I’ll beat the [crap] out of … ” and gave more derogatory terms for women.
Everyone was into it, pounding the tables and saying, “That’s right!” I turned to the Buddhist guy who was voicing his support … the same guy who had just pointed out the cricket behind my chair and said: “Don’t hurt it; it hasn’t done anything wrong!”
I said, “Is it just me, or did someone just rationalize violence against women in a Cognitive Behavior class?”
Never usually at a loss for words, he could only say, “You’re right.”
As everyone kept talking about it, I couldn’t stand it any longer. I walked up to the board and picked up the eraser, and as I wiped the words of the quote off of the board, I said, “With all respect, this is not appropriate in this class.” I then sat down, shaking with anger and the adrenaline in my system.
I kept my head down, sure that the guy who wrote it was going to punch me. No one said anything.
Two minutes that seemed like hours later, the teacher dismissed us for a bathroom break. I went and talked to the chaplain, needing someone—anyone—to see it as I did.
I told him how I felt—that there is never a justification for a man to hit a woman and that this class was laughing off criminal behavior. I began to cry, and he hugged me.
I was late getting back to class, but I couldn’t control my tears, so I asked the officer in the hallway if I could go back to my housing unit. He put me in a side room, listened to what had happened, and then told me to wait.
I composed myself just before Ms. Tubolino walked in. Immediately, she said the guy “didn’t mean it,” so I reminded her how he’d graphically expounded on it. “I think you’re taking it too personally,” she said.
“Isn’t that the point of the class?” I responded.
“Well, yes,” was all she could say. Then she added, “Some women deserve it, you know … to be beat up.”
I quickly shot back, “NO woman deserves abuse, no matter if she’s been rejected by her father, cheated on by her boyfriend, then turns to drugs and prostitution … this doesn’t give the next guy the right to abuse her.”
She said she’d never been in an abusive relationship, so she didn’t know about that. I told her I have a friend who is caught in an abusive relationship—a husband who beats her and keeps her from her family. Ms. Tubolino commented, “Well, it’s her fault, you know, because she knows she can leave him but she doesn’t.”
I was numb with outrage. Unbelievably, we’d studied “empathy” just yesterday; could she not clearly see my emotions?!?
Thinking about the little women I had abused, I said, “It is NEVER the woman’s fault. Shouldn’t we be learning how to change?”
“I think you’re taking it too personally,” she restated. I hope so. I hope so.