Being Tough

For those of you who missed the Benghazi Congressional hearings yesterday with Madam Secretary Clinton, you missed out on seeing one of the finest public servants that America has to offer illustrating just how much more capable she is than any of the idiots who spent hours “questioning” her.  Of course today, the sexist pundits are weighing in, the exact same way they have for pretty much her entire life. On the other side, I love this editorial about her so much.  But it also has had me thinking a lot about just the way tough women are treated.

Yesterday, I received my teaching evaluations and for the first time in my life not one but multiple students said I was mean. I have been thinking about this and whether or not this is something that I should care about. I don’t think that I was more or less mean this semester than any other semester that I have taught. This semester was certainly more challenging than previous semesters because of the particular personalities of the students, but was I mean? I don’t think so.  Whether I think so or not doesn’t matter if a few students apparently thought I was being mean. I didn’t call people names or scream in class; I made corrections to their assignments and would state in class clearly when I thought students were meeting my expectations. Does that make me mean?  Someone wrote that I should “scream into my pillow”.  This baffled me. Would someone tell a male professor that?

I don’t know why a few of these students thought I was mean. I thought I was being blunt and transparent about my expectations. I don’t know if this has anything to do with me being younger, female, or whatever.  I don’t know and I can’t draw those conclusions based on the evidence that I have. But I do know this, every time I see Hillary Clinton being tough in response to goading from Congressmen or Senators, it makes me feel more okay being myself.  I realize that more of us need to be that way, to stand up to all of the people who think being tough means being mean, unwomanly, or just bitchy.

It is the same reason why I think Jessica Chastain’s character in the film Zero Dark Thirty is the best written female character I have possibly ever seen coming from Hollywood. I am not talking about the torture controversy, or whether or not the film is accurate, because just for a moment, I want to thank Katherine Bigelow for putting that character, whether true or fictional, on the movie screen.  If I have a daughter, I want her to be so tough like that. I want her writing on walls and calling out male superiors who do a worse job than her.   Heck, I want to be that tough and feel lucky that I have parents who wanted tough daughters.

So thanks, Secretary Clinton, for once again showing us how it is done.

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