Ancrene Wiseass

A would-be medievalist holds forth on academia, teaching, gender politics, blogging, pop culture, critters, and whatever else comes her way.

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Yes, this really is yet another blog by a disillusioned grad student. I sympathize, but that's just the way it has to be. For hints as to what my bizarre alias means, click here and here and, if needed, here and here. To get a sense of what I'm up to, feel free to check out the sections called "Toward a Wiseass Creed" and "Showings: Some Introductory Wiseassery" in my main blog's left-hand sidebar. Please be aware that spamming, harassing, or otherwise obnoxious comments will be deleted and traced.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


I got my orange belt!

To be honest, I'm not as happy about it as I want to be, because I did not perform as well as I'd have liked during the majority of the test. I was sloppy, I was not focused enough, I was not confident enough, and I screwed up too much. I was nervous, the testing scenario made me far too self-conscious, and some of the things Master Fuzzy Slippers said before we started hit home in a way that threw me off my game. But I should have been in better control of myself, physically and mentally.

I would not have passed myself, had I been asked. But I trust Master FS's judgment, and I guess it's fortunate that my opinion didn't matter in this case.

I know nobody expects that much of me yet and I'm probably being too hard on myself: I'm an absolute beginner with no prior training. But I do expect more of myself than I demonstrated today, and I want others to expect more of me, too. I want to be a person to be reckoned with. That, after all, is why I'm there in the first place.

Still, I am proud of one thing: we had to break a fairly thick board with our fist within three tries in order to get our belts. I decided that I was damn well going to redeem myself during that portion of the test, and I guess I must have.

I rolled up my sleeves to remind myself of the bandages on my elbows, talismans of my ability to kick some ass when I put my mind to it (even if the ass I kick is usually my own). I ran forward promptly, bowed to Master FS, and broke the board on the first try with enough force and a loud enough kiyap that I got not only the traditional applause, but an audible murmur of approval from the crowd and several on-the-spot words of praise from senior students.

One of the most advanced students told me afterward that he had been very impressed: that he was always a bit worried about white-belt women who had to break a board for the first time, because they tended to get intimidated and lose focus. He said I had not just broken the board; I'd broken it with authority.

I liked his compliment very much, and I've been mentally rolling that phrase--"with authority"--around like a particularly nice Everlasting Gobstopper I don't want to finish. But his comment also felt unintentionally backhanded. I think that, despite Master FS and his dojang being very enlightened, people still expect less of me. And although a lot of that has to come from my being in pretty bad shape and far from physically intimidating, I think some of it comes from my being a woman, too.

I am going to work very hard to make people re-think those assumptions. And I am going to work even harder to make sure that I offer them no excuses for maintaining them, at least when it comes to me.