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The Golden Paw

Dreamed 2009/4/12 by Wayan

Sketch of a dream by Wayan: a woman in dreadlocks, a deep blue gown, and a gold bear-paw pendant. Click to enlarge.

An American girl in a British law school--one of Oxford's colleges, I think--is facing her final exam. In a grand old Victorian lecture hall, all carved wood filigree, students must stand and answer hard questions on the fly--no research, no notes! The professor singles her out for a fiendishly specialized question. She answers triumphantly and unexpectedly, not from legal theory but from personal knowledge of the subject! I think admiringly "He won't underestimate her again!"

Wrong. The professor slaps her down. "Your analysis is shallow, Miss X." Prompts others to give quite different answers adding up to an approach that's legally plausible but is in fact weaker, for it ignores the detailed inside knowledge she evinced.

She stands up again, visibly gulping and sweating, and interrupts: "You are biased here, not only by your ignorance of a subject you yourself chose, but by lies told you by Mr Y, your teaching assistant. He's been punishing me for rejecting his advances. I had planned to let it slide, but now that I see he practices academic blackmail as well as sexual harassment--"

A wave of muttering round the hall. Her classmates don't believe her. She's nervous, shifty-eyed. She must be lying.

But then... we're at the graduation party. And curiously enough, Miss X is here. She passed that exam and got her degree! It's a huge pin of beaten gold: a hollow bear's paw! Her classmates whisper "it was awarded her just to avoid scandal" and "she's the blackmailer here..."

She circulates just as if she's not being shunned. But she knows.

Yet she's here, defiant. And why not? She told the truth. Mr Y came on to her, and hinted he'd get her flunked if she said no; then did his best to act on his threat, via bad reports and false grades--up til the final, where she faced her prof directly and could accuse the TA publicly.

I can see why her professor underestimated her--he was being lied to. But why'd the TA figure she'd be too ashamed to stand up and speak out against him?

But then, as I listen to these English students gossip, I start to understand. He was used to English shyness, English whispering, English sexism, English shame. American bluntness--or perhaps sheer foreignness--gave her strength.

NOTES IN THE MORNING Sketch of a dream image by Wayan: a gold bear-paw pendant.

LISTS AND LINKS: school, tests and ordeals, initiations, rites of passage - truth and lies - bullying and threats - sexual exploitation - courage - assertiveness - freedom of speech - ostracism and outsiders - a second dream of trouble at Oxford: Burn the Eggs! - pencil dream-art - Same dreamer, same night: Bollywood Love

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