Stories from the Field: More Degrees than Fahrenheit 451

It was happening again. If Yvonne’s mind hadn’t been in hijacked by her amygdala, she’d likely have stood agape anyway. How was this happening AGAIN?

Her supervisor continued aggressively, “You can’t say that!” spittle flew from his mouth. “It’s discrimination. It’s like saying Harold does things differently because he’s from India.”

Huh? And, if Yvonne’s mind hadn’t been engaged in if-I-don’t-move-nobody-can-hurt-me mode, she might have wondered what the hell this man had been smoking. What was wrong with being aware of differences, and making space to engage with those differences? This was the entire basis of Yvonne’s post-secondary education in Anthropology: exploring and revelling in the variations of the human species.

“Remember when you said it was important that your manager have your back?” he asked, leering. Yvonne nodded, slowly and numbly. “Well, just remember that.”

And suddenly the room felt hot. About 451 degrees Fahrenheit hot.

It was a pattern in Yvonne’s life: to be taken advantage of by the ones she trusted. She trusted too much; she trusted all the wrong people; and, she didn’t trust the right people enough. Yvonne was a victim, plain and simple. And she was getting really freaking sick of it.

Bullying wasn’t something she’d encountered in grade school. The one and only time Yvonne was almost bullied as a kid went something like this:

“Hey Yvonne.”

“Yeah?”

“Steph wants to fight you.”

“Oh. Ok. Now?”

“No. After school. Behind the school.”

“Oh. Ok.” And Yvonne resumed doing what she was doing, not giving the incident a moment’s thought more.

But in the past few years of her adult life, bullying, censorship, coercion, and emotional blackmail all via authority figures were forming a very disturbing pattern. Did it have anything to do with the organizations she’d been working for? How about the academic disciplines she been working with? Despite everything else, Yvonne could only identify one constant in the pattern: herself. And it was the one thing she could do something about.

“Fuck this shit,” she mumbled some hours later, over her second glass of red wine and the bottom of a bag of potato chips. If she had been putting herself into these situations, it was high time she got herself out! The problem was: what the hell was she doing to put or get herself into these situations? It’s not like someone goes out looking to be victimized. Or did they?

So Yvonne did something she was very good at. She did some research.

What wil Yvonne uncover about victimology? Will she read Fahrenheit 451 again just for kicks? How many bottles of wine will it take for her to figure this out?

Stay tuned!

 

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