- Annmarie Throckmorton, M.A.
When I was an infant just learning how to stand up, I remember my father putting me into my crib each night and admonishing me to lay down quietly and go to sleep. I would pop up, cling to the rails, and try to get him to pick me up. One evening when he shook his finger at me in admonishment, I got the bright idea of playing the gesture, and I shook my baby finger right back at him. He laughed with appreciation of my audacity, me a baby correcting him the head of household. It became a favorite story of ours, he said I was still doing it.
Correcting the adult male of the human species is risky business though. When I was in my mid-forties, studying and teaching sociology in the Master’s program at Ohio State University, my Graduate Advisor Dr. Wen L. Li:
who was Senior Academic Advisor in the department at the time, and who insisted on being my advisor the moment I met him without letting me meet any of the other professors, informed me that I had a physical education requirement and he recommended a body movement class at the university, Tai Chi Chuan. I was surprised that the graduate program required that time for exercise be taken from academic studies, and that a middle-aged woman would be required to take P.E., but I complied. Now I know that he lied, it was not a requirement. I still resent this deeply as during my initial interview with him, I had told Dr. Li that my sole reason for making the huge expenditure of time and energy to earn a master’s degree was to gain more meaningful and higher salaried work. I had nothing to spare. In fact science, specifically genetics, would have been my first choice, but the Department of Sociology offered me free tuition and a very small monthly stipend for teaching, so I had felt that it was my only choice. When I expressed doubt that there were many jobs for demographers, Dr. Li assured me that there were, and that he would even help me find employment as a demographer if I would have him as my advisor. This was prior to the internet and I had no way to check his words. He lied about that too. Until I refused, Dr. Li used to make me sit at a child's desk next to his much larger desk in his office. Weird.
The Tai Chi Chuan class of fifty students was comprised of mostly young men and half a dozen women. Initially I thought it was a very slow dance class, but the instructor, who was married with children, a breathtakingly graceful martial artist, a very skillful teacher, and on scholarship from mainland China, explained in fairly good English to the class that Tai Chi Chuan was a martial art, it meant iron fist in velvet glove. So true. When another woman, also a graduate student teaching in her field, asked me if she should complain about the instructor after he gave her a resounding slap on the bottom during his class, I had seen and heard it, so I said, “If you feel that it was inappropriate, you should complain.” He blamed me for her subsequent complaint, telling me that he was likely to lose his scholarship, and might be deported. Surely there was more to it than that? I do not know if he was deported, or if he got his degree. A few days later a drunk or drugged or both young stranger dressed as a martial artist, big and powerful and menacing, much bigger than our 120 pound, 5’ 4” martial arts instructor, pounded on my home door demanding to come inside, he said he had a message for me. From the malice in his voice, and his fist against my door, it seemed that he meant to beat and punish me. To show no fear through the closed and locked door, I played the brute’s words by saying that it was “not convenient” to have a message at that time, and he would have to “Go.” In his addled state, routed by my turning words, he left in confusion. I was very lucky that he was impaired. The martial arts instructor walked into the next class at the university shaking an angry finger at me in silent accusation. I finished his Tai Chi Chuan class but I never spoke to him again. He had told me that I was the best by far in his class, but he gave me a “B” in final grade; and Dr. Li told me sourly that the martial arts instructor had complained to him about me. It was with some difficulty that I graduated with my Master’s degree a few months later, as instead of helping me, which as my advisor he should have, Dr. Li played all sorts of tricks on me. For example, he lied to me about what would be on his portion of my written comprehensive Master’s examination, saying “No math, no, no, there will be no mathematics on your exam.” As statistics is essential in analyzing demographics, which was my area of expertise, I knew better; and so I memorized an entire page of the most complex formula in the social science of sociology at the time, one that summed what little scientific approach there was to be had in it. Sure enough, there it was, that equation in its many permutations was the only question on his portion of my written exam. I filled it in from memory, worked it out, provided some applications, and handed it in to his obvious disappointment. Even worse because there was no way to recover from it, although Dr. Li had earlier referred me for employment as a demographer to a research agency for which he, and I as his assistant, had previously worked; after the complaint from the martial arts instructor, on the second call with that agency, the head of the agency insultingly said, “What I really want is a secretary.” and he concluded the call when I insisted that I was a demographer. He hung up on me. Humiliation and impoverishment all in one neat deceit. Additionally, some of the work in which I had assisted Dr. Li, for example, by developing computer techniques to implement the Gini coefficient*, which was no small feat with those 1995 computer punch cards, he took full credit by publishing it without attribution to me and without having done any of the work to develop it. Actually, Dr. Li had been annoyed with me for some time prior, because some of the young, female Chinese graduate students, all very pretty and all very smart, had asked me to try and stop this married man from coming to their apartments with sexual advances. This I had no way of doing, especially as I myself had had difficulty deflecting his repeated offers to gift me with a “drinks blender”, which he would “set up” in my apartment for me. Set it up? You just plug it in. He had finagled his way into my apartment once under the ruse of selling me his ten-year old Commodore 64, an 8-bit home computer with a tiny screen for my computations, and he had been very creepy and clingy so I did not want him in my apartment again. Further, graduate studies while teaching was so arduous that I had no interest in wasting time and energy drinking alcohol. A few years later, one young woman called to tell me that Dr. Li had been refused the position of Head of the Department of Sociology at OSU, a position for which he had maneuvered many years, but she and I were simply relieved that he would not have greater power to abuse. I still know nothing about the persistent rumors that Dr. Li was a scary foreign operative who maintained surveillance on foreign students for their governments who wanted to keep control of them. Dr. Li did not speak to me about the senile history-of-sociology professor, whose name is blank to me, a Caucasian of some sort or another, or as some in the department would say, a Caucasoid, who after forty years of teaching still read his notes instead of lecturing, and who had the habit of calling female graduate students into his office on the pretext of discussing their grades, then masturbating in front of them. I had no idea that this was going on, but when the senile professor did this to me, I immediately went to the Director of the Department of Sociology to complain; but he, who had a heavy Middle Eastern accent and was difficult to understand, was not in his office as usual (having given over many of his duties to his subordinate, my energetic and ambitious advisor), so I complained to several professors who were in (I knew all of them and I had guest-lectured for several.) The senile masturbator was retired early, and I got a C- in his course which is a fail-grade in graduate school, a grade which, after I complained yet again, was subsequently upgraded to a still damaging B. I let the B slide as my grade average was good enough to handle it. During my oral examination by my four examining professors (each in a different area of sociology), I easily and politely answered their questions, with the exception of Dr. Li who lied and obfuscated, and I called him on it vigorously. I may have raised my voice. I passed my comprehensive examinations, both written and oral, on my first attempt, earning my Master's Degree in Sociology at age 46 in 1995. Dr. Alonzo was especially kind to make certain that I understood that I had done well. He had given me very good political advise throughout my studies, and helped me very much. If I had not passed my exams, I would have had to apply for another student loan to stay longer in the department, and I already owed $20,00.00 (although I received only $12K after the initial bank fees and subsequent interest.) That loan was to be very difficult to manage with no employment, and then underemployment. Under the circumstances, I did not risk going on for a doctorate. I had hoped that after earning an economical master’s degree in sociology, I could then upgrade to a masters/doctorate program in genetics. Lost, my dreams of this were lost, I was too overwhelmed and financially frightened to continue.
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“The Gini coefficient (also known as the Gini index or Gini ratio) is a measure of statistical dispersion intended to represent the income distribution of a nation's residents, and is the most commonly used measure of inequality. It was developed by the Italian statistician and sociologist Corrado Gini and published in his 1912 paper Variability and Mutability.” Source: https://www.bing.com/search?q=gini+coefficient&FORM=EDGENA.
Caption: He Performed Tai Chi Chuan In Yang Style.
acrylic 20” x 24”
by Annmarie Throckmorton 1995.