Let’s Talk About “Alice”: The Fragility of White Womanhood in Grad School Spaces

AKA “There’s a fragile white woman in my class who doesn’t seem to handle criticism very well and we’re probably going to fight by the end of the semester… or next week”.

There’s this woman in my Wednesday night grad school course who is going to hate me by the end of the semester if she doesn’t already.

Let’s call her Alice.

Alice has had some bad opinions over the past two weeks of our classes. Near the end of our first class after I’d already given this passionate defense of audiobooks as another valid way of reading, Alice looked me dead in the face and said “No offense, but… I still don’t think audiobooks count as reading.”

I let it slide because it was the first class of the semester and her first literature class. I told myself that Alice would be better the next class.

Alice was not better the next class.

As with the previous week, I focus my discussion topics on accessibility and how alternative forms of text are valid forms of reading that open literary worlds up to people who can’t access the printed page.


Basically goes on this spiel about how she feels that books have a soul and how they’re more important than digital/audible books.


I share a side-eye with my girl Katelynn and decide that Alice isn’t worth it. I spent all of last semester engaging with a thick-headed MFA student who was so busy trying to be a “good white man” that he constantly ignored or spoke over the queer people of color in our class. The professor and my other classmates got where I was going and we even talked positively about how note taking and other forms of communication in the kindle interface mimic the experience of “reading” from back in the Middle Ages.

It was great!

But THEN – (And I don’t know what sparked this) – Alice brings up how print books are supposedly “more accessible” because “poor people can’t afford kindles and ebooks”. She positioned it as an “aha” moment where my arguments for accessibility were useless because “you can go to goodwill or the library and get books”.

Obviously, as someone who owns two kindles and buys other people kindles whenever they can despite the fact that I am WELL below the poverty line, I was like… not about that lie.

So the last like fifteen minutes of class were devoted to Katelynn and me basically pointing out that “poor people” own expensive shit for a variety of reasons but also that kindle fires are cheap as hell and the book selections at Goodwill (because used bookstores often sell books at full price unless they’re doing a sale, by the way) are terrible and that poor people don’t have as much access to libraries as you’d think.

(We’re poor. We’d know this.)

So I look at her and I basically go “I’m not really zeroing in on you, this is something I’ve heard from other people” and Alice just… goes on this tangent about how her boyfriend’s car was broken into and her phone was stolen[1] before deeming the conversation a pointless argument and getting huffy to the point where the professor had to intervene and shut her down because it was a hot classist, and lowkey racist mess.

I hate people like Alice.

I hate disingenuous people who don’t actually care about the people they’re using in their arguments. Clearly, Alice’s experiences with poorness aren’t my experiences with poorness. She doesn’t have the experiences or the insight about how we struggle to get things for our kids or siblings or niecelings.

My nieces all have tablets because they’re inexpensive and because we want them to read. And they do. They use their kindles to read comics and novels and listen to audiobooks.

Ebooks are usually WAY more inexpensive than print books and like guess what, you can pirate those fuckers if you can’t afford books at all. You can’t pirate a print book. (I’m not here to argue about ethics here. It’s a fact that pirating ebooks gets books into the hands of people who otherwise wouldn’t be able to get them or read them. Piracy is bad, but it also makes reading accessible.)

What I’m trying to say here though is that Alice needs to check her goddamned privilege (white and class) and consider why the way she reacts in class to me when I talk about things she disagrees with isn’t acceptable.  And then she needs to stop.

Otherwise, we’re going to have a bigger problem than we already do.

She’s got two strikes.

[1] As if to say that print books are better because people don’t steal books. As someone who has stolen physical books from people AND stores in my youth, that’s just bullshit.


2 thoughts on “Let’s Talk About “Alice”: The Fragility of White Womanhood in Grad School Spaces

  1. I’ve encountered people like Alice before, too. I think at least one component of this type of attitude is “the romanticization of poverty’, coupled with some personal insecurities, an eagerness to contribute some thing, any thing, to the discussion, racism, and some amount of shame at their own ignorance.

    There are some monetarily privileged white people who are ashamed at the security bubble they have lived in their whole life, and feel like poor people have some knowledge and expertise about how the world works that they don’t have.

    And yeah, at least part of it is that you’re Black and she thinks you know things about the world she doesn’t know. She probably can’t stand that.

    At any rate you have far more patience than I do.( All I’m saying is its a good thing for some people that we don’t live in a Star Wars universe.)

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I get the feeling she wouldn’t think of fanfiction as “real” books. I bring this up because I’ve downloaded a bunch of it off AO3, including podfic. All of which is, guess what, free. I also don’t have to worry about storing it because I’ve got way more space on my laptop than I do on my bookshelf.

    Also, if a book is public domain, I’d rather download it for free than pay for a print copy.


Comments are closed.