“Why can’t a woman change her mind?” Her voice was shrill and grainy, and her brown eyes darted over my appearance as though somehow my clothes or the way I held myself would give her the ammunition she was looking for. I could only stare at her incredulous, as it had been my question only moments before, and I couldn’t think of any reason why she would feel the need to repeat it.
What was this woman getting at? Was her line of thinking that women can’t change their minds? Or that they shouldn’t change their minds? Could it be the fact that I had the gall to broach the subject at all? Again I found her searching my face for signs of weakness, as though there she would find some crack in the outer façade and she could pick her way into my inner core being, and once she had, she would then find that it was all some sort of joke.
“So then am I to assume you don’t think women should be able to change their minds?” I asked her trying to get a sliver of clarification. I thought it better to get it all out into the open lest my confusion fester into something I didn’t recognize. I wondered if the others in the room felt the same way. I looked at her for a response but she only began to redden further and sat down in her seat again leaving me the only one to be standing before all thirty students of the class. All eyes awaited my next move, and I for the life of me, had no idea how this whole confrontation had begun in the first place.
I knew lots of women who changed their minds, hell I knew many men who did the same. Some did so in mid-stride of a conversation, others thought it wise to win an argument, but most did so because another point of view had opened a new perspective before them. People who changed their minds had open minds. It was those with closed and stubborn minds that didn’t wasn’t it? In all my days of dealing with all sorts of people with different world views I had never known anyone who took such offense at questioning a previous decision. It was as thought she was taking it personally.
“You look surprised.” The professor said to me. I looked about the room and again realized that all in presence were watching me as I continued to stand before them in my contemplation stupor.
“I am.” I said quietly both heady and flushed, “I don’t understand why my question upset her.” I sat down while she continued to glare at me form her side of the room.
“If you don’t have the strength to stand behind your convictions you shouldn’t have made them in the first place.” She spat over desks and students alike.
“You say I have no back-bone, but what strength or wisdom is there in standing up for something you no longer believe in? What if it was the previous decision or belief that was misguided? Would you still hang onto it just because it was your conviction?” My voice grew in strength, and I could feel my temperature rise. “Would you fight for something just because someone else has taught you that it is correct? Would you not want to find out the truth for yourself?” This woman was infuriating. I didn’t like arguing with her, let alone in front of a crowd of my peers, but something in me wouldn’t let it go. Couldn’t let it go. Didn’t she realize that a change of heart or mind was a freedom that everyone should be afforded? We took such liberties for granted. Many people in countries stifled, had and still fight for such freedoms, especially the women of those countries.
I shook my head, I could see no way of dealing with such a closed mind. It was as though she wore a brick wall around her and didn’t care who saw it. She was sticking her chin over the top of it daring us all to try our hand at toppling it over.
“You are the type of woman that gives all others a bad name.” She said with venom, “With your bottle blonde locks and your indecision, swaying this way and that as the wind takes you. How is anyone to respect what you stand for? Men think us weak, easy to push over and easy to lay when they see your inaction. You appear to be a valueless husk.”
“All this because I asked the question why a woman couldn’t change her mind? Are you for real? Your past hurt and heartache is leaking through the mortar in your brick wall, and if that chip on your shoulder were to grow any larger you would certainly buckle under the sheer weight of its shadow. So don’t tell me you are some expert on men and the way they see the world.” I was shaking in my fury at her personal attack; the adrenaline had left my legs stump-like and heavy. I sat down again before I fell to my chair.
“Okay, that is enough debate for today.” The professor smiled as he gained control of the class, “although it has been sometime that my topic of freedom of expression has enticed such a passionate response. I look forwards to what will happen in our next class.” There was nervous laughter from the students, the kind given when one is unsure of the correct way to respond.
The bell rang and was met with the sound of chairs scraping over floors. I was slow in getting to my feet, lost in my thoughts as I digested what had happened. Trying to discern why it had happened.
Then for some reason, it all changed. My thoughts were filled with brittle tree branches breaking in a strong wind, and the knowledge that no matter how hard the wind blows, the grasses only dip and dance with its firm caress. I thought of rock, and how it gets carved and ground down by waters patient persistence.
In that moment I understood that to get to these minds that seem to be sealed shut I too would have to adapt a gentle nature. A perseverance that over time would lead to a deeper understanding of human nature. With this realization, I was never more grateful for a sound mind with the freedom to change it if I so chose.