The time has come for this Harpy to begin her summer courses as she reaches slowly but surely for her college degree, and so it was with great eagerness that I went to my first summer class two days ago. The course material looks wonderful and challenging, and the professor has set a rigorous pace at which I’ll be expected to learn about the course’s focus: Greek tragedies written by Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus. Despite the fact that the syllabus calls for the midterm exam to be on my birthday next month, everything seemed to be going really well during the two-hour class.
Then the professor started talking about Athenian democracy and how everyone was allowed to participate. Except that’s not the way it was. I raised my hand and politely asked, “were women able to vote?” The professor told me that was a good question and he didn’t know. After checking it when I got home, it turned out my supposition was right and that women indeed were not allowed to vote. Upon reflection, it really bothered me that my professor immediately said everyone was able to participate in Athenian democracy when he candidly admitted a moment later that he was unsure if that included women.
It might appear to be such a little thing, just a minor oversight. But it felt a bit more significant than that for me. I have the class again tonight and I’m planning to tell my professor that, in fact, the universal nature of Athenian democracy was not so universal after all, as it excluded half the city-state’s population. Maybe he won’t really think it to be that important; maybe he will. Either way, it’s these “minor oversights” that are sometimes the most irksome of all.