Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It Is Not How You Start It Is How You Finish

I woke up feeling rejuvenated and ready to start my day. I got breakfast from the V Dub and went to class. 

As I got to class we began by doing a scavenger hunt activity where we had to find the items on the list and take a picture with at least three of our members at the location. We also had to ask a few questions to random civilians and get a picture of those who answered them correctly.

Dean Almandrez told us that she expected us to play fair and with integrity which meant that we had to acquire all of the leadership skills that we had learned in order to not be disqualified. I knew that everyone in my class would play fair, so I wasn’t too worried about the possibility of someone cheating or ganging up on one specific team.

I immediately took control and throughout this entire program I have come to the realization that I can be too controlling. I expect things to go my way and I have certain routines that I like to adhere to. I feel like this is something that is a work in progress and I need to work on incorporating the ideas of my teammates more often. I noticed that some of my teammates were walking too slowly for my standards and I told them to hurry up, but then I stopped and thought about how Faith has a condition where she gets tired really easily. I felt bad that I might have been pushing her too hard and asked her to sit down to regain her composure. My team and I ended up letting Faith rest for a moment and tried to find her some water to drink. She was becoming increasing famished and dehydrated which frightened me a bit. We ended up walking back to class and came in last place, but we came in first place for caring about each other’s well-being over winning. I learned that it’s not how you start it’s how you finish and I am proud of myself for my growth that I demonstrated today. In the past, before I got to this program, I would have gotten frustrated with Faith instead of trying to help her.

As we returned to class we started our next activity where we had to rate the characters in a story from least awful to the most awful. I disagreed with my group, because I felt like they were fitting into the stereotype of being overly critical of other women when they blamed the woman in the story for most of the misfortunes. I actually saw the big picture, but as you know majority rules. At the end of the exercise Dean Almandrez informed us that Abigail, the girl in the story, was actually the victim and most of the characters in the story mistreated in some way. I felt validated by her comments and I was also mad that we, as women, could not identify with another woman.

If a woman gets assaulted it is always her fault for walking out of her house dressed provocatively and should have taken self-defense classes. However, we never question why a man abused her in the first place.

There was a story on the news where a woman actually went to jail for shooting warning shots in the air to warn her abusive husband to stay away from her. Not once did the police ever question why her husband was abusing her in the first place.

The fact that makes this reality so disgraceful is that most of the people who blame women are other women. The sisterhood between women has become so crippled and fragile while men are committed to helping one another. I hope that by following through with my action plan I can mend the relationship that women share with the same-sex.

Here is the story below:

There lived a woman named Abigail who was in love with a man named Gregory. Gregory lived on the shore of a river. Abigail lived on the opposite shore of the same river. The river that separated the two lovers was teeming with dangerous alligators. Abigail wanted to cross the river to be with Gregory. Unfortunately, the bridge had been washed out by a heavy flood the previous week. So she went to ask Sinbad, a riverboat captain, to take her across. He said he would be glad to if she would consent to go to bed with him prior to the voyage. She promptly refused and went to a friend named Ivan to explain her plight. Ivan did not want to get involved at all in the situation. Abigail felt her only alternative was to accept Sinbad’s terms. Sinbad fulfilled his promise to Abigail and delivered her into the arms of Gregory. When Abigail told Gregory about her amorous escapade in order to cross the river, Gregory cast her aside with disdain. Heartsick and rejected, Abigail turned to Slug with her tale of woe. Slug, feeling compassion for Abigail, sought out Gregory and beat him brutally. Abigail was overjoyed at the sight of Gregory getting his due. As the sun set on the horizon, people heard Abigail laughing at Gregory.

Here is the truth: As it turns out Sinbad is Abigail's estranged husband, Lee is her mother, Ivan is her brother, and Gregory is her father. When you first read this story you perceive Abigail to be an unfaithful woman who lacks integrity. 

After this exercise we played a card game that entailed playing by your assigned rules. However, we didn’t think about the fact that if all of the teams had different rules then when we rotated we wouldn’t know the rules of the next game. I should inform you that we were not allowed to verbally communicate with one another, so we looked like a class filled of mimes. This lesson was supposed to teach us how detrimental communication is to the success of a group and how without it you can end being confused beyond comprehension.

After the class activity we were allowed to leave early in order to work on our action plans. I was grateful for the extra hour, because I needed to do a lot of work on my action plan and practice my practice presentation for tomorrow. I will have to present in front of my class first tomorrow and I hope that I can exude the most amount of confidence to my ability. 

The Value of Equity

In the morning session we went on a scavenger hunt looking for things that were associated with the material we learned. We asked people if they could define certain terms relating to one’s identity, and I discovered that some people were unable to define commonly used terms.

A majority of people were confused about the word “feminist.” A feminist is a person who supports equality for women, but it seemed that they confused the word with femininity. Additionally describing the differences between sex, gender, and sexual orientations was difficult for others to describe. The words are used on a daily basis but most people are not familiar with their unique definitions.
The second woman on the left was able to define misogyny 
We only have two more days left. Tomorrow the essay for our Action Plan is due and we have to give a practice presentation tomorrow. We also had a few fun quirky things to look for. One of the requirements was to find two men who would stand in the Wonder Women pose. My group found a father his son who were willing to pose for a picture. We were also required to ask a man to name one young female leader, but the only one that came to his mind was Miley Cyrus—I was not expecting that as an answer.
Wonder Woman Pose! 
I will definitely miss all of the people I have met here! I am astounded by how much I have grown. I feel like I now have the information I need to become a better leader and to be able to advocate for change.

Towards the end of class Dean Almandrez recapped on what we have learned so far. She described true leadership as not competing against someone but helping them succeed alongside you. A majority of the workshops we participated in reflected this ideology because we respected one another's opinions and came to a consensus by doing so.

She also mentioned that we must encourage equity wherever we are. In reality we may never reach full equality, but we can make a difference by advocating for equity.

Dean Almandrez led a Zumba session on the main quad today. The primary reason why I wanted to participate in this activity was because it was led by my instructor!  I thought the endorphins would help lighten up my melancholy mood I developed after realizing that I only have two days left.

Katniss Everdean

Today was day ten on the island. 

...Rhode Island.

In class, we reviewed the different leadership theories by raising hands to give definitions for each, then moved on to a presentation Dean Almandrez had created on Asian women in leadership. One of the stories was from a woman who got a job as a journalist and who indicated that her mother wasn't immediately excited for her; instead, she warned her that she was representing all Asians by taking the job on television. 

Then we did a scavenger hunt. We split into six groups of four and were told that the goal was to be back first having checked off everything on our list. Every group was given 45 minutes and handed a list of things to find, including someone who knows the difference between sex, gender, and sexual orientation, the LGBTQ center at Brown, and a male feminist. My group ran from place to place, asking strangers on the street if they knew what misogyny was and taking pictures with them if they answered correctly. We took pictures with people and in front of each of the buildings we had to find, as proof that the four of us were there, and as evidence that each group stayed together, which was a rule. I had asked a guy on the street if he was a feminist, and got the frustrating response of "no, I'm a man." 

My team collaborated very well and our group was very balanced; we had two Wests (Ruchi and I helped figure out the exact locations of the buildings), and my other teammates were Kelli, a North, and Sania, a South. My team finished first, with over 17 minutes left. The next group to come had five minutes before time was up. Other groups had forgotten to check the time when the countdown started or had trouble finding people in the Leadership Institute to answer questions, since most Leadership students were in class, but I had noted the time for my group and we decided to knock on a door to borrow students (the teachers were happy to help us) so that helped us keep ahead of the other groups. 

We read a story called "Alligator River" about five characters who are all horrible people, and we had to decide who was the worst of them and rank them by what we thought they did was most morally wrong. I noticed that the story was very vague, and when each group posted its ranking, it was clear that there were a few different possible interpretations. That was mainly because the story never explained the relationships the characters have. There were trends in the different groups' rankings, most chose the same two for either worst or second-worst character, but one group chose Gregory for the worst and another chose him for the best (or rather, least bad).

We took a break for lunch, and Elia, Sonya, Michelle, and myself drove over with Dean Almandrez to have lunch at a place called Gregg's. She was genuinely interested in what we had to say about the program and how we felt about it, and really seemed to appreciate the input. We sat down and ordered, and we really got to know each other better. Dean Almandrez told us a hilarious story about orange chicken, which we followed with our own embarrassing stories. It was really nice to talk to our instructor as a person rather than as a teacher. It was different from what I'm used to, because at my school there's usually more distance between teachers and students. It was a nice change, and I had a lot of fun. 

After lunch, we returned to class, and Dean Almandrez told us the whole "Alligator River" story, not the less detailed one that we were given. In this story, we realized that we had assumed that the father was a boyfriend, the mother was a man, and the brother was a stranger. The relationships they really had made a difference in how we ranked them when we thought they were different. 

Next we played a card game. The six teams sat at tables numbered 1-6. The goal was to move up to table #1. Each group learned the rules to the game on their own from a sheet of paper. We played one round with our group, and the winner moved up a table, and the loser moved down. The two in the middle stayed. The entire activity was to be silent. I stayed at my table throughout the activity, but when the second round started and we had a new person at out table, it was clear to me that her group had been given a different set of rules. Smiling, I pointed to the ace on the table that had won the round, then up in the air, gesturing "aces high." Each round, every new person was either stubborn about their rules or confused about ours. Everyone was either a little frustrated or absolutely perplexed. Some people didn't react well to the controversy and just took the cards playing by their own rules, but others submitted to the majority from the table. 

We talked about the different activities after we had finished all three. Dean Almandrez told us that in the first activity, the scavenger hunt, we could have done it as one big group. The idea had never even occurred to us. Instead of thinking to help each other, we had made it one huge competition. The next two activities showed how hard it was to work with little information. Then we discussed the difference between equality and equity. She gave the example of shoes. Equality would be giving the entire class the same pair of shoes...all the same size. Equity would be giving the class the same pair of shoes in each person's individual size. 

I ought to explain my title at some point. I told my brother that we did a scavenger hunt and played card games, so he immediately thought of the Hunger Games. Lunch with Dean Almandrez was also a big part of the day, so I tried to incorporate both of those. I apologize if it didn't work at all.

Today had a big focus on group activities, and I learned that in these situations, I behave a lot more like a South, the encouraging "team player" type. I did stand up for my opinion of one character and debated it with my group when ranking the characters, but we eventually decided on an order we could all agree on. During the activity with the silent card game, I noticed that many of my classmates were quick to get angry, but I calmly did my best to help them figure out what was going on. I think I did really well in the groups, because it was really useful practice adjusting your leadership style to the situation. 

I finished and submitted my Action Plan essay today, and have started preparing my speech, which I'll be practicing in class tomorrow and performing on Friday. I'm not looking forward to packing, so I'll probably get a head start on that as soon as possible.

Today was really fun, but as the day went on, I was increasingly aware that nothing we were doing would happen in high school. Scavenger hunts for someone who can name a young woman leader and lunch with a teacher never happens at El Cerrito, and I really wish it did. 

Cherishing Each Moment at Brown

It is unbelievable that the class is ending soon. One of my classmates at Women and Leadership had said, “Once we go home reality will set in” and I completely agree with it; here at Brown, I have met people who are completely different and understanding and respect you but high school is not the same. 

Today was time to put all our learning into work as an activity. Out first activity was a scavenger hunt. All of us were put in a group. Eve, Julia, Vivian and I were in group number 6. We had 45 minutes to complete the task. As soon as, Dean Almandrez started the timer all of us rushed to get it done soon even though no one said it was a competition. Most of the activity involved asking questions to a stranger. Once we got out, we saw a group of boys walking and we ran to them and requested of them a Wonder Woman pose (that was one of the things in the scavenger hunt). Only two of them agreed and as a photographer of the group, I took pictures for the proof. Many of the men did not know any young female leaders. Some of them instantly replied they were not male feminists when we asked if they consider themselves as a feminist. I enjoyed the whole activity and I felt like a media reporter while asking questions to strangers and taking their pictures. 

Another activity was to read a story and rank the character from 1 to 5, 1 being the worst and 5 being least bad. My group was having difficulties ranking them because in a way all the characters seemed bad. We had 30 minutes to figure this out but we had not ranked all the characters until the last 5 minute. Out list was similar to some other groups. Later, Dean Almandrez told us the real story and it was surprising. None of us thought of the story from that perspective. (To view the first part of story, Click here)
(The real story: Abigail was Gregory's daughter, Ivan was Abigail's brother, Sindbad was Abigail's ex-husband and Slug/Lee was Abigail's mother)

After lunch, we met together for a silent card activity. There was a table for each group (1-6) and the winner had to move up (if in 6, move to 5) and the loser had to move down (if in 5, move down to 6) and each desk had different rules. Throughout the whole game, no one was able to speak. As I never got to move up, I could not experience how it was to play with different rules. I finally had won the game and when it was time for me to move up, the game ended. After the game, people shared how they felt when they had to move to different tables and play with different rules. Some of them told that they were frustrated and it was hard to figure out what was going on while some of them said they just claimed the card and played by the rules they had been assigned earlier. This activity showed us that sometimes, as a leader you will have to play by different rules and it depends on you to change the rules or play with the existing rules.

After class, I went back to my dorm and worked on my Action Plan. There was Zumba going on at the Main Green so I thought I should refresh myself and get out of the dorm. Dean Almandrez was the one teaching us Zumba. I was very off-beat but I tried my best to follow through. Before, I had difficulties as I knew I would not do well but I realized I was there for fun. 

Today was definitely one of the best days at Brown University. From the beginning till the end of the day, I had plenty of fun. It will be hard to leave all this behind. I would love to stay here for some more days but school is starting soon and I have to be back.

An Old Girls Network

Today is the last day of "normal" class. A class in Women and Leadership is never "normal".

In the morning session, we recapped from yesterday with everyone saying some more things they had thought of after class yesterday. I said how I found it it trivial and petty that we let socioeconomic class being used to separate the group into two, separate us. Dean Almandrez said that it was right to think this. I realized even more so how silly it had been to let an identity we had been learning about all 2 weeks still affect us so much. I realized that in order to stay together as a network, we must stay united within our differences and able to see difference without discrimination. All the girls in this class are so wonderful, I have never felt judged for who I was in this class.

For the second part of the morning classes, we did a scavenger hunt. It was 45 minutes long, and we were partnered up randomly. I had Alicia, Faith and Spencer in my group. We started off with great enthusiasm, but as soon as we got out of the building we were completely at a loss as to what to do next. We had trouble with our different leadership styles, everyone was getting overpowered by the strong voice of the north member. It was difficult for me because others were getting upset and there was controversy. We still had relative civility, but we were very conflicted as a group. We ended up finally getting off to our start, and found all the people to answer the questions first. Some questions we had to ask were like "Are you a male feminist?", "Will you do the Wonder Woman pose?", and "Who is a young woman leader?". There were several other questions, but despite the question, everyone was a little hesitant to answer. People would just walk away, or say "No. I don't know." It was very interesting to see how uncomfortable people were with the topic of women and sexuality. We also had to locate some buildings on campus which proved difficult until I got a map to use. We ended up heading back before we finished one question, because we could not find a student in leadership who was not in class.

We ended up to be the last group back, and that was a little depressing. We had worked hard, but we had run into some differences of opinion and strong ideas which slowed us down. It made me realize how important it is for girls to work together, despite their own ideas.

When we finished the activity, we went right into another activity. It was a story that we had to read with our group and then decide who was the worst and least worst characters. The story was about a woman named Abigail who loved a man named George across the river infested with alligators. Abigail asked Sinbad to take her across and he agreed to in exchange for sex. Abigail then sought out Ivan to take her across the river, but he refused to get involved in the situation. Abigail then takes up Sinbad's offer and crosses the river. She then is cast away with disdain by George. Abigail tells Lee, a person with compassion for her, who then beats up George. While Lee beats up and berates George, Abigail laughs at George.

This story was overall a story with terrible characters, but we had to rank them worst to least worst. My group ranked it Sinbad, Abigail, George, Lee, and Ivan. After we had worked on thinking about it for 30 minutes, we left for lunch, without discussing it.

For lunch today, we got the privilege of going out to lunch with Dean Almandrez. It was so wonderful to be able to connect with her on a more personal level than in the classroom. She is such an inspirational person to me, and I am so glad to have been blessed with her as an instructor. However, before going to lunch with her, I had my apprehensions about it. I was afraid I wouldn't know what to say, despite the fact that I had no reason to have worries: She does a great job of creating a safe and open atmosphere in the classroom.

The restaurant we went to.
She took us to an American style restaurant in Providence named Greggs. It was so cool. They make their own bread and pickles. They were so good! During lunch we talked about everything from our experiences in the program to a comical stories about our lives. She is a great role model I have been able to meet, and a most definite young woman leader. After we had shared great conversations, the bill came. We all took out our wallets. Dean Almandrez just said "Oh, no. Don't worry about that now. All I ask is that when you get older and have a steady income, that you seize the opportunity and do what I have done here. Create a mentor-ship flow of passing it on. Create an old girls network." I thought that was really deep. Why do we not do that more often as women?

Back at class, we went back to the terrible story we had analyzed. Each group said how they ranked the characters and why. Dean Almandrez then told us we had not heard the full story. She said that George was Abigail's father, Sinbad was Abigail's estranged husband, Ivan was her brother, and Lee was George's wife. It changed our ideas of each character completely.

We also did another activity where we played card games with different rules given to each of our groups. I was in the 1st group which was supposed to be the best group. Everyone was playing in their own groups trying to beat each other out, without talking,  to move toward the 1st groups table. Our rules said that the player who plays the highest card of a suit wins the trick and whoever wins the most wins. The first game set we played, I got dealt a bad hand and I ended up losing. I had to move down a table. When I moved tables it was like going to a foreign land. The first trick I played a high card and then the winner ended up being a girl who put a middle diamond down. I instantly decided that I would just be crazy and put down all the diamonds I had, highest to lowest and see what happens. It ended up that I won the game and moved back to my original spot. (Turns out their rules were diamonds are the highest suit. And I had a lot of diamonds.) After the game, Dean Almandrez told us how the game is like leadership, and that you have to learn to adapt to new rules and still overcome, and be flexible.

At the end of the class Dean Almandrez showed us two people playing tug of war. She pointed out that when two people are holding a rope set across from each other and trying to get both of them to the other side, people end up pulling each other. She then asked us, why would we not just walk to the other side. She said that so often women think they are set up against each other, and try to compete, but in actuality, one could just help another to accomplish the same goals. She also told us that the scavenger hunt never said we all couldn't work together, we just assumed we were in competition, because we had groups.

I will definitely try to think about my life as not so much of a competition. Instead of fighting against each other, we should all come together to try to fix our bigger problems, rather than pit each other against ourselves.

Scavenger Hunts and Card Games?

Today I woke up still not feeling great, but I put that aside because I know that these last few days are possibly the most important.

In class, we discussed some of the topics that had come up yesterday in the fishbowl exercise that Dean Almandrez wanted to expand. Yesterday Savannah, one of the girls from our class, said that she did not think of other people's socioeconomic statuses when she arrived at Brown, but I admitted that because I had come here on a scholarship, it was one of the first things that I had thought of. Dean Almandrez stated that it was the "most profound thing" she had heard all day. I was very surprised at that statement, because I did not feel like what I had said was very significant. She then explained that it had been a good opportunity for someone to take the conversation in a different direction.

We were then told that we were going to partake in various team building activities. We were put in groups of four; my group was me, Vera, Mary-Ann, and Allie.

Our first activity was a scavenger hunt where we walked all over campus to check items off of a list. The first thing we got to cross off our list was "find two males to do the wonder woman pose." The first guys we found were two Brown students. They were extremely willing to do the wonder woman pose, which I found very surprising! The next thing we crossed off was "find a male who can identify a young, female leader." The guy we found had a very difficult time naming a young female leader, about which I was a little disappointed. I thought that everyone had to know about Malala after everything she has done. In the end, he named Oprah Winfrey, who isn't necessarily the person we were looking for, but we took it anyways. It was a race, after all!

Throughout the scavenger hunt, Mary-Ann was running the entire time, and it was so hard to keep up with her! She is a track runner, and is extremely athletic, so my group and I were constantly behind her. The next person we found was a "male feminist." At first he was a bit reluctant to confirm that he was indeed a feminist, but once we explained to him that a feminist is anyone who advocates for gender equity and women's rights, he admitted that he was a feminist. I think many people don't know the actual definition of "feminist," but only know the negative connotations that come with identifying as one.

My group came in third out of six in the scavenger hunt. I wasn't disappointed though, because I thought we worked well as a team.

After this activity, Michelle, Sonya, Julia and I went to lunch with Dean Almandrez. It was interesting to get to know her on a more personal basis. I was really grateful to get the opportunity to meet with her. We talked about the ILC and how we got involved in the program, and about the Women and Leadership class. We also talked a lot about embarrassing moments, which was really funny.

After this, we went back to class and read a short story that described five people who were all, in my opinion, equally bad, but then had to rate them in order of "worst and least worst." You can read the story here:

In the end, my group and I rated Gregory as the worst because he did not express any sense of compassion for Abigail. Our second worst was Sinbad, because he exploited Abigail, but still completed his promise. We placed Abigail in the middle because while she was not at fault for what happened to Gregory, she did nothing to stop it and actually laughed at his pain. Next was Lee, because he had acted with good morals in "brutally beating" Gregory, but still inflicted pain on another person. Last was Ivan, because his doing nothing neither progressed the story or made it go backwards.

Our lists.
After we explained our reasoning for placing the people, Dean Almandrez gave us more information about the situation. Gregory was Abigail's father, not her partner, as we had assumed. Sinbad was Abigail's ex-husband, and Ivan her brother. Lee was actually Abigail's mother, which I found very surprising. I think even after we learned the true relations of the characters, I would have kept them in the same positions.

Something that my group and I discussed and found interesting was that if Abigail were a boy, the story would change drastically.

Next we set up six tables around the room, and were told to play a card game. The goal was to move up to table one, and every time you won the game, you'd move up, and if you lost, you'd move down. Little did we know, each table was playing a different game. I actually didn't move for the entire game, but I soon realized that other tables were playing different games, because as new people arrived at my table, they were extremely confused. This activity was interesting because it taught us to work together.
Working on Action Plans.
Back at the dorms, Allie, Savannah, Michelle and I got together and worked on our Action Plans together, reading each other speeches, essays and note cards. It was great to have a second, third and even fourth opinion on my work.
Working on my speech.
Tomorrow is our practice round of Action Plan presentations. It's scary and exciting all at once!