Wednesday, July 31, 2013

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.
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