Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Diversity of Diversities

Today class was more focused on gender social constructions and how they affect us in our everyday lives. For the first part of class, we spoke about how oppression has different faces and that sometimes it is not a drastic outward expression. Oppression can be subtle and it can go undetected and unhindered until someone is so uncomfortable they are moved into action. This is often how oppression continues in the cycle of socialization. Women are often a part of this recycling of oppression by conforming to the submissive perfect type of woman who knows her place. Women often collude by normalizing the facts of male dominance.we then put together a chart of all the things that are normal for males and females and everything that is perceived as negative in males and females. It was fascinating to analyze the two lists and fine commonalities and also stark differences that shouldn't make such an impact on the distribution of power. We realized after examining the lists that negative male feature are expected woman-like traits and non-womanly traits are more about being out of perfect balance within to given extremes.

 After thinking about this, we portrayed through skits how women and men are expected to act versus how they are thought of when they don't act in the "normal" way. I expressed a woman struggling between being "too-dependent or wanting a man too much" to "being a feminist and not needing a man and being independent." I actually had trouble with finding the balance after playing the two extremes and being ridiculed. Society says you're supposed to not be too needy but not be independent either; you must be the perfect balance as a woman. I was able to grasp how unreal this expectation that society has placed on women really was. There were other topics along that line in that women shouldn't be too reserved or they're "prude" to not being to promiscuous as being "slutty". It's amazing the subtle hints we buy into about how to act each and every day as the cycle continues. I want to thank Summer@Brown for the opportunity of having a chance for an opened mind and broadened view point.

We then broke for lunch, with one challenge to do and bring back to the group in the afternoon session. We were challenged to ask someone what Masculinity means to them/ how would you describe it, and then the same for femininity. I thought this would be simple and set out to ask the first person and get it done. I then realized that this was, in fact, a challenge. It proved harder than I thought to even get someone to answer me. One group of guys I asked told me they had to get to class in 10 minutes and therefore couldn't answer my 30 second question. (it was lunch time and all afternoon classes start at the same time, 1:00, and it was 12:00). I then proceeded to try to ask other people of numerous backgrounds in numerous different ways and each time I was either turned down, or told it means male and female. Everyone seemed frightened by the question itself and felt uncomfortable with the idea itself. I finally got one answer from someone after 5 minutes of prodding and he just said "Boys are strong. Girls are soft." 

We then reconvened for the next part of our class where we spoke about how people are socialized to the idea of not bringing up things considering gender characteristics. I found it interesting how people where either uncomfortable with the idea, or had a very narrow point of view of masculine and feminine characteristics. After a good discussion about other people's experiences and thoughts, we did an art gallery walk. It was where we saw pieces of our culture (articles, magazines, superheros, & costumes) and then wrote down what they were saying to you. It was amazing to look at common pieces of culture from an eye opening perspective. I saw how wonder woman was such a sexual icon, Beyonce was Photoshopped to fit a "norm", and a woman who was shot was overlooked in an article because her husband was an astronaut. It was amazing how once I knew things, I couldn't not know. It shows how misinformed people can just go along with oppression. 

After class we went to another training about diversity. I wasn't too excited to go because I live in a pretty diverse place and I didn't want to miss eating for two hours. When I got there, however, I was pleasantly surprised when we played this game where you have to say "pterodactyl" without showing your teeth even if you laugh. It was so fun to hang out with the girls in a friendly way. After the ice breaker we were asked questions like, "What is the most difficult part of your life to share?", and then people moved to a sign saying sexual orientation, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. It was really nice to be able to have deep conversations with people who despite where they come from, they still have troubles like you. It made some of us cry. It was a very beautiful experience that I hope to always remember. We also did an exercise where if the statement applies to you, you step in the circle and if it doesn't you stay where you are. You weren't allowed to talk the entire time. Afterward when we discussed it some said they wanted to explain why they moved when they did, but couldn't. I felt like it was freeing to not have to explain why, or how much it pertained to you, and to have people with you. Not one person ever stepped into the circle alone. It showed me that despite our differences we all have similar experiences. 

This exercise also opened my eyes to seeing how there are different types of diversity, and that diversity itself has many different types. Just because someone is wealthy doesn't mean they don't have struggles or different backgrounds and vice versa. I loved the experience today and how wonderful and brilliant each girls opinions were. I am having a beautiful time here at Brown and I am so happy its not over yet. 

The Beautiful Brown (I'll try to get more pictures tomorrow.)

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