Monday, July 22, 2013

The Seven Categories of Otherness


Last night I went to bed without a blanket--which felt really strange--and with a fan blowing directly into my face, listening to the murmur of voices coming from my roommate's computer as she watched Netlix.

We went to breakfast at Ratty, the closest dining hall. We had to look at the map the whole way there, but we eventually figured it out.
View on the way to breakfast

Today was our first day of class at Brown. We (accidently) took an extra long route to class, but still arrived with 15 minutes to spare.

Once everyone was there, we discussed the basics of the class, and covered what we are going to be studying, which includes women, leaders, women who are leaders, and social constructs, such as race. Our instructor, Dean Almandrez, then talked about how she plans for the class to be full of interdisciplinary studies, including gender studies, sociology, and social justice. I think that in studying these topics, it is important to be reflective, and be able to recognize our different views on controversial topics, yet be respectful in our class discussions.

We then discussed the main components of the class, including being on time and in time, seeking first to understand, then to be understood, speaking your truth, and expanding your comfort zone.

Dean Almandrez then assigned us our homework for the next two weeks, which covers daily reading, our Action Plan, and the Social Construction of Gender Analysis. I’m not nervous about the workload, but that my work will not meet Dean Almandrez’s, and my, expectations.
 
Thayer Street
We broke out for lunch at 11:30. When we came back at 1:00, a circle with the word, “self” was written on the board. We then drew branches extending out from the circle to count for all of the aspects with which people identify. Those consist of religion, social class, ethnicity and race, ability, gender, and sexual orientation. These are the “Seven Categories of Otherness.” Although a political views category was not actually on the chart, I felt like it was present in most of the categories.

After creating the chart, we agreed that the dominants, meaning the most privileged, in the categories would result in a white, healthy, upper-class, 30-60 year old, heterosexual, Christian man. The subordinates, meaning the underprivileged, would result in a woman or transgender who is any other race, is poor, has disabilities, does not identify as heterosexual, and is a part of a religious minority. We then established that there is actually a “border group,” which is contains people who either fit into multiple categories, or none at all. These consist of the middle class, transgendered people, Catholics, biracial people, people with mild disabilities, and people who are bisexual. I found myself identifying in this group, as I am multiracial, my father is Catholic, and I am a part of the middle class.

We then watched, ‘The Danger of a Single Story,’ which is the story of Chimamanda Adichie, an African woman who moved to the United States and discovered cultural shock. As a child, she described being vulnerable, and reading stories and books that only had white kids with blonde hair and blue eyes. She explained how, “it is impossible to see anything else after it is told to you,” which I think is a very accurate assessment of our society. She fell into this trap as a child, and only wrote about white kids playing in snow, when she had never seen snow. When she came to America, her college roommate asked to, “see her tribal music.” In turn, when she went to Mexico, she judged the country based on what she had heard about it. When she got there, she was surprised as to how friendly the people were. I think the US just assumes that all of Africa is in extreme poverty because those are the parts that we have heard information about. While there are parts of the continent that are in poverty, it is wrong to make assumptions, and group together different countries that are full of a variety cultures and languages.
 
Brown Campus
Even though it was only the first day, I feel like I have a completely new perspective on leadership, ethnicity and women. I am used to just arguing my point and not really listening to opinions that differ from mine, but this course has challenged me so far to expand my comfort zone, and become a better leader.

After class we went to a mandatory leadership workshop. I thought it was going to be really tedious, but it was actually really fun because of the activities that we did. We did an activity where we stepped forward, backwards or to either side if we agreed with a certain statement, such as, “I like to take charge when working with a group.” Once we were on certain sides, we were given papers that were labeled, “North, South, East and West.” Each side had a leadership style described on it. North was the most authoritative, and assertive, but could often times be rude. South was the most passive, and could easily be taken advantage of. East focused most on the big picture, and the future, but could get distracted. West was concentrated on planning, making lists, and seeing things through, but often is inconsiderate of feelings and can get too focused on analysis. I felt like a combination between North and West, but in the end I could only pick one, so I chose West. I learned from this exercise that I need to be more aware of other peoples’ feelings, and take into consideration their ideas, and give other people a chance to lead.
 
Paintings in Sayles where we did the Leadership Workshop
I am excited to continue our course tomorrow, and learn more leadership skills!
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