Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dare to Be Diverse

The weather for today promised overcast skies and lower temperatures. Of course, the humidity in the atmosphere kept it from feeling anything less than 80 degrees Fahrenheit.

I grabbed breakfast and then headed on over to class. I wondered to myself if this is constant and utter enthrallment truly is what awaits everyone at Brown University; the open curriculum allows students to choose whatever they are passionate about, and the option of the pass-fail system fosters an incentive to take any class, regardless of how strong one is in the subject. The ability for me to attend this class not because it is mandated by law, but because I genuinely have an interest in the topic and love for the teaching style, makes me feel much more in control of, and satisfied by, my life.

Desks in circle formation always elude to something important.
The first portion of class consisted of exploring the construction of gender and its implications when paired with other identities. We wrote down what we thought of when we saw the words man, woman, masculine, and feminine on Post-Its before giving them to Tina. She then transcribed our answers onto poster paper and asked us to write down who we thought encapsulated those traits the most.

After we had finished she fed us questions that covered the identity and status of those we chose. As we raised, or did not raise, our hands we were able to notice trends in who we thought encapsulated what it meant to be a man or a woman.

We broke for a group lunch and then returned to explore a more personalized aspect of gender. We spoke about how we felt about our gender identities and about our experiences with gender/gender
Raindrops in Providence to accompany our hearts.
roles as we navigated childhood. Then, Tina had us write down five instances in which we felt alienated from how we identified, pair up with someone else, listen to them share what they had written, and then give them affirmations.

If this sounds intense, just wait for the workshop.

A half hour after the second session of class ended, everyone gathered together to participate in what was known as the Diversity Workshop. First, we filled out a sheet of paper that asked us about the different parts of our comprehensive identity and then shared what we had felt comfortable writing with two other people. The information was extremely personal and demanded a substantial amount of bravery and trust from everyone. Nothing we learned was to be spoken about to other people.

The next activity was equally powerful. Skenda read a statement aloud and we were to silently step into the middle of the circle if it applied to us. It was incredible to see how many people shared certain experiences and how few shared others. Our privilege and oppression was further highlighted within the group and added nuance in the way we viewed each other.

The workshop did end in melancholy and tear tracks that poetically matched the weather outside. It was scary to be vulnerable and guilt-wracking to feel relieved as we compared ourselves to others. We were reminded how we can easily ignored the circumstances of others. We were reminded of how
avidly we attempt to rationalize our own and others' experiences in favor of allowing them to speak for themselves.

Women and Leadership is not a place of simple discussion and intellectualization, I've found. Equal attention is devoted to the personal as is given to the political. I believe that because of this, with each passing day we all become closer and more appreciative of each other's unique beings.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh...the east coast summer rain that you were promised.