Tuesday, June 28, 2016

How Trading Starburst Reflects Society

The first day of Women and Leadership can be best described by the following golden words: interactive, inclusive, informative, enlightening, and simply fun!

After having a bowl of trix cereal at the Ratty, I headed toward the Center of Technology building, the location of my class. Christine, our teacher's assistant, led us to the classroom. It was awesome meeting our instructor, Tina Park, after such an awaited time. She was very friendly!

The class began with introductions. We all listed our names, hometowns, and a guilty pleasure and answered one of the following questions: why did I sign up for the class, what do I expect to learn from the class, what issue concerns me about my community. Most of the students said that they signed up for the program to hone their leadership skills, find a way to bring about social change. I chose gender roles as an issue that drives me crazy and eating whipped cream as my guilty pleasure.

The syllabus was next on the list. Tina went over the four major assignments we will have to submit in the next two weeks. She also discussed the daily readings and reflections. I am very excited for the readings! 

What followed was, yet again, more icebreakers. We all formed a circle and then played a name game. In the activity, a person (e.g. person A) in the middle would face anyone (e.g. person B) in the circle and ask them either their own name (person A), person B's name, or the name of the person to person B's left or right. The game was very fun! I had to be in the middle quite a few times since everyone learned each other's names very quickly.  

Next we all held hands and Christine instructed us to pass along a hand squeeze around the circle. At first it was easy, but as she added more and more hand squeezes, it became very fast and confusing. We also passed various sounds around the circle ranging from "quack" to "poo." It was hilarious!

After these icebreakers, with partners, we went around the classroom where there were various pictures posted. We were instructed to write down our comments and thoughts about the pictures on sticky notes and post them near the pictures. With my partner Nicole, we went about the room, looking at various pictures stereotyping, objectifying, or empowering women. We then discussed our thoughts first in groups of four then as a class.

Something that I found very interesting was the variety of ideas and opinions. When I was exposed to ideas that were very different from mine, I often found myself understanding and agreeing with the contrasting opinions. For example, one of the pictures was an advertisement of an electric company. There were two pictures: the first displayed a woman's leg near a switch with the phrase "are we turning you on yet?" and the second picture displayed the whole woman with a baby, laptop, and briefcase with the phrase "we are more than you think we are." People had many different opinions about these pictures. Some said that the advertisement is objectifying woman as a medium of sexual gratification. Others said that it is at first creating that established stereotype and then dismantling it by showing that women are more than that by displaying the various responsibilities a woman can handle at the same time.

Before I knew it, it was lunch time. With a few of our new friends, Lauren and Sara, us ILCers went out to have lunch with them at the V-Dub. We all chatted about the current politics and issues that are concerning us. We also completed a small survey Tina told us to do during lunch. The survey was to ask people who we do not  know about the person they think is the greatest woman. Mothers, Michelle Obama, and Malala were the popular names. 

After lunch we returned to class to play the most mysterious, entertaining game: trading starburst. We had envelopes in front of us and specific stickers designated to each table. One table were the triangles, another the circles, and third the squares. I randomly joined the circles' table. The objective of the game was to gain as many points possible by trading starburst. There were a few rules: one can't show their starburst to anyone, they could only trade one starburst at a time with one other person, the two people have to be touching during the trade, one could only talk when they are trading with someone, and one had to cross their arms and stand at the side of the room if they don't want to trade. According to the point system, the dark red starburst was worth ten points, red was worth five points, orange four points, pink two points, and yellow one point. If one has three of a kind they get three additional points, if they have four of a kind, they get four additional points, and if they have five of a kind, five additional points.

There were three rounds of trading. The trading was very fun! But as the rounds progressed, we discovered that the people with the lowest points (squares) tended to stay squares, those with the medium number of points (circles) tended to stay circles, and people with the highest points (triangles) tended to stay triangles. A class system formed; there were the few rich, a middle class, and a huge poor class. The triangles also got the chance of changing the rules before the third round.
Near the end, people tended to trade with their own groups or the groups above them.

After the game, we had a discussion of what was the purpose of the game. I heard great opinions! Some said that privileged is earned by random as people randomly choose to sit at the tables each having either high, medium, or low points of starburst. This is similar to how no one has control over where they are born and what privileges are granted to them. The squares felt angry about the inequality. The triangles felt powerful, and pressured, now that they could change the rules.

At the end, Tina revealed that the game was a bit rigged. The triangles always got the starburst with high points and the squares always got the starburst with low points. Most people were trapped in their levels, no matter what they did. This reflects our society with the one percent rich and the ninety-nine percent not so wealthy. Only a few were able to jump around, but most stayed in the same pool. Some rebelled against the system by being "unrighteous" and cheating the rules.  Social change beings when people don't agree with the rules (or laws) that are unfair or silly.

It was striking to me how such a small game provided the reflection of our society. With this, class ended. We left for our leadership orientation, which was with the rest of the leadership institute.

The orientation was great fun! Ms. Kisa was a great speaker who helped us start thinking about our action plans. After the orientation, we all chatted with her. I loved her heartwarming reaction when she found out that we are part of the Ivy League Connection. We plan to have dinner together sometime this week. I am so excited!
New friends! Left to right: Fern, Sachi, me, and Aimee.
More new friends! Left to right: me, Aimee, and Camille. Everyone poses like a model, besides me. 

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