Wednesday, June 29, 2016

People to See, Places to Be

So far, our cohort is going through overwhelming and emotional experiences in our time here at Brown taking the Women and Leadership course. Today's major highlights included the sensitive topics we covered about gender identity and diversity. 

After the daily routine of going to the Ratty before class and eating breakfast with my new friends, we went to class expecting to watch a film because it was listed in our course schedule. However, as a class, we decided on doing the film analysis on Friday and doing the discussions about gender today. We were given post-it notes and each one was categorized as Men, Women, Masculinity and Femininity. In each note, we wrote traits or words that came up to mind when we thought of these subjects. All our notes were collected and written on the posters. Meanwhile, we did some name games to warm up and get to know each other more since we got a new student from India named Mahima. The first one had us introduce ourselves with an adjective of the first letter of our name. The next one made us create a picture with random objects we pretended to be, like trees. I really like these name games because it helps me feel more comfortable and open with the people I'm with.
What is Masculinity and Femininity to you?
When the poster with the adjectives were ready, we all went back as a class and discussed the terms that were most commonly used to describe men and women. For men, strong and dominant were frequently used words. For women, weak and emotional were the most common adjectives. It was a little sad to see that society stereotypes these genders to be opposites, with women being associated with negative traits. However, a lot of us in the room agreed that women can still be strong and are equally capable of what a man can do in society. Gender identities and roles created by society are really big reasons for all these expectations and traits assigned to people based on their sexual organs or body.
Food tastes better when you eat with people you like.
After our really engaging and mind-blowing discussion, our class had a group lunch and we went to the Ratty together to eat and socialize with each other for a while. I was nearest to Tina's table, so I heard a lot of things about how she's into sociology and exploring deep questions about our society. We also got to know more about our classmates and their experiences with traveling and their places in society as women. 
The circle of life...and discussions
To continue into our afternoon class, we had more open partner, group and class discussions regarding how we identify with our gender. It was out of a lot of people's comfort zones including me to talk about their own experiences and thoughts, but it feels like we have all known each other for a long time. We all relate in terms of experiences and have our own unique qualities as well.

There was another activity that had all of us create two lines facing each other and talk about how we have felt alienated from our supposed gender identity and the reasons why. I got the chance to talk to people I wasn't really familiar with before such as Natalie, Amal and Camille, and share more intimate feelings with them, so it was really cool to get to know them and affirm each other about things we agree with and understand.

During our thirty minute break, I started going over tonight's readings outside with some friends until we returned back to start our diversity workshop.
Diverse group of women
It rained.
It started with us naming terms that define identities, then grouping up and filling out a sheet of paper that asked for different parts of identities, such as race, socioeconomic status and education. We shared our answers with our groups and found some common interests with each other. Then, we discussed as a class our feelings about this exercise. I definitely felt an intimate connection between the people in my class because everyone is so open and inviting with what you have to say. 

Our next activity about diversity had us step in whenever a statement read aloud applied to us. Some of these statements include things like if your family can afford college and if you or a family member is differently abled. We had to stay silent the whole time, but it was an emotional experience seeing how diverse everyone is and how everyone has different privileges over others, which comes into context with issues such as intersectionality. It was definitely an activity that sparked a lot of thoughts into our heads about all the different lives we have and the different struggles we are all going through. These activities are way deeper than they seem on the surface and they really make us aware about diversity in our world and its effects on our social statuses.

I ended my day getting Chipotle after and bonding with friends and doing our challenging assignments together. The friends I've made and the things I've learned in class will always stick to me when I return back to my home town. 

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