Monday, June 27, 2016

The Start of Empowerment

The first day of class is always a day full of fun new experiences and people. When I woke up, I felt all the excitement and anticipation coming in for the first day of the Women and Leadership Course. My roommate Sara is also in this course, so we decided to go get breakfast together at the Ratty then find our class. 

Before we left, she introduced me to Lexa and Lauren, who were just down our hall. After talking to them for a while, I learned that Lexa is from Texas and Lauren is from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Lauren's preferred gender pronouns are they/them/their. Gender pronouns here at Brown are highly respected and I really appreciate that a lot of people ask about someone's preferred gender pronouns before assuming they go by a certain gender. This really makes everyone feel comfortable and safe here about being themselves.
Getting our breakfast on
At the Ratty, we ate some pancakes, bacon and eggs. It was pretty satisfying. We also got to talk more about our backgrounds and what our lives are like back in our homes. Sara is pretty international. She currently lives in Spain but is Colombian. Later in the day, I learned that she comes from a well socioeconomic status and wants to be able to use her privilege to make a positive change in her community. I thought it was really interesting how my cohort is sort of the opposite and comes from a more low-income community. This portrays that anyone from any background can have the same passions and enthusiasm to improve our lifestyles. We just have to work hard with what we have.

About fifteen minutes before class started at 9:00 AM, we started to walk to the CIT Center to find our class. We were lost for a few minutes walking around trying to find our classroom, but a woman spotted us and figured we're in Women and Leadership and so she guided us into the room. That woman was Tina Park, our instructor. We sat at random desks and made name tents. It was a little early and everyone else didn't come in until after a few minutes later since they too were having some trouble finding the room. 
Our classroom
Once everyone settled in, Tina introduced herself as a Ph.D in Sociology and Christine introduced herself as the TA interested in sexual health. There were four questions on the board: Why did you sign up for this class? What do you want to get from this class? Name a social issue/issues in your community that you care about. Name a guilty pleasure. We went around the whole classroom individually introducing ourselves with our names, where we come from, one of the top three questions and the last question. I was very delighted to see all these women from different places like India, China, Turkey and different part of the United States. While they were speaking about their passions with women empowerment, it really inspired me to see how different issues in their communities motivate them to take action and become a leader. 

After the introductions, we went through the course syllabus. We're going to do a lot of activities, discussions and assignments to learn more about women in society. Since a lot of us in the room were still noticeably sleepy, Tina and Christine made us do some name games. Like yesterday's activity, we said our name and did an action so everyone could repeat it. Our next name game had one person stand in the middle of the circle then turn to someone and tell them to name either "me, you, left or right." It was a lot of fun and confusing at times but it really helped with getting to remember people's names.

Our class then did a gallery walk in which we paired up with someone and walked around the room analyzing images posted on the walls. There were images of a variety of things that highlighted issues of women with body image, the workplace and gender roles. My partner and I put post-it notes near these pictures to display our opinions and thoughts about them. We then joined another pair to form a group of four to discuss questions about what ideas of leadership arose and what images we thought were powerful. One image I thought had a big impact was one of a girl's leg and her skirt pulled up with different markings on her legs with negative and shaming words. The higher up a skirt is, the more prone a woman is to being called a "slut." All of us soon joined as a class and contributed our ideas and discussed these questions. 

Our lunch break was at 11:30 AM. I went to eat at the Ratty with Fern and Sachi and we talked more about how we were liking the class so far and other issues we see with women in society. Sachi told me about how a man in her school was taking photos of girls' bodies in her school. I found that to be really disturbing and I think we really need to make a change with how women are so oversexualized and seen as some object for pleasure.

We returned to class at 1:00 PM and started our next activity, a trading game. There were three table groups and we sat anywhere we wanted. All of us were given envelopes with starbursts inside that were worth points. We traded with people for three rounds to try to get the highest points. I noticed that my group had low points, the next group had higher points, and the other group had the highest points every time. It was really frustrating trying to catch up but it seemed the starbursts my table group was given each time had low amounts of points. In the third round, the table with the highest points got to decide the rules. When the activity ended, we reflected upon what the significance of doing this was. I thought that it demonstrated how people come from very different economic statuses and how the low working class have to work very hard to get to the top. A lot of other girls thought similar as well or saw how this activity could illustrate distribution of wealth or equality. It was very intriguing and I'll definitely be keeping this activity in mind for deeper thought.
Fern, Sachi, Komal and I
Komal, Me, Camille
After class, there was a meeting at 3:30 PM in the Saloman Hall with the whole Leadership Institute. The RA's introduced themselves and we went over the leadership system. When Kisa asked where all the international students came from, a lot of them shouted out places like Colombia, Germany, Italy, India and Indonesia. It was amazing to be in a room so diverse with bright students from all over the world. We also got the chance to talk to the people near us about why we went here to Brown and what motivates us to improve society. I also met Camille from Brooklyn, New York who wants to learn about intersecrionality. It was really fun in there and a lot of people definitely possessed spirit and enthusiasm for what they were doing. It's just really an incredible place to be in and feel supported.

When it ended, Komal, Krystal, Camila and I talked to Kisa about the Ivy League Connection. She told us about how she used to teach Women and Leadership before and also about past ILCers who took her class. I appreciated how excited she was to meet us.

I then went to the lounge in our dorms to work on our homework and blogs with Komal, Krystal, Camila, Lauren and Sara. We stayed there for a while until getting dinner. When we finished eating, we found another lounge to continue working in.
Krystal, Lauren, Sara, Camila, Lexa and Komal
Today has been a long but super exciting day making new friends and starting our class. I'm excited for what else the class will have in store for us. For sure, I will be getting really close with all the new people I'm meeting. For now, I must start my homework. 

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