Wednesday was a challenge, an emotional challenge. It began with questioning myself and societal norms and ended with a few tears.
The night before many students posted questions in their reflections of the articles we had to read about social construction of gender. After reading the articles, I also didn't understand what gender is. To examine the answers to our questions, we participated in an activity in which we had to write down traits associated with masculinity and femininity and being a man and a woman. While doing the activity, I realized I didn't know the difference between masculinity and being a man and femininity and being a woman.
After the activity, as a group we discussed why we associate the terms we listed with those genders. As the conversation continued, I understood that these associations are simply constructions of society. But then came the question: what is gender? What defines a man and a woman? No matter how much we discussed, we couldn't find answers to theses questions. I wondered, why do humans have to label everything? Why do we have to draw parameters on identities? With a perplexed and boggled mind, I went to lunch with my whole class, including Tina and Christine.
After lunch, we began a more personal discussion. This time, we discussed the gender identities we associate with. I don't know who I am after the beautiful, confusing discussion we had in the morning. Most people felt comfortable sharing the identities they identify with. They also shared how they have sometimes felt alienated from the gender identities they relate with. Many said that they weren't even given an option to not be cisgender. They were brought to feel and act feminine and be a "woman." I too relate with that.
|Hanging around before the diversity workshop.|
|Sneakily taking photos. From left to right: Tina, Ananya, and Aimee.|
With a half an hour break, we went to our leadership workshop lead my Christine and Skenda. Today's theme was diversity. I came in with the mindset that we will be discussing racial diversity. But when we began to list all the areas where diversity exists, such as socioeconomic backgrounds, gender, geography, and many more areas, I was happily surprised.
We then played a game in which we were all in a circle. Skenda instructed us to step in the circle when we related to the statement she said. Absolute silence was required. The game started off casually, we stepped in and out. Some of the issues she addressed in her statements were: socioeconomic backgrounds, linguistic abilities, families, racial identities, and privileges. As the game continued, I started becoming emotional. As I realized all the disadvantages I have, the intensity increased. Water came to my eyes. I just looked around the room to stop myself from tearing up even more. I have never been a very emotional person, but when so many aspects of my life flashed in front of my eyes, tears did come. Even after the activity, I wasn't able to say anything or contribute to the discussion, because I knew if I did, I would burst out crying. The activity made me feel sad about how there are people who have so many privileges and there are others who have little to none. Why does the world work like that?
The workshop ended and I left for the Ratty with a couple of my classmates. After dinner, we began our homework consisting of reading a few articles and finishing my essay focusing on how female genital mutation and several practices in Saudi Arabia, such as not letting women drive, establishing a male guardian system for women, and limiting women's involvement in the workforce, continue to support the socially constructed gender roles and the deeply rooted inequality.
Today I learned a lot about myself and others. The greatest lesson I learned is that those with privileges, including myself, should step out and help those that are being targeted and oppressed by society. That is the only way we could tackle the horrific inequality embedded within our culture.