Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Break the Bind

I left the Perkin’s Hall by half past 7 AM, I was with several other students that were taking the Women and Leadership: Spencer, Emerald, and Cathy. I had a pleasant conversation with the three of them even during the early hours of the morning. We headed to class fifteen minutes before it started, and arrived at the building five minutes before Grace started her lessons.

The lesson began with an overall review of the events that happened yesterday. Our topic from yesterday was intersectionality, which was the overlap of several types of prejudice within an individual. Grace told us to apply this to the activities we were going to do today.

With our groups, we created a short skit that displayed our society’s gender norms. The Dancing Dolphins decided we should perform a skit where it shows a guy’s dominance and assertiveness is the norm. The situation is that a girl tries to ask a guy to prom, and he finds the girl weird. Then, the guy’s friend tries to ask the girl to prom. She tries to refuse at first, but from peer pressure, she was forced to give in and attend prom with him.

I absolutely loved the skits the other groups made, they made me aware of the perpetuating gender stereotypes. Even with a classroom full of open-minded students, there was one skit where one girl acted masculine, and the other acted feminine. I assumed the skit had stereotypical characters, the masculine one was male, and the feminine one was female. But in the end, they said their respective names and genders and found out their roles were in reverse.

Lunch started a couple minutes after we finished these skits, and our assignment outside of lunch was to break gender norms and see the public’s reactions. Several students decided to break this by wearing their bras outside their shirts and sweaters. A few girls decided on taking the first move and asking a guy for their number instead of the other way around. Zunarah, Kelsey, Esmeralda, and I decided we should try going into the male’s bathroom instead of the female’s. Three other students joined us, and we were able to go in the bathroom and use it without much comment from the guys.
I let Cat take a picture of us in the bathroom, Spencer seemed to be having a good time with us too!
We returned to the Art building when lunch ended, and reported what reactions we were able to get from the people. Students who dressed in a masculine way were able to get some weird looks and glances, and felt unsafe about expressing their attitude to others in the campus after a while. The students who took off their bras wore a shirt, and didn’t receive much reactions from the other students, and it seems as if both sides didn’t care much about it. Students who asked for a guy’s number received compliments, and one even said they thought the girl brave for doing so.
Tori, Sarah, and Lauren in matching masculine fashion statements.

I didn't want to go braless, but it was amazing seeing how many people wanted to spread the movement through freedom.
The President of Brown University, Christina Hull Paxson, also came to our class to answer questions we had for her. This was her first time speaking in a leadership class, so she was excited and had lots to tell us. Paxson gave a brief description of her work history: she is an honors graduate of Swarthmore College,  earned her PhD at Columbia University, and became the dean of the Woodrow Wilson School of International and Public Affairs.

Paxson’s goal was to find diversity amongst students in Brown University, and wanted to promote the sciences for women. She’s aware of the economic status playing an advantage into how students are being taught, and the large difference of knowledge between students in private and public schools. She hopes summer programs like these would help students “think like a scientist” and apply their knowledge to other places other than schools and education.

When the President left, Ashley and Imani started our workshop session: Class and Privilege. We were warned at the start of the workshop that it may get a little emotional for some people. I kept the warnings in mind, but didn’t worry about it as the session began. We first started off by creating community guidelines that would help us respect one another and make sure no one starts any kind of conflict. One interesting a classmate said that applied to this was, “Trust, intent, but also acknowledge and impact”.

There were two activities that followed this after creating the community guidelines, and both made many people feel very emotional and exposed. The first activity we performed involved creating something out of three pipe straws that would represent our identity. We had to choose a partner we weren’t very close with, and share the meaning of the little sculptures we made. After this, our partner we had to exchange and take out one straw in our sculptures, which represented one part of our identity being taken away from us. We were assigned to put it back together after taking it out, and discussed how we felt after we finished the activity.

Both my partner and I felt as if we lost something after we took out part of the sculpture. Since we knew exactly what each straw represented, we felt as if it were really taken away from us in real life. I felt as if my sexual orientation was condemned, and Emerald thought her political beliefs were devalued.

We moved on to the next activity shortly after, where we all had to stand in a circle. The activity was called “Step Out”, where a proctor would ask everyone something, and the students would have to step in to agree or stay where they are, which meant that what the question asked did not apply to them.

I don’t remember exactly what the questions were word for word, but I do remember feeling the atmosphere feeling heavy and tense after the more than three questions were asked. Several of them stemmed from social status, sexual orientation, sexual harassment, and mental illnesses.

I was surprised by the amount of people being able to relate to what I’ve been through, it made me feel vulnerable and empowered at the same time. It was definitely a weird feeling, I could tell my other classmates were having the same experiences as I was too. I felt more connected to them after these activities, like a bond had been made from all the hardships we’ve been through were all correlated and we could rely on each other even more. I know I won’t be able to befriend every single one of them, but at least I can be reassured from the fact that we’ve all experienced such a raw emotional connection that could only have happened in that moment.

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