Friday, July 16, 2010

Evasive Definitions

As soon as we walked into class today, we played a quick icebreaker and then made posters about what we thought of when we heard "Act like a man!" or "Be ladylike."  It was surprising to see how easily we thought of words that were opposites of the statements instead of words that fit with them. It was very difficult to define stereotypes that whose pressure we have all felt, whether it was on us or not. There were probably more derogatory terms listed for outsiders than terms for people who fit the descriptions. We also came to the conclusion that, at least in the United States, men are more frowned upon when they depart from the expectations for their gender.

However, that does not mean that women are completely "liberated" from stereotypes and sexism. We watched a short documentary called "Killing Me Softly 4" by Jean Kilbourne. It highlighted the objectification, sexualization, and infantilization of women in advertising and the media. We saw some ads in which this was rampant, as well as others that weren't as obvious and took a little bit of thinking. Men are also often treated as sexual objects in the media. I was shocked to see how much this has pervaded our society. It's really a public health issue - these ads directly contribute to depression/low self esteem and eating disorders.

We practiced assertiveness versus passivity and aggressiveness by acting out roles in which we tried using each technique. Interestingly enough, I found that consciously trying to use a single technique was very hard. Normally I just go with whatever comes naturally or whatever fits what I'm trying to achieve. However, I realized that being assertive usually feels better (more honest, more honorable?) than being passive or aggressive. By being aware of which situations or with which people I tend to be more passive or aggressive, I can improve the way I connect with people and become a better leader.

Almost everyone has heard of the saying "give a man a fish and he'll eat for a day, but teach a man how to fish and he'll eat for the rest of his life." What we don't realize is even though getting to the root of the problem is a long-term solution, often we need to combine a long-term solution with something that addresses the "symptoms" of the problem. Finding a long-term solution is called community organizing. Addressing the symptoms is called social service. Both are wonderful things. For example, a food drive is social service, but a vocational training program is community organizing. If one only gives food to poor people, they will almost certainly never become independent. If one only trains them, they won't have enough food while they're being trained. Both are important.

My brain felt like it was dripping information by the end of class. I can't believe it's been an entire week of class. We know each other so well in the class and we've absorbed so much that it feels like it's been much longer. To relax, after class I took a short nap and then went to the mall with a large group of friends. A smaller group split off - Lina, Safiya, Lupe, Lucero, and a few others - and we hit the stores and then the food court. I did buy a few things with my own money, but only things that I would really use. I still want to buy a Brown T-shirt or something to commemorate my stay here. Later we went to a cafe and just talked about the past week for more than an hour. 

As we were heading to the bus stop, I heard some music. It sounded really good, so I followed it to a crowd around a band playing in the street! Apparently the band is called "Deer Tick", which is a funny coincidence since yesterday at the Ropes Course the facilitators warned us repeatedly about dog and deer ticks. I'll be sure to google them since they did sound quite good when I was there.

In the end, we ended up just walking back to the dorm since it was such a short walk. I'm planning to sleep in a little bit more tomorrow, but I can't completely laze around since there's lots of homework and an individual meeting with the TA tomorrow morning.


  1. (This is actually Irene's Mom talking): Back when I was working for a community organization, anything that directly alleviated suffering (soup kitchens, organizations that give free clothes, etc.) were really looked down upon as "bandaids" as opposed to what we saw ourselves doing -- presenting a solution that goes to the root of the problem. But I'm glad things have evolved to a more balanced perspective. People may get interested in, and connected to, the community organizing through the direct service organization. These are not two mutually exclusive options -- ideally they are connected.

  2. Irene,

    Just curious, when you all gathered around that stet band, didn’t anyone whip out one of those bandanas you used yesterday around your ankles just to see if the band might run away? No? Okay.

    The whole idea of the social band-aids is interesting. As you pointed out, there has to be a mix—a balance—so the needs of today can be met all the while taking care of tomorrow’s needs, too.

    We have too man people who are short sighted and demand that all of our resources go towards today’s needs and won’t even consider tomorrow’s needs.

    Here in my own community we have a proposal that can bring financial stability to the entire region for the next 20+ years but it can’t be implemented right away (permits, lawsuits, construction, etc.). Because the results won’t be seen immediately, though, we have community leaders who pooh-pooh the idea and are working night and day to kill the project (a $1.25 Billion project that will provide $18 million per year directly to the community and 17,000 good paying jobs). At the same time, they have no alternative plans for tomorrow’s fixes and don’t even have any ideas for today’s fix either.

    People need to take the holistic approach so we can eat today, we can eat tomorrow and even so our kids can eat in the future.

  3. Haha, no, we returned the tick-repellent bandanas when we left the ropes course area. That would have been funny, though. I haven't found any ticks on myself yet... I really hope I don't have any.

    Yes, a balance between thinking of the future and the present (and even remembering the past) is incredibly important. It can't be said enough.