Saturday, July 17, 2010

Lost in Translation (Communication and Language)

The Women and Leadership course is certainly interesting, to say the least.

I am actually learning something, which is nice, but a lot of the reading we have to do, and assignments get incredibly repetitive. I feel like this class is engineered for people who aren’t comfortable leading, and I am.

It’s hard to speak my mind in that class, because as a natural leader and “assertive expresser of my opinions,” I am supposed to step back and let other people have a chance.

How does this give me a chance to express and discuss my thoughts?

Also, while of course I believe in feminism, and I know that in certain countries, it’s important to improve the status of women there, but in the United States, I feel like women have it really well. Why can’t we focus on these countries that, due to religious affiliation, socio-economical status, or for other reasons, do not give women equal rights?

Many of the readings and assignments relate to the status of women here. I have no problems being a woman here. I am not objectified, people do not try and dissuade me from leading, and I have not come across any problem to make me think, “Hey. Things need to change here.”

For example, the other day we watched a film on the objectification of women in the media and advertising world. Many of these ads we saw, I had no problem with. What’s wrong with a simple picture of a girl in a white dress?

And underweight models? Girls with self-esteem issues? I realize that’s a real problem, but measures are already being taken to prevent things like that from continuing to happen.

I don’t see a problem in a lot of the things we discuss in class. While I enjoy the Action Plan project, many other assignments seem almost pointless. Not that it’s not informative and eye-opening, I just feel that for me in particular, a lot of these issues don’t apply or motivate me to try and change things.

Women in the United States are fine right now. We need to focus on women elsewhere before we make problems that don’t actually exist here, and set back the progress women have made.

Those are my truthful musings on the class so far.

And of course my instructor is incredibly intelligent, as are the girls in the class with me. I’m continuously impressed by everyone, and it’s a good feeling.

I went with these impressive, smart girls to the beach today, and then we went to the dance, which was so much fun. It was actually very similar to dances back home—except the fact that every other person spoke another language.


  1. (This is actually Leah Carroll, Irene's Mom),

    It's true in many ways the status of women in the US is light years ahead of that in other countries, but in so many ways, we've got a long way to go. Women overwhelmingly work in lower paying sectors of the workforce, so that female earnings are still about 79% of men's. It's very difficult to be a responsible mother AND have a high earning job. Domestic violence is still a major problem in the US, and women have little legal recourse.

    I'm delighted that high schools have really done their part in addressing what they can. In contrast to my high school experience, where I was one of about three girls in my thirty-person physics class and my physics teacher was shocked that I got an A, in our district it seems boys and girls sign up equally for the math and science classes. Girls are very successful getting into colleges, and many colleges have more women than men.

    BUT: even then, look a little closer and you'll see inequalities. Humanities majors are overwhelmingly female; engineers are still overwhelmingly male. Guess who will earn a lot more?

    So I guess I'd say: I'm really happy you (and Irene) have not yet experienced gender inequality directly, but sooner or later, you will see it, so I think it's really great you're learning about it now.

    Leah Carroll

  2. Mariana,

    I’m glad that Leah posted her wonderful comments to your blog. She speaks the truth on so many levels.

    I’m not going to dispute a word she wrote but I have to wonder about the root cause of the enrollment inequities between the humanities and engineering. Do these departments discriminate against a gender causing a discipline to be loaded with one gender over another? Why do you suppose that the men gravitate towards engineering and women towards the humanities.

    About limiting your actions in the classroom, just as with everything else, there needs to be a balance wherein you can assert your personal leadership skills all the while allowing others to develop their own. Where that line is drawn, though, may be difficult to discern.

    In response to a few of the questions you’ve asked, perhaps the reason that the class is focusing on the women here in this country is that the majority of the women in the class will be returning to their homes here in the US. Sometimes we have people who become so fixated on trying to solve the problems in some other part of the world that their tunnel vision keeps them from seeing the problems they have in their own backyards.

    Is the plight of women better here in the US than it is in India, Africa or the Middle East? Of course it is. Have women gone as far as they can here in the US to be treated as equals with males? Not a chance.

    Even the women in your class who will return to countries other than the US can take what they’ve learned here and make improvements in their own backyards.

    As a single high school student, what do you think you might be able to accomplish in Yemen to have Yemenese men treat women as equals? That might be a difficult task. It’s not to say that you won’t be able to do it or that you’re incapable of leading the way but perhaps you might want to hone your skills right here before taking on the problems of the world.

    While you may not have any problems here at home or even see any problems here at home, have you or any of your female friends tried to join your high school football team? No? Could it be that females are not yet allowed to participate in that sport?

    And even though you may be the fiercest warrior since Xena the Princess Warrior, aren’t you disturbed that the US government will not allow you to lead troops into battle?

    If so inclined, do you think the doors would be wide open for you as a female should you try to be a construction worker?

    Do you really believe that men have superior leadership skills to the point that it justifies that nearly 85% of Congress are males?

    There’s work to be done here, Mariana. Perhaps you may even be the one to lead the fight. If you don’t even see that there’s a battle to be fought, then who are you going to lead to victory?

    Seek more than you have, Mariana. Never settle for being second best.

  3. Actually Mr. Gosney I would like to point out that a girl at our school did want to join the football team, tried out, and made it, and everybody (including the men) said she was amazing. Nobody had any qualms about it. Her name was Leilani, and she ended up not joining, not because she felt unequal or because anybody doubted her, but because she also made it onto every single other sports team she tried out for, had to pick her favorite, and softball won.

    And I do know that women are not yet equal in the US, but it is my steadfast opinion that because we do have such elevated status compared to other countries, we need to help those countries first before we go about creating problems that don't exist, which many feminists here do.

  4. This comment is a little late, but I wanted to add something to Mariana's post. I think that you are incredibly sure of yourself and what you want to be and do and I do think it's true that you've never had anyone tell you that you couldn't do something because of your gender. It is a huge step forward for women and it's something I wish I could have said for myself at your age. My father and grandfather constantly reminded me that I was less than my brother. Thank goodness for my mother and her mother.

    I teach ESL and Laney College in Oakland and I often have situations in my classes where wives and mothers come to learn English, which they need to do to survive in the US. The classes are either cheap or free and many women come to class during the day when their kids are in school. What is unexpected and very disheartening is how badly this affects the balance of power in their families. They often tell me of husbands that don't like how they are changing and don't like the "other" thoughts and behaviors that come in addition to leaning English. These husbands then make it almost impossible for their wives to keep coming to class. They complain, add on more family responsibilities, and often, physical violence comes into the mix. We counsel, offer what support we can, but these women often just give up. It breaks my heart. If we compare how we are experiencing our lives here with what other women go through, I can see how Mariana wants so much to help other women. It is a tough call. Do you use your energies on your own situation and your immediate surroundings or do you reach farther away and try to help?

    As far as women leading men into battle goes, well, quite honestly, I would rather see women working for peace and for alternative ways to solve problems than resorting to violence.

    In Peru this summer, we met some Peace Corps workers who were helping women set up business to sell their weavings. They made fliers to be passed out at tourist information sites in town with maps for getting to their villages. They taught the women to hold firm on their prices, and the Peace Corps workers were so pleased that we came and brought the fliers to show that their strategies were working. These women had new income and new power and their standard of living was better. These are small ways to help but it does begin to change the culture in little ways. As these women have more economic power in their families, they also begin to have more decision making power and this is important.

  5. The best thing that I find with them is that they have over 10,000 highly qualified professional translators offering translation in all major languages including English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Japanese