Saturday, December 18, 2010

From Role Playing 5 Year-Old To Caring & Innovative Leader

So, I have recently become completely fascinated with the importance of play in early child development and education (and in my opinion every age's development and education) and through a feminists perspective, how it can be used to introduce kids to topics of injustice or social construction. Since we are all constantly bombarded through media of our societal constructions, it is my belief that it is crucial to help children begin deconstructing injustice at the earliest age possible, while their brains are still rapidly developing (birth-8/9), and that the best way to do that is through play. Play gives children a liberation and freedom that is new to them. Play is often one of the most pure forms of communication since it is a natural reflection of children's thoughts and feelings. This can open up all kinds of new possible teaching moments based around concepts brought up in play that they don't feel comfortable talking about in "real life". During play, they are able to create scenerios (often similarly based on the world around them), conflicts, and entire new identities. In an adorable anecdote Ann Pelo, editor of Rethinking Early Childhood Education and author of the selection "Playing with Gender", recounts when three four-year-old boys were playing "pregnancy". They eventually all gave birth and the play progressed to them bringing the babies to their nipple to drink milk, changing their diapers, and lovingly caring for them. Finally one of the boys questioned the fact that they couldn't actually give birth since they were boys. The other one responded that, they were boy seahorses so it didn't matter. Here we can fully see the beauty of play, giving these young boys, who were exhibiting physical and emotional characteristics often associated with girls, the ability to freely imagine a world where they were not constricted by social or biological norms.
I decided to play with my 5-year-old cousin, Coco, and we created a world in which we both were male-identified characters. She wanted to be a daddy and I was the firefighter who saved her New Pooh (favorite teddy bear/"child") after a telephone pole fell into the house. Before the fire, she enjoyed shaving her face, writing checks, flying to Japan on business trips, giving people her business cards, and screaming hysterically (during the fire). I enjoyed petting my imaginary dalmation, suiting up in the heavy fire fighter outfit, driving the racing fire engine, and the super hero-esque feeling of bravery as I descended the "flaming" staircase and saved the day. Do I think that this game completely blew the top off the gender binary in Coco's mind? Probably not. But it allowed her to explore and become comfortable with activities that she identifies as male. My hope is that one day she will be able to analyze the activities that she chose to do while being the "dad" and realize that gender really has nothing to do with them.
By introducing children at developmentally appropriate ages to social construction in our lifestyle, beginning with play, we will have leaders who are able to express themselves to others, feel comfortable and confidant, and create imaginative solutions to issues of injustice.

Posted by: Nat
(Hope this wasn't too rambly, let me know if you have any questions!)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Xena Warrior Princess!

Reflecting on the gender and sexuality messaging I recieved as a child, I remember the first time I encountered homosexuality. I was watching Xena Warrior Princess on TV when I was about 6 years old (we had 4 channels when I was a kid -- selection was limited). I remember when Xena and her partner Gabrielle got really physically close, and Xena told Gabrielle that she loved her. They might have kissed, I don't remember exactly, but I remember my 6-year-old self knowing something was fishy about the situation. I asked my mom about it, and she didn't explain it to me, only told me I couldn't watch the show anymore :( (I've worked on my mom since then, she's come around in her acceptance of the diversity of sexuality quite nicely).

If you haven't seen this wonderfully cheesy 90's TV show, here is a synopsis:

In the spinoff of Hercules: The Legendary Journeys - Xena the Warrior Princess begins her epic battle to prove, not only to herself, but to everyone else that she's changed her evil ways. Still haunted by the evil she's done in the past, Xena journeys to fight for what's right. Xena has experienced a life of darkness as the chief warlord of Ares. Xena meets Gabrielle, one of the few people full of light , and together they travel the world to make it a better place. Gabrielle goes through the tough times with Xena, staying by her side no matter how hard a battle gets.

link to watch free episodes:

Some poetry, grievances, and activism

I'm in the class that reads through all the national writing submissions for the Prescott College literary journal Alligator Juniper and decides what to publish.

My favorite poetry submissions were written by a female author whose theme was her experiences with patriarchal oppression. It was not decided to publish any of her work. I want to share a poem of hers that was one of my favorites.

Golden Delicious

That’s how the first sin felt.
It wasn’t about eating the apple
or tossing the core in to the garden’s
compost pile. No, God was angry
she’d found her clit and realized
Adam was a sub-par lover.

The only animal that came after him:
her interior was not like
the cheetah or the swordfish, the heron
or the monarch. This Eden—

florid, sunny, all-inclusive tiny umbrella
in your daiquiri resort — left Eve empty
She’d go on her own with a fig leaf
and a satchel of apples. And God let Eve
keep her hands: she’d need them with
or without Adam.

Jessica McFlaherty

Throughout this semester I’ve had issues with my teachers and peers in the Alligator Juniper class about their popular support of offensive material. For example, it’s been decided to publish a nonfiction piece written by a man who writes lines like “my stomach groaned like a worn-out whore.” I voiced my opinion in class about how material like this is offensive, since it’s making humor out of women’s suffering. “Oh really?” one of my classmates said, “I think it’s funny.”

After it was decided by popular consensus that the story would be published anyways, I wrote my teachers telling them that by choosing to publish this story we are legitimizing offensive language, rape culture, and the oppression of women. I reminded them that Prescott College is supposed to be for social justice and it is hypocritical to spread messages that are in opposition to it. I asked them to at the very least take the offensive line out of the piece, or if they refuse, to not list my name as staff on the next issue of Alligator Juniper as I would not want to be associated with such offensive material.

Sheila Sanderson didn’t even give me the respect of a reply. Melanie Bishop and I had a meeting, and she focused on how I had an awful lot of bad things to say about the class, but no good things, which made her feel hurt since she designed the class. This was off-putting since she seemed to miss my point entirely. I never criticized the class, but the content that was decided to be published. She said that I would have to get a consensus from my TA who was editing the story and permission from the author of the story to get the line taken out. I find it do discouraging when people don't recognize the significance of oppression.

We’ve just finished deciding which poetry to be published. The chosen prizewinner is a poem that begins with the line “The Kingdom of Heaven must be taken with violence or not at all.” I think encouraging violence is also destructive messaging. Only one other person in my class agreed with my opinion that that it is disturbing. Again, taking into consideration social justice in deciding what was published seemed to be of little concern. Another poem that has been decided to publish is about lovers and the woman’s dependency the man. It includes the lines:

“The ache of him is painted into the small of her back”
Her body, unfinished
she wants to stay this way after he leaves
so he will come again with his brush dipped in oil”

An ache is a hurt. Why should a woman enjoy hurt? The rest is up for interpretation I suppose, but I personally feel that it is saying that it doesn’t matter if a woman orgasms during sex, all she’ll want is more anyway. UGH. Sheila Sanderson actually mentioned in discussion that she found it slightly offensive as a woman, but it was “such good writing” she supported it anyway.

I am at a loss.


Discussing Feminism With My Father...

I talked to my father a couple of months in to the quarter. I opened up the conversation discussing the classes I was taking. When I mentioned I was taking The “F” Word, he inquired what this covered. I happily replied “Feminism” with a nervous twitch. I could already see the gears turning in his head. I was familiar with the look in his eyes as he gazes off to peer into his brain. I knew he was apprehensive.

My father is a beyond brilliant man. He holds steadfast to what he believes in and does it with an educated mind of knowledge and experience. If he chooses to take up a practice he not only excels but becomes a professor.

My nervous twitch was a reaction to the feeling of intimidation. This feeling has almost become a comfort to me. I usually shutdown and only listen to what he has to say but this time I took his pause of apprehensiveness and began speaking. I understood my father viewed Feminism as a way to swing the pendulum of justice to a woman dominated side. I myself used to believe it.

I used this pause for my voice. I told my father Feminism is not trying to boost women on a pedestal higher than men in order to give men the direct repressed experience women are familiar with today. Feminist are fighting for the equality for every individual. Finished, I felt anxious. Would this become a debate or would we reach clarity? It did not take long for him to process the information I provided. He responded, “Hmmm…”

Baffled I Was! Hmmm I repeated in my head, Hmmm. I was expecting a rebuttal but no. His response empowered my voice. I had shown a misinformed unbalanced gear in his head and offered one with love and compassion for all. Whether he chooses to use this gear is up to him. I find comfort in knowing the gear is in his hands.

What I have been promising you all and a little extra...

On Leadership Considerations and Lessons Learned in a Mixed Gender Environment. Looks at Canadian women in the military.

Halla Tomasdottir: A feminine response to Iceland's financial crash
^This Cheers Me Up. :)


If you remember I made a comment in class about legality in L.A. CA and how neighbors are not allowed to talk to their neighbors. I did some more research and discovered it is not a law but it is in the contract of several apartment complexes not to talk to your neighbors. This does include asking for sugar and hello while crossing paths. I am not sure the exact complexes this included but this holds true for people in L.A. People my brother knows and I met while visiting.
This is a sure shame. Once people lose the opportunity to interact with one another they not only lose the privilege of promoting change but they lose the ability to support one another and display compassion.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Patriarchy Hurts Men Too: but it is not about the men!

Well, for my social project, I sought out some "trolls" (One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument) on a few various blogs, and websites and spark a conversation with them about feminism and what it really means. I was surprised to find a great number of post regarding the representation of men within the feminist movement. Thanks guys, and I mean guys, for perpetuating the patriarchy by including the White man in the list of oppressed groups -- We [us White men] have so much oppression coursing through our veins that we even oppress ourselves!

After an "insightful, tepid, discussion" with some of these fine folks I realized that in my self exploration in my feminist studies I may have come across in class as though I thought in any way that the feminist movement was to include any aspect for male social justice -- this is simply not my belief. In order to see through this lens, I had to attempt to establish some sort of basis to relate to the subject matter; in reality, any pretend oppression I adopted is NOT real.

Feminism is not for the rights of men. It is important to realize, however, that the relinquishment of the Patriarchy will have benefits that extend to include men -- everyone for that matter. Before I continue my point though, let me first introduce a most basic definition of feminism. The dictionary definition of Feminism is quite straightforward and concise; it reads as follows:

feminism n (1895) 1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes 2 : organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests — feminist n or adj — feministic adj

Feminism is not a form of sexism, so men, we do not need to include or defend ourselves in the discussion of where the prejudice falls. Even in its extreme application feminism is merely a push back against the Patriarchy. Radical social feminism or the radical libertarianism movements do not attack the individuals who identify with being men, but rather the social position at which "he" lives, and the social construct that perpetuates this morbid imbalance. Quite simply, it is not even about equality but rather equity (shout out to Shula for emphasizing the difference) in the feminine; both in the perspective and for the actual individual. We men, and women alike, benefit from understanding one another; having an acknowledgement of an individual's worth. We [men] have our representation, in full (or damn near it) within dominate society. Feminism does not target the man; it is not even about the man, but rather a woman's role and her acceptance at full worth into society....

To illustrate this point, let us think about the Bechdal-Wallace rule. To meet this rule a movie has to have at least two women, who talk to each other about something other than a man. Few movies pass. Can you think of a single film without two men in it? We men are represented, women are not. We do not have to restrict any part of our participation in this world to allow for the incorporation of the feminine view. Our way is not working, suffering and destruction are at an all time high. If you accept the idea that these are the last days (the apocalypse), then so be it. I suggest something else, something other then the sky is falling and there is nothing we can do about it. I suggest, allowing for women to represent themselves, and for us, as men, to realize the equity in what they bring to our lives. Who knows, "that pretty lil' thing" may just blow your mind!

Posted by: Josiah

Being a Resident Assistant at PC

I have been an RA at Prescott College for the past year and a half.  This past semester has proven to be a real challenge.  The students in student housing have been a departure form the students that I have been seeing enter Prescott College in the Few years since I came here.  I have heard many an offensive comment – about drugs, religion, and women.  I have done my best to engage students in conversations about these beliefs and comments.  I am having a difficult time choosing an event to document here.  I have challenged someone who I work closely with offensive views of female politicians.  I have talked with another coworker about his statements on welfare mothers.  I have talked with many students that live in housing and quite a few others that don’t about the language they use and the potential it has to alienate and injure those that it is directed to. 

A lot of the time these students don’t realize that effect that their words are having on others.  I feel like reinforcing the need for positive and healthy communication at the Prescott College earlier in their college careers would be extremely beneficial.  I intend to facilitate discussions around gender and communication in my house in the spring, in the hopes that students will be responsive to it.  And hopefully, it will help bring more respect and awareness to the college community.