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Inclusive Teaching & Learning Unit: Gender – Part 3

February 15, 2017 in Inclusive Teaching & Learning

‘Boy you’re just a stupid bitch and girl you’re just a no-good dick’

(Words from ‘Black Tongue’ by Karen O of the New York pop rock band YeahYeahYeahs)

These words make me laugh as they play on a twist of making gender assumptions in language and treating one gender identity as a derogatory term to call what is actually the opposite in gender.

This leads me in to my reflection of the Museum of Transology exhibition which was a positively defining experience for me. My visit reconfirmed what I believe to be a strong method of inclusive learning – understanding and increasing knowledge through an exhibition of objects, people and experiences (and I also think I’m a museum-loving geek).

The exhibition was curated incredibly carefully, as I felt it invited you in to see stories of importance to all, whether as a visitor, you know much about transgender communities, are curious in yourself or have family members or friends with gender fluid identities.

The exhibition highlighted the situations where gender is questioned unnecessarily from the small social acceptances amongst friends through to security procedures at airports. It also explained the peripherals in a person’s life that can be key to developing their gender confidence, such as a person’s wealth in order to afford hormones or high quality fake breasts, ‘packing’ and binding. A survey mentioned in the exhibition text also revealed that many transgenders go through years of homelessness as a result of being unaccepted as their true selves by families and support networks. This is not a phase, this is a person’s lifelines, shattering.

These stories of struggle, acceptance, loss of time, love, family, mental health, confidence really resonated with me in the set up of this exhibition, whilst walking amongst the broken closets. I wanted to reach up to read every story written on labels, even those that I couldn’t access which were inside cabinets mounted higher on the walls, and those suspended high above, amongst the gender gradation of undergarments. But actually, in not being able to read all of them, illustrated a concept perfectly that maybe stories can be there, dangling right in front of your face, but it may not be the time to read them. We may need to work carefully to find out how to read them and understand these stories.

Alongside the films the exhibition made me internally ask questions to myself about how I would approach teaching from a pastoral perspective to students going through any gender confidence issues. I felt an overwhelming amount of empathy mixed with positivity and sadness. How could I address and implement appropriate support and inclusive learning to make a student who is in a crisis, confusion, suppression or a determination phase of expressing their gender identity? This exhibition gave me some wonderfully simple, yet grounding insights into how I could be a positive support anchor in a student’s status or journey of gender confidence.

Inclusive Teaching & Learning Unit: Gender – Part 2

February 14, 2017 in Inclusive Teaching & Learning

Part 2 – A response to reading “Understanding Patriarchy” by Bell Hooks

I learned quite a lot from reading this text, just from visualising the scenarios from Bell Hooks’ childhood highlighted that I have understood and recognised Patriarchy for many years. However I did not necessarily know how to label it with this definition as eloquently has Hooks has.

Acceptable and unacceptable Patriarchy:

I was able to relate the various scenarios Hooks talks the reader through with my own experiences of understanding Patriarchy. For example, it reminded me of speaking to a friend who’s male cousin had committed suicide and how their family members got uncomfortable talking about this young, male adult with depression (a large contribution to his suicide). On the flipside, my friend’s family deemed it absolutely fine to speak about the same (depression) to do with a female within their family, and better yet, openly speak about this female’s mental health at public gatherings to mock them or define them as weak. This was not to do with age / generations / or traditions in culture, my friend was confused and surprised by the vast range of family members that acted out their patriarchy towards both situations. It is very similar to the story Hooks described when her father angrily told her to stop playing with marbles and her mother almost said ‘I told you so’ after telling Bell quietly to stop playing the marbles

Familiarity is a big friend to Patriarchy:

Again, reading through this text made me think about how I’ve challenged my own review of situations and environments, as those I’ve experienced over the years have broadened. For example, I have grown up visiting India regularly and I can remember the first time I saw two adult heterosexual, male members of my family, walking down the street in Kolkata holding hands, thinking to myself ‘that is uncomfortable to look at’. Now I see it so many times I think the familiarity has taken away the ‘weird’ factor for me, but if I saw that same scene in my home town of Leicester, I would (for a split second) have that uncomfortable feeling return to me – and then think, why? Is it out of fear of local people’s reactions to this scene more than my own? Why is it not ‘weird’ if I see the same in London? Is it because I am familiar with seeing people feeling more open about their gender and sexuality in public (in London) compared to Leicester? Bell Hooks paraphrases some content in her text from  ‘How Can I Get Through to You?’ by family therapist Terence Real, in which his sons decided between themselves and their friends, what was appropriate for boys to play. A stern look – body language – communicated that ‘play’ did not include dressing up as a Barbie doll. With this in mind I wonder if I ever received such communication growing up in majority amongst friends in the UK, which embedded patriarchy in me, almost as if it was through a ‘reality facade’.

Having read this text, overall I believe it is always good to reflect on your decisions to design or make a choice that affects others and keep this understanding of patriarchy in mind to who we want it to benefit. I do wonder if, in today’s global society are we largely having struggles internally about gender and patriarchy, as well as acting out our struggles externally? I suspect the internal struggle will always exist to a degree, but I do wonder, can societies ever become fully ex-patriarchic, or fully dispel taboos that any one person might feel towards gender fluid behaviours in themselves and in others around them? I am hopeful that more understanding can be developed at the very least.

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