Tag Archive | diversity

Podcast 001

Welcome to our first Divinq Podcast – join Jeannie, Philip and Sam as they discuss diversity, and what it means to them. This episode we discuss how Divinq came to be, diversity and ‘divinqing’, ‘dead-naming’ and trans people, Trump’s election, and the passing of Leonard Cohen.

(The comic of Sam’s that we discuss is this one: www.roostertailscomic.com/comic/whine-wine/)

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Face Facts

I’m confident most people will realise that puberty brings on changes, and one of those is growing body hair. It should be a choice to shave or not shave body hair. When I say ‘choice’ I also understand there is pressure to present your body in a socially acceptable way, I wish it wasn’t that way. There are also cultural aspects to body hair and some if has very significant meaning. Given our multi-cultural society here in NZ and being in the 21st Century, I do find it strange that schools can have rules about where hair is permitted to grow. Students in New Zealand still face strict uniform requirements around hair length and facial hair (if male…I’ll come back to this).

So I was heartened to hear of a petition started by Kapiti College student Antony McEwan to allow year 13 students to have beards (if they can grow them). The students there can wear mufti and make up but not allow their bodies to do their thing. It got me pondering the meaning of facial hair that is perhaps different to leg hair, or arm hair, even arm pit hair! I’m not sure but I have a feeling it is to do with actually becoming a ‘Man’. It’s a form of body uniforming – keeping all males looking ‘the same’ – even if they are in mufti. I think it achieves this by keeping young men/males appearing like prepubescent boys. They can’t stop voices deepening and besides no-one ‘sees’ a voice, this is about the body and how it is viewed in school.

That also got me wondering about transgender guys. Let’s say someone starts testosterone at 15-16, they’re ready to ‘bro up’ and they are on it for a while and they finally get to facial hair growing (let’s say they are genetically gifted). The last thing he’s probably not going to want to do is shave off that hard earned beard, no matter how patchy it is.

Which is why this is more than just a fight for cisgendered teen guys getting to sport the latest fashion accessory. This is about an expression of biological, social, cultural, and gender diversity. It is time for schools to face facts about facial hair, it happens and it is completely harmless. Razor cuts and burns however – not so much fun, possibly harmful I’m guessing.

Good luck Anthony, and I hope you get your 500 signatures – it could be a close shave.

 

 

Olympics – time for a new game

I’ve always loved sport and grew up watching the Olympic Games and in New Zealand it is like the curtains being pulled back so we can know there are sports other than Rugby, Netball, Cricket and Rugby. Part of the mystique is the tradition and we see some of that in bits of ceremony like the lighting of the torch. When Pierre de Coubertin brought the ancient games into the modern era in 1894 with the establishment of the International Olympic Committee it was hoped the spirit would live on.

I suppose some of that spirit would be the ideals of peace, where the games are meant to help strive for a more peaceful world, the notion of the Olympic Truce where countries allow safe passage of athletes and the people stop killing each other while the games take place. Part of the modern ideal is that the games should not be used for political means, that is athletes are just there to do their thing and should not bring attention to controversial issues such as racism, social injustice or abuse. So basically the Olympics is global amnesia and carefully stage managed illusion of ‘everything is awesome, everything is cool when your part of a team’ (sing along).

So as someone who loves sport and cares about social justice I’m conflicted. There are three basic reasons:

1: The commercial aspect of the games – it’s big business, real big business, huge business (and it’s probably none of my business). The athletes are really unpaid billboards and marketing opportunities. Advertising during the games is worth mega bucks.

2: Gender – the modern games is still playing gender catch up but worse than that – they are gender policing the binary. So women can be ‘sex tested’ if they are deemed ‘too masculine’ to be female which might be a natural effect of their unique bodies, but the games defines ‘normal’ female and has the right to exclude intersex people but only after subjecting them to humiliating and degrading tests.

3: The silencing of protest – when representing ‘your country’ you best keep your opinion about other things to yourself so that the illusion of ‘peace on earth’ is maintained. But there have been protests, and I salute the individuals who have stood up and drawn attention to issues. But these days athletes risk being sent home if they speak up.

Therefore I have a vision of a 21st century games, for a start let’s ditch the Greeks as the model for ethical competition. Why not use the concept of Ubuntu from Southern Africa“the belief in a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity”. Second why not completely ditch competing for a country. Each Athlete could choose a cause to draw attention to, and to make it more transparent each corporate sponsor would have to contribute a portion of their global profit to that cause. Rather than a truce, the media would have to report the current state of world war. Because I think we are in the middle of one and it just hasn’t been called that. As my final revitalisation, I would like all athletes competing at the same time, that is, the Paralympics being run simultaneously at the same time, yeah that’s right – actual diversity inclusion. The para games as an add-on is another way of token inclusion (another reason to drop the Greeks – Aristotle wasn’t all that cool with disabilities).

One last point on the gender thing. Intersex people are not cheating. They are themselves competing. If we are looking at the 21st century understanding of physiology and integrated technology are we simply looking at new categories of human performance, one that makes space for diversity complexity and difference.

Bring on the Ubuntu games, not The Hunger Games.

Coded dress

I have blogged about school balls before. I thought I was over it. But it just keeps popping up like a painful blister from wearing high heels (apparently – I don’t wear heels – I get altitude sickness – and I never passed my femininity licence).

A school has decided it can veto the style of dress worn. The main issue is the amount of skin being shown. Now on the face of it, that does sound a little OTT. However, it is a Catholic school. Why should that make a difference? Well, it is about what values the school is upholding. This is a religious school, with a particular set of ideologies and beliefs about modesty and the body. So I am not shocked that they have taken this stance. I’m more shocked that people attending the school would be. I think some people forget that Christianity is a religion.

Schools already have a sense of ownership around policing bodies, uniforms do that well and this is a school event.It kind of fits with representing the school image, like sports teams. What I do take issue with is not being able to take shoes off if they are hurting. Those wearing high heels have to suffer in order to maintain the forced gender code of femininity even if it results in excruciating pain and discomfort. I can see that being a fun night on the dance floor. My tip – just don’t wear heels or take two pairs of shoes, one for show and one for go! Another solution is to have uniform ball dresses, now there’s an idea – along with uniform ball jewellery. Let’s go all the way and have set hair styles and makeup. For guys lets say they must keep their tie and jacket on all night, gotta have some gender equality somewhere.

So as all schools head into ball season lets get a bit of a reality check. It is an old tradition we haven’t quite integrated into the 21st-century ideas of diversity and difference. It is the ‘Straightrix’ – like The Matrix that codes all forms of gender and sexuality norms. If you know that you can choose to take the blue pill for the night (no I am not encouraging drug use – see the movie!) go for it and have a fun night.

Mind sauna

When I finish divinqing I always feel like I’ve had a great workout and it can take a while to come back to reality, although that is always slightly different after a session. If you’ve every put your body through something physically intense the next couple of days you feel it and can wonder if it was worth it. But people say ‘no pain no gain’ and while I think this is sort of true for divinqing it’s important to feel safe and ready to ‘do down the rabbit hole’.

So here are a few divinqing guidelines I have been playing with, and anyone who has participated is welcome to comment, or even if you haven’t and would like to inquire more please do:

1: We all have a unique perspective on the world, however, we are often more critical of others perspectives. GUIDELINE – it takes time to understand what shapes our perspective – and it is constantly changing so divinqing is never a finished process. Sometimes it is less about being right or wrong but about understanding how, why and where did this idea come from. How do I know what I know? How do I know what I don’t know? Warm down tip: try stretching one idea at a time.

2: There are more than two sides to things: One of the habits of thinking about anything is usually setting up a two-sided argument. GUIDELINE – when encountering a two sided idea about anything be curious about the effect of that on what people are able to know about themselves, or others. Try shifting the focus of a debate onto the assumptions behind the debate. What supports these assumptions? How do they impact on people’s lives now and in the past? Warm down tip – hold these conversations or debates lightly and not for too long.

3: There are perspectives and ideas that remain hidden. Perhaps this is one of the more challenging workouts. It’s important to know that ignorance is not just the absence of knowledge, that there are ways of building the truth and making some forms of knowing invisible or not worthy of value. GUIDELINE – if you are absolutely certain of something, look for what support you to be certain, be willing to put all knowledge into question, even things you think might be proven to be true. Warm down tip – skip through something familiar to you and notice how you came to know that concept, idea, value, belief.

4: The world is complex, and sometimes the issues and concerns can seem overwhelming and too hard to fix. Sometimes people expect that taking it seriously means you have to commit to a life of shouting, protesting and getting people to see what you see. GUIDELINE: Have fun with the contradictions, play with your own awareness of the irony in the world, find others who are also hinting at the same ideas, and create small networks of support. A good sign you are getting there is finding the incongruity and noticing the strange irony that might appear. Sometimes humour is a good way to open people up to an ‘aha I hadn’t thought of that’ moment. Warm down tip – laugh at yourself!

5: Fear of the unknown is one of the biggest obstacles to ‘thinking outside the box’ – or even knowing where the box is! GUIDELINE: Like rock climbing tackle stuff that is challenging but doesn’t feel impossible. Exploring challenging ideas isn’t always about getting to the top. Warm down tip – work on finding your balance point around fear of difference. Listen and recognise your own vulnerability and make friends with it.

So happy training, my favourite warm down is watching science fiction or comedy that gets me thinking. See you at our next boot camp – ready to bust Plato’s cave right open. Or light some fires in there and cast some new patterns on the walls.

 

 

Help! I broke my brain

I’ve played sport all my life. When I push my body it hurts. I feel my muscles burn, I sweat and I breath faster. It’s also known that this is the only way to improve the functioning of some of our bodies systems, especially the cardiovascular. Schools even have subjects like PE and sport-science that focus on the knowledge that explains and teaches how to develop and train the body. Some schools even do tests of physical fitness – you know the ones – like the beep test, 12-minute run, that sort of thing. Not everyone likes being tested, but you can test yourself and get a bit of a comparison if you want to. Some people really go for it and I’ve seen students cheer their classmates on as they get to the line and turn, clearly struggling, then collapsing. Others just bail at the first sign of discomfort, and there are always a few who seem to always miss the test. That is diversity at work and it’s great.

Some schools even do tests of physical fitness – you know the ones – like the beep test, 12-minute run, that sort of thing. Not everyone likes being tested, but you can test yourself and get a bit of a comparison if you want to. Some people really go for it and I’ve seen students cheer their classmates on as they get to the line and turn, clearly struggling, then collapsing. Others just bail at the first sign of discomfort, and there are always a few who seem to always miss the test. That’s diversity at work and it’s great.

But what about ideas, thinking-fitness? How do we know and recognise when we get out of our comfort zone? Do schools provide a variety of ways to do this, develop different kinds of fitness? I’m sure they do to some degree, but sometimes I wonder if the kinds of exercises schools use are ones from the 1950’s. Sure, they’ll get you so far but they’ll mainly work big muscle groups in one way (I’m over generalising).

Similar to physical workouts, it’s also a little bit uncomfortable to go beyond what you know or think you know, or to even think in a new way! Diversity Inquiry conversations are like ‘boot camp for thinking’, but sometimes it is hard to know what your baseline fitness is. On Saturday I “divinqed” with a group of year 13 students who showed incredible determination to stay with really challenging ideas about the history of enlightenment and western thinking, their limits and what has been left in the shadows. How our understanding of identity is limited by labels and language that tends to put things into two sides. And how some of the organisations in society, that we just accept as working in people’s best interest, might not actually work for a lot of people.

Divinqing creates doubt, uncertainty and disorientation. Tt can feel like reality is crumbling. I suppose it is like when Morpheus explains The Matrix to Neo the first time, Neo ‘wants out’ because it’s overwhelming. He hangs in there and recognises that, when he is in The Matrix, he can move through it differently, in a similar way as before but he’s able to resist certain programmmes and see the ‘code’ more and more. He pushes his skills through encounters with agents and others and each time he changes. It’s not ignorance that is bliss anymore – or staying in the dark of the cave (to use Plato’s analogy) – but knowing it is not solid or set in stone is the new bliss.

Maybe divinq is a purple pill. It is certainly flexing more than just the mind. Looking forward to working out with this group again soon.

What does true diversity look like?

The following tweet turned up in my feed from Susie Sirman, from Alberta, Canada, a self-confessed “high school science and art teacher, learning coach, edtech enthusiast, busy mom and a terrible choice to follow on Twitter.” So I followed her. But anyway, her tweet:

I like the model (further tweets between us revealed it isn’t hers) and I agree with it to an extent. Simply putting different people in the same room isn’t useful, but I think it is, unfortunately, what inclusion is about currently. It isn’t, however, diversity.

So I wondered, using this model, what diversity would look like and, just out of interest, how it might differ from assimilation. I changed the colours of the dots for aesthetic reasons as you’ll see below. And here’s what I came up with:

diversity_model_key

Assimilation is when “different” people are included as long as they take on the “colour” of the majority, ie. beliefs, values, behaviour etc., in order to be accepted. This is often the result of our current model of inclusion.

True diversity, however, is when all parties are able to learn about each other’s similarities and differences — or uniqueness and commonality — and, as such, colours blend, creating a new set of values, beliefs and behaviours, unique to the group. As a result, the colour of the group — or its culture — also changes.

This post originally appeared on www.philippatston.com

Sign of the times

I came across two media posts today about sign language. The first was regarding technology translating sign language into English (although I suppose it would have to just be English), and a feature on a chef in Christchurch who managed to find an employer open to functional diversity. It was interesting to hear that staff he worked with had started to learn sign language. Now that shouldn’t be shocking, it is an official language here but actually how often do we see sign language represented as a way of communicating?

Schools offer languages and part of me is curious to know how many offer sign language as an option. I know there is a form of international sign language, and wonder why this isn’t compulsory for everyone! Think about it if you needed to talk to someone in a different language, or you had a group with multiple languages, signing would be a simple and easy way to communicate quickly.

Now, as a cyclist I have been communicating through hand signals for years and it is satisfying to have someone understand you in a short series of gestures rather than the messy vocal stuff that I often want to say but usually try and keep in my head. So I reckon signing has to be one of the most useful skills anyone could have actually. Think about all the places where you can’t have a conversation or want to communicate something across a room. Heck rugby for a start could do with some signing, how many times does the hooker put a hand to their ear at the start of a lineout to try and hear what the call is! Players could communicate instantly across the field. Not so sure about underwater hockey and water polo though, might look like everyone is just waving at you.

So perhaps if you are looking to learn a language pick sign language and if your school isn’t offering it, ask why not? Or better yet if you have someone at your school who is using sign language just give it a go, for a start there is nothing hard about smiling, putting your hand up to say ‘Hi’. Check out the New Zealand Sign Language Online site.

I’m going to be spending some time there – adding to my cycling vocabulary.

Day of anti-silence

girl shouts into the wind

12 June is the “Day of Silence“, “a day of action in which students across New Zealand vow to take a form of silence to call attention to the silencing effect of homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying, name-calling and harassment in schools.”

At Epsom Girls Grammar School, however, 12 June will be a day of anti-silence. Students who are part of DIVINQ will be taking a different tack.

We’ll be shouting about bullying all over the school at lunchtime.

We think silence is the friend of bullying and, to support and complement the people and organisations behind the day of silence, we want to yell in no uncertain terms that bullying is unacceptable, unwanted and uncool.

We will holler messages of acceptance, diversity, uniqueness and love. Yes, love, because love is the absence of fear – and fear causes bullying.

So, whether you’re silent or loud on 12 June, make it a day to celebrate and honour humanity, in all our magnificent beauty.