My final reflection of what I have learned over the course of this semester.
Below is the group project of myself; Alicia, Tori, Stephanie and Marlee. We decided to discuss the myth that treaties only benefit the First Nations people of Canada.
i) Normative Narratives- Pressure to Be Feminine
When deciding which topic to choose from between gender and race, I concluded on gender as it is something that I am aware of everyday of my life. Unfortunately, race was not something I consciously spent time thinking about because I have been privileged due to my skin colour. When it comes to being born a female, I didn’t always conform to the stereotypes assigned to me. But I have definitely spent more time fitting into the stereotype than not. For example, in my blog, “My First Crush” I discuss feeling the need to be more feminine as a means of having someone from the opposite sex being attracted to me. “Before I would make my way to their house, I would check myself out in the mirror. Combed? Check. Fitted clothes? Check. Nail polish? Check.” I went from never wearing nail polish to suddenly wearing nail polish, I went from not caring about what my hair looked like to making sure it was combed and not one strand out of place. I didn’t necessarily learn these things from my family, however, the media was good at portraying females as looking a particular way. In the following two stories, each of us discuss how we have been guided by society in some shape or form to present ourselves as females a certain way in order to be accepted by the rest of society. Chapter 7 of “Is Everyone Really Equal” states, “Corporate-produced popular culture has become a more pervasive institution in our lives through multiple points of entry such as advertising, sponsored curriculum in schools, and mass media. For example, corporate-produced toys amplify rigid gender roles, socializing girls into femininity (nurturing, caring, and beauty play)” (Sensoy and DiAngelo 2017 pg. 108)
In Esther’s blog, “Girly-Girl Lessons” she and her friends look for another female who they believe has mastered what it is to be a female. Esther talks about how the older friend Brianna shows them that in order to be feminine, they must dress in heels and learn how to walk in them, no matter how ridiculous they feel and look in them. The other narrative in Esther’s story is that Esther and her friends made sure they had the approval of Brianna to make sure they were girly enough. This is a very common occurrence among females. We will make sure we have the approval of others before we deem ourselves good enough. This includes when Brianna tells the girls “We shouldn’t let anyone see us out of character.” We all know a female who feels they can’t leave the house without their hair and make-up done. The pressure to look and behave a certain way is a pressure that has been put on the female population.
In Yuyi’s blog, “Get Out of the Water” she talks about how she was also pressured to make sure she is not out of character. “I wiped my eyes and I saw a woman was looking at me. She was surprised and yelled to the crowd loudly: “Who’s girl is that?” She looked at me and said: “You are all wet, get out of the water quickly!” I was confused, I did not know what was going on. Suddenly, a boy came in front of me. I assumed he was the son of that woman because nobody else looked at me except her and the boy. He said: “Can you understand Chinese? Where are you from?” I felt awkward to answer this question. I opened my mouth but did not know what to say. That woman pointed at me and talked to another person. She successfully made more people notice me, a girl with soggy clothes and hair standing in the pool. I felt ashamed and quickly ran away.” This narrative proves itself when Yuyi jumps in the water fully clothed. Because she had done this, she is quickly reprimanded because a female is not supposed to be in public looking unpresentable.
ii) Disrupting the Normative Narrative
In Nikki’s blog, “Barefoot Tomboy” she states, “My wild not brushed hair flowing in the wind standing on the swings going higher and higher and higher. The race is on to see who can go jump the furthest. Chris is going faster than me, Derrick is too! I gotta pump harder! “Nikki don’t you think you should slow down?” My auntie yells from beside the swing set. Ignoring my auntie I push harder.” Regardless that Nikki is a female and that her aunt is trying to perpetuate that a female should present herself as more delicate by not doing what the boys are doing, she ignores it. Nikki decides that no matter what, she is doing what she is enjoys. She didn’t think about whether or not she looks different than the boys. What is more important to Nikki is that she can not only do what they are doing, but she can do it even better. And she proves herself. She lets her hair roam freely in the wind and she beats one of her cousins when they jump off the swings and land in the sand.
In order to move away from the pressures of femininity, we must first be aware of the avenues in which they are being promoted. Being feminine is neither right or wrong, however, it should not be put upon any single person in orderfor them to feel approved by others. Being aware is the first step to understand that the gender binary is a social construct that is meant to favor one person over another. The pressure of femininity is not just for men, but also a hierarchy amongst women to deem who is more physically attractive. Although society is becoming more aware of the social construct, we must each daily make a choice to have the courageous conversation that open up these discussions to make this become less of a normative narrative. In the TED Talk: Ending Gender by Scott Turner Schofield, Scott talks about disrupting the normative narrative that gender should not define any human being, and Scott is living in his true self, but his identity is not found in his gender, that they are just words. That if we all identity as others, that we are all others, so no one is marginalized.
Sensoy, O., & DiAngelo, R. (2017). Is Everyone Really Equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education. New York, United States of America: Teachers College Press.
We always disagreed when it came to money. “Gas is $1.20 now!” I said in a shrieking tone. “Why do you always bring up how much things cost?” he responded frustratingly. As we were driving down Albert St. in my dark blue Ford Focus; my gas meter said I had about a quarter tank left. I kept thinking in my head about how much I could make that gas stretch till I got paid again. This wasn’t the first time, nor would it be the last time that I would have to calculate such things in my mind.
He comes from a two parent home who both have successful businesses. He has traveled the world since childhood. He grew up having housemaids and drivers. He would tell me about how every Sunday after Mass, his family would go to the bakery to buy fresh French pastries. I listened intently as I would imagine living such a life in my mind. It’s not that I had a terrible childhood by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I grew up in Regina by a single mother who worked hard, although educated, she didn’t pursue it fully, which lead to not having a job that necessarily paid to live beyond paycheck to paycheck. We didn’t have someone to come and clean our house, and we definitely didn’t have a personal driver. I remember about every three years my mom would have to buy a new used car until the next one would break down. I had never traveled anywhere outside of Western Canada until I was an adult. I went from attending a public school to transitioning into a private school.
Despite these differences, it wasn’t until he responded with, “Why do you always bring up how much things cost?” did I really notice how socioeconomic differences play a part in our view of not only money, but also education and family relationships. I made that quarter tank last me until my next paycheck. As we kept driving down Albert St., I kept thinking about how much things cost and hoping that one day, I won’t have to be so concerned about something so simple, yet a privilege to have, a car to drive to fill up a tank with gas.
I was ten years old and he was seven years old. He lived across the street in this big house right on the corner. I lived in cooperative housing with a lot of low income families and single mothers. Regardless of the class difference, we became friends. His parents invited me over to play. The first few times it was just the two of us, until one day, a brown haired, browned eyed boy walked through the doors. It was older brother. Not only was he older than him, but he was two years older than me.
I instantly became infatuated with him. At the time I was a “tomboy” who loved to wear baggy clothes that I picked out of a Salvation Army bin. Hair so fresh and clean right out of the shower. No brushing or combing necessary. And I thought I looked great. I felt cool, comfortable and myself. All of that changed when I met the boy across the streets’ older brother. They didn’t need to invite me over anymore, I would simply show up. His older brother was nice to me, the first boy that ever really gave me positive attention.
I noticed that right away and thought that maybe he would like me as more than a friend if I was less of a “tomboy”. Before I would make my way to their house, I would check myself out in the mirror. Combed? Check. Fitted clothes? Check. Nail polish? Check. I showed up, he would invite me in to watch some 90’s TV series that I can’t recall the name of and he offered me a bowl of ice cream. I ate it in less than 2 minutes, he offered me a second bowl. The nail polish must be working, I thought to myself.
The word treaty can have a couple meanings. For example, I am a Treaty Settler, whereas a First Nations individual would be a Treaty Indian. It wasn’t until a month ago when we started this class did I become aware that I am a Treaty Person. I have heard the term status Indian by many First Nations acquaintances in the past. Until this day, I am not sure if even they knew we are all Treaty People either. Because of the European/Westernized education system and dominating culture, this was never a topic…until now.
What has changed since learning that I am also a Treaty person is that I have a responsibility to educate myself on what the agreements are between the two parties. I have learned that treaties are the stone in which Canadian society originated. Despite this being the case, as a white woman of European descent and settler of the Treaty 4 Territory, I have privileged 100% because of the Treaties, whereas the First Nations did not. This is not how it is supposed to be.
I would not say that racism is something that I just began to see. I noticed it even as a child. I would hear comments and opinions about First Nations people during family functions. I had gained a perspective based off of other peoples ignorance which in turn lead me to be ignorant as well. I would feel nervous around First Nations people because I would see First Nations people represented in the news as the “dangerous” and “criminals” of the prairies. How ironic it is, because the colonization of this land is what is dangerous and criminal.The truth is, regardless of what someone else preaches or shares, it is up to me as the individual to do the research for myself to find the truth. The truth I am learning is that of the authentic history of how Canada was colonized and what part my ancestors played a role in it. And that I still benefit from it today. It is my responsibility as a treaty person to uphold the treaties made by the Settlers and First Nations people of Canada. I truly believe that knowing this is the first step in the right direction.
“Let’s get inside before it gets busier!” I said to my friend as we jumped out of her parents shiny, new SUV. It was the week of the Mosaic and we were just about to head into the India: Punjabi pavilion. I was 23 years old, 5 months pregnant and ready to eat for two. As we were walking towards the entrance, my friend made comments I will never forget to this day. “I can’t believe you’re having a baby”, she said. I nodded and smiled in agreement. Then she continued with, “I hope your baby has a nose and hair like yours.” I was completely taken off guard. “What do you mean?” I quickly responded. “You know, straight hair and a nose that looks small like yours.”
It would take nearly a year later until I actually confronted my friend about that conversation we had a year prior. I held in the pain I felt from those words. Both my friend and myself are white women of European descent, while my daughter who is now nearly seven years old is a mix of my ancestry and of West African ancestry. It wasn’t until the day of that conversation that I realised how much skin colour makes a difference, but also physical features make a difference in how people are viewed and treated. Straight hair and a pointed nose are what society deems as the most beautiful. I see it in every form of media.
Since having the realisation of how a body is being racialized, I have been very intentional about surrounding myself with more diverse representation. Not only for myself, but for my daughter. What I mean by this is, reading books about people from different parts of the world, different cultures, different faiths than our own. Listening to music or watching movies with diverse characters. Despite this, however, I almost daily will hear comments from my daughter who has the cutest curls, brown skin and brown eyes, that she wishes she was white like me and had straight hair like me. I have very fair skin with pink overtones and straight, dark brown hair and green eyes. I have no idea what it is like to be her, and I never will.
Even though it has been over 7 years, I have become more aware of the comments that are being made about the physical features of those who are not white and who do not look like me. Beauty is subjective and should be celebrated for its diversity. There will always be strength when there is unity in diversity.
Attached is a picture of my daughter and myself taken in the summer of 2018.
I crawl into the bed and tightly wrap the grey, abstract designed duvet around me. I feel like I’m floating on a cloud. I hear his voice from another room in the meticulously cleaned apartment. “Where are you?” he asked excitedly. “Where I always am” I shouted gently. His footsteps keep getting closer as I lay comfortably in his bed. I suddenly feel his right arm slide under my neck and his left arm stretch around my torso.
We start to talk about how our day went. This is the most familiar part of our daily conversation. Even though we babble about the tediousness of work life and student life; we make it a point to discover something new that each day brings. I turn around and face him, while he still has his arms wrapped around me, even tighter than the duvet. I feel peaceful and safe when he holds me close. His big brown eyes staring in my green eyes, he lets out all of his thoughts. I make sure to listen intently as to not miss a single word. Sometimes he just needs me to listen. He isn’t asking for advice or some cliché response, rather an open mind and heart that is willing to hear what he has going on in his mind.
Once he finishes, I continue to be engulfed in long, dark arms. Now it is my turn. I share with him about how my mind is constantly moving; like a toddler who has just learned how to walk for the first time. Battling with Major Depressive Disorder, he doesn’t understand what it is like, but he is also willing to hear what is running through my mind and to accept me regardless of what the mental illness brings to the table. He continues to stare straight into my eyes as I speak, assuring me that he is interested in everything I have to share. I feel at peace again. I can be myself. He can be himself. We lay together for hours in his bed exchanging thoughts, feelings and unconditional love.
Whenever he holds me, I am home. Being in his presence. We could be in his apartment, we could be sitting on a park bench, or be sitting in his car on the top of a hill gazing at the stars at midnight, and it would not matter. I am home, whenever his touch penetrates my being. It doesn’t matter how long or how short. We could be in Canada, we could be in Togo. I can be pink, he can be brown. He can speak French, I can speak English. No matter our differences, home is wherever he holds me.
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton