Saturday, January 23, 2016

Crossing the Line

My dorm did an exercise on Wednesday night that I've been thinking about since then. It's called Crossing the Line and involves a moderator reading a series of statements. Without speaking, students who agree with the statement/feel as though it applies to them step over the line, face the rest of the people who didn't cross, and then walk back when it's time for the next statement.

Topics covered: class/SES/income level, religion, race, gender/sexuality, mental health, body image, friendship, feeling understood, feeling like an impostor. Miraculously, with over a hundred people, no one made a joke out of the experience. I was extremely tense the first ten minutes, and then after that, the sense of vulnerability stopped being quite so terrifying.

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Statements that I mentally flagged as interesting:

"I identify as a person of color."

I crossed--obviously. But some other people whom I would consider POC did not.

"Based on my family's income, I am upper class."

I crossed, because my parents' earnings do fall into a high income bracket. But if asked what my SES is, I'd probably say "upper middle class." I don't identify as "upper class"--and yet, class privilege works in my favor. In the debrief afterwards, a lot of people said they felt that class and economic status were not topics they felt comfortable discussing--but that they also wanted to start having these conversations.

"I am not the gender to which I was assigned at birth."

I crossed. Apparently some people to whom I am close felt vicarious happiness for me as I did so, which makes me happy, because despite being only one of two people who crossed, I didn't feel particularly afraid/anxious/like a freak. I've been out in my dorm since the beginning of the year and it's helped make me more comfortable in who I am.

"I am lesbian, gay, or bisexual."

I didn't cross because I'm not. Later someone suggested to the moderator that in future events, the statement be made more inclusive.

"I consider myself physically unattractive."

I crossed. I don't think my face is unpleasant, but if I had to pick attractive v. unattractive, I'd go with unattractive. And that doesn't mean that I have low self-esteem or that I feel bad about it. Do I exist for the aesthetic pleasure of others? Is my worth dependent upon how good I look? Some people do feel good when they look good, and that's fine, that's great--but beauty is not something that I think deserves to be a universal value, and I don't need to think I'm good-looking to be happy with myself.

"I feel as though someone in my dorm really knows me."

I crossed, but one of my good friends didn't. That honestly kind of hurt--but it's not my place to get defensive about it. Still need to talk to this person (not about that statement in particular, just in general).

"I have reached out to people outside of my friend group."

I crossed, because I have really solid friendships with some of the frosh whom I did not know before, and I'm happy about that. But a lot (a lot) of the RAs did not.

"I do not feel comfortable talking about alcohol in my dorm."

I didn't cross, but a lot of people, especially freshmen, did. I didn't cross because my policy on alcohol is and has always been "no," so there's nothing to discuss. This is one of my blind spots.

"I am a pacifist."

I did not cross, because while I think that there is too much violence in the world, there are times when I think it is necessary. Self-defense, for example.

"I would fight in a war."

I hesitated, then decided that given my answer to the previous question ("I am a pacifist"), I would be hypocritical not to cross. So I did. I think it's true.

"I feel as though I am a part of the dorm community."

I crossed, and so did everyone else. There may be some sample bias going on (not everyone in the dorm attended, and those who chose not to attend may have done so because they didn't feel a part of the community), but it was a good one on which to end.

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