Monthly Archives: April 2017

“Getting off the Hook”

MDIV 515: Power, Privilege, and Difference.

“Getting off the Hook”

By Pisit Maneewong

The reading of this week was related to the topic of “Getting off the Hook” which was the part of the book title “Privilege, Power, Difference,” and it was written by Allan G. Johnson. According to my reading on the Chapter 8: Getting Off the hook: Denial and Resistance.  I like what Allan G. Johnson wrote that “The fact is that we’re all on the hook because there’s no way to avoid being part of the problem. People in subordinate groups are on the hook every day. Dominant groups are, too, but they’re more likely not to know it because they have so many ways to act as though they aren’t, and privilege usually allows them to get away with it. But the more aware we are of all the ways there are to fool ourselves, the easier it is to wake up and make ourselves part of solutions.” [1] Sometimes we do not know that there is no such wall or barrier in front of us. One of the reason is fear of losing our privilege and realm which we used to be the owner and we do not want to share with others. In addition, we are full of selfish without caring other’s privilege or feeling. It seems that we have trouble with this wall day by day, no chance to walk over this barrier.

From the class last week, our class practiced the exercise of power, privilege, and difference regarding the ideas of racism, class, and gender which somehow related to the idea of ‘White Supremacy’.  During the time, I and my male classmate laid down on the floor face up and head closed to each other’s in the different directions and the women sat on the chair above us in four directions. At that moment, I felt overwhelmed in three ways of my thought, by the feeling, time pressure, and overwhelmed by how to do things ‘right’ thing at that moment. At the beginning, my feeling was normal and when the time passed by from 10-20 minutes I felt like how to do the ‘right’ thing at that moment. So, I decided to not do anything just lay down and practice my Pali chanting which I remembered at that moment. I try to use my terrorist mind to not follow the sound when I heard during I was laying down with my male classmate. I knew that I was not a good person at that moment. I did not help or use my voice to speak out when the female asked and even my male friends talked. I still continued to keep quiet and not use any voice until the last minutes of this exercise. I think my action like what Allan G. Johnson writes in his book, “But the truth is that my silence, my inaction, and especially my passive acceptance of everyday privilege that goes along with group membership are all it takes to make me just as much a part of the problem as any member of the Klan.”[2]

Anyway, from this situation, as a man I felt sad and empathy as well about this situation regarding gender. Most of the time women are hurt by men who have more power and privilege without love or compassion or without thought that is gender like their mother. I asked myself how I can help the people who live in trouble, both male and female with trouble and with this question it enriches awareness on me to the situation of difference. So, I need more choice and more chance to learn how to live together happily and harmoniously in the long term of life without any conflict of the power, privilege, and difference especially the different gender between male and female.

I like the idea that the Buddha give an advice to the monks (Bhikkhus, Pali) how to treat the women in the proper way which appeared in the Bharadvaja Sutta. In this sutta, the Buddha once advised to the young monks that, ‘Come now, monks: with regard to women who are old enough to be your mother, establish the attitude you would have toward your mother. With regard to women who are old enough to be your sister, establish the attitude you’d have toward a sister. With regard to women who are young enough to be your daughter, establish the attitude you’d have toward a daughter.’[3] This is one reason that I should bring it and share it here.

[1] Allan G Johnson, Privilege, power, and difference. (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2006), p.108.

[2] Allan G Johnson, Privilege, power, and difference. Ibid., p.118.

[3] Thanissaro Bhikkhu, “Bharadvaja Sutta: About Bharadvaja,” accessed May 19, 2017, http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn35/sn35.127.than.html.

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Get Out There!

Whenever I go on a trip, whether it be a short distance or long distance, I always take at least a little bit of time and do some people observing.  Most times I’ll learn something new each time.  I still remember one of the teachings that the Venerable Master Hsing Yun taught about spreading Buddhism locally was to just go out there.  He said that in encouragement to the monastic disciples and lay teachers to break out from the temple/monastery setting and serve people that way.  I take that teaching to heart myself and try to break from the comfortable environment and bring the Dharma to the people, or in this case bring spiritual care to the people.

In Half the Sky, the authors Kristof and WuDunn made some recommendations to some young people who asked about how they help address issues like poverty or inequality, and right off the bat the first recommendation was to “get out and see the world.”[i]  I felt like that and what Venerable Master Hsing Yun taught was like two hands clapping together.  Even though I felt a little joyous that east and west have met again in theory, I also felt bummed, because, in order to get out there and discover stuff, I would need resources, especially monetary resources.  Kristof and WuDunn talked about one of the great failings of the American education system is not including studying abroad.  I myself never had any chance to study abroad because my major wouldn’t be able to accept the transfer credits and I just simply did not have enough money.  I already carry a lot of weight for not making time to exercise and I have to carry more weight on my back because I have a lot of student loans to repay when I graduate.  This may be tied back to the capitalism themes in the previous weeks’ discussions but if the economic system allowed for some flexibility or something then maybe I could pursue something like studying abroad or teaching English abroad.  Then again, especially with the new administration, this will continue to be a challenge.

When I read the chapter in Power, Privilege and Difference about the lingo that differentiates men and women, I had this rumbling feeling in my stomach.  I think it is because after reading the chapter I want to find a level that I can connect with women but at the same time, I find it real difficult.  Maybe it is because like what I mentioned previously that I have not been exposed enough to environments where the men are the dominant authority?  Or could it be because I was born and raised and still currently living under female authority that I am almost clueless about what male authority is like?  I’m not sure.  In the book the author states, “[i]n short, men are the cultural standard for humanity; women are just women.”[ii]  I really wouldn’t know how to react.  I know that men are the norm for cultural standards, but to have that out in black and white for me was a little bit of a shock, though I have to agree with it fully because it is the truth.  It is the same in the Buddhist community as well, but luckily that is gradually improving.  Another thought that came up for me in that statement was the professional dress code standard, men are usually in a shirt and tie with slacks and women are also given a the standard with a top and dress which I think has since later evolved into the blouse and slacks in order to be at the same level as men.  I’m not an expert in fashion but I am curious if this will evolve further?

 

[i] Kristof, Nicholas D., and Sheryl WuDunn. Half the sky: turning oppression into opportunity for women worldwide. Page 88. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009.

[ii] Johnson, Allan G. Privilege, power, and difference. Page 104. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Pub., 2001.

It is women’s issue

MDIV 515: Power Privilege and Difference

Seong Hui Bark(Moogoo)

Reflection Paper

Reflect on your reaction to text or person

We watched Tedtalk about gender. After I finished watching first one titled: ‘Violence against women—it’s a men’s issue’, I really wanted to ask the male classmates like this: ‘How do you feeling about the talk? Whether they agree or not? Do they willing try to change men’s behaviors or not?’ Honestly, I was shocked by the talk since I never thought that men can help to reduce sex abuse or any kind of violence against women by changing their thinking. Can it be possible? I am really doubtful about it since I was only educated by thinking about what women can do to reduce public or domestic sex abuse or violence.

For example, when I was in the MA program at the University of Dongguk, there were a lot of special lectures or events for BA, MA and PHD students every semester. Sometimes the lectures would be held only for BA or MA students. One day, I saw a banner titled: ‘Sex Education for BA Female Student’. I did not want to attend the lecture since I was 30 years old or something at that time. However, I had a meeting with my lay friend who was an assistant to the instructor who gave the above lecture after the event. I went to the convention hall 20 minutes before the end of the lecture. Outside of the hall, there were no chairs so I decided to enter the room that the instructor was giving her speech. When I just entered the room, the instructor asked to audience: ‘Do you know why women was abused by men?” nobody answered and she said that ‘Because women did not say ‘Do not do that, I do not want it’ and continuously she explained the reason why women did not say it is because they did not have a chance to practice it before this happens for real. She suggested to the audience to repeat what she said loudly at that time such as ‘Do not touch my hip’, ‘Do not touch my waist’, ‘Do not touch my breast’, ‘Do not do that’, and ‘I do not want it’. In the confusion of the moment, I loudly spoke aloud the above statements following the instructor’s statements. In conclusion, she strongly convinced us that ‘Women must change their behaviors in order to prevent sex abuse or violence caused by men.’ I had a really good impression about her lecture I regretted that I did not attend the whole lecture. Because of this lecture, I thought that it is true that if women change and express their feelings of violence, men’s behaviors would be change. However, Violence Against Women—it’s a men’s issue: Jackson Katz makes me think whether it can be men’s issue or not.

Response to your inner/outer reactions

I still wonder how do my male classmates think about the Jackson’s talk whether they agree or not? I should have asked those questions to them in the class because I barely agree that violence against women is a men’s issue. It has to be women’s issue and I have two stories to support this but I think I should use only one since I have written too long these days.

I forgot about the lecture since I did not think it would happen to me in my life. One day, I rode the subway during the day in Seoul and I do not remember where I was heading to at that time. There were not a lot of passengers in my cabin and most of them sat on the seat. I also sat at the edge of the seat and I saw one passenger who sat diagonally from me coming towards me, stood in front of me and started talking about the Bible. I was a little uncomfortable that he was in front of me and talked about religion. After some time, he asked questions why I became a Buddhist nun at a young age and started yelling little at me about my decision to become a nun. At that time, I looked around and found that most passengers around me were men. The man suddenly stepped forward to me and little leaned his head to me. I could feet him threatening me so I said: ‘I do not want to talk about it now’ with a soft voice unlike how I practiced when I was at the sex education lecture. As soon as I finished with what I said, the man who was sitting next to me stood up and blocked the man in front of me using his right arm and the man who was sitting across from me came forward and bump the man’s shoulder and told him that I had said that I did not want to talk about it with him. The man who was threatening me and I were both surprised at that time. I could not clearly understand what was happening at that moment. I guess because of the two men’s angry faces, the threatening man got off at the next station right away. I thanked the two men and show my appreciation. After that, I talked to the man sitting next to me until I arrived at my destination. He first started talking about when he saw the protestant man coming to me, he was really uncomfortable too but he could not say anything because he did not know about my feelings whether I am ok or not. When the protestant man leans in on me, he started hesitating whether to intervene or not. Actually, he wanted to but was not sure at the time until he could hear my voice expressing that I did not want to talk about it. That statement gave him encouragement to do what he needed to do and he knew I was not comfortable with that situation. It seemed like the sex education lecturer was really correct; when I spoke out my feelings, the violence stopped right away.

Integrating the reading for the week

“Be the person at the bus stop that steps in when they see a woman being harassed or be the person on the bus that stands up and says it is not okay because our voices are the loudest when we raise them together.”

Everyday sexism: Laura Bates: Ted Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LhjsRjC6B8U&feature=youtu.be

Jackson Katz said that violence against women is men’s issue but I insist it is still a women’s issue. In the case of my encounter in the subway, the two helpful men knew the situation was uncomfortable but they could not interrupt until they clearly felt that I needed help. I mean, the two men did not help until I said something. Secondly, I was educated on how to protect myself in public, to speak up of how I am feeling now which helped me escape the situation, therefore education helped me. Thirdly, if the two men did not help me, I believed that the threatening man would still be shocked because I spoke up for myself and maybe that could have stopped him from asking uncomfortable questions. The sex education lecture changed my behavior in dealing with being uncomfortable in public. Therefore, I assert that it is still women’s issue. At first, women have to be educated about sex, human right, responsibility of life and etc. Second, women confidently have to show their power, wisdom and loving-kindness. Third, when women have both of the above, they should speak out to men who do violence against women; “do not do that”, “I do not want it” are what Laura Bates said but at that time, definitely women do not need men’s power to help themselves since women already have their own power.

A Korean proverb says “It’s the thirsty man who digs the well.” I think men do not need to dig the well since it is the women that thirst for it. Women have to be wise; they should not wait for others to dig the well or think it is men’s work. Women have to take action with subjectivity. When they need to, they just do it and not wait for society to change. If women need to ask for men’s help, they should be allowed to ask for it freely, not having to beg for it. Women have to wake up and speak out for women’s right loudly. In my experience, if women do not change, then nobody bothers to dig the well; so women have to see clearly the reality that it is still women’s issue.

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