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Creating connections // MMTM #8

While each session of Making Media That Matters can never be re-created, today stood out especially. A few of the facilitators were coming down with ailments of all sorts and there were only four participants; it was going to be a an interesting Friday.

Katie initiated the session with a game, as always. While the past exercises were more giggles and laughs, this game got us all thinking. Katie passed out small zip lock bags with folded pieces of paper that had questions to be answered by an individual or by the entire group. The questions that stood out most were “What are four words that describe you?” and “Name a quality you like about yourself.”

Although initially it seemed like a tedious task, as everyone struggled to finds words or admirable qualities about themselves, but it really became a lesson for me. It wouldn’t normally occur to people to think about what words describe them. For myself, usually I would default to talking about my occupation, my age, what color my eyes are, where I was born, etc. But words describing who you are don’t, usually come to mind. I feel our society has always prioritized physical traits or careers over individual qualities such as kindness, patience, passion, or self-love. It was an eye-opener to see how much thought was put into assembling positive traits about ourselves.The group talked about how they are chill, brave, open-minded and go-getters. It was really nice to see their faces light up when they came to the realization that we’re all very interesting people. Our warm-up game of questions, allowed the girls to express themselves more and created confidence by thinking about traits they feel are positive.

After Vera called time, we scampered from the halau into the classroom to begin the second portion of the session. As we entered the classroom, we picked up our notebooks, found our seats, and began watching some short youtube videos. The films were “48 Things Women Hear in a Lifetime,” “Why Gender Pronouns Matter,” and an HBO clip of a student returning to Parkland High School after the shooting.

While the presenters attempted to get responses out of the girls, the participants themselves seemed to more inclined to observe rather than comment on their personal experiences. Though the girls were mostly quiet, the facilitators and myself began to talk about our own experiences; times when people would comment on our aging, clothing, diet, if we were prettier when we smiled. These types of microaggressions are so engraved in society, that we almost expect them. For myself, the one that resonated most was “Your dad will have to fight away the boys when you’re older.” Maybe explain why that one resonated with you? It teaches girls that boys are to be feared because they’re “naturally” predatory? It teaches girls that they always need protection from a big, strong man?

When I was in highschool, it was expected for a boys to ask a girl’s’ father’s permission to accompany her to school events. Like many of the girls, initially I romanticized the idea of an intimidating father and being “hard to get.” When I asked my dad if he would grill boys with terrifying questions, or if they asked for his permission, my dad said “You’re the one he would need permission from, not me.” Then, it clicked. Why would anyone be asking my parent’s permission? I’m the one that would be in the company of the individual who asked me out. This idea that a father protects his daughter from boys only emphasizes gender stereotypes; that women are fragile pieces for looking and need protection from the animal-like tendencies of men.I find this to be a dated and a problematic practice that diminishes everyone. Individual consent matters. While this is a tradition practiced among many, and seen as “proper,” or “gentlemanly thinking and making decisions on your own is essential for becoming independent adults. Let's leave this practice and allow our kids to discover themselves without the dramatic game of tug-a-war.

The next video talked about the importance of gender pronouns. The commentators in the video emphasized that people of different genders simply wish to be respected, acknowledged, and given the option to explain themselves if people are ill-informed. The girls spoke up a little more this time, as they agreed that respect was warranted, no matter what gender a person identifies with. Noa, one our mentors, spoke about the general stereotypes of people in the LGBTQ+ community. She brought our attention to the fact that people of color are usually not represented in videos or media pieces that talk about individuals who don’t identify with their assigned gender. She couldn’t be more correct. When I personally think of a trans individual, unintentionally, a white, flamboyant, male comes to mind rather than a person of color with similar lifestyles and interests like anyone else. While LGBTQ+ individuals of all races and ethnicities have always existed, I (like many others) have to seek out more informed persons in order to educate myself on proper gender terminology and to dissolve the stereotypes that I have absorbed.

The final video about the Parkland student returning to school after the shooting resonated with everyone. The video documented the sentiments of the student, his mother, and stepfather, mainly talking about how their idea of safety and security were violently shattered after the tragic event took the lives of 17 people in their community. The participants vulnerably promptly talked about their own emotions, the part their schools played in honoring the fallen victims, and how they themselves had scares or active shooter drills at their schools. The facilitators talked about how shootings are occurring more often, and that many schools still don’t have protocols in place to protect educators and students in case of an emergency.

Once we had taken our break for snacks, the girls were split into two groups in order to shoot a few scenes with of their responses to the films. After some confusion and adjustments, both groups had their cameras, tripods, microphones, and talent ready. The groups gave brief reactions to the films; the first group discussed talked about how all the videos were of much importance, the second group emphasized the significance of how respect needs to be given to everyone, no matter how they identify. As soon as it seemed like we were in the zone for filming, the night came to a sudden end and we were to depart.

Though Making Media That Matters aims to create connections and encourage students to learn as much as they can about social justice and filmmaking, I feel this evening that the instructors were the ones who became closer. Although I assumed we as women have had similar experiences, it was beautiful to see how we all can empathize with each other, thus facilitating a positive forum for discussion, education, and discovery.

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