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Acknowledging Difference

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California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Soka University Japan - Transcend Art and Peace
Created: November 8, 2002
Latest Update: November 10, 2002

E-Mail Icon jeannecurran@habermas.org
takata@uwp.edu

Chocolate Bunny Redux

Beverly Hills and Dia de los Muertos

Site Copyright: Jeanne Curran and Susan R. Takata and Individual Authors, November 2002.
"Fair use" encouraged.

This comment of Irma's on our discussion on Thursday might help to give you a good idea of how to get started. Irma is quiet, and she's often reluctant to say much. But, wow, once she gets started, she just runs like that battery bunny. If you're wondering how to start, that's a good way to let me get to know you, to know what your interests are, and to point you in the right direction. Use Irma's comment for a model. The way she gets into Day of the Dead, and the differences we discussed in class on how we celebrate that day, offer lots of good material were linking the theoretical issues to our everyday reality. On Friday, November 8, 2002, Irma Peinado wrote:

Subject: Soc. 334 & 367, illocutionary discussion!

Dear Jeanne, I along with many other students visited your office on Thursday regarding our grade. Yet the discussion went deeper than a grade. You spoke about recollections of your mother holding a skillet in one hand and wanting to hurt your father and feeling the same way when your husband was drunk that night. Gee, it sounds terrible, Irma, but it's absolutely accurate. I don't think my mother really wanted to hurt him. I think she was just determined to get his attention and get her point accross. Real life! You gotta love it! I applaud you for recognizing that you are only human, not like other professors who hide their true identity and deny that they too lead a normal life. With the power they hold, it is structural violence when we fear that what we say or do or write about will hurt our academic standing. I felt a fear walking up those stairs to your office, but once you greeted me with a smile and said, "Come on in," that fear was diminishing.

Irma, I'm glad that all of you came up. It was fun having you. And for the first time this week, I began to realize that for many of you that was scary. I'm the curious cat who's always into everything, so I never dreamed that faculty offices could seem scary. One girl held out her hand and showed me how she had bitten her nails to the quick! And this was just for help. These weren't exam grades or paper grades that you couldn't work on some more. How awful that we've scared you all so badly.

I guess that means we'll have to fill the next few weeks with illocutionary discussions, so that we your teachers learn what it feels like to come to us. Maybe as we get to know each other more deeply and better, we'll learn how to alleviate some of those fears. Learning isn't something you want to be afraid of. It's fun. Right up to and including memories of a mother, four feet eleven inches, holding onto a cast iron skillet and informing the six foot male that she would have none of whatever it was all about. I'll never forget the image. And it does give me strength when I realize that I need to stand up for myself, too.

A couple of days ago, you had a discussion on Dia de los Muertos. I meant to ask you, if we are Latino, Mexican, and we do not follow tradition, does that mean we are lacking culture or what? I feel the way Tony does. She mentioned that she can't grasp the idea that someone she deeply loved is gone, and that going to a cemetery is giving into the truth, I feel the same way.

Now, you already know what I'll say to that. There are no universal "rights" and "wrongs" in dictating how we must honor. Some of us were brought up in ways that make us comfortable with the tradition. Others didn't have that comfort, and are unlikely to fit into the traditional pattern when there is no one to safely guide them through it in later years.

Of course, on that day we try and attend church, light a candle, and pray, but not just that one day, I pray every night. Within a six month period, both my grandparents passed away. It was a very difficult time and has been. I find myself lingering on the past and how it was when they were here, but every night I pray to God to take care of them in heaven, because I know they are there. So we shouldn't just remember them on that one day, but everyday.

Ritual is comforting because it guides us through difficult times. Instead of having to face up to hard decisions, we have a traditional ritual in place, and the ritual itself is comforting. But some of us shy away from not thinking. Some of us need to think these things through, to feel them, to feel the edges, and let the pain seep through. That's what you're describing, Irma. Once you have thought through the experience, your responses will gradually become ritualized, the pain will lessen, and the very ritual that results will be comforting.

We have also been talking about female mutilation. if I thought changing my last name was being stripped of my being and feeling naked, well I was totally wrong and selfish. I recently got married and changed it, I thought that was the worst thing, but I wasn't considering what other women go through, especially the physical and emotional damage they conceive due to idiotic males and traditions or customs. What happens to these males?

Well, Irma, you may be quiet, but still waters run deep. I know how you feel about last names. That not wrong and selfish. But you're right, there are many worse things in the world. That doesn't mean we give up on justice for the smaller cases. I liked the way your response came out about "idiotic males and traditions or customs." What I liked about it was that you laid the blame directly at the feet of those who did it, and didn't respond in the typical Western way "These people are barbaric." including all of them. Because you showed this understanding of the Other, I'd give you a B for this transaction. But for an A, I would like a more complete explanation of what feminist groups are saying about such conclusions that those who engage in female cutting are barbaric, and how we might come to an illocutionary understanding of this.

You've have given me lots of information in this message. Now I have a narrative that let's me know who you are and what your concerns and values are. That's a good start. Now I would like you to choose one of these interests and distill something you have learned from your readings for the course, either from the site or from the texts. And then I would like you to link the theoretical approaches we have taken to the real events in your lifeworld. You can do this by e-mail, or you can visit again between classes or in my office.

Your student, Irma Peinado, formerly De Leon