#6 intersectionally taking names and kicking ass

     This weekend has been incredibly productive. I finally feel like my team is beginning to become grounded and focused on choosing a direction for our project. At the outset, we all felt a high level of enthusiasm geared toward creating a project designed to address the widespread issue of rape culture in society through the lens of intersectional feminism. However, this task immediately revealed two challenges. First and foremost, adding a focus on intersectionality dramatically increases the depth of our work by giving attention to a whole slew of nuances. Secondly, the unfortunate reality is that there’s a practically endless amount of research which could be done on one lone aspect of rape culture in America, and we didn’t even have a sense of what area we wanted a specific focus on. In the early stages, we toyed with the idea of orienting our project toward places like colleges, workplaces, or prisons. Leaving the first retreat, we knew we were leaning toward a focus on the education system, but that aside, we almost completely lacked a sense of direction. When we went separate ways last time, we did some research regarding who possible local resources were, but not much else had taken shape.

     Now, at the end of our second two-day retreat, things finally seem to be have taken form. We reframed the focus of our work from the experience of college students regarding rape culture on college campuses to the experience of college students who were either voluntarily or involuntarily experienced with rape culture in high schools. This solves some technical issues regarding release papers, but it primarily serves to address the more personal/social hurdles: college students likely have a more clear vision of their identity, and with that they’ve also had more time to process and reflect on the assault; the immediate fear of a survivor’s parents finding out will be diminished by the fact they didn’t need their parent to sign a consent form; and we were afraid we’d have trouble representing a diverse population of survivors if we could only draw from high schools. After tackling some of the fundamental design issues with our research project, we outlined a plan for communicating in the future, and delegated specific tasks to different people.

     I definitely believe that the opportunity to be as productive as I have been this weekend was generated by the fact that I’m on a team with supportive, reflective, and creative people. They make the space we work in a safe one. Reading the article about what makes Google’s most effective teams work well created a focus on how fortunate I am to be surrounded by people who already exemplify these traits, but it furthermore reminded me to be conscientious of the way I approach disagreement. I really dislike seeing conversation shut down, and part of preserving open dialog definitely revolves around being cognizant about choosing non-accusatory language, listening authentically, and thinking about responses in a collaborative way. As a competitive person, I sometimes find myself adopting a more polarized stance in the name of playing devil’s advocate, attempting to eliminate gray areas through the crucible of debate. Though this system of thinking is not without its merits, I think oftentimes the end doesn’t justify the means, and there tends to be a more cooperative way to explore the same questions; I believe this begins with playing the active role of being curious, rather than playing the passive role of being adversarial. A well phrased question serves to bring the inquirer closer to what they’re trying to understand and possibly affords the respondent a chance to inspect the topic more critically.

Also, in the world of major accomplishments this weekend, I solved the lighting mystery of my dorm:

James Tedesco

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