A Justice Site
CSUDH - Habermas - UWP - Archives
California State University, Dominguez Hills
University of Wisconsin, Parkside
Created: September 1, 2004
Latest Update: September 11, 2004
During the third week of school, the Week of September 12, we're going to plan an exhibit to bring people to a conscious awareness of how we have come to treat obesity in dominant discourse these days. This will provide you with an example, if you want to plan your own exhibit, or you could just take over our plans on obesity and adapt them to an exhibit.
Here are the steps that are included:
- Step 1. Use your increased awareness from our project of transforming society to focus on something in dominant discourse or behavior that bothers you because you see that it seems to harm someone.
Celia Piz did this last week and wrote to me on Friday:" Jeanne I tried to download information on obesity on your website and I was unable to do it. However, there is something that interests me, that was brought to my attention last semester and again this semester. In my classrooms I noticed that there are about five people I would say that are quite large. It makes me feel uncomfortable when I see them having trouble sitting in their desks because the desks aren't big enough for larger people. I think this is an issue that needs to be brought to the attention of someone in CSUDH and everywhere else. I think these individuals should be able to come to class and sit comfortably in their desks since they too are paying for their education. What can we do?
Thanks, Celia Piz "
- Step 2. Share your concerns with others to see if we have all just "fallen into silence" like "falling between the cracks."
We actually talked about this issue last Fall, but made no attempt to correct it. I did a painting of Dwayne trying to sit in one of these desks:
Monologic Nonanswerability and the Body
Hypotheticals? What if . . .we noticed the results of our unstated assumptions???Friday, October 10, 2003: The unstated assumption to which I refer here is that we all come in roughly the same size. I will never be able to erase this picture of Dwayne Sanders trying to fit his frame into the inadequate space of a classroom seat for three hours of serious discussion. I figure this counts right up there with putting corsets on women. I sometimes have trouble fitting into these contraptions. Has anyone ever thought of making them conform to real bodies?
Notice that this is a little harder to see as an answerability issue because, after all, the seats are same for all: equality. No perpetrator. No intent. No fit. Structural violence. Structural violence is harm that occurs to another, not as the direct result of one Person meaning to hurt one Other, but simply because the rules that have grown up in an insensitive bureaucracy result in harm all by themselves. When I eat in the school cafeteria, the table comes up to just below my chin. I'll bet that's more comfortable for Dwayne. But when Dwayne tries to sit in the classroom desk, there is no way to do so comfortably. Here the rules, the unstated assumptions harm any of us that don't fit into the normative expectation for size.
I used to tear the seatbelt off in my car and tuck it under my arm because I choked on it if I didn't do that. This year, finally, the new car has an adjustment so the seat belt can be lowered not to choke me. Of course, I keep trying to make it one notch lower because I shrank a little as I got older, but that was too far beyond the normative expectation for size.
Lots of our normative expectations, and the unstated assumptions on which they are based, are about the body. Only recently have we really begun to pay attention to the body, and its needs, and stop trying to stuff it into a corset or a classroom seat. jeanne
- On Monday, October 13, Shannon Giddings wrote:"Hello, jeanne...
I just finished going over the topic of the week and it hit home for me. Dwayne is a very tall man who struggles to find comfort in those restricted desks. I can identify with him although for me, I'm a full figured woman, and sitting in those desks is uncomfortable for me. Yes, they were designed with equality in mind, but if you ask me, it's equality of the thin person. Why not create something with all body types in mind? We always think we're doing something that benefits others, but when you really think about it, someone, somewhere is ALWAYS going to be inconvenienced in someway, shape or form....
True, Shannon, but it might behoove us to think in terms of bodies in today's world. The academy is said to be 50 years behind current technology and research, but 50 years behind what fits our bodies is pretty uncomfortable for a learning environment. jeanne
- On Monday, October 13, 2003, Malinda Willis, CSUDH, wrote:"Jeanne, I am so glad that you have chosen to speak on this topic that I could just faint! Because the first year that I attended Cal State Dominguez, in the fall of 2001, I wrote a formal letter of complaint about my discomfort in sitting in the chairs and how it was affecting my learning in class. . . . I have yet to receive an answer from that particular office (the president's office). However, at the beginning of the fall 2003 school year, I made an additional complaint in person. The secretary appeared to be concerned about my complaint. She and I agreed that I had a valid comlaint, so I assumed that we were on a dialogic answerability type level with the intent to meet my need. However, in all vivo I am still experiencing monologic answerablity with no perceptible intent to even respond to my complaint."
Malinda, I have trouble sitting in our classroom chairs, and I'm small. I sympathize with all of us. Perhaps there is an office to whom we should turn other than the President's office. Let's consider that in our agencies class. jeanne
Broadband Causes Obesity
I was trying to layer the guy, starting out small, growing bigger and bigger. Maybe someone could work on it. I don't think I've got the time. jeanne
- Broadband Causes Obesity This is statistics you must understand for survival reasons. Nota bene: Dubya didn't say this. We can't blame Dubya for everything. The honor this time goes to the Mayor of Salt Lake City, Utah. jeanne
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This would seem to be qualitative evidence that there is considerable concern with this problem.
Step 3. Look to the organizational chart of the university to see which department should be concerned based on the evidence we have collected.
Consider: The Vice President of Student Affairs - this would seem to be a student affair. Consider the Associated Student Body, their goal is to be concerned for students; they are the students. Consider: health - it can't be too good for us to be crammed into these uncomfortable positions in late evening for three hours after a day's work. Consider that Malinda has drawn a direct link to her discomfort and her ability to learn in this context.
Step 4. Consider brief activities that could heighten awareness.
Sample: Handout for awareness activity on obesity. You might consider giving a handout, a page, with drawings or photos that would serve participants of the discourse later as a reminder. Attaching ideas to concrete images aids in memory. (Herbartian Apperceptive Mass - theory)
Step 5. Consider that we are trying to enter into governance discourse, that is a discussion that would permit us to influence institutional decision-making so as to alleviate discomfort and harm to us. Consider that there are multiple departments that may be involved, though probably the issue has never actually been assigned as any specific group's responsibility. That's one of those cases in which if it's not in my job description it's not my problem. How best to counter that?
Maybe prepare something physisc, a folder, more visual than written for we are a visual and auding society. Share that professionally prepared folder with all the departments you think should share concern and responsibility ( and that might include academic deans who are concerned for their students) and present them as near as all at once as possible.
Now you have brought a situation to awareness. Hopefully you have not threatened. You have presented a validty claim.
Step 6. In this case, because you want the system changed, you must CLOSE.That means don't just leave your message and go off and wait for an answer. Ask specifically when you can expect to hear from someone, who you should expect to hear from, and assure them that you will check back within a day or so for a more updated response. Be polite. You are asking for inclusion in issues that matter to you. You are asking to engage in governance discourse. Step 7. Follow Through. Check with each office you contact.And meanwhile prepare your message presentation for other students, for friends and relatives, for community members, so that you begin to make people aware of the problem and that it can be solved by relative easy means. When you return to the offices you contacted, you may want to have a further message that conveys your concern by demonstrating that you are following through in an effort to solve the problem. Step 8. Consider a hypertext poem for your message presentationBut for social transformation and shared governance discourse, put it in hardcopy. Unless you happen to have a projector, and people willing to sit through that. Requiem for Racer: A Favorite Cat
This is a hypertext map. Link on the phrases.
Conclusion:By now, you will have gathered enough material and knowledge to include your project in the Fall 2004 Naked Space Exhibit. And you will have developed some practice in taking affirmative transformative action in your community.