Design Cultures

2016 Spring: Communication Design Studio II

We are starting a 7-week class with Cameron Tonkinwise and Ahmed Ansari called Design Cultures. In this class, we’ll be learning about the micro-aggressions that exist in this world, and how we, as designers, can better unearth and destroy them. As designers, we carry the responsibility of empathy, which means considering the minority and setting out on the mission to create a better world for everyone.

As a part of this class, we will be given topics to discuss with another person who could be a parent or an elder member of the family, but must be from another generation. These topics could be controversial and seek to unravel a multitude of different (potentially heated) opinions. We will be recording reflections of how our conversations went, and perhaps things we observed and learned.

I chose to talk to my mom, with whom I am on very good terms and am practically best friends with. We talk on a regular basis about…basically everything. We don’t always agree, but are good on generally “agreeing to disagree.”

/ 03.16.16 / Week One —

Topics: 1. Gamergate; 2. Black Lives Matter; 3. Transgender (bathrooms)

I talked for about 40 minutes with my mom today on the three issues. The problem being, even after attempting to familiarize ourselves with multiple sources, neither of us could fully grasp what exactly the “Gamergate” situation was about, aside from the fact that it was a campaign concerning the sexual harassment that a woman received from her ex-boyfriend and a series of threats against her, which was rapidly spread through the Twitter hashtag #Gamergate. Not much fruit came from our conversation, as my mom and I are both pretty oblivious to the gaming culture.

However, as we progressed towards harassment through the means of social media, my mom did have some pretty strong views. She believes that it’s a crime to be abusing the convenience and anonymity brought by social media to create any harm to others. She brought up the fact that harassment, in essence, is considered a crime (varying in severity, but nevertheless a crime), and that the reason that such controversy exists for these sorts of cases instead of being immediately dealt with by law is because technology’s ability to enable such rapid and mass-scale broadcast of information is a Pandora’s box that the society had not foreseen to establish any preventative measures. It is thus now proving itself to be a problematic case.

Regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, we talked about the implications of the historically-tied prejudice against black Americans that many white Americans still hold. My mom brought up an interesting point that “America, a country so idolized by the world, is not so perfect after all.” It’s very true. In fact, I nodded in consensus, “Canada’s actually much better at this.” Even though America nominally claims and showcases its tolerance for differences and striving for equality, reality has exposed its true nature. It’ll be a hard one to overcome, this ingrained racism and white superiority complex. We also somehow got into the politics of why Trump has so many supporters, which is a whole different story. It led to an interesting conversation in another direction, but I’ll stop from digressing for now.

On the topic of transgenderism, my mom and I had the most contrast in opinion. I found it quite a curious conversation, as we’d never really talked about this; not because it was awkward, but because it really wasn’t too hot a topic in China. It just never came up. Interestingly, my mom supports transgenderism, and I don’t. It used to be that I was very supportive of natural occurrences and respected everyone’s life decisions. However, since choosing to follow Christianity, I’ve been adhering to a strict line of beliefs, one of which is to respect the body that Christ has given you, to embrace the identity that He has gifted you with. My mom saw transgenderism as a way of enabling those who feel uncomfortable with their physical gender identity a way of finding their true self.

There is a very famous transgender Chinese ballet dancer named Jin Xing (man turned woman), who has widely influenced the world of performance arts. Using her as an example, my mom followed her line of logic about how it was natural in our very chemistry that some people have an imbalance of hormones, causing them to feel less inclined towards their physical gender. Allowing them to receive surgery to change their gender would allow them to be happier, and to love themselves more.

Contrastingly, I believe that we should be respectful of the way our bodies are created. I believe that we are all facing our own difficult battles in life, a life battling with sins — but which are manifested differently in each of us. I believe that the inability to be comfortable in your own body is just one of the possible challenges that a person could face. There are people who are born physically disabled, who are mentally disabled, who have shortages in one way or another; however, we can still do the best to live out this life we were given by giving it the best shot that we could.

My mom did bring up a good point, though. I asked her if she would feel the same way about accepting transgenderism had a relative chose to become transgender. She hesitated a little, and said, “Probably. But it’d be a lot harder, and probably take a while to process.” She said that while these opinions are very easy to state when you’re a spectator from afar, your perspective is immediately skewed once you’re placed on the stage where the occurrence of such things is real. Proximity changes things.

Specifically in regards to sharing a bathroom with transgenders, though…My mom said she would be okay with it, as long as there are separate stalls.

I found the entire dialogue with my mom quite rewarding; I learned things about her — her beliefs and thoughts — that I didn’t quite know before. I found it particularly fascinating that our views are very different (in the opposite way I would’ve imagined considering our respective generation’s culture). Somehow, even after coming to America and being exposed to this crazy place of diversity, I ended up picking up a much more traditional and strict mindset than my mom, purely because of religion.

It’s a very interesting world we live in.