Friday, November 08, 2013

Comfort and Respect

Hello Blog!

 This week’s topic is about if we think there is an inconsistency between international students’ expectations of women and racism/sexism. I think there is inconsistency in the ideas, mainly because the ideas are looked at differently by the two groups being discussed: international students and students native to the U.S. My ideas about racism/sexism can certainly be different than someone else’s perception of racism/sexism, especially if that person was raised in a different culture where these topics are treated differently.

In terms of one being tutored by someone that looks like you (as in the scenario of a U.S. black man being tutored by a British black man), I definitely think that the tutee would feel more comfortable with a person that is of the same race/gender. This has something to do with our need to relate to each other and build rapport with each other. If a tutee is an Asian female, then she may relate to an Asian female tutor more than a white male solely based on the fact that the tutor is an Asian female. The tutee may think, “If this person is of the same gender/race, then she knows what it is like to be an Asian and a female, and maybe has even grown up around some of the same circumstances.” I think this concept applies to both race and gender.

 I think a relationship built off of being comfortable and a relationship built off of mutual respect are two different things. However, this may be a cultural, biased view as well. As I see it, comfort can come from a person’s demeanor or looks, whereas respect is something that is earned. I suspect that this is different in other countries because I have experienced the disrespect of a male international student. I felt that he was being sexist towards me because I was a woman and he deserved to be tutored by a man. During the entire session, he did not act as though he wanted to learn how to correctly write English. Rather, he wanted to do everything by himself. He barely even allowed me to speak. If I made a mark, he immediately wrote me off and tried to do his own thing. I was not allowed to explain why I made a mark on his paper or what I had seen that might have been incorrect. This may have been because of customs in his country rather than anything I did or said. Perhaps the culture in which he was raised gave men automatic respect concerning gender and treated women in a way that would indicate that women are beneath men. I did not appreciate the degradation, but who am I to judge one’s culture.

 On the other hand, where do I draw the line when trying to respect another’s cultural values and morals? Tutees certainly have the right to be uncomfortable, especially if we, as Americans, are breaking their cultural norms, but I think enough is enough when the tutor feels so uncomfortable with the way he or she is being treated that the tutor cannot fulfill the duties of the tutoring role. The Writing Center is our home field, and if we feel extremely uncomfortable due to discrimination, something is wrong. In that case, I would just need to take myself out of the situation and perhaps get another tutor to fulfill my duties.

 Feeling comfortable and respected is important, but sometimes international students from other cultures have a different interpretation of who makes them comfortable or uncomfortable and who deserves respect. Even though we may not always look alike, sound alike, or dress alike, it is still our job in the Writing Center to make students feel as comfortable and respected as possible, even if we do not receive the same courtesy.


Blogger A.K. Packer said...

Good insights. Whenever I see you tutoring, you seem sensitive to the needs of international students without pandering to them or putting your own beliefs in second place.

12:03 PM  

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