Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Diversity and Culture Clashing

I haven’t run into the issue of having to address cultural differences in regards to male/female interactions. I understand that in many middle-eastern cultures, women tend to be expected to be subservient to men. Often times, this subservience has religious undertones to justify its practice within the culture. That being said, in American culture, if we want to speak broadly, encourages individuality and independence among all genders. I can see the tension that these cultural differences may produce, but I also think that it is necessary for us to set the example of gender equality no matter the discomfort it causes. Change can be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t make it bad.

I have dealt with this cultural trait, in a limited manner, in my service overseas. While deployed to Iraq, our female soldiers were required to cover their hair while working within the local population. Accordingly, our male soldiers were required to speak only to the men unless contact with the Iraqi women was unavoidable. My unit made a compromise that they felt would encourage stability among the local populace in our area of operation. It was an attempt on the Army’s part to show that its soldiers were sensitive to cultural differences, that they were willing to adapt their own cultural norms to accommodate the cultural majority they were dealing with. I give this example because it shows the opposite end of the spectrum. It shows that when you visit a new country with unfamiliar norms and standards, it is not uncommon for you to have to adapt, somewhat, to those standards.

As writing tutors, it is our job to do everything in our ability to make our tutees feel comfortable and at ease. Unfortunately, it is not within our ability to change our genders. A tutee does not have the right to make us feel inadequate based on his or her cultural understanding of gender norms. The tutee does have the right, however, to request a different tutor if he or she is uncomfortable. This goes for every tutee, not just those from other countries. So, while I feel that those students who are uncomfortable being tutored by women should take the opportunity to challenge their perceptions, I also understand that change is not easy, nor is it comfortable. I only hope that we, as peers, can set good examples of diversity and equality and hope that others follow suite.


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