Gender Identity In Japanese and Western Culture: The Definitive Something or Other*

25 11 2009

Today I spent another day with my Junior High School students. It was a good day. But as I stand there often not involved in classes except to read for the students to repeat (human tape recorder, we call it), I get to observe my students. This is always an interesting way to keep my mind occupied.

As I stand there, I frequently notice that the boys in the class have some very “girly” school supplies. Minnie Mouse Folders, pink pencils and plenty of other things. Why is it that guys in the US think that these types of things would make them less “manly”? Why is it that American society deems these things “girly?” Why do we have to separate things and jobs as feminine or masculine?

The differences continue outside the classroom. Construction equipment here is often cute. Elephants, frogs and monkeys hold up bars to keep people seeing the edge of the road. The lifter things that help people reach power lines, painted like giraffes.Why is it that construction equipment at home is never painted in pastel colors? Or pinks? Or any of the colors we deem “feminine?” Or is it because animals are “childish?” If that’s the case, who quit liking animals after they were an adult?

In the states, we also seem to classify jobs this way. How many male elementary teachers have you met? There are usually one or two at any school, clearly outnumbered. How many women do you know going into computer science? I know a handful, but I know way more men. Why is this? Didn’t God give us each unique talents and abilities? Why would women not be able to do some jobs and men not be able to do others?

I may be crazy to share all of these thoughts, but at home I get annoyed when the boys in the classroom think they can’t be good at reading or writing because they’re “girl subjects” (or sometimes even school at all), or when a girl thinks she can’t be good at math or science because they’re “boy subjects.” Students seem to choose this way of thinking all the time (or did when I was subbing).

I’m not trying to say that women should be better than men at everything or vice versa. I just get annoyed with the way we box things into gender. Why are school supplies, colors, school subjects and professions categorized into genders? They have no gender. They’re inanimate objects.

Will we ever be able to disconnect these things from gender? Would lifting these boxes that we have put ourselves and those around us in change anything? I’m not sure. I would hope that it would make everyone help to be themselves. Help them to dress in the colors they want to. Help them to do a job they love rather than shying away from it because it’s not something they should be doing.

*Title thanks to: Elizabeth, author of Futons, Fish, and Ferries and one of my regular blog editors

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“Someone needs to do something about that”

17 11 2009

Yesterday, I found a link back to this blog I had read a while ago. It’s called Stuff Christians Like. Kind of an odd title and I probably wouldn’t have read it before, except a friend had posted it on facebook and it a funny title, “Thinking you’re naked.” What??? I had to read it. It was an incredible article.

I found myself there again, this time through a completely different website. I remembered the previous article and decided to look at the more recent articles. I wanted to see if this was a rare good article, or one of many (it’s definitely one of many). This time, I found myself on this one: “What if?

The author, Jon, was inspired by his 6-year-old daughter to fundraise for a school in Vietnam. They were reading a book and she saw a photo of a young child somewhere else in the world living in poverty and asked, “That’s not real though. That’s pretend right?” He realized that her question went deeper. People don’t really live like that? Kids my own age? Why isn’t anyone doing something? Why aren’t we doing something? He decided to act on it.

I’m amazed. How many times does the Lord speak things into my life in equally small ways, which I can brush off and I do? Why do I not see something that needs done and do it?

Why don’t I notice the “someone needs to do something about that” moments and realize that they may be the Lord saying, “You need to do something about that”?

Why do I let fear and complacency get in the way of living my live completely for the Lord, especially in the small ways that no one else will know about?





I love . . .

16 11 2009

. . . staying warm when it’s cold outside!

My JTE and I went shopping this weekend for things I need for winter. I bought winter boots, warmer pants, sweaters, a hat and nice-warm pants (wear to work).

I walked to work today and though slightly cold (I should have worn layers on my legs), I wasn’t freezing. I didn’t feel the need to run into the nearest house to get out of the cold (like I did before).

While I was terrified of winter and am still not so sure about driving in it (I have yet to drive in the snow/ice), I now know I have the clothes to stay warm (which makes it way less terrifying).

We were at, but not below freezing today. See how I feel when we’re -20° C.





Rhythm

15 11 2009

Today, the pastor at church chose to speak on Numbers 28-29. I wasn’t particularly excited. At first glance, this is one of the chapters where the Lord is telling the Israelites how to do sacrifices and various ceremonies. BORING! Or so I thought.

She said (well it was translated) that the Lord wanted to teach the Israelites to have a rhythm. She gave the example of a rhythm of going to bed early and getting up early, which she established as a child. Something may happen to cause her to stay up late or sleep in occasionally, but life is better when she has a rhythm.

In this passage, the Lord was trying to teach them to have rhythms that took place daily, weekly (Sabbath), monthly and festivals. Each had its purpose. Daily, to connect with the Lord and hear his purpose for our lives. Weekly, to have fellowship with other believers. Festivals to remember what he has done in our lives.

In what ways do I have rhythms that take place daily, weekly and less frequently? I can easily look at the way I spend my time and see that the daily and weekly rhythms are in my life (devotions, church and a skype Bible study are easy to see).

What about less frequently (monthly). How do I make a rhythm in my life for remembering what the Lord has done in my life? How does that look in your life? How can I build that into my life in a real way, so it actually grows me and helps me realize more and more how amazing the Lord is?





English Class today

13 11 2009

Today I got to visit what is probably my favorite school, mostly because when I go, I get to spend the entire day at the school and really get to know the kids (which is incredible). The students are one sixth-grade boy, two third graders (girl and boy), three third graders (2 boys and one girl), two second grade girls, and two first-grade girls. They are an insanely fun group.

I was informed about the English lesson moments before going into the classroom. The teacher wanted me to pronounce the cards with the animals on them and then read the story. That got my brain going. If I was going to read this story, which the students weren’t likely to understand all the words to, how was I going to keep them engaged? (Keeping students engaged is always a big question for me, because it cuts down on management problems).

We got into the classroom and I asked, “How are you?”, “How’s the weather?”, “What’s the date today?” (the regular set of questions). As usual, most of the students do not know the month to be able to say the date. I have one third grader who seems to be particularly gifted in English who can almost always answer the question (maybe he studies at home?).

Then we pronounced the words, kids repeated (pretty standard way to start). After some questioning of students on the words, we moved on and played karuta. Karuta is a game I was introduced to in my high school Japanese class. The teacher calls a word and the first kid to slap the flash card wins it. The kid with the most cards at the end wins. We played a few rounds, with me being silly at the end and calling random non-animals (like carrot) when there was only one card left, to see if they were really listening.

After Karuta, came the story. It was about animal noises. To solve my earlier problem, I decided to pass out the cards with the animals. Each student was responsible to hold up her/his card when she/he heard the animal’s noise.

Please remember that as they were being asked to do this, most of the animal noises that we use in English are different than the ones that Japanese people use for animal noises. So as we went through the story, a few of the students held their animal up for every noise, until they got it right, and a few actually tried hard. They stayed engaged the whole time though. That was the best part; I didn’t lose any students while reading a story which most students didn’t understand.

Morning light
My view a couple of mornings ago.





First snow troubles

11 11 2009

Today we had our first real snow. Last week we had some, but it didn’t even stick to the streets.

It started to snow last night before I went to choir practice. It continued though the night and today, when I left for school it was a few inches deep (probably about ankle deep). My first thought “oh no, I haven’t actually purchased snow boots yet.” So I left in my tennis shoes. My shoes were quite wet by the time I arrived at school, but my feet hadn’t actually gotten wet.

I throughout the day I watched it continue to snow. I spent a large amount of my day with my back turned to my desk and my eyes on the window watching the snow fall. It was so beautiful.

When it was time to go home, I arrived back at my shoe locker to find that my shoes had not dried. They were still wet. Since they were still my best choice for snow I put them on and set out for home. By the time I was half way home my feet were cold. They weren’t too wet, but they were cold.

After the half hour-ish walk home in the dark, my feet were still warm, thanks to 3 layers on my feet, one of them being wool socks. But they were wet (ick!). Can I make it through to the weekend (when I can shop with my JTE) with my tennis shoes? Would my rain boots (which don’t fit tight) be a better option?