Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Identities in 3 Words

A friend of mine told me about this exercise intended to raise consciousness about different people a while ago: Write 3 words that you would use to describe yourself.

Seriously, let's give it a go: 3 words to describe yourself. If you want to leave your words in the comments, more power to you.

Giving.
People.
Space.
To.
Think.
Of.
Their.
Three.
Words.

Because now I have to tell you the point of the exercise. ;)

Everyone has a different set of words. Sometimes there are commonalities, other times they are not. Here is a set of constructed examples of what could be possible:
  • Christian woman and mother
  • gay male teacher
  • feminist laboratory scientist
  • agnostic evolutionary biologist
  • black female engineer
  • engineer, artist, mother
  • compassionate Republican man
  • artistic white woman
  • hard-working student athlete

Yes, I'm well aware that some of those combinations might have hit a button for you. Also, I was purposefully trying to capture a diverse set of options for people. There's a little of everything in these descriptors: race, gender, family, sexual orientation, political orientation, ideological orientation, valued attribute, and profession. At different times and places, different wrods might enter into this exercise. For instance, I've noticed a lot of people feeling the need to identify their political orientation in the upcoming election.

Yet I think a challenge in trying to educate is not to force a swap of identities. Furthermore, we need to consider the identity we offer. It's a balance. On one level, education invites a chance to try on a certain identity so there should be opportunities to explore "What would it mean for me to be a historian?" in a history class. Yet on another level, learners may be trying to enact a broader identity such as student or scholar in the same class. Moreover, do we try to monopolize all three words of major identity construction and say "Only the people who fit this mold can play"?

Another variant on this exercise is to draw 5 things that are important to you. Then require the group to pair it down, 1 item at a time, to 3 things.

It can be challenging when we operate in the space of our major identities. Revealing how we see ourselves at our core can be exposing significant vulnerabilities. I think conversation around one's principal identity can happen. Moreover, I think that the idea of a principal identity can exist very dynamically. Yet really working with people seems to necessitate getting to know them.

1 comment:

Unbalanced Reaction said...

hahahaha....I just realized that my words all deal with my work, not my appearance.