One thing that truly sparked my attention for this assignment is the title, “Who am I and Why Does it Matter?” Over twenty-two years of my existence, I still ask myself this question every day. I cannot guarantee that I have an absolute answer, for I am still in the process of personal discovery and grasping the concept of personhood that differs at a particular time. What does it really mean to be me, especially at this point in time? Am I the same person now as opposed to say, a decade ago? As I take a step back and recollect all my past experiences in life, I noticed how much I have grown and how my perception of who and what I am has significantly transformed. Each year contributes to my development as I transition from an adolescent into adulthood; each life stage marks a new beginning as I approach closer and closer towards uncovering this indeterminate question of “Who and what am I”?
I identify myself as a man; but what does it really mean to be a man? Is it solely defined by my biological features, the way in which I am genetically born with male genitals? As I continue to dive further into this question, I am reminded once again by John Locke’s Prince and the Cobbler analogy. If the prince, one day, wakes up in the cobbler’s body, is he no longer the prince—and vice versa? To what I remember in my philosophy course, Locke’s objection to the Same-Body Theory, argues that the sameness of body cannot be the gauge of identifying whether or not two individuals are the same person. Similarly, in contemporary times there are individuals who are genetically born as males but identify themselves as females—and vice versa. So if the body is not the sole definition to define gender variations, then what is? Growing up, I was taught that men are expected to be masculine, strong, and brave.
Residing in a male-dominant society, often times men are expected to suck up their pain—physically or emotionally. We must play the dominant role and cannot show signs of fear or we would be seen as incompetent. Women, on the other hand, are depicted as a motherly-figure, the nurturer and homemaker; and believe it or not, women are perceived as inferior in contrast to the superiority of male counterparts. It is due to these gender roles that every individual must “act” a certain way in order to uphold society’s stereotypical views of what is considerably the norms given these gender variations. And believe me, I am everything NOT what was described above. I am scrawny like a twig, unafraid to show my emotions, still cry like a baby when I need to, and there is relatively a feminine touch within me. I see myself as a man, not because of my physical body or how society shapes the image of what a man is supposed to be.
I am a man, because of my own personal values, beliefs and how I was raised—my culture, character, and most importantly, my own shaped image or interpretation of what a man truly entails. In other words, I can associate a man who is unafraid to break boundaries’ directing to traditional gender roles, someone who is confident in his own skin and fearless to show emotions. He is a hero not because he portrayed no signs of weakness or fear. He is a hero because he is unafraid to show those weakness or fear in public, and to conquer them in becoming stronger. It does not matter how society sees you, what really matters, is how you see yourself.
Furthermore, it is important for the younger generation to understand the concept that it is okay to be different, and that, gender is in the eyes of the beholder. Women are not any less competent than men, and men are not any less emotional than women. This is an important point to address when working with others either in an academic or working environment. A better understanding of these concepts can help better equip a team-building atmosphere. Placing ourselves in each other’s shoes and seeing things at a different prospect—at different angles, can help improve gender equality. As a result, this constitutes to producing results at its most efficient and effective way.
If we take another step back and evaluate other characteristics regarding my personal identity, my race and ethnicity is only a dime size in the deep ocean. I was born in the Guangdong province located in the south of Chinese borders, and again, it is a size of a pencil point if you were to locate it on the map of China. When I first arrived in the United States, my family was exceptionally traditional. It took them approximately a decade to slowly assimilate into the American culture. Furthermore, my parents forced me to study the Cantonese language, along with Mandarin, and my mother constantly remind me to never forge my origins. And now that I am an adult, I take her words dear to my heart. I associate myself with yellow skin and I am proud to be a part of my Chinese heritage. Nonetheless, China has over five thousand years of history, and countless cultural differences across all regions of People’s Republic. And, because there are so many variations within the Chinese heritage, it is inevitable for others to project misconceptions of Chinese people.
Especially in western and European societies, we are being seen as those with squinty eyes, loud, animal abusers, and lack of etiquette and mannerism. I am not saying that there are absolutely no Chinese individuals who fits into those categories, but generally, this reflects upon everyone across all cultures. We live in such a diverse world, and especially in San Francisco, there are innumerable different faces that comes in all shapes and colors. It is important that because we live in a society where diversity is so prominent, we need to learn how to appreciate and accept these differences. Every culture and heritage consists of their own practices, values and beliefs. Do not be shy to showcase who you are, and only judge others similar to how you would like to be judge. I think the reason why there are so many fallacies, and discrimination against a particular race or culture is due to the fact that people are simply unaware, and afraid to accept differences—fear of change.
When one is accustomed to a particular culture or language all their lives, they begin to draw barriers and become close minded with regards to the outside world. They become frightened of exploring the new and unfamiliar, and refuse to accept diversities that resides outside their comfort zone—the ambiguous. As educators, peers, working professionals, we need to instruct others to embrace diversity in comprising an all-inclusive environment. That is the reason why I joined ASI Project Connect, is due to the different faces I see, and how they appreciate and accept me for who I am—my race, culture, gender. In order for me to contribute back to ASI, I will use similar attitude to recruit and retain new members, educating them that the beauty of living lies not in all similarities and perfections, but for all the differences to help broaden our knowledge and learn more about other parts of the world.
In turn, we improve ourselves on how to treat others with dignity and mutual respect, keeping an open mind and appreciate race and ethnicities at a more personal level. Similar to what Socrates once said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. We must not be imprisoned in Plato’s cave forever, not knowing what really occurs outside our familiarity; but instead, we must formulate questions and explore life outside the cave. Even though it is relatively factual to say that we all share similarities, exposing ourselves with familiar characteristics which reflects another key point in relating to others with parallel interests and retaining them.
But within those similarities consists of differences that we should all learn to value and appreciate in order to serve as role-models for new generations. That way, we can better recruit and retain members across all parts of the world who share both similarities AND differences. In this world, there are more than simply black and white, but we live in a society filled with compound colors. How you see yourself is more important than how others see you. You are who you are, and you should not change to fit into certain expectations or societal roles. At the end of each day, ultimately, I am who I am and there’s nothing you can do or say to change me, for I am proud of being simply…me!
Courtney from Study Moose
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