Escaping unidimensionality

I’m in my third week back in school and well on my way to getting used to the nature of things in social sciences. Although I had taken various writing-intensive social science and humanities courses back during my undergraduate studies, they were somewhat easily balanced in terms of workload with other engineering and science courses. Taking all social science courses initially proved to be somewhat challenging, but I am adjusting very well to the learning curve.

Last night, a friend told me a very interesting anecdote about the earlier versions of the Cinderella story. Apparently in those versions, the stepsisters had to cut off parts of their feet in order to fit into the glass slipper. She said, ultimately, that Cinderella is not a story about finding Prince Charming at all, but rather a story about retaining your self-image and experiences in the face of adversity. This is very much at odds with what the overarching message Cinderella seems to represent in popular culture, but I really needed hear this deviation of interpretation from the norm.

2013 has thus far been a very odd year for me in that it seemed people and institutions were quick to relegate me to roles without much scope or depth, and without any real input for me. Apparently progressive individuals and institutions, who sought more transparency from upper levels of bureaucracy, responded to my grievances towards them by silencing me or by delineating my power over my own roles. This was emotionally taxing and frankly quite infuriating. The experience of unwillingly being assigned roles I had little chance to negotiate can be a frustrating and degrading experience, regardless of the learning opportunities they seemed to provide. I am currently in a place, where at least professionally, I have creative control and input over a large project involving institutional image and development – and it sure feels empowering to vocalize myself in a way that sets the foundation for the institution’s future.

The idea of the unidimensional use of people is nothing new. In our lives, it is difficult indeed to cater towards all aspects of any individual, but commonly we aim to have create an understanding of depth of the people around us – and actively acknowledge that they may indeed have a rich inner life independent of our views of them. It frustrates me to no end when I am not afforded my own agency and respect simply because it is easier for an institution or individual to compartmentalize me into a narrow role that protects their interests more than it does mine.

Thus, in the spirit of escaping the tyranny of unidimensionality, I have proposed a new policy for myself going forward. I will not be afraid to demand that my own space and needs be met by individuals and institutions, regardless of how long and at what capacity we aim to work together. I will not simply be ascribed a role that completely negates my needs for transparency, respect and empowerment while serving those for others.

I will not be intimidated into silence, made to believe that how things are cater to the protection of my freedoms and needs. I will not be shamed for speaking up and made to seem unreasonable to simply demand what I already ought to know.

I will not be an unquestioning employee, a lover but not a friend, a friend but not a critic, and least of all, I will not cooperate or desist when injustices have been committed against me. If nothing else, I will at least make sure that it is heard, because ultimately, I am the owner of my experiences and viewpoints, and I have the freedom to do as I please with them, within reason of course, and this time around, I intend to use that freedom.

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