GCD: Inter-cultural Communication

As someone that is bilingual and comes from two cultural backgrounds, this gives me the ability to compare the two languages and cultures in order to highlight certain concepts or issues that are specific to a certain culture.

I often wondered what the reason was behind the differences in “awareness” of sexism in English speaking countries compared to Japan. I’ve noticed that in Japan, the issue of sexism isn’t discussed very often, whereas in English speaking countries are constantly advocating women’s rights and gender equality through marches, social media posts spreading women’s movements. (ex: #metoo, #heforshe) As I saw aspects of sexism and gender inequality in both cultures, I questioned why there was such a difference in advocacy for equality.

As I was studying the topic of “Sexism in Language” in my English Language and Literature class, I started to wonder if it was the difference in language that the two cultures have, that contribute to the differences in awareness of gender equality.

For example, in the English language, there are a lot of insulting and degrading terms that specifically refer to women, which are all blatantly sexist in nature. I feel like these words contribute to the “catcalling culture”, allowing women to be deliberately called offensive names. On the other hand, Japan has little to no words that are explicitly offensive towards women, but rather implicitly sexist. In Japan, there are many ways to refer to a wife such as 妻 (tsuma),奥さん (oku-san), 嫁 (yome). When looking at the Chinese characters used in some of these words, they are made up of characters with sexist implications. For example, the term 嫁 (yome) is a combination of two characters: 女(woman) and 家(house), which associates women to housework,reinforcing the gender stereotype that a womanʻs duty is to do the housework. Similarly with the term 奥さん(oku-san), consists of the character 奥(oku), which means “in the back”. This could suggest two things: either that women are meant to be “in the back” of the house doing the housework, or that women are meant to be “in the back” of their husbands as a “supporting role” and pander to their husbands. The implications that are made in the terms to refer to a wife contrasts with the implications in the Chinese characters to refer to a husband. One common way to refer to a husband is 主人 (Shujin). The term can also mean “master” and is made up of characters 主(owner/main) and 人(person), implying that men take on the role of being the owners of the household, also reinforcing the idea that women are to be the “supporting role” for men. Although the terms are not explicitly sexist, they still reinforce gender roles, and expectations of both genders. Besides terms that are used to describe a husband and wife, there are many more examples in the Japanese language that imply these stereotypes. However, these terms are not meant to degrade women or to be misogynistic, and so the sexism in these terms often go unnoticed.

Through comparing the two languages, I came up with the conclusion that perhaps the reason why there is a difference in the “awareness” of sexism between the two cultures is because the English language is more explicit and deliberately offensive towards women, whereas in Japan the sexism is only implied, and is not meant to be offensive, therefore it is not seen as an issue. Thus, despite the fact that both cultures show aspects of sexism, one is more evident than the other, not to say that one culture is more sexist than the other. I found that the language of each culture reflects the characteristics of the culture.

I believe that the being bilingual and having an understanding of two different cultures has allowed me to understand what each society values, and has taught me the importance of choosing my words carefully in both languages, in order to respect the people in each society. I aim to continue looking into differences in the languages in both the Japanese and English language, in order to have a better understanding my two cultural backgrounds, and to use my biracial identity for a good cause.

 

GCD: Community Engagement – Kodomo Shokudo (子供食堂)

Over the summer, I worked with an organisation called Kodomo Shokudo (子供食堂・Childrenʻs Cafeteria). This organisation provides meals to children that live in poverty, or children that have parents that work for long shifts, thus not being able to cook meals for them. Besides cooking children warm meals, this organisation also looks after kids that would be alone if they went home, as some of their parents are working night shifts. One activity that is included in this organisation is the supervision of kids doing their school work, and helping them out with work if they have any questions. I decided to take part in this organisation as one of the “tutors”, by helping children of elementary to middle school with homework. As a student that has the privilege of being bilingual as well as living under privileged circumstances, I felt that I should be contributing to a good cause with the privileges I have.

One difficulty I had with this experience was to maintain a consistent schedule for these tutoring sessions as they are completely up to the studentsʻ schedules. The leader told me that there are days when only one child comes to the tutor sessions which leaves multiple teachers without work. Also as it was summer vacation when I had worked there, the number of students that showed up at the tutor sessions had been decreasing, resulting in cancelled tutor sessions. As this CAS experience was not a consistent thing, I felt that it was important for me to contribute to this organization, not by just physically going there but also doing my own research on the children and the organization. Although the number of times I physically went to the organization was only a few times, I allocated time to research about this organization over the whole summer, and also went to donate snacks for the children that were going to Kodomo Shokudo.

Through this experience and the research I did on this organisation, I learned about the importance of this organisation. This organisation has multiple venues around Japan including places that are generally wealthy. I initially questioned the necessity of the placement of venues located in  Minato-ku, the venue I worked at, which is known as the wealthiest district in Japan. However, an article I read introduced the idea that there is still and underlying layer of poverty in the area. According to the data presented in the article, the percentage of children in Elementary school that receive scholarship for education is 15.23% and for the children in middle school it is 31.06% as of 2016. The average percentage of scholarships received in all of Tokyo is 15.4%.

The article also included an interview done with some of the workers in this organization.  The workers state, “We donʻt want to create the image that Kodomo Shokudo is prevention for poverty, because that is not the case.” This is because they want Kodomo Shokudo to be a place where families and children can easily access the venue, and feel comfortable eating and spending time there. The workers point out that although there are children who actually are classified under the poorest segment of the population, most of the people that come are not all poor. What they want to strongly emphasise is that they aim to minimise the amount of children having solitary meals, and the lack of communication between the parents and children. Dinner time can often be a stressful time for parents and children, where parents may take out their anger on the kids, so they wanted to create an atmosphere where children and parents could feel relaxed and enjoy a meal.

This made me realise that this organisation was not just about helping children of families that have low incomes, but also helps with the mental health of children that feel lonely eating alone, or parents that are stressed from work. I felt that my job as a tutor for these kids was not just helping them with school work, but it was also allowing children to feel like they can have someone to depend on, and mentally support them.

Also seeing how clean the facility was and the large number of workers volunteering to make meals for these children really moved me. It was evident that this organisation was beneficial to the community, and I felt grateful to contribute to such organisation.

Common room located in the facility. Children and families can eat their meals here.

One of the multiple tutor rooms located in the facility.

GCD: Global Understanding – IB World Conference

During summer break in 2018, I had the opportunity to participate in an IB world student conference held at Hong Kong University, which was held under the topic of gender equality and education. The conference was 6 days long, and during that period of time, I had the opportunity to learn about the differences in power and educational privilege/opportunity differences between men and women around the world. IB students from all around the world participated in this conference, and I personally was amazed by the diversity at the conference, and the fact that students from all around the world interested in this topic had come together to discuss and think of ways to improve our society.

One of the many topics we looked into was of “leftover women”  (Sheng-nu in Chinese) which refer to women in China that are single in their late twenties or beyond. Women are forced by societal pressure, and typically their parents to be married, and are “sold” to the Marriage Market which is quite a common concept in China. We discussed in groups on this concept, and looked for ways to combat this societal pressure that women have to deal with. My GAT (global action team) came up with a presentation that raised awareness on this matter and offered solutions to this issue. Through this experience, my group and I shared the differences in societal pressure for women to marry depending on the country we came from. I learned a lot about the realities women have to face all around the world.

Through workshops with university professors, watching documentaries such as the documentary “My name is Malala”, which discusses the hard battle Malala had gone through to fight for womenʻs education rights, and even simply just exploring the cities of Hong Kong with friends from all around the world, I gained a lot of knowledge on the topic of gender equality, and cultural differences in societies all around the world.

As gender equality is something that I am passionate about, I aim to take the knowledge I gained from this conference and apply it to my future studies in university so that I can eventually make a difference in the world.

EVIDENCE

A photo from one of the slideshows presented during a GAT (global action team) session

A photo of me giving a presentation on post educational challenges for women/ leftover women

The diverse group of students and teachers at the conference

 

 

GCD: Artistic Expression – Hula Dance

I believe that my sustained commitment to Hula dancing has greatly influenced who I am a person. I have been dancing hula for 13 years, and within this period of time, I have been given many opportunities to explore multiple aspects on what it takes to be a skilful dancer.

Through a hula camp that my school had organised in Hawaii, I had the opportunity to learn about the Hawaiian culture in depth. My knowledge of the Hawaiian culture enhanced my ability to perform. The motions in the dance all have a meaning, and each song tells a story, or conveys an emotion or series of emotions. When my class visited the mountains that are mentioned in the songs that we had learned, we also learned about the Hawaiian mythology that was based off of the songs. Not only was I able to learn more about the Hawaiian culture, but now I am able to have a deeper understanding of the meaning of the songs, and I feel that my dance conveys a lot more emotion than it used to. Overall, I learned about the importance of understanding the context and meaning behind the songs that I am performing, in order to enhance my ability to perform, and to communicate the message of the song to the audience. I can apply this skill to my other performing arts such as singing, by keeping in mind the lyrics of the song and the message I want to convey to the audience, in order to enhance my ability to sing.

I have been given many opportunities to perform hula. For example, I had performed in every single food fair at Nishimachi International School from the year that I started until the year I graduated NIS. The hula class I attend also hosts an annual show (called the Hōʻike) which my hula class and I participate in every year. The multiple performances have allowed me to become used to performing on stage, and I believe that with every single performance, I become better at cooping with the stress and anxiety that comes with performing on stage. Becoming more confident on stage is definitely a necessary skill to have as a performer, therefore I aim to continue performing on stage, so that I can be fully confident on stage for any performance. This skill also links back to singing as a performing arts, as I believe that I would not be as confident as I am on stage right now for music performances such as the IB recitals, if it wasn’t for my experience with hula dancing.

LINK TO EVIDENCE : https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Rv-OcsyJ7BtVDoeaDY8_LL6MaeG5GYoPIpRjabM6AME/edit?usp=sharing