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"Don't stare, its rude" or so we are told

nia.pike's picture

As children we are frequently told not to stare because it is rude. However, the brief 4 minute video clip by Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, a professor at Emory  I watched for next week's class confirmed my suspicion that staring is a natural desire. This instinct reflects the desire our brains have to absorb as much of a novel stimuli as possible. No matter how natural it may be, if an action does not conform to society's pre-determined norms, then we are told when we are young and malleable that it is not appropriate. Unfortunately in many cases this fact is true for other things as well, including the discussion of sex, gender, sexuality, etc. Although this conversation takes place relatively openly at Bryn Mawr, this occurrence is not common outside of the Bryn Mawr bubble. I repeatedly realize this statement each time I go home for winter or summer break. Where I come from the conversation does not flow freely. The conversation does not flow freely because society has deemed that it is an inappropriate topic. Soceity restricts itself, even though the origins of these restrictions were "to keep people safe." This statement ironically makes the assumption that we are not safe from ourselves: our own thoughts and our own actions. As a scientist I find it strange that humans, who are at the top of almost every ecosystem food or energy chain, are our own worst enemies.


EmmaBE's picture

Staring into A Doll's House

I feel that this struggle – between what is proper (social norms) and what and who can be found outside of it – is acted out in A Doll’s House. I know I personally pored over (or stared at) the characters of Delirium and the Corinthian when they were introduced, as they were so different physically from what I consider ‘average’ human physiology. I think your notion that “humans…are our own worst enemies” is also emphasized in the book. There is a strange undercurrent of horror in Gaiman’s dreams…a fear of what humans can accomplish when swayed by the creatures living in our psyche. The Corinthian’s army of serial killers, for example, were merely people released from social norms who became arbiters of destruction, angels of death. This is why dreams, so free from the constraints of the waking world, are simultaneously freeing and horrifying – when we acknowledge our true potential, we find that we are awesome (in the traditional sense): great and terrible. 

shainarobin's picture

Awkward Family Dinner

I know what you mean! I've always been concious about the way  "controversial" subjects are brought up and discussed, especially in my family. When I was younger, I would always feel awkward whenever my parents brought up discussions surrounding race, class, or politics because often times I would perceive them as making the people we were conversing or dining with purposely uncomfortable. This would bother me because I didn't want people to think that my immediate family was full of judgemental people. So despite the fact that my parents were very open to talking about these issues, I often censored myself depending on the people I was dealing with. As I've gotten older and more invested with social justice, feminism, and expressing my identity, I realize that if my parents had never brought up these issues all those times when we were at social functions or hanging out with friends and family, then they would have been doing a disfavor to themselves and others. They would've been lying to themselves and showing my sister and me that we should avoid talking about topics that are important to us for the sake of making others feel comfortable in their potentially ignorant mindset. So, even though my relatives (among other people) might inwardly sigh everytime my parents bring up the questions that often cause us all to examine our actions, I couldn't imagine them being any different. 

Amoylan's picture

To comment on the staring

To comment on the staring portion of this post, people do naturally stare when they encounter something that seems unlike something they've ever come across. Growing up with a brother who uses a wheelchair, I've experienced quite a deal of staring. It used to bother me for my brother's sake, I never wanted him to feel like it wasn't okay for him to be the way that he was born, but now I try to give people the benefit of the doubt much more. I like to think that rather than being judgemental or uncomfortable, people are just curious of the situation. 

pialamode314's picture

I have had similar

I have had similar experiences where I go home or visit non-BMC friends, and the conversation seems to be so much more restricted than it is when I'm talking with friends or even professors at Bryn Mawr. Here in the Bryn Mawr bubble, it's completely normal to have dinner conversations about topics centered around gender and sexuality - I've often ended up sitting in the dining hall with friends discussing society's portrayal of the female orgasm, or topics of the like. However, if I ever end up bringing up such topics when I'm outside of the Bryn Mawr bubble, I get shocked looks and responses, and am told things like, "Keep your voice down!" or "Why would you talk about something so vulgar?!" For this reason, I've actually started to really enjoy bringing up topics like this in public. I guess a part of me just really wants to show people that these things are okay to talk about, and should be talked about because they are shunned and shamed by society.