During the past 12 summers I have attended YMCA Camp Minikani, first as a camper, then a counselor, and now as an administrator. With this new role in a leadership position, the responsibility of creating an environment for kids to learn and interact outside of normative constructions of the outside world is on my shoulders. Positive youth development in a camp setting is all about creating an environment of equality and respect for campers to pass on to people in their outside lives. Minikani actively works against destructive societal norms to promote originality and kindness towards others. As a leader of the organization, I aim to continue to work against constructions to promote individual and community wide respect. One way we can address this is through the reexamination of Minikani’s gender grouping.
For more than half of Minikani’s history, camp was extremely gender exclusive as only boys were allowed to come to camp. In 1967, the YMCA allowed for females to become campers, and soon after, counselors. Since then, however, there has been little change made regarding gender practices. The camp is currently set up with a day camp and an overnight camp, both of which separate groups into male and female groups. After taking this course, the necessity of demolishing the binary ideas of gender and sexuality became obvious. Anne Fausto-Sterling, along with other authors and theorists, has illuminated the history of assigning gender to bodies, the disconnection between ideas of binary genders and evidence of multiple genders, and the bias in the medical field with regards to sexing the body. These ideas make it clear gender is a construction, and limiting humanity to a binary viewpoint is limiting people’s ways of viewing themselves.
One of the YMCA’s core tenants includes the notion of diversity and inclusion. On their website, one can easily find this statement: “Together we work to ensure everyone—regardless of gender, income, faith, sexual orientation or cultural background—has the opportunity to live life to its fullest”. This is a goal that the YMCA at large, and Minikani in specific, have actively worked towards. Yet the continuation of binary gender divisions in camper groups has promoted an idea that is limiting to people’s constructions of themselves. Therefore, I am proposing a change starting in the day camp unit of Camp Minikani. We would, instead of organizing groups based on male or female and age, only organize groups based on age. This mixing of genders can help to teach cooperation and friendship with people who identify differently than you. More importantly, the lack of naming day camp groups in binary terms promotes inclusion and a non-limiting viewpoint on gender. Starting with the day camp groups in summer of 2017 can be a jumping off point and eventually lead to changes in the overnight camp unit to breakdown binary gender ideas as well. Even if no campers come to camp identifying outside of male or female, the breakdown of the binary system will lead to a respect and appreciation for mixed gender groups and a gender inclusive world.
In class, we studied a wide range of topics in a very short amount of time, but there were certain topics that stood out to me and personally affected the way I now see things. The first and the second week we looked at sexuality and gender which are both components in the identity of a person. I think The biggest take away from that for me was looking at how society has socially constructed rigid norms to which people have stuck to, and that there is a strong resistance when it comes to wanting to push back on societal norms. It has taught me to look at people differently in a sense where I stop making assumptions about people and making generalizations. There are more than two genders and the world does not fit into a spectrum based on binary identification. There are many ways people identify and compartmentalizing and categorizing them between one or other is not a good way to look at things. There is the expression that things are not just black or white, and it is very true when it comes to people’s identities.
I have learned that marginalization also is intersectional, and because of that I feel like I better am able to understand people and their struggles. It was helpful that there was some intersections in this class that I could connect to my child development class in psychology as well as with my Afro-Latin American course. It was good because I was able to use the lens I acquired in the GSS course in those classes to work past any biases I had concerning social constructs.
This class made me think about how important it is to learn to look at things through a GSS lens, and I wish I would have had exposure to this kind of thinking when I was younger, so I connected it to an Idea I have for my summer job plans. I want to work with middle school children to help expose them early on to some of the things we learned in class because I think it is important for children to start acknowledging certain issues from earlier on.
I went to a KIPP school from sixth grade until my twelfth grade year. KIPP schools focus on helping low income students in underserved neighborhoods get to and through college. In middle school they require for student to take summer school courses which includes taking two classes on core studies and one elective course. This year I wanted to assist in planning one of the elective courses with one of the teachers at the middle school. There is a class focused on female empowerment and I feel like within that class there are various topics from our class that can be incorporated to the curriculum of that program in particular.
Starting with our week on bodies, ads, and Fat studies. This is a topic in class I found particularly interesting because it did challenge a lot of my preconceived notions and it changed the way that I look at media now. Having the students break a lot of their preconceived notions on body issues as well as challenging them to have conversations about body positivity and self acceptance at the middle school age would be beneficial because it would help create a certain mindset about themselves very early on. This is one of the things I gained from the class, and I wish I would have been exposed to this earlier which is why I would find it a helpful experience for the KIPP students as a summer elective course.
The goal would be for them to view themselves differently than the way society has taught them to. I hope it would serve to empower the students and I feel like it fits in with the mission of the KIPP program as well because they want their students to be better prepared for college and a lot of these topics are themes that occur in a lot of the classes I have taken here at Davidson.