Working with Social Inequality-Bringing the Classroom to the Streets

What are some strategies for integrating reflexivity in your work?

There are many methods for self-reflection, such as keeping a journal or diary, analytic memos, observation, etc. However, it is not sufficient to merely ponder the meaning of life and our place in it. Kondrat (1999, as cited in Heron) offers three specific types of questions one must ask themselves in the process of reflection; questions about the world, questions about your world, and critical analysis of the similarities and differences between those two worlds. Heron (2014) builds on this work, stating that we must also consider how our positions of power play out in our interactions, that we sometimes resist our place in the world which will impact our choices and behaviours, and that it is critical to consider why we are doing the work that we do.

Do you practice being reflexive? How do you bring reflexivity to your work? Do you do this, but call it something else?

2. Communicating Inequity

One of the most formidable barriers to being an agent of change is the enormity of it all. It's overwhelming and sometimes I feel like nothing will ever change. One of the reasons I feel this way is the difficulty I have communicating my ideas around inequity. Sometimes it is just easier to sit back and not say anything, and I worry this is what will happen to me when I enter the world of public health after my degree is finished. Screen Shot 2014-04-01 at 11.34.37 AM

Why is it so hard to talk about social inequity?

First, the circumstances surrounding inequities is often a moralistic question for people: Do you believe that people who encounter hardship just need to pull up their bootstraps and get to work, or do you believe that the way we have structured our society plays a part? This now leads to complex discussion about free will. I believe there is a space for free will or agency to play a part here, but it is not the only factor. This also leads us to the question, nature or nurture? I think what ultimately makes these types of discussion so hard is the fact that people want to believe that they have control over their lives. While I certainly believe that personal agency plays a role, it is not the main contributing factor. We all live within a context and it is this context that determines what information we are exposed to, the types of experience we will have, and ultimately affecting our attitudes which in turn impact our behaviours and decisions.

Do you think you are in control of your choices and behaviours 100% of the time? Is it really a "choice" if your options are limited or your coping capacity is not 100%?

Second, some people don't want things to change. Even though most of what I have read suggests that it is our global capitalist society that produces and entrenches social inequities. There are also compelling arguments that capitalism is making us sick and is also unsustainable. If we really want to see change, the status quo must change. Those who have more should have less. We need to see more equitable distribution of wealth and the elimination of profits. Yet, as Mark Fisher argues, most people who have an easier time imaging the end of the world, than a world without capitalism. How can we change the world if we can't imagine what it should look like?

photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc photo credit: x-ray delta one via photopin cc[/caption]

Can you imagine a world without capitalism? What is it like? It's Star Trek for me...

Third, the processes that create social inequity are complex, so is talking about them. In the past, I have found that I am not communicating my ideas very well, which leads to misunderstandings and anger. It is especially difficult discussing gender inequity with males. How do you talk about gender inquiry without making men feel that you are blaming them personally, but still pointing out that they might be participating and benefiting from the process that produce gender inequity like patriarchal structures?

Why do we need strategies to effectively communicate ideas about social inequities? It is important to have strategies to communicate social inequities because these are complex ideas that challenge some very entrenched aspects of contemporary society. But, there are practical reasons too:

photo credit: AndYaDontStop via photopin cc

photo credit: AndYaDontStop via photopin cc

Keeping the peace. I have had many arguments with family members and friends, people on message boards, and in social media about some of my ideas surrounding social inequities. It is not fun to have people call you names or to feel like your friends and family are always on the opposite side from you. I simply cannot ignore blatant examples of inequity anymore, so I need to be able to talk about it and address it when it comes up in conversation. It is stressful to feel like you are always the one calling something out, so t is important to learn ways to talk about inequity that won't alienate the people in your life.

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