Week 6: the final week

Before taking this course, I was very skeptical of the field of psychology. I wasnt sure if it was something I was going to enjoy, or if it was going to be something difficult or not. Now, at the end of the course, I’d like to take this space and write a reflection of the course, and how I managed to grow and find a course which probably answered many of my burning questions.

Since coming to Tufts, 4 years ago, I was swept into a world of social justice. I didn’t really know that much about the correct language to use while talking about social justice, so I tended to talk only to my friends about these subjects which often plagued the campus. This summer, social psychology allowed me to venture further into the world of social justice, but from an academic side. Talking about prejudice and gender, among many topics covered this semester, from an academic point of view was refreshing and informing.

I want to focus on the gender part of this past weeks lectures. First and foremost, professor Sommers (if you’re reading this) please know that I will be taking all your parenting advice to the heart..this class gave me alot of hope for the future (given that everybody in the universe takes this class). Second, this concept of gendering children at a young age has always bothered me. I remember being on the beach with my family and being one of the many young (like sub 5 year old) girls not wearing a bikini top. This continued for quite some time because of the culture in Italy, and how normal it is for young girls to not wear anything of that sort. Now, being older and going to beaches I see so many young girls wearing bikini tops…some even as young as still wearing diapers. This frustrates me to no end, since these girls are just being socialized at a young age to wear these bikinis, which in turn tells the world that their chests are something that should be hidden, something which is sexual, when in reality at that age one wouldnt necessarily be able to tell a boy from a girl.

I posted a link in one of my comments about a short documentary which Vice did about raising kids without gender, or rather, letting them choose how to identify themselves on a day to day basis (today I am a girl, but yesterday I felt like a boy). And part of that video also has the children still associating certain activities as typically male or typically female activities, which is why they identify as one thing or the other. But sometimes, they’ll identify as “hen”, meaning both male and female. I guess my question as I move on with my life is how do we, as the next generation to start having children, socialize our future kids in a way in which gender is negligible, if we still have to answer to parents or grandparents, who remain stuck in their mentalities and ways? Ideally we transition into a world in which gender is not something which defines us, I just find it difficult to envision this future especially if religion is still around (since gender plays a very important role in the three monotheistic religions), and other gendered institutions remain.


With that, Ariel signs off.


Thank you for this course, Professor Sommers!

week 5

Relationships. We all have them, and they tend to bring us alot of happiness and sometimes pain. After listening to the lecture on close relationships and thinking about the two questions we were asked to answer, i started wondering what necessitates an emotional connection, and at what point I would be uncomfortable with my partner having said emotional connection with another woman.

I believe what would cause me to be upset would be if my partner had an emotional connection that caused me to be on the outside looking in, rather than being on the inside. I think that being on the outside of a relationship you expect to be on the inside of would and could cause great sadness to the one on the outside, thus inspiring ideas of emotional cheating.

When I was younger, and still now, I tell my mom “ti amo” as I tell my dad and brother (Italian is my first language). However, when I was about 17, I was told by my Italian friend that instead of saying “ti amo” i should be saying “ti voglio bene”. The first one directly translates to I love you, while the second one directly translates to “i want you well, or I wish you well”. What I didn’t know was that ti amo is saved for romantic, passionate love whereas ti voglio bene is saved for friend love, companionate love.

Having grown up in a setting where saying ti amo was normal, and happened at least twice a day if not more, only to be told that I was doing it all wrong was definitely shocking in some ways. I remember thinking that saying ti amo to my parents was a product of being raised in the united states, away from any one speaking italian, and only having three other people to speak that language with. Thus, I honestly believe that in those situations, people tend to “create” their own language (reusing the same words so not expanding vocabulary, saying things wrong like in the above context but not bothering to correct it because no one else will hear it). Also, I remember feeling ashamed of having told my parents that I loved them in that way so often. But to a young child who is learning three languages around the same time, not much attention is paid to the specific meaning of words, as is in any other context. In English, there is only one way to describe love, by saying the word love, to mean many different things. In Italian, the word amare, or to love, is reserved for the one person (or multiple) to which you feel passionate love towards. It signifies not only that there is passionate love, but that it is the only person to which you feel this love. Instead, with your friends you say ti voglio bene, which means you love them, but in a different way.

Now I am older, and despite knowing the definition of what ti amo and ti voglio bene means, old habits are hard to change…but then again dont words have meanings based on what we attribute to them?

week 4 post 2 (forgot to hit publish)

As I sit here in this coffee shop, after having gone to the bathroom, I begin to wonder about my behavior. No, I was not rude to anyone or cause a disturbance, I am just wondering about what motivated me to ask the person at the table next to me to keep an eye on my computer as I went to the bathroom. I’m thinking about all the times I ask people to do that, simply to “keep an eye on my stuff”. Here I am, asking a complete stranger to look at my stuff, and make sure no other complete stranger steals it. Is it because I feel more safe when I know that theres someone else looking out for me? Or is it simply the act of acknowledgeing that, hey, I wont be near my stuff but someone else will so I should ask them to make sure no one that isnt me takes it, which makes me feel better? The only case in which I do this is at airports, coffee shops, beaches and when I went to the dining halls, I would ask my fellow classmates to watch over my stuff. When thinking about this through a social psychology lens, the thought of the bystander effect comes to mind. When asking someone specific to say something if someone else takes your stuff, is that in some ways negating the bystander effect? By reaching out and making yourself more than just another coffee shop patron, by making this stranger feel like they are connected to you, maybe that makes them more likely to feel a sense of responsability. I have now made a sort of social contract with this person!

Week 4 post 1

With this week’s reading about groups, I was thinking about something which I’ve started noticing more, as a part of human interaction. Humans like to form groups, but usually with individuals they can relate to. Thinking about the makeup of friend groups I’ve been a part of, there has always been one thing which ties us together. When I was younger, that one thing could have been liking one certain type of book, or sport, or subject. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed that it has become more about shared experiences. One friend group which was central to the beginning of my university days was my “international” friend group. All of the friends in this group have some type of connection to the world outside the United States. Be it they are immigrants, sons and daughters of immigrants, or truly an international student. In this group, I felt the most comfortable i’ve felt in any group. The group cohesiveness was dictated by where we identified ourselves with on a map of the world.

When thinking about the function of groups in other settings, what comes to mind is affinity groups. Affinity groups can be dictated in terms of age, sex, sexuality, race, class and many more societal divides. When are affinity groups effective? Affinity groups are effective when difficult conversations are happening, and people need to feel comfortable and be around those like them. I’ve found that this works quite well, although it doesnt always provide the results that the conversation is looking for. However, the fact that the groups break into the categories in which they are people that are the most similar to themselves is interesting, because it so supported by the makeup of our individual groups, which we self segregate into.

Week 3

Hazing is an interesting concept for me. Having been on multiple sports teams during my time at Tufts, the “initiation” process was pretty low key, and not something I would ever consider hazing. However, after having read the material this week and listened to the lectures, the idea of what these initiations were changed.

The first initiation I was a part of required the participation of all the underclass-women. We were given a sheet of things to do, and it was called a “scavenger hunt”, the captains were all careful to not use the word initiation or hazing. It was called freshman fun night, or something to that extent. The tasks were trivial, ranging from doing burpees in the library to writing a poem for one of the members of the mens team, and reciting it to him and filming the process. These tasks were exciting, and I had no problem divvying up who did what because I was only doing the things I felt comfortable with, and they were largely harmless. What I dont think I realized was how it could make someone who didnt feel comfortable with anything that we were doing..it would have probably been alot more difficult.


The scavenger hunt was soon over, and we proceeded to the house of one of the captains. There, we were split into two teams and instructed to do various activities with alcohol, such as take as many shots as we could from a platter with dixie cups filled with vodka (some had water in them but we were unaware), or do a plank and sip beer out of a straw from a bowl, and whichever team finished first won. The upperclass-women cheered us on, and made us feel like a part of the team, regardless of our age.

This initiation/scavenger hunt certainly did its purpose; making the younger ones feel as if they were part of the team. However, what shocked me the most was how my teammates behaved the next day at practice, and the days following. There were very few check ins from the older girls, they still didnt talk to the underclass-women. That sense of camaraderie, that sense of “we’re all in this together” didn’t change how the younger team members were treated at practice.

So why would this initiation even happen, if nothing actually changed in the day to day of the team? Why create a false sense of team when in reality, there is no team? This past week had me reflect on these so called bondings and initiation, and made me realize that they are never for the benefit of the participant (pledge, younger team member, or whatever you want to call it). It’s usually for the benefit of those in charge, to have themselves feel like they are doing something to solidify the team bonds, to make us stronger as a unit. But if that change remains in a sheet of paper with instructions or in a punchbowl filled with beer, and isnt carried through to the fields or sports complex, there is no larger benefit.

Week 2

This week, alot has happened politically. However, one thing that stood out to me–well not just one but in the context of this class I’ll talk about just this–is how Donald Trump reacted to a french band breaking out and playing Daft Punk, versus how the French president, Macron, reacted. (https://news.vice.com/story/trump-macron-daft-punk-medley). The news media immediately went completely bananas, critcizing Trump’s lack of nonverbal communication. On one side, you have Macron smiling and nodding his head, and next to him, Trump sits completely stone faced, not making any sign of enjoyment or even understanding of what is happening.

When I read this week’s textbook reading, I was struck by the examination of non-verbal communication. By the book’s standards, Trump was angry, his mouth set in a thin line. Macron, on the other hand, was enthusiastic, smiling at the bands impromptu breakout into pop music. However, I do not think Trump was truly angry, I think he was not expecting this breakout into song, much less from a military band. Additionally, the video shows Frenchmen in uniform clapping along and dancing in their seat, to the beat of the music. To an outsider, a non-frenchman, this may seem very unprofessional and out of place, therefore I *slightly* understand Trumps reaction.

However, this does not excuse the fact that as an American president–the representative of the United States of America abroad– one should be able to pick up on the non verbal communication of the country they are guests in, and mirror it, at the very least to show a minimal understanding of how the country works. Trumps lack of mirroring was quite obvious, and may have even offended the French population, if not the band at the very least. Maybe it was sheer confusion, as to why a military band would play something so upbeat, which bewildered Trump…or his lack of facial expressions in the first place.

Additionally, at the beginning of Trump’s visit to France, he caused another major tsunami with his words, rather than non-verbal communications, his comment to Macron about his wife. This has already made the rounds of social media and news outlets, but it is still quite a confusing international moment. Trump comments to Macron–in front of Melania— that Macron’s wife is quite fit, and beautiful. Of course, there was no retaliation on the part of the French president or his wife, but it doesn’t take a genius to understand how uncomfortable the entire situation was–to everyone except Trump. His non verbal communication, additionally, made his intentions quite clear. With a quite up-down look of Mrs. Macron, Trump made his view about women clear yet again: they are simply objects to be admired, touched, and used. Never has he said one positive thing about a woman without relating it back to her appearance, and never has he held his tongue about saying what he really believes about womens looks.

So after this week of confusing political events, I am left to wonder: was Trump raised in a golden room all by himself? Has no one ever told him what is societally acceptable or not? Or is he simply so daft that he is incapable of understanding what he can or cannot say, and how he should react to events? Maybe the truth is that Trump honestly does not care–he says what he thinks and expresses what he feels, regardless of what is acceptable in society today. Until then, I’ll be left wondering….

Week 1: post two–frustrations

When I was on a road trip earlier this summer, my partner and I were staying at a random campsite. There were families and individuals staying in the campsite as well. Since it was raining, we was cooking in the sheltered area of the campsite. Shortly after beginning to cook, a family we had previously noticed came into the same place, with their dog. The dog came over to me, and I hesitantly reached out to pet the dog, with the owners permission. She gave me the go-ahead, so I petted the dog. After about 10 seconds, the dog starts to bark really loudly, which obviously took me by surprise. Immediately, the owner pulled the dog back (he was on a leash), and the husband proceeded to give the dog a kick in the side. I was horrified, but didnt know what to do. My partner and I shared a look, and after they left the sheltered cooking area, we talked about what had happened. If we had intervened, we risked stepping into a situation we didn’t understand. But not saying anything made us feel extremely uncomfortable as well. I remember saying “we dont know the entire situation, maybe the dog has a history of biting strangers”, trying to excuse their behaviour and our inaction. In that situation, what can one do? clearly it is not right in any context to hit an animal, but is it also an outsiders place to criticise the owners of the animal? Thinking about prosocial behaviour, and how crowds incite inaction, I want to counter that with the point that even if you are alone, violence onto someone else or an animal is a another inciter of inaction, because the observers may not know the entire situation, or feel like they should interject, because there may be larger systems at play, which the observers aren’t aware of. 

Week 1 post 1: a reflection

This past week, I was at an intensive training for a group called Building Bridges. I was at the training for the Colorado Transform program, but Building Bridges is an organization that originated in the Middle East–Israel specifically–and sought to connect Israeli and Palestinian girls through social justice. So during these five days of extremely intense skill building and privilege examining, many emotions were uncovered. I chose to write about this as my first post because it seems very much in tune with what social psychology is about.
We spent those days examining all of our individual backgrounds–class, race, sexuality, gender, ability, etc–to then understand what privilege we hold as individuals, and how they affect our day to day lives. One thing I realised I was doing during the more difficult conversations about race was trying to connect with the speaker. Are my experiences the same as those of the individual speaking? No. So why did I find myself trying to find any type of connection with the person speaking? Humans are an empathetic species, so the desire to connect is very real. However, as I was reflecting back on my interaction in the white affinity group (I am white, btw) I realized that despite my best intentions (well intentioned white liberal folk, was the running joke in our group), I had completely steamrolled my coworker and her experience. During the affinity group, we talked a lot about the need to be accurate, otherwise known as the social cognition motive, which very much dictates many of our interaction with each other while discussing more difficult topics such as race, when coming from a position of privilege.
I went on to recognize my shortcomings in front of the larger group…and in retrospect I did this out of a purely selfish need to be recognized, to be told that despite my screw up, I was understood. I wanted the person who was most affected by my language to know that I knew that I had screwed up–and there it comes out, the self esteem motive. I wanted to feel good about myself again, not that admitting my screw up made me feel any better, because a fact of the matter is that we screw up every day, and all we can do is hope to learn form our mistakes, and not repeat them. Regardless of whether someone then sees that you understand your mistake; you’ve still made that mistake.