I think it is important to embrace every opportunity to demonstrate and practice mindfulness. In each moment to choose kindness and strive for understanding is one of the most valuable things we can do in this life not only to improve ourselves, but to try to improve the world that we live in. I was moved to write this lest I forget by an experience not a day ago.
For CSE 110, our Software Engineering Course, we have been tasked with creating an application related to restaurants in some way. Our group has decided to create an interactive menu with a variety of features, designed to enhance the experience of the restaurant patrons as well as streamline certain aspects for the business side of things. Our first ‘customer meeting’ with some other members of the class took place on Wednesday. We shared the basic ideas each group had after introducing ourselves and the floor was open to questions.
The Professor asked about the technologies we were using to coordinate the team and which we were planning to use for building our app. The question that intrigued me the most though was from a peer.
She asked how our team would address the lack of female representation on our team in designing and creating our application.
Now, I valued this question for a number of reasons, but the first thing I noted was the group’s reaction. I was unable to adequately take stock of the rest of the team, but one member quickly exclaimed that it was not our fault. And he was technically correct. We did not conspire to disallow female members, the time slots were distributed by the professor and course staff according to students’ availability. But his quick response perturbed me. It seemed defensive, and whiny. Now I may well have misinterpreted this, that is always a possibility, however many thoughts were born of that interaction that I wish to note.
The first of these has to do with my personality. I am very concerned with group harmony. I dislike conflict and negative interactions; I feel that such things always have a way of ruining otherwise meaningful and enjoyable experiences. This is exactly why the opening of this post is what it is. I strive for harmony in groups, and I think it is most beneficial.
The second thought I had was in a more general sense about reaction. The person asking a question or raising a concern has every right to be heard. Their concerns are most often valid, for they are thinking, feeling human beings. Evaluating their concerns is the under the purview of whomever is meant to address those concerns. So immediately dismissing or otherwise deflecting those concerns seems problematic to me. On some level, if the concerned individual wanted someone with whom to commiserate they would seek out a friend. In posing the question itself, they are gauging our potential to solve the problem or in the very least address it. If I were in their position, I would want to feel as though my problems are worthy and meaningful, otherwise I know my problems are going to remain unresolved. I am of the rather naive opinion that all problems deserved to be solved, but that’s the engineer in me. But the point after all that: being open, truly and compassionately, to those who so reasonably raise their concerns.
Another thought I had related well and truly to feminism (a.k.a. sensibility). After all, I cannot grow up in an environment where women have been powerfully profound influences, teachers, and role models and deign to consider feminism any less than it is worth. I try to be wary of the insidiousness that undermines feminism’s noble goals, but it is more often easier to believe in the good of my fellow man than to question his meaning. In general, I genuinely find that to be one of the most difficult aspects of being. For each of us have incredibly complex private worlds inside our heads that cannot be observed. Save for their outward manifestations, like speech and behavior, for all I know someone could quietly be scheming to take over the world… for better or for worse. But I sincerely hope that any unbalanced, unreasonable interpretation of the young lady’s question that might cause it to be dismissed is only imagined, a candidate thought in the mental menagerie that is my brain.
Alas, this one got away from me a little bit. I was hoping to just commit it to the page before I move on. Though I inevitably know that I will return to these ideas, who can say when that will be. I need to talk about agency though. That one has been knocking about for far too long…