Saturday, September 22, 2007

Baby Steps

Recently I received an email from a former Mount Holyoke student who wanted to get me caught up on her life and to share an anecdote with me. A few years ago she was working for a Fortune 500 company and found herself in a board room with about a dozen people (mostly men in their 40s and 50s) to review a brochure that would advertise the "diversity" and "global influence" of their company. The image they selected for the brochure was of a geisha. The student, who had taken an introduction to Asian American literature class with me, as well as an independent study on Asian American literature, realized, immediately, how problematic this image was, took a deep breath, and told them what her concerns were and made suggestions for more appropriate images to convey the message of diversity and global awareness. Her suggestions were both heard and taken seriously, they got rid of the geisha, and they implemented the new images.

Baby steps, but important ones. And I'm really proud that she was able to speak truth to power, to make her concerns heard, and to be taken seriously. She attributes a lot of her core convictions to being a Mount Holyoke alum, and I have to say that after teaching there for 3 years I am a convert to single-sex education. So here's to all of us taking small steps to try to enact social justice, one brochure at a time.

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