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Network for Peace through Dialogue

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November 17, 2009

Talking Circle for the Oldest Issue

In our latest Living Room Dialogue, we discussed equality between men and women. How is it going to be if men and women are equal? It was a very interesting topic especially for women who still were feeling inequality between them and men.

This session started off with a quick reminder of the circle talk which derived from the Native American traditions. One of the important things in this circle talk is that every participant gets an opportunity to speak up and other people need to listen while somebody is talking. So, in our practice, we passed around a maraca and whoever had that maraca had the right to speak while others listened.

A first question that was raised by our facilitator and program director, Pamela Zivari, was "If we live in a world where men and women are equal, I particularly enjoy."

It would be helpful if textbooks described history's horrible chapters without recreating the animosity. History tends to be told from the perspective of those in power. It is important to re-tell our stories, but people resist looking at things from another's point of view. There can be progress, though: here in the U.S. the facts about slavery and the genocide of native peoples are slowly being accepted into the dominant narrative of this country.

A lot of people answered they would enjoy equality in their work place. This told us that in our work place, there was still inequality according to gender. One of the participants shared a story. She said that, in an elementary school, there was an activity where boys were asked to pretend to be girls and girls to be boys. The girls looked happy and started saying, "I can be a doctor. I can be a pilot. I can be a chief" and so on. However, boys did not look happy and one of them said, "I would mean nothing." This really told us that even kids could see inequality between males and females.

A couple of dialoguers addressed some of the important things to be reminded of while we are working on bringing equality between both sexes. One of them was that we need to realize differences between us rather than saying men and women were same. Also, there should not be competition such as which sex is stronger or superior because both sexes have different yet complementary functions. It is meaningless to argue if a banana or an apple is better than the other because they are different things. Also a lot of people agreed that complementarity between men and women would make for a better world.

The only male participant spoke about a view from men. He said that a lot of men did not know so much about inequality between different sexes. He knew that inequality existed but never realized that it was a big problem especially among females until he was taken to one of the women's studies lectures. And he believed that there should be more education for both males and females to understand people of a different sex from them.

Finally we were discussing how to bring change and what we need to do to bring in equality. But, unfortunately, the time had come to an end. But we had a very interesting and enthusiastic discussion until the very end.

In this topic, participants had many things to say since the problem is so close to them. One of the dialogue tools, the circle talk, worked very well, so everyone could express his/her opinions and listened to others. Dialoguers were satisfied with one of the techniques they learned from that night.

notes by Hayato Nakayamo, intern


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