I, Heber Garcia, give WWR Group 2 permission to use any of may WWR (Un)Conference photo’s for their Mid-Term Papers
WWR has my permission to use these photo’s.
On April 25th, 2014, I attended the Woman Who Rock Conference for the very first time. I had never gone to an event such as this before, so I didn’t know what to expect when coming in. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect because of my lack of understanding of concepts such as women empowerment and appreciation. I knew about these concepts, but never truly understood what they meant and looked like. I think the way I was raised played a huge role on how I used to perceive woman and their “roles”. My mother didn’t work, and was a stay at home mother. She didn’t drive, nor did she make any big decisions in my family. She cooked, cleaned, and assisted. She was never the person with power and from my point of view it looked like she didn’t mind it. Growing up I thought all of that was normal. Women were to stay at home and take care of the children, cook dinner, and clean the house. Their identity was placed in the image of what many cultures promote. Women are not comparable to men in the same manner; therefore they must perform certain duties. My perception has since then changed, and I’m glad that although I once perceived woman in a different manner, I was able to learn what was wrong with that old perception and allow myself to be educated to what is right, and not what society or others may say.
The Woman Who Rock Conference provided me with a true and vivid insight on how a society should honor and perceive our women. A gender that has battled through countless vigorous battles just to be able to be placed in the same category as males has proved that a lack of un-appreciation has slipped through their efforts of gender equality and understanding. Women may eventually resolve an issue, but because our society has still not adapted to a universal understanding of gender, another problem rises up and prevents any sort of well-deserved celebration. There are always bad things going on in the world, I get that. But everyone deserves to be happy. That is a universal right. Our world seems as though that may never happen, but if we took things one step at a time, if everyone worked together regardless of our differences, then at least we can say that we’ll get there someday.
This conference was one of those steps. It may not have been a place where any issues of gender equality were solved, but it sure brought a place of peace for people that may have never experienced it before. The conference hall somehow allowed me, personally, to enter a room with no fear of judgment, discomfort, or worry. Instead, I was open-minded and totally accepted. No one had to tell me that. I simply just felt it.
I went to the conference alone. I purposely decided not to bring anybody. Not because I didn’t think they would like the conference, but simply because I wanted to go in with MY current understanding and then leave with MY new outlook on gender and women. When I bring others into an environment I still myself am not entirely educated about, I tend to push back on what I truly feel out of fear of judgment or stupidity. Allowing myself to engage in the music, dancing, and celebratory atmosphere the conference provided me with permitted a stress-free and honest environment. Ironically, one main purpose of the conference itself was to do just that. Provide a safe place to feel all these emotions without any shame or setback. For a while it didn’t resonate with me that just because I was a guy and did not relate to women struggles as many of the women there did, I was still able to share the same environment as them and thru that I was able to relate. It eliminated a perception I unknowingly had, and I was able to learn something that anybody else could.
When first stepping into the conference hall, I did however feel a little discomfort. I was one of maybe 6 other males in a room with dozens and dozens of women. I realized the cause of this discomfort, and right away I knew that I was going to leave with a very deep understanding. I had already failed what I already knew was wrong. Categorizing our differences of gender is not exactly a bad thing, but when it created a discomforting feeling I knew what I had to learn.
I stopped myself and changed my approach before finally settling and sat down in a chair. I glanced around the room and noticed the many different shapes and sizes, colors and souls. Everyone on a different path, yet at this moment we were all on the same crossroad. The conference went on and I questioned every act. Why the short movies? Why the singing? Why the dancing? Why was the audience reacting? What did these acts showcase what I didn’t already know and appreciate? Such questions raced thru my mind. While I did not have the answers to why all of this happened, other kinds of questions began to pop up. Why were women not considered to be the same as men? Why did some risk their lives everyday when in contrast a man did not have to? I know I don’t have the answers to everything, but I knew that this was a step in the right direction. Sometimes living in the moment provides a gateway to a clear understanding. This is how my photos helped capture that goal.
This picture moved me because I interpreted it as the struggle women suffer and are currently suffering. As a society we have failed to promote and equal interpretation of women. Whether that be creating the norm that women are to stay at home or the role that they should be teachers, our perception of who women are and what they are capable of is never truly exalted. This dance not only presented a powerful performance, but a message that this sort of injustice will not be tolerated. There was a lot of stomping. The dance was performed in pairs, with many of the women switching positions to include all those who share that burden society has placed on them. Most of the women wore shoes that made a loud thump with each step. I took it as a bold statement. They wanted their much-deserved presence to be known, and no doubt they did. I saw a performance filled with joy, and a symbol of women empowerment.
After this performance, I decided to get something to eat. I got up and turned to see vendor-selling food. I asked the vendors who they were and what they were raising support for. The two girls behind the table told me a story about how they were on a mission to stop human trafficking. Immediately I thought about the place we were in, and how while we were celebrating today, we still didn’t want to forget the ongoing issues still present and evident in the world today. Human trafficking and sexual abuse are huge issues we as humans should not tolerate. I was so humbled to hear their story and their dedication to spread the awareness of human trafficking. Vendors that contribute to fight the wars are what make me truly appreciate the social and political warriors of our time. The Women Who Rock Conference upholds the integrity these activists have and encourage the rest of us to do the same. Not by forcing anything down our throats, but by merely showcasing people who are truly dedicated with a huge purpose.
My last biggest take away from this conference was no doubt the gender-neutral bathrooms. In all my life I have never heard or experienced such a thing until that very night. I went to the bathroom and had an experience I will never forget, for better or for worse. I walked to the urinal to do my business when suddenly, an African-American women walks right in, smiles, and goes into the stall right next to me. It was just she and I. Both in the bathroom at the same time doing the same thing. So many thoughts raced thru my head. Does she feel just as uncomfortable as I do? Does she think this is weird at all? I went over to a sink to wash my hands. As soon as I turned the faucet, the women came and did the same. No words were exchanged in that time. Only gestures and smiles. I looked over at her while drying my hands. She looked back and smiled. Her eyes gave a warm welcome. I could tell that she understood that I felt uncomfortable. I don’t know how, but I did. Her glance at me somehow reassured me that it was okay. It was okay to feel different. It was okay to feel awkward. It was okay to feel alone. I left that bathroom with a totally new outlook on gender as a whole. I thought I knew what it was like to be different, but it wasn’t until that moment of gender differences where I noticed that thousands of people who question their gender and sexuality are constantly being placed in these sorts of situations. Because of the society we live in and how unique everyone is, not everyone can truly feel comfortable. There is always something holding others back. Always something nudging them. Freedom is confined to a person’s interpretation, not a universal understanding.
I felt so awkward and different I didn’t know how to react. I thought about the people that experience this everyday and my heart just broke for them. Although I was able to get over my discomfort, sadly that is not that case with many others. There may not be much we can do to help all those stuck in situations like this, but we can be a person of influence to our neighbors. We can, as people, allow others to be themselves. We can all give back what we are unknowingly carrying. We can all work together to promote peace and love. We can all work together, to bring happiness to all. I, can.