I have always admired and enjoyed words. Few things turn me on more than thoughtful word choice in conversation. I fully appreciate how subtle differences in connotation can be communicated with different words. However, my time at university made it clear to me that these connotations and important details in the complex definitions mean little when the words are not understood. It got in my way a lot. Only in the final year of my undergraduate program did I feel comfortable enough to voice my opinions in class. Clumsily, I learnt the languages of the different areas I was studying/involved in. I think the process could be sped up a lot more by just moving away from exclusive and elitist tendencies in academia.
What I thought of the most while editing UBC’s Women’s and Gender Studies Undergraduate journal was how far these complex classroom terms were going to take us in discussing things with people who have different educational and professional experiences. When Heidi and I became co-Editors-in-Chief of the journal, we found we shared this concern. I would never have guessed that she felt this way; I assumed everyone knew things, and that I was always just trying to catch up. That realisation alone made me braver and keener on speaking my mind.
My fear of getting “found out” has been my biggest impediment. I avoid events and activities when I feel I do not know enough, which is essentially all the time. Anytime I take on a responsibility, I am terrified of being exposed as a fraud of sorts… someone who claims to know what to do, but in actuality has not read enough or participated in nearly enough to be worthy of inclusion. For me, much of this has come from moving between very different educational institutes in different countries; smile and nod, don’t let them see the gaps in your knowledge. My experiences as an Indian woman studying in Indian, Kenyan and Canadian educational institutions have revealed a lot to me about colonisation, and the use of the English language. The shame of accented speech, and the value placed on how well English is spoken, is grossly unfair and very limiting.
I would like to see that kicked to the curb. Then, I would like to see everyone pick up a piece of chalk, literally or otherwise, and enjoy that feeling of learning, without the slightest fear that someone will judge them for not knowing what a word or concept is.
I would love to make that happen with you right now, so…
Hey, can we chalk?