recall - - Discourse = “set of values and viewpoints in terms of which one must speak and act, at least while being in the discourse” (Gee)
So Mia and I were talking about going to this country club/Alumni benefit/conference. (we went to an alumnae conference in Santa Monica over the weekend to represent the 360 program - this is a post that we wrote together on the airplane on the way there)
We started talking about clothing. We both realized that we had no idea what would be appropriate to wear in this environment – as neither of us has spent a significant amount of time in a country club (and by that I mean that I have gone to one once, and she has never gone to one). Should we wear skirts? Dresses? what length is appropriate?
So we’re wondering: what kind of discourse are we entering? Are we actually going to have an opportunity to speak frankly and genuinely about our experiences, or will the discourse silence some aspect of our behavior? It’s certainly silencing our creative fashion sense!
Clothing is a perfectly reasonable cause for concern – every time I’ve done any career counseling, I’ve been told that first impressions are essential. So appearance is essential. Uncertain about the kind of discourse you are entering + wearing the wrong thing = making your illiteracy obvious and embarrassing.
So that’s we were so worried about this on our trip to Ghana – we had no idea what our clothing would say about us. Legitimate? Eh, I think so.
Also legitimate – I will have to do some ironing when we get to the hotel. Ironing – who does that?
The ‘I’ now is Mia. I think we, Emily and I included, are as students permitted a degree of freedom and room for mistake in this situation despite it being new and unfamiliar. The people who make up the body of this event graduated from Bryn Mawr College and take with them their memories, sensations and nostalgia for an institution that defined them in many ways as it does for persons trying to find themselves and create their own person. There is a quest, in reunions or gatherings with people when they have been through the same institutional or spatial experience, for a community that transcends one moment in time and place. I think that it is this quest for borderless and timeless community that will allow us to wear our student identity and dodge doubt and judgment that might other wise have occurred because of our lack of proper wardrobe and experience in ‘formal’ settings like that of a country club. Are we to be perceived literate in such a circumstance despite our identity, experience and age differences because we are Bryn Mawr literate? Does being Bryn Mawr literate mean that we can reference the same traditions, buildings and symbolic objects? In what ways are these events and places rituals and totems of upholding a sacred community, or quest for community?