In this post, I’m going to deposit three metaphors I have developed.
1. The Islands (on gender and socialisation)
You start off in a plane, ready to parachute down to the islands. You are handed two sketch maps of islands, and told which you will land on. (If you were to compare your maps to someone else in the plane, you’d see they weren’t exactly the same, but you don’t get a chance.) You jump, and land.
Some people find their map to be quite accurate to the island they find themself on. Others attempt to alter the island to look like the map. Still others realise that the map they should be looking at is the other map, the one they were told they’d never need to use. And some find an island that isn’t on either of the maps.
I landed in the sea.
2. Hills and Valleys (on depression)
When you’re at the bottom of a hill, it’s hard to climb it. You’ve climbed hills before, and you no longer see the point. It takes so much effort to climb the hill, and everyone else seems to believe it’s easy. But you’ve spent too long in the cold of the shade, and long to feel the sun on your face. The only way to is to climb. Eventually, you do.
Everyone has told you about the beauty of the view from the summit. But all you see is a series of valleys and difficult climbs, stretching off into the distance.
3. Admin Staff (on allyship)
You are a member of university admin staff. You find the students don’t like the admin so much. The students want the admin staff to “take a long walk off a short plank”. Students would rather drink Lakewater than deal with admin staff a second time.
You’re hurt. You’ve always tried your best. Admin staff aren’t like that! If people have problems with your work, they can always fill in the 15 page complaints form.
What should you do? You should find out what the problems are. But don’t just stop a random student and demand to know what they think of you, or organise a 3 hour meeting for students to come to you with their concerns. The students have most likely already collated their issues. Do some research.
And when you’ve found these problems, are you sure you don’t do this? Do your colleagues? Perhaps individuals have been a problem – perhaps policies need to change. Once you’ve made some steps to improve things, you can now talk to the students. Talk how you’re willing to change things. Say you’ve got ideas, but you don’t know if they’re the right ideas.
And students might actually like you.