Walk to Connect
If the sidewalks of Union Station and the paths of Confluence Park could talk, what would they say? If you spent a day walking side by side with a stranger, what would you talk about? What if you didn’t understand their perspective?
One thing we all understand is walking. According to Walk2Connect, when we walk at a pace of 3 miles per hour our thoughts become clearer and our minds become more open to new ideas. We become more connected to people and to the places we come from by walking shoulder-to-shoulder with each other.
TEDxMileHigh speaker Paula Stone Williams and Sarah Schwallier of Walk2Connect guided an Adventure focused on gender and equity. Millions of women can relate to Williams’ TEDxMileHigh Talk. As a result, the goal of this Adventure was to expand our horizons by exploring the differences between genders even further.
WOMEN AND MEN IN PATRIARCHAL SOCIETY
For most of us, our gender is all we have ever known. As a transgender woman, Williams has experienced life as both a man and a woman. As a man, Williams felt respected, listened to and valued. As a woman, Williams’ voice was not heard as loudly as before.
As we gathered at Union Station to walk, Williams told us stories of her experiences as a woman:
A restaurant manager called her a “crazy bitch” for trying to solve an issue with her meal; a man on a plane argued with her when she informed him that he was in her seat; a mechanic doubted that she actually knew what was wrong with her car; the list goes on.
While these stories were humorous, there was truth and meaning to Williams’ words. As a man, Williams felt powerful and was never doubted.
In an emergency plane landing, he was able to explain to passengers why the plane needed to land and not to worry and his advice was trusted. “Are you a pilot?” people asked, instead of ignoring his advice.
Williams pointed out that our current systems are based on an ”alpha” system in which the alpha male is respected and supported by his peers. Conversely, an alpha female must be challenged or is an object of sexual desire.
In a patriarchal society, women are either labeled as “crazy bitches” for exerting their power or they are interrupted and talked over. Many women have experienced similar situations and it might seem that there is no winning for us in hierarchical systems. That can only mean that it is time for a change in the way women and men interact. It’s time to get people on the same level.
HOW CAN WE CHANGE THE POWER IMBALANCE?
The answers are always somewhere in the middle when it comes to complex conversations like gender and equity. By bringing people of all backgrounds, genders and cultures together, we can begin to value and respect each other’s ideas. We can break up hierarchal situations and traditional systems by building larger and broader support systems together.
“I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” –Paula Stone Williams
Communication is key. If we don’t have conversations about gender and equity that are intersectional and diverse, we cannot solve problems. We need to slow down our thoughts to understand each other. We need to walk next to those who do not understand us to help them see things in new ways. This isn’t a win-lose situation; it’s a win-win situation for all who are involved in the conversation.
MEDITATING ON CONVERSATIONS
As our walk reached the end of its route, we paused to contemplate some of the complex themes we had discussed. Schwallier instructed us to slow our footsteps and to use this portion of the walk for silent meditation. It was an opportunity to appreciate each other, to acknowledge the environment around us, and to connect with ourselves. Before we did this, Williams paused in silence before giving us her guidance. Silence fell among the group as cars drove past us and the wind caught in the trees. Just as we were wondering if she would speak, she quoted a poem by Mary Oliver.
With goosebumps on our arms and hope for change in our hearts, we walked forward to our final destination. Shoulder to shoulder, side by side, we walked.