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Module 2: Inclusive babywearing support – cultural inclusion (Preview)

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What is this?

These modules are a self-study guide for anyone considering becoming a peer educator with CarryAus. It is not a complete course of study and does not replace either a class or personal experience. It suggests a structure you may choose to follow as a step towards signing off as a CarryAus peer educator.

It is not compulsory and, apart from a quiz at the end of each module, it is not assessed in any way.

This module is titled “Inclusive Babywearing Support: Cultural Inclusion”. It discusses cultural inclusivity in brief as part of the wider issue of inclusivity and is not a comprehensive overview of the issues. This module will provide resources for you to continue to learn about this topic in the context of community-based babywearing education.

Contributors to this module

  • Elizabeth Close is an artist with a passion for her Indigenous culture. You can find her at her blog A Dingo Named Gerald.
  • Rādhikā Ram is a lawyer with a passion for social justice.
  • Steph de Silva is an economist who likes numbers.

Introduction

Before we begin, there is one point that we must make first: inclusivity is a broad topic that is not adequately addressed by a short training module. This module is designed to make you aware of the issues as we saw them in early 2016, but this is a changing and complex topic.

This module is likely to become outdated very quickly as the worldwide discussions change and evolve. This is not problematic: as an organisation CarryAus will also change and evolve. We hope that future updates to this module will be possible.

Why does cultural inclusivity matter? It matters because in a free, diverse and open society members of CarryAus with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds still experience casual racism. As an organisation dedicated to helping all parents and carers of young children we must make inclusivity a key priority.

The first step towards cultural inclusivity is listening to the voices outside our own echo chambers: even when it’s uncomfortable. Some very useful starting points include:

Reading these, you won’t agree with everything that has been written and not all of them agree with each other: that’s a good thing. It’s important to remember that people of colour do not have a homogeneous opinion on babywearing, inclusivity or the ethics of design. They are individuals.

It’s also important to remember that socioeconomic factors are a part of inclusive babywearing: not all babywearers have access to expensive purpose-made carriers. Not all babywearers are comfortable in a written medium of communication.

Have you ever rolled your eyes at someone’s grammar, typing or language on one of the big support groups? What’s wrong with that?

As a community, we have come a long way in terms of inclusivity. Do you remember the term “crotch dangler”? What do you think of it? As a community we used to use it very casually: we don’t any more.

Our community is constantly changing and evolving. As peer educators we have the capacity to influence the direction in which we evolve.

What we believe as an organisation

Racism is an ideology that gives expression to myths about other racial and ethnic groups, that devalues and renders inferior those groups, that reflects and is perpetuated by deeply rooted historical, social, cultural and power inequalities in society. This is the definition of the Australian Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission and you can read more about it here.

Reverse racism is a myth. For more reading on why this is the case, see here.

Micro-aggressions are small, often apparently harmless or unintentionally hurtful comments made to people of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds on a regular basis. They serve to undermine an inclusive environment. For a discussion on these, see here.

Racism and micro-aggression is not tolerated at CarryAus.

Tone policing is a failure to listen to the substance of a conversation (usually) because of discomfort. It (often unintentionally) seeks to invalidate the views of the person expressing discomforting ideas of emotion. A great visual guide to tone policing can be found here. Tone policing should always be avoided. If you feel discomforted by a conversation: avoid tone policing. Instead, take some time out. Especially in online conversations in which it can be hard to understand a person’s context and background; it’s OK to take a few hours to mull things over. We often feel that an online conversation needs an instant response: it mostly doesn’t! By taking time out instead of tone policing, you are respecting the experience of your community.

Cultural appropriation is the act of taking aspects of a minority culture inappropriately without a concept of fair and freely offered exchange: it’s an unbalanced power dynamic that further serves to marginalise people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. This is a very complex area in a multicultural society and one where context is critical. For further reading, see here.

Creating an inclusive space online and in person

Creating an inclusive space can appear overwhelming at first, but it is fundamental to what we need to do in order to achieve our goals as an organisation. The following are some basic ideas to get you thinking.

Keep on learning. Reading a few blogs about the subject is only just the start. Try and seek out information on these topics and embrace the fact that there is no homogeneous one-size-fits-all opinion.

Remember to listen. As educators it’s easy to fall into the habit of “I talk, you listen”. But for many of us on this issue, we need to learn to hear what is being said to us. Often some of the things being said to us will be deeply uncomfortable: this is a good sign it’s time to start listening. It’s always OK to say “I don’t know what I think about this, I will get back to you.” Our reactions can initially be defensive. If you feel this way, take some time to think it over. It’s always OK to reach out to another peer educator within the organisation for advice and help making your group or online space more inclusive.

Feeling discomforted by these concepts and ideas does not make you a racist! It makes you a human being raised and living in an imperfect society. What can you do to help promote change?

Remember that babywearing isn’t a modern western invention. All cultures have practiced this art form in their own way at some point in history. The “right” way of doing things in a western, affluent society is not necessarily the way they have been done in other communities for decades or even centuries. Please be aware that we all come from different cultural backgrounds and consider carefully before offering corrections. Some people may have a clear cultural connection to, and understanding of, babywearing that is different to yours. The discussion questions below will offer an opportunity to workshop some inclusive and supportive ways to engage with babywearers from other cultural backgrounds to your own.

Recognise problematic behaviours in your group and act on them. Micro-aggression, tone policing, subtle (and sometimes unintentional) put downs, social exclusion due to “discomfort”: these are issues that all our members of culturally and linguistically diverse background experience at some point in their lives. These are not OK at CarryAus.

Analyse your group or online space critically. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Are there members who you, as a leader or educator, don’t interact with much? Why might that be? Can you reach out to them?
  • Is your group or online space representative of the population it serves?
  • Is it attended or used by a range of people of different socio-economic backgrounds? Education levels? Cultural or linguistic backgrounds? If not, why do you think this may be?

Resources available to you as a peer educator and member of CarryAus

Issues of inclusion can provoke in us feelings of anxiety that we are not doing enough or doing it “right”. This is common, but we should not let it stop us creating an organisation that thrives with diversity. None of us can do this alone. It is always a team effort. The good news is that there are resources that can help you. Here’s a list to start with.

  • Your organisation. CarryAus is committed to inclusion and help is at hand. The CarryAus volunteers group is a great place to reach out for opinions, workshopping ideas, finding a mentor and troubleshooting. It’s always OK to say to your organisation: “I’m confused or unsure and I would like help, please.” Places you can seek assistance are the CarryAus volunteer group or a senior peer educator directly.
  • Be aware that this is not about placing the burden of responsibility for inclusive behaviour on CarryAus members from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. This is our organisation’s responsibility as a whole. Many members from diverse backgrounds are assisting, but they should not be expected to do the hard work of educating the community about inclusive behaviour alone.
  • Many of the blogs and other internet resources described in this module are continually updated. They are a great place to seek further information.
  • Workshopping the discussion questions below will give you some practical ideas on how to achieve inclusion in your group or online space.

Links

This is a summary of the links referenced in this module:

  1. A Dingo Named Gerald – blog by Australian artist and author Elizabeth Close
  2. Game that rewards players for killing Indigenous Australians pulled from app stores
  3. Dounia Tazi on cultural appropriation vs appreciation
  4. A Dingo Named Gerald – cultural appropriation not your idea
  5. What are microaggressions?
  6. Decolonizing Babywearing  on Tumblr
  7. Racismnoway – understanding racism
  8. The myth of reverse racism
  9. 21 Racial Microaggressions You Hear On A Daily Basis
  10. Tone policing and privilege
  11. What’s wrong with cultural appropriation

Suggested practice/discussion exercises

Becoming a peer educator is not hard and it will help you hone your communication skills: both online (written) and in person (oral and body language).

These are some suggested practice exercises. You can work through these in a few different ways:

  1. Don’t work through them if you don’t want to. They aren’t compulsory. They may help.
  2. You can approach your local peer educator and see if they have time to practice one or two with you. They aren’t designed to take long. Please don’t use slingmeets as spontaneous practice without clearing it with your local peer educator first.
  3. You can post the exercise on the CarryAus volunteer discussion group and ask for feedback on how other volunteers would handle the situation. This will give you many ideas you may not have considered previously.

Practice exercises: Module 2

  1. You may feel that cultural inclusivity is something you yourself, your group or online space can improve on. What are some steps you can take to do this?
  2. What are some ways you can listen to babywearers who have a different lived experience than your own?
  3. Some of the opinions on cultural appropriation, inclusivity and decolonizing babywearing practice may be confronting. You may disagree with them. What could you do if you find yourself disagreeing with a person of colour on one of these issues?
  4. A carer from a different background than your own comes to your slingmeet. They are wearing their child in a carrier or manner which is unfamiliar to you:
    • How do you determine whether this is safe? Is this an appropriate practice?
    • This practice may not follow “guidelines”. Is this an appropriate issue to raise with this babywearer?
    • What are some ways you can engage respectfully with another babywearer? How can you as group leader or educator approach this carer in a positive, friendly and inclusive way?
  5. Think critically about your group. What behaviours and assumptions may be contributing to a group that is not as inclusive as it could be? Are any of these an issue?
    • Creating group events around non-inclusive calendar themes (Christmas, Easter parties can be exclusionary for those who do not celebrate these events as a choice)?
    • Locations and times of meetings?
    • Method of publicising meetings? Is Facebook your only option? Is it a good one for reaching an inclusive and diverse set of people?
    • Focus of meetings? Is your group focused on playing with pretty carriers rather than baby wearing? Is that a bad thing? Would geeking out over beautiful things be better after the group event?
    • Can you think of any others?
  6. Online or in person, you observe another person making micro-aggressions towards a member.
    • What are some positive ways you can step in and lead the discussion to a more appropriate tone?
    • Having done this, everyone proceeds to tell you what a great job you’re doing. Why could this be problematic? What could your response be?
  7. You are faced with an issue you’re not sure how to deal with or that you’re not convinced you understand.
    • What is your first step to solving the issue?
    • Who is your go-to person to get advice on this area?
    • Is it appropriate to assume that members from diverse backgrounds will educate you?
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