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This Bulldog Life #3: The masks we wear

November 2, 2016

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Halloween has just passed, marking the end of October, and Clarion’s mask-themed month as well.  To celebrate the past month, while simultaneously starting off November strong, here is the third edition of Clarion’s This Bulldog Life, The masks we wear.

Masked humanity: Halloween is not the only time we cover our true selves

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Students talking to their peers.

Students talking to their peers.

Students talking to their peers.

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Halloween has recently passed, however, people tend to wear masks in real life, not just for a special holiday where you don’t have to be yourself.

But is Halloween the only time people wear masks? We think “no.” We interviewed a variety of people to find out about how humanity tends to cover itself beyond costume-based holidays.

“People might dress up [for Halloween] as someone they want to be instead of someone they are. People can be hiding something like their sadness by wearing a fake smile,” said freshman McKenzie Galbraith.

People also tend to wear masks around certain groups of people, and around people they want to impress.

“I think that you join certain friend groups that match specific characteristics of your personality and when you’re with that person that characteristic is intensified. People try to hide things they think are flaws; things that they think people will judge them for,” said freshman Kathryn Iwaniec.

People sometimes feel like it is a necessity to wear a mask around people to get someone to like them.

“I feel like people act differently around certain people because they want to fit in. Maybe they don’t know how to act around certain people and try to change it,” Galbraith said.

Many people wear masks in real life, and it all depends on their situation. People should feel like they don’t need to wear a mask around others, and that they are free to be who they are around everyone.

Undercover ‘dogs: Students, teachers mask selves, too

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Many Bulldogs wear masks.

Many Bulldogs wear masks.

Many Bulldogs wear masks.

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Riverside Brookfield High School students, too, wear masks just like everyone else, especially inside of school. All day, every day, students at RBHS hide their true self from friends, teachers, and themselves.

Our mental “masks” hide who we are, typically covering our emotions and personality during school. Freshman Melanie Gutierrez describes how she wore masks to hide who she was back in middle school.

“My mask [usually] hides more of my emotions and feelings,” said Gutierrez.

As a freshman, she described how she had lost masks coming into RB: “I personally lost some of my masks when I came into RB from when I was in middle school. I was also kind of forcing myself and trying to teach myself that people will like you for who you are and not what you try to hide with.”

When we think of masks, we think of how individuals wear one mask at a time, but Elaina Raffensperger-Shill, a sophomore, discusses how students wear and discard multiple masks at a time.

“I have many ‘masks’ I put on to hide myself from people, sometimes multiples at once,” said Raffensperger-Shill. “As one mask comes off, another lies beneath it.”

The masks we wear cannot always fool everyone, especially our closest friends and peers.

“Most of my friends don’t notice my masks,” said Gutierrez. “I can tell when most of my friends have masks on, but sometimes I can’t tell.”

Teachers are also not fooled by the masks students wear, knowing how to allow students to open up and express who they actually are through projects and class work. English teacher Grace Lee describes how her students wear and take off their masks.

“Students can develop masks in class [as] they can either hide behind their studies or reveal a projection of who they are in class,” said Lee. “We do switch masks during the day as we shift through social interactions and academic endeavors.”

Raffensperger-Shill also states that not all masks are bad, as nearly all of us wear them.

“Masks in the metaphorical sense can be both bad and good things,” said Raffensperger-Shill. “Almost everyone always wears a mask of sorts, whether you see it or not.”

As wearing a mental mask can seem negative, there are also positive takes. Lee describes how sometimes masks are switched due to appropriate times of the day.

“In a good sense, masks are like ‘hats’ that we choose to wear for the appropriate setting,” said Lee. “For example, a student wears the hat of a student [as] he or she understands what is expected of them.”

As we wear masks, we are hiding something. Is it healthy to hide who we truly are? Raffensperger-Schill describes how we should be loved and known for who we are.

“Does it matter if you do [wear a mask]? Would you treat [those who wear masks] any different?” said Raffensperger-Schill.  

Outside the mask: Finding ourselves in and out of school

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School can be a place where students look to meet new people and socialize with friends. Some have more freedom outside of school grounds, whereas some have less freedom. Some of our teachers express themselves outside of school in ways that students would never expect.

“I am a lot more free outside of school,” said sophomore Fred Chodorski. “In school I’m quiet when I’m not with my friends. The main thing I like about going to school is being with friends.”

Students tend to be more social inside of school because they are around their friends. Students act differently towards their teachers than they would their friends in order to show more respect.

“I am more eccentric,” said sophomore Joey Kelley. “I act more calm, polite, and charming in school. My only reason to go to school is to see my friend Anthony Arguello. Outside of school I make more jokes and I am [funnier].”

The way people act varies due to the environment they are in. Teachers tend to be the same inside of class as they are outside. Although they have more freedom with what they can say outside of school.

“I teach geometry and algebra classes,” said math teacher Emma Jarrell. “My students are usually chatty, but respectful. I’d say that I get involved with the students while teaching. I’m pretty calm but fun when I teach. Outside of school I’m almost the same, but I’m more sarcastic than I am in class.”

Some people at RB are not scared to be who they are, both inside and outside of school.

Teachers encourage students to be themselves in the classroom.

“I let my students act like themselves, but try to keep it to where we do what we need to do,” said Wendy Cassens, English teacher. “I’m not too strict. I try to enjoy time in class. I take my job seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously. I act silly and sometimes sarcastically mean.”

Some teachers treat their students like their children, or vice-versa. Students sometimes think that teachers act like teachers all the time.

“At home is strict,” said Cassens. “Except on weekends, there are no phones after 10 pm. Outside of school, I like to read and keep up on my TV shows. Unfortunately for my kids, I am the same with them as I am with my students.”

Behind closed doors: RBGSA provides safe place for LGBTQ+ students

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All around RB there are students with secrets they keep to themselves because they are afraid of being judged or made fun of. Some have secrets they hide behind a fake mask to cover who they really are. In some cases, one of these secrets can relate to a student’s sexual orientation.

Maggie Leiteritz, sponsor of the RB Gay-Straight Alliance (RBGSA/GSA), thinks that students hide their sexual orientation because of safety and because they are concerned of being judged by their peers. The RBGSA is a club that focuses on current LGBTQ+ issues and raising community awareness.

“[Students hide their sexual orientation] probably because of safety. They are going to be concerned about how they are perceived amongst their peers,” Leiteritz said. “Many of them have not even disclosed it to their parent or guardian. I think it’s just a scary time for them.”

The RBGSA raises awareness and sends a message to the students that the school supports them if they are in the GSA or not.

“I think probably just having a GSA creates an awareness. Students who are not associated, whether they’re in the GSA, or not in the GSA, I think it sends a message that the school supports them,” said Leiteritz.

In the RBGSA, they help many of these students gain confidence to express themselves by providing a safe and supportive environment in the club.

“We have a meeting place and we can all come together and talk and be whomever they are. They don’t have to pretend. It’s a safe environment. It’s very supportive,” said Leiteritz.

One of the responsibilities of the GSA is to educate people, which is typically done around the Day of Silence in April.

“The Day of Silence is a national day that is observed to bring attention to the bullying that the LGBTQ+ community faces. So when somebody is bullied about their sexual orientation, they are silenced,” Leiteritz said. “Kids take a vow to not talk that day in honor of the harassment that occurs with the LGBTQ+ students.”

Everyone is welcome in the GSA. It is not necessary to share your sexual orientation, but it is allowed. The RBGSA meets every other Wednesday in room 201 at 3:15.

All trick, no treat: Cultural appropriation in Halloween costumes

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With Halloween 2016 in the rear-view mirror, several creative costume ideas were observed. Taking advantage of the opportunity to alter one’s appearance and be somebody else for a day, revelers put together elaborate outfits, drew on intricate faces and donned masks. But what many individuals failed to consider is the power some of their costumes have to offend.

Arguably, one of the most frightening masks worn on Halloween is the one appropriated from a culture that is not one’s own.

Gaining greater awareness in recent years, cultural appropriation is the adoption of artifacts, symbols and ideas from one culture by a member of a different culture. It is viewed as a global issue in that the appropriating party – typically one of privilege – assumes the defining elements of a minority culture, stripping the minority group of their cultural identity.

Essentially, appropriation is when one race borrows aspects of a less-privileged culture and ‘copies and pastes’ them into their own lives. While it may seem innocent, it can have a negative impact on those affected.

Appropriation often occurs with the privileged group knowing very little about the history of the culture they are exploiting, so when they use it for their personal amusement or benefit, it is considered extremely offensive. It can take place in a variety of ways but are commonly found in Halloween costumes. Some examples include wearing blackface, cornrows, headdresses and tribal prints, and using Day of the Dead costumes and makeup.

Someone having their culture appropriated might consider it more acceptable if it stems from a lack of awareness rather than intentional harm, so it is often judged by the severity of the act. Juan Tinoco, Spanish teacher of Michoacano descent, agrees.

“It depends on the certain degree. I think a lot of people don’t know, so it’s pretty much out of ignorance,” Tinoco said.

To help those uninformed people better understand the concept of appropriation, Tinoco suggests that they educate themselves on the origin of cultural traditions and practices.

“If the dominant culture takes the time to learn about the history and where it comes from it could alleviate anything that could come off as not only appropriating, but also as, in a way, racist,” Tinoco said.

Many have yet to fully understand the concept of appropriation, especially today’s youth. Senior Esmeralda Macias, however, is one person who defies the norm. Macias, in agreement with Tinoco, says that the appropriating parties should attempt to understand historical practices prior to making a decision that could be considered offensive.

“First of all they have to care. The majority of people that try to culturally appropriate other cultures have little to no respect for that culture,” Macias said. “Talk to proud members of the culture who they will be offending, educate themselves about that culture to the point that they’d be able to teach a class over what they learned.”

Appropriation is not limited to Hispanics; African Americans are often subjects of racial mockery, as well as Native Americans, Asian Americans, and any number of other races and ethnicities.

Mari Mortensen, social worker and former sponsor of the African American Cultural Association, addressed a common form of appropriation: cornrows. Cornrows are often worn as a hairstyle by many Caucasians, but were originally worn by African-Americans who favored them for their simple maintenance. With the number of people sporting the hairstyle increasing, many African-Americans feel misrepresented.

“Sure, they should wear cornrows, but they should be willing to have a conversation about it,” Mortensen said.

Although it seems as if there are many rules to be followed, celebrating societal diversity, especially at a place like RB, can be an extremely positive force when understood and welcomed by all.

Shining a light: Erika’s Lighthouse hopes to unmask mental illness

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An outdated popular costume to wear around Halloween is the mentally ‘insane’ person. But this is nothing more than a false stereotype of mental health. Erika’s Lighthouse is ready to unmask the negative stigma around mental disorders and reveal the perspective of positive mental health they strive to help people see.

Christine Tappert, the sponsor for Erika’s Lighthouse, explained the purpose of the organization.

“This is about encouraging positive mental health. I think there’s a stigma attached to hearing what Erika’s Lighthouse is about,” said Tappert. “I wouldn’t say that we focus on depression or suicide. I think educating people on mental health is really the role of the group.”

The club hosts and participates in many different events such as the Rock and Rally Walkathon, Positive Mental Health Week, Mental Health Baskets, Lock-ins, and more. A group favorite are the stress workshops where they have therapy dogs, cookies, stress balls, bubbles, and more fun activities to calm down around finals.

“I just need to relax. That’s what we’re hoping to give people. It’s that you can relax during school too,”  Erika’s Lighthouse member Nicole Bajerek said.

They also talk to health classes on making school a more safe and calm environment in which to discuss mental health. They play games, such as one involving standing, to show the unreasonable discomfort about seeking help for mental illness.

“Stand up if you’d feel comfortable talking about depression with somebody and almost nobody stands up. I think for a lot of people that’s such a profound thing,” Bajerek said.

Erika’s Lighthouse is inclusive and looking for new members all of the time. They meet every other Tuesday at 7:30 am.

“I think that’s one of the common misconceptions that you have to be depressed or have to have a mental illness to be in Erika’s Lighthouse. No, you don’t. You can just show up,” Bajerek said.

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