IMQ Intercultural Management Quarterly
Integrating Culture and Management in Global Organizations
Winter 2014 Vol. XV, No. 1
Challenging Pharaohs: Egyptians Redefining Power by AMIRA MAATY • Conflicting Cultures In The United Arab Emirates by MIKE TITZER • Exhibiting Cultural Justice Through Shared Leadership Structures: The Example Of One DC by EASTEN LAW • Integrating Social Justice Into An Intercultural Approach by AMER AHMED • Twenty-Eight Nations Under One Roof: Learning In And From A Highly Multicultural Workplace by EMILY HAM • Utilizing Sports As A Medium For Normalizing Homosexuality by CAITLIN MURPHY
Foreword Dear readers, Welcome to the Winter issue of the Intercultural Management Quarterly. While it’s been a few months since our last publication, we are excited to start the new year with a fresh edition of IMQ. As always, IMQ awaits your contribution. Please continue to adhere to our guidelines for submissions. We are not an academic journal, so be sure that your submissions contribute to the study and practice of intercultural management. Many thanks, and feel free to contact me if you have any comments or questions. Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath Managing Editor, IMQ
STAFF Publisher Gary R. Weaver Managing Editor Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath Editorial Review Board Ryan Dalton, Dan Deming, Adam Mendelson, and Gary R. Weaver IMI Director Amira Maaty
Intercultural Management Quarterly is published by the Intercultural Management Institute at American University. IMQ combines original research conducted in the field of intercultural management with the applied perspectives of industry experts, professors, and students.
Table of Contents Intercultural Management Quarterly Volume XV No. 1 \ Winter 2014 Challenging Pharaohs: Egyptians Redefining Power by Amira Maaty................................................................3
Professionals, scholars, and students are invited to submit articles of 1,000–2,000 words on issues related to the study and practice of intercultural management. Articles must be innovative and contribute to knowledge in the field but should avoid overly academic jargon. Endnotes are discouraged except in the case of direct quotations or citations and they must follow Turabian citation style. Each submission is refereed by the members of the Editorial Review Board. Accepted pieces are subject to editing.
Conflicting Cultures in the United Arab Emirates by Mike Titzer...................................................................5 Exhibiting Cultural Justice through Shared Leadership Structures: The Example of ONE DC by Easten Law........................................................................8 Integrating Social Justice into an Intercultural Approach by Amer Ahmed...............................................................12 Twenty-Eight Nations Under One Roof: Learning in and from a Highly Multicultural Workplace by Emily Ham......................................................................15 Utilizing Sports as a Medium for Normalizing Homosexuality by Caitlin Murphy........................................................19
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Challenging Pharaohs: Egyptians Redefining Power by Amira Maaty
gypt’s current upheavals are not just redefining the country’s political landscape but also challenging ancient cultural values around power. Prior to the January 2011 uprising, Egyptian society was characterized as largely apathetic, with a “silent majority” that prefers stability over challenging authority and, to an extent, reveres despotic leadership traits that are perceived as strength. Alaa El Aswany, a prominent Egyptian writer and political activist, wrote in 2010 that “generations of Egyptians have grown up in the firm belief that submitting to injustice is the ultimate wisdom and that bowing and scraping to those in power is the best way to protect themselves from harm.”1 Some scholars spoke of such notions as Islamic or Arab “exceptionalism,” arguing that there are inherent cultural factors, many connected to patriarchal power structures, which make these societies incompatible with democratic change. However, the events of the past three years indicate changing attitudes towards power and the relationship between authority figures and others more generally. New forces at play including a youth bulge, more open communication, and declining economic conditions have pushed Egyptians to challenge the rule of former presidents Hosni Mubarak and Mohamed Morsi as well as the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), which governed in the period between Mubarak’s resignation and Morsi’s election. As the barrier of fear between the people and the state began to crumble, so too have the barriers between authority figures and their “subordinates” across social institutions such as work, school, and home. This newly empowered population does not sit well with those who argue that Egyptians are “not
ready” and that if given space and freedom, they will make poor choices and sow chaos. This has been a frequent topic of debate over the course of the election and ouster of Morsi and the dissolution of a parliament dominated by Islamists. Egypt is now at a historical fork in the road. With the popular rejection of elected political institutions and the re-emergence of the military as guardian and savior of the Egyptian state and society, Egyptians are in the process of redrawing the boundaries, limitations, and responsibilities of power and to what extent it ought to be inclusive. The role of the military moving forward will be a key test to cultural values that are also in a state of transition – pitting traditional subservience to authority in the interest of stability against a young population’s desire for change and inclusion. Though there are youth who prefer an empowered military to Islamist rule, they will likely find that a military so deeply involved in affairs of the state will limit both the political and economic space that many so greatly desire. Will fears of the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) lead Egyptians to create and accept yet another Pharaoh and retreat in their quest for greater power balance and sharing? A recent article points to a common element among countries that transitioned from military to civilian rule - “at some point the military lost its legitimacy as the final arbiter of political disputes. The people stopped believing in a myth that their militaries had interjected into the national psyche – an enemy stood at the gates and posed a mortal threat to the nation’s survival.”2 According to a September 2013 Zogby poll, at seventy percent, “the military remains the institution in which Egyptians have the greatest
Amira Maaty is the Director of the Intercultural Management Institute (IMI). She has over 13 years of experience in international training and education, public diplomacy and civil society development with a regional focus on the Middle East and North Africa . Prior to joining IMI, she oversaw civil society support programs in Egypt and Libya at the National Endowment for Democracy. She has also held positions at IREX overseeing international training and education programs for community and civil society leaders from around the world; Internews Network, coordinating journalism training programs in the MENA region; the Phelps Stokes Fund, managing public diplomacy programs; and the Projection Project at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, leading research efforts to monitor, document, and shed light on human trafficking. Winter 2014
confidence.”3 Other polls show that sixty-seven percent of Egyptians were “content” with the violent dispersal of the pro-MB sit-ins which left hundreds dead.4 The population is deeply polarized and Egyptians across political spectrums feel they are engaged in an existential battle. The question now is whether Egyptians will see their democratic experiment as a failure, place their faith in the one institution they have the most confidence in, and allow it unchecked reign – reverting back to the pre-Arab Spring power structure between state and citizen? Though this is likely what the military and security establishment is betting on, it is important that they recognize the fatal flaws of their predecessors, all of whom failed to see how changing demographics and communication technologies are altering Egyptian notions towards power. The SCAF initially had high confidence ratings and Morsi was elected, albeit with a narrow majority, but citizens quickly turned against both because they failed to be inclusive. Each were seen to have served their own group’s interests over collective national interests and thereby failed to deliver on their promises to the Egyptian people. Both governed through a zero-sum, winner-take-all approach that allowed no space for the substantive engagement of divergent groups, especially youth. Without a meaningful place at the table, those groups challenged the political system that excluded them from the streets and were not deterred by emergency laws, military trials, curfews and other forms of harassment. Those who reach power in Egypt have yet to demonstrate an understanding that as their society changes and seeks greater participation, that they too must abandon the prevalent heavyhanded, centralized autocratic leadership. Despite voters’ overwhelming support for the revised Constitution, backed by Egypt’s interim government and military in a January 2014 referendum which was boycotted by the MB and April 6 Youth Movement, low youth turnout is particularly noteworthy. “Only 16 percent of Egyptians ages 18 to 30 are said to have voted. That is the segment of the population that served as the engine of the 2011 revolution and the big anti-Morsi demonstrations in June and July last 4
year.”5 Given that over half of Egypt’s population is under twenty-four years old6 and that this new generation has already demonstrated that they are less averse to challenging authority than their parents, it is unlikely that they will sit idly by and accept the emergence of a new era of autocratic rule. It is necessary that they be brought into the country’s political fold and while part of the onus will be on them to organize themselves effectively and clearly articulate their vision for the future, it is equally important for Egypt’s political elite and institutions to allow sufficient space for youth to express themselves freely and participate in shaping the policies and decisions that will impact their lives. The complications of Egypt’s political transition have made many observers queasy and though there is a great deal of uncertainty and concern over the political outcome, this process is testing, modifying and molding values that have been stagnant for decades. The many attempts to control the political landscape will not be able to control the cultural changes that are taking place beneath the surface. Egyptians have made the leap from docile subjects to boisterous citizens and over time power structures and institutions will evolve to reflect that.
_____________________________________________________ 1 Alaa Al Aswany, On the State of Egypt: What Made the Revolution Inevitable, (New York: Vintage Books, 2011), 148. 2 Ahmad Faruqui, “From Egypt to Pakistan: Why are we Infatuated by the Army?,” The Express Tribune, August 2, 2013, http://blogs. tribune.com.pk/story/18276/from-egypt-to-pakistan-why-are-weinfatuated-by-the-army/. 3 ”Egyptian Attitudes: September 2013,” Zogby Research Services, LLC, November 23, accessed January 19, 2014, http://static. squarespace.com/static/52750dd3e4b08c252c723404/t/5294bf5de4 b013dda087d0e5/1385480029191/Egypt%20October%202013%20 FINAL.pdf. 4 “67% of Egyptians are Satisfied with Dispersal of Brotherhood Sitins: Baseera,” AhramOnline, August, 22 2013, http://english.ahram. org.eg/NewsContent/1/64/79701/Egypt/Politics-/-of-Egyptiansare-satisfied-with-dispersal-of-Brot.aspx. 5 Hamza Hendawi, “Analysis: Egypt Vote Muddies Political Outlook,” Associated Press, January 19, 2014, accessed January 19, 2014, http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/M/ML_EGYPT_THE_ NEXT_STEP_NEWS_ANALYSIS?SITE=VALYD&SECTION=HO ME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT. 6 “Egypt Demographics Profile 2013,” Index Mundi, last modified February 21, 2013, accessed January 19, 2013, http://www.indexmundi.com/egypt/demographics_profile.html.
Intercultural Management Quarterly
Conflicting Cultures in the United Arab Emirates by Mike Titzer
aif drove a black Cadillac roadster speeding through the streets of Dubai while listening to blaring rap music and smoking dokha, the traditional Arabic tobacco that Emiratis prefer. The sun had just set, and I had been invited by Saif to join him for an Iftar buffet at the Atlantis Hotel and Resort, one of Dubai’s many five-star hotels offering lavish Ramadan specials. The juxtaposition of traditional values with modern desires blared through the Cadillac’s speakers as “Snoop Dogg” rapped while we sped off to enjoy a traditional Arab feast. “As a child, I was raised in a tent in the desert by my grandmother,” Saif told me as we sped down the highway. “Now I own a mansion, a nice car, and have a good life.” When the Emirates started to export oil in 1969, their economy quickly expanded. Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan helped to establish the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as an independent nation in 1971 and became the newly formed country’s first president. Through his leadership and distribution of oil wealth, former camelherders, pearl-divers, and mountain dwellers all became rich beyond their wildest dreams, almost overnight. But what does Saif mean when he says that he now has “the good life?” Has he chosen to forsake his traditional way of living in favor of a more modern lifestyle? Or has he somehow managed to synch his traditional values with his new ones? Emiratis handle this newfound wealth with the influx of Western influences differently. While most elder Emiratis remember the past and the customary ways, many youth have no recollection of the UAE before the glitz and glamour that came with the building of cities like Dubai and
Abu Dhabi. As a generation, they have collectively been thrown into a heterogeneous, urban society from a homogeneous, rural one. Some delve into the new, urban lifestyle while completely ignoring their past culture. Others go to the opposite extreme and cling on to the rural life while denying the reality of the urban world in which they live. However, the most successful Emiratis transform themselves by accepting and living in a new “third culture,” which draws on the best aspects of traditional Arab rural cultures and modern urban Western influences. After the UAE started exporting oil, its GDP per capita increased exponentially. From 1975 to 1985, GDP growth averaged sixteen percent annually. This growth has continued over the last thirty years, albeit at a lesser pace than the period immediately following the discovery of oil. Even with the 2008 economic downturn, the UAE has experienced an annual GDP growth rate of 4.4 percent over the last ten years. This unprecedented amount of growth has attracted foreign investors from all parts of the globe, making the UAE one of the more diverse countries in the Gulf. In fact, local nationals comprise only sixteen percent of the UAE’s total population. Non-traditional culture and values have followed this influx of foreign investment and people. Driving through the streets of Dubai reminds one of driving through a major Western metropolis. Billboards advertise the latest Hollywood movies, five-star hotels abound, featuring cuisine from all around the world, as well as nightclubs that are reminiscent of the Las Vegas party scene. In fact, alcohol use has been on the rise in the UAE over the last five years. In the realm of the fine arts, Abu Dhabi is currently building both a Guggenheim museum as well as the first ever branch of the famous, French “Louvre” museum. Clearly, Western influ-
Mike Titzer is a masters candidate at American University’s School of International Service. He currently resides in Okinawa, Japan, and has worked extensively with Middle Eastern and Asian cultures for the past six years as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. Winter 2014
ences and culture, both the good and the bad, are rubbing off on the Emiratis. The UAE is unique in the fact that such a dramatic change of culture has occurred in such a short period of time. Growing up in different cultures, the Emirati youth of today can be seen as “third culture kids,” or TCKs. In the Western world, TCKs are children whose parents have raised them away from their home culture as a result of their careers. Usually the children of diplomats, military service members, or international businessmen, TCKs learn at an early age a completely different culture from that of their “passport culture.” Caught between these two cultures, they form their own “third culture.” When it comes time to return home to their passport culture, these children often have difficulty acculturating back into the American society. However, with the understanding of two different cultures come benefits as well. TCKs are generally known to have better intercultural communication skills and a greater degree of cultural empathy towards other societies than their peers who grew up in America. With these skills, they can become the links that help America communicate and interact with varying cultures throughout the world. Like their Western TCK counterparts, most Emirati youth are raised in a vastly different culture than their “passport culture.” Raised and schooled in major cities, they visit their ancestral homes in the mountains, by the ocean, or in the desert on the weekend. Likewise, after their schooling years, they must often live and work in the city during the week, living the heterogeneous culture of city-life. They drive back to their traditional homes on the weekends, where they live and play in homogenous, rural settings. This constant back and forth causes many Emiratis to possess skills that are effective in both low and high context societies. This dichotomy of cultures results in many Emiratis forming their own “third culture,” which allows them to survive while easily switching between the heterogeneous and homogeneous societies in which they live. 6
But are Emirati youth drifting more towards the Western, heterogeneous urban society and away from their homogeneous roots? A survey recently conducted by the UAE University in Al Ain tried to answer this question by looking at which values college-aged students throughout the Emirates revered the most.1 The study asked students to rate items in order of importance such as language, cultural ideals, local diet, traditional clothing as opposed to modern garb, traditional shopping as opposed to modern malls, etc. The students ranked each of these items by assigning a one to five score to each. The second part of the survey asked if the respondents saw a conflict between their own culture and the influence of modern Western culture. Through its questions, this survey specifically sought to determine whether or not Emirati youth are moving away from their traditional culture to a more modern one. The results align with the theory that while Emiratis draw some traits from modern Western society, they still value their traditional culture. For example, students cite religion as the value that shapes them the most out of the twenty cultural items listed. Even with all the pulls of mainstream Western culture, they still strongly identify with their Islamic faith and see it as a guiding force behind their actions in life. Unsurprisingly, ancestors rank high on the students’ priority lists as well. As is so often the case in high-context “to be” societies, family plays a large role in defining an individual. Language also ranks near the top, as Emiratis value their use of Arabic as a way to maintain their Arab identity, even though their jobs and studies might also necessitate fluency in English. Emirati youths ranked items such as the use of traditional souks, marriage to another Emirati, traditional forms of medicine, traditional clothing, traditional music, cultural television programming, and national heritage sites towards the bottom of their priority lists. As expected, modern Western influences have changed their dress and forms of entertainment. The influx of large shopping malls in Dubai and Abu Dhabi Intercultural Management Quarterly
overflowing with Western culture have changed the way Emirati youth live a more materialistic life. In the social realm, Emirati youth are starting to view the Western form of marriage as more in line with their modern beliefs. No longer focused on marrying another Emirati through an arranged marriage, they want to have a say in choosing their own mate. Interestingly, Emirati youth do not strongly identify with sites and activities that advertise or support their national heritage. This revelation is yet another indicator that the youth are slowly drifting away from the culture of the past to a new one full of Western influences. Foreign investors flock to the UAE as they seek to establish a launching pad for the rest of their investments in the Middle East. With them, they have inundated the major cities with Western cultural values, ideas, and products. Working in this new environment, Emiratis have had to quickly adapt from living in a fundamentally homogeneous rural society to a heterogeneous urban one. They must transform themselves to live in two increasingly disparate cultures on a day-to-day basis. However, the most successful Emiratis draw values, traditions, and beliefs from both cultures to form their own “third culture.” By creating this third culture, modern Emiratis
are able to successfully live and interact with two completely different societies. From the survey, we can see that while Emiratis may have changed the way they view traditional clothing, entertainment, medicine, and even marriage, fundamental values such as identifying with their Islamic faith and maintaining strong relationships with family and ancestors endure. Saif, cruising in his Cadillac while escorting his Western friend to a Ramadan feast, represents the epitome of the UAE “modern youth.” Able to communicate with both Western and Arab cultures, he easily navigates the new system by enjoying many Western luxuries, while still maintaining his devotion to the Islamic faith. By bridging the gap between traditional rural Arab cultures and modern Western-influenced cities, the Emirati youth serve as a great asset to the UAE, as they will become the communicators between these two cultures. _____________________________________________________ 1 Amber Haque, “Preserving Cultural Identity in the 21st Century: Challenges to the Emirati Youth” (paper presented at The Seventh Annual U.A.E. University Research Conference, Al Ain, UAE, 2006), accessed August 9, 2013, http://www.academia. edu/1044184/Preserving_Cultural_Identity_in_the_21st_Century_ Challenges_to_the_Emirati_Youth.
Exhibiting Cultural Justice through Shared Leadership Structures: The Example of ONE DC by Easten Law
ny intercultural practitioner can attest to the sensitive and difficult process of facilitating change in behaviors, values, and identity when confronted with cross-cultural conflict. Sadly, the power dimension within these conflicts is often ignored. Yet it is power that determines who and what needs to change, as well as how the change might happen. In most cases, cultural negotiations will favor the more powerful with the grim reality that they can oppress or co-opt the cultural identity of the other. In light of this challenge, the explicit integration of intercultural relations and social justice is becoming increasingly important. Post-colonial relationships; neo-liberal economic policies; globalization; growing migration of people groups; and continued interest in social integration of diverse people within organizations, nations, and regions have molded a world where the ties between structural injustice and cultural identity can no longer be ignored. The purpose of this article is to provide readers with a case study of Organizing Neighborhood Equity in DC (ONE DC), which introduces the important role culture plays in the study and practice of social justice and how intercultural relations can contribute to the cultural dimension of justice. I utilize Nancy Fraser’s definitions and understanding of the relationship between economic and cultural justice as a lens for articulating how ONE DC came to adopt their brand of shared leadership. I also highlight why this model of shared leadership is a good example of Fraser’s
framework for an integrated approach to social justice that synthesizes concerns for cultural identity with economic equity. Understanding the Relationship between Economic and Cultural Justice Nancy Fraser identifies two conceptions of social justice work: one based in economics and the other in culture. Economic justice is framed as a “politics of redistribution” where injustice is understood to be primarily socioeconomic and, “rooted in the economic structure of society.”1 It is primarily concerned with issues of economic exploitation, marginalization, and deprivation where people are unjustly stripped or denied of resources. Conversely, Fraser explains the intersection of cultural identity and social justice through the frame of cultural justice and a “politics of recognition” where injustice is understood to be primarily cultural, “rooted in social patterns of representation, interpretation, and communication.”2 Cultural domination is when one is forced to conform to another culture’s norms, whereas non-recognition is when one’s cultural identity is excluded from legitimate participation is society. While many interculturalists may not be wellversed in issues of economic justice, they should not be strangers to cultural justice. Based on Fraser’s definition, the goal of intercultural relations can be easily conceived as the facilitation of cultural justice where diverse cultural identities are recognized and engaged in respectful and just ways.
Easten Law’s teaching and research interests focus on intercultural communication, inter-religious dialogue, and community organizing. He is currently studying how the spiritual streams of Christian, Buddhist, and Confucian traditions interact in forming China’s emerging views on charity, civil society, and human rights. Trained in ethnography, participatory action research, and asset-based community development, Easten is also active in working with local DC faith communities and non-profit groups to address issues of structural injustice along racial and social-economic lines. He has worked in China for several years in a variety of capacities including teaching communication and culture at Anhui Normal University. He has also provided trainings and lectures in cross-cultural dynamics for several organizations such as the US State Department, Mercy Corps, and local Chinese non-profits responding to the earthquake which struck Southwest China in 2008. 8
Intercultural Management Quarterly
Fraser observes that social justice work is often dichotomized in practice, typically focused on either economic or cultural justice. The two streams appear to some as mutually exclusive, operating from different assumptions toward different goals. Politics of redistribution focus on eliminating economic disparities so that all members of society have equal access and opportunity. Meanwhile, politics of recognition focus on transforming conceptions of cultural identity and relationships so differences can be affirmed. Fraser rejects this dichotomy, submitting that real social justice work requires the integration of both factors to be successful. Fraser emphasizes, “Culture and economy are thoroughly imbricated with one another, respecting no institutional boundaries. Even our core economic practices have a constitutive, irreducible cultural dimension; shot through to the core with significations and norms, they affect not only the material well-being of social actors, but their identities and status as well. Conversely, even our core cultural practices have a constitutive, irreducible economic dimension; permeated all the way through by an instrumental logic associated with the commodity form, they affect not only the status and identities of social actors, but also their material well-being.”3 This is a challenge for any intercultural practitioner who may state their vocational goal as facilitating cultural justice without addressing economic justice. In order to bridge these different emphases in social justice, Fraser submits a “perspectival dualism” that allows flexibility in our analysis of social injustices, encouraging the use of economic lenses to confront conflicts traditionally understood as cultural and cultural lenses to observe injustices that are traditionally viewed as economic.4 Such interdisciplinary modes of analysis can help social justice organizations facilitate what Fraser calls a “parity of participation” where all of its members are given equal opportunity to contribute and lead.5 A review of ONE DC’s evolution from a community development model traditionally focused on economic justice to a community organizing model that incorporates concepts of Winter 2014
cultural justice in both its external work and internal organizational structures is a good example of how “perspectival dualism” can operate within social justice organizations. It also provides a first look at how interculturalists might begin exploring economic issues as integral to cultural conflict. The Evolution of ONE DC: A Model of Emerging “Perspectival Dualism.” ONE DC was originally established in 1997 as Manna Community Development Corporation (Manna CDC) to serve Shaw neighborhood of Northwest Washington, DC. A once affluent African American neighborhood known for big names like Langston Hughes and Duke Ellington, Shaw suffered a difficult period of economic divestment in the years following the violence of the 1968 riots. Manna CDC spearheaded a dozen community initiatives to reverse the negative trend by organizing local Shaw residents through trainings to identify and act upon their shared concerns around affordable housing, living wage job creation, entrepreneurial opportunities, and access to social services. This work resulted in the opening of local businesses, staffing services for the unemployed, and tenant organizing for housing rights. All of this work can be categorized under Fraser’s frame of economic justice. As the organization grew, Manna CDC partnered with local institutions to create neighborhood heritage tours, a beginning to the recognition and celebration of cultural identity found within Fraser’s frame for cultural justice. Manna CDC’s work became a cornerstone for economic justice in the community, but changes on the horizon would force them to deepen their analysis by highlighting the cultural factors inherent in the economic injustices being faced. Entering the new century, DC became a hotbed of urban renewal with an injection of economic resources throughout the city including Shaw. Curiously, economic redevelopment did not appear to benefit Shaw’s longtime, low-income African American residents. Instead, they were losing their homes to rising housing prices and 9
stagnant pay. Since 1990, Shaw’s black residents have dropped from eighty-nine to fifty-four percent. Meanwhile, white residents have increased from six to twenty-eight percent. In addition, Hispanic and Asian populations in the neighborhood have both risen by five percent each. The racial diversity in the neighborhood is accompanied by a rise in economic status with the median family income growing from $21,212 to $65,162. Demographic and economic changes such as these often bring with them major cultural shifts as evidenced by the types of new retail and public services entering the community. One cannot help feel a certain dissonance when new cafes selling four-dollar coffee to young, white, urban professionals open next to the hair braiding shops which have serviced black residents for decades. When businesses for long time residents are closed because of rising rent prices while new dog parks frequented by newcomers are being opened, one realizes that the divide is as much cultural as it is economic. While all people expect their communities to provide benefits and services, what constitutes a legitimate benefit depends on which community’s needs are being met. As developments continue, longtime residents are feeling increasingly dominated and ignored. Shaw is now divided along both economic and cultural lines where politics of economic redistribution and cultural recognition sit sideby-side. When Manna CDC became ONE DC in 2005, the organization’s mission evolved with the changing context; moving from community development to transformational grassroots organizing to confront the new injustices emerging from gentrification and displacement of the neighborhood’s longtime residents. ONE DC’s new mission became defined as, “exercising political strength to create and preserve racial and economic equity in Shaw and the District.” This dual mission of preserving both economic and racial equity reflects ONE DC’s commitment to both economic and cultural justice, fighting for fair redistribution of resources and opportunity to low income residents in tandem with recognition of cultural identity and right to participation in the forma10
tion of the new community. This “perspectival dualism” inherent in ONE DC’s mission demands both elements are accounted for in all of their work. This commitment would lead to a dramatic organizational shift in governance. ONE DC’s Shared Leadership Structure as “Parity of Participation” After an intense period of reflection and study, ONE DC underwent a dramatic internal organizational change in 2010, shifting from a traditional vertical leadership structure based in hierarchy to a horizontal shared leadership model emphasizing principles of “participatory democracy” as espoused by rights activist, Ella Baker. Within the new framework, “those directly affected by the issues make the decisions related to the campaign or movement; minimize[ing] hierarchy within the organization [to] maximize shared power and equity of voice.”6 In short, ONE DC recognized it needed to live its values for cultural justice internally if it was going to demand them of others. Instead of a single executive director, a shared leadership team representative of the diversity of the neighborhood and city would govern ONE DC collectively. Instead of specific roles assigned to particular staff members, responsibilities would be decentralized amongst an equally diverse volunteer membership based on personal interests and skill sets. Here, the dynamics of intercultural relations play a key role in ONE DC’s success. Within ONE DC’s shared leadership team and membership is a diversity of economic and cultural backgrounds. Despite these differences, ONE DC’s commitment to cultural justice necessitates that all have equal influence in the decision-making process, a living example of Fraser’s “parity of participation” at work. It is a unique atmosphere where an elderly woman with no more than a high school degree feels empowered enough to speak up to a young man with an advanced degree. While these people join ONE DC with a common mission, their cultural modes of comIntercultural Management Quarterly
munication and organization are often worlds apart. Here is where the work of intercultural relations is most necessary - in building communicative capacity across cultural differences to deepen our recognition and appreciation of one another. To this end, ONE DC is intentional in its use of appreciative inquiry and asset based development methods to draw out the gifts of each member and encourage communicative honesty in positive and affirming ways. For ONE DC, the work of cultural justice takes place within its own membership, where privileged identities learn to submit and listen to those traditionally ignored and oppressed. While often slow and wrought with conflicts that could be avoided through traditional organizational structures, the relational transformation that takes place in ONE DC’s shared leadership model is considered a higher priority because it changes the very nature of how people of diverse backgrounds understand one another. In ONE DC’s greater “people’s vision,” it is the internal catalyst for institutional change where, “behaviors, values, and policies in public or private institutions are changed in response to the demands of marginalized groups that fight for equitable redistribution of resources.”7 Conclusion ONE DC’s shift to a diverse and divided shared leadership structure was, by every calculation, a great risk. Yet today, ONE DC continues successful campaigns for equitable development in land, housing, and jobs through a largely volunteer driven membership. Their work was recently featured in the Fall 2012 edition of Social Policy including the negotiation of community
benefits agreements for two new developments in Shaw and the responsibility for recruitment and training of 500 local residents for jobs with the new Mariott Convention Center Hotel.8 As Washington, DC continues its dramatic transformation in demographics and character, ONE DC’s organizational model of shared leadership provides a framework for building distributive economic justice externally while also modeling cultural justice internally. This holistic frame is a strong example of Nancy Fraser’s conception of a social justice organization that prioritizes both economic and cultural justice in its analysis and practice. The field of intercultural relations has a wealth of theory and experience that can contribute the development of cultural justice in contexts of shared leadership amongst diverse people. We ought to be more intentional about engaging the world of social justice work in contributing to our knowledge of cultural dynamics. However, it is also my hope that this article encourages intercultural practitioners to take more seriously the role unjust economic structures can contribute to the intercultural conflicts we seek to address. By doing so, we deepen our ability to conduct intercultural training and education in ways that better contribute to a truly holistic and socially just world. _____________________________________________________ 1 Nancy Fraser, “Social Justice in the Age of Identity Politics: Redistribution, Recognition, and Participation.” (paper presented at the Tanner Lectures on Human Values at Stanford University, Palo Alto, California, April 30 – May 2, 1996), 3. 2 Ibid, 3. 3 Ibid, 40. 4 Ibid, 42. 5 Ibid, 30. 6 “ONE DC’s Community Organizing Model,” organization document. 7 Ibid. 8 Dominic Moulden and Gregory Squires, “Equitable Development
Integrating Social Justice into an Intercultural Approach by Amer Ahmed
he intercultural approach is an inclusive approach that effectively accounts for how people navigate the world in complex ways and a developmental manner.1 Its constructivist grounding allows us to meet people where they are in their intercultural development and build on their existing capacity in order to support more complex negotiations and navigation of human similarities and differences. Having worked primarily against racism in the U.S. when I came across the intercultural field, I was excited to engage a discipline that could better support my efforts. I found anti-racism work to be too narrow in its focus, problematic in its conception and ineffective in creating constructive outcomes. The intercultural approach opened up new avenues for me and created dynamic interventions in my workshop facilitations, trainings and a number of other educational settings. I was mentored into the intercultural field in a manner that synthesized the approach with prominent concepts in U.S. diversity and social justice work. In utilizing this approach, it was critical to account for power dynamics across numerous social identities in order to be effective. As a result, my work was no longer just about addressing racism; it was about addressing a number of inequities. In order to expect people with racial agency and social power to take responsibility for their privileges, I needed to be willing to confront and take responsibility for my own privileges. I
realized that the deeper I engaged and confronted my own agent identities (social identities with unearned access to social power) as related to gender, sexual orientation, class, etc.; the more likely others would be willing to engage their unearned privileges as well. I have heard many interculturalists over the years dismiss such U.S. diversity and social justice frames that focus on (and occasionally overemphasize) social identities. They argue that these are constructs and dynamics that are specific to the U.S. and are therefore limited in their scope of application in the intercultural field. However, is there no power dynamic that needs to be considered when a white French person meets someone from Mali? Is that simply a cultural exchange or do we have to account for history and power dynamics between their respective societies in which the French colonized Mali, extracted wealth, exploited the country and continue to intervene militarily? If we only focus on the cultural dynamics in the interaction, we miss the fact that there are broader dynamics that are not being accounted for. Within American higher educational environments, I consistently see this perpetuated by colleagues who work on study abroad and international student support. In the name of cultural sensitivity, international students who often are from the most economically wealthy
Amer F. Ahmed serves as Associate Director of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs at the University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Associate Faculty at the Summer Institute for Intercultural Communication and a member of SpeakOut: Institute for Democratic Leadership and Culture. An individual with eclectic personal and professional experience, he is a Hip Hop activist, spoken word poet, diversity consultant and college administrator, channeling his diverse experiences into work geared towards facilitating effective intercultural development. Amerâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s education in Anthropology and Black Studies, professional experience in Higher Education and extensive global experiences support his efforts to address issues of social justice that continue to face traditionally marginalized communities. He is also engaged in the field of Intercultural Communication with a focus on a developmental approach to Intercultural competency. Such approaches have been useful in his work in Organizational Assessment and Development, Inclusive Human Resource Management, Workshop facilitation, Public Speaking, Leadership Development and Student Support. Amer is a doctoral candidate in Adult and Higher Education at University of South Dakota. 12
Intercultural Management Quarterly
segments of their respective society are rarely challenged in a manner that would cause them to confront their privileges. This is often justified because it is deemed culturally insensitive to do so. In addition, international students from non-European ancestry who arrive in the U.S. are often ill-prepared for how they will be racialized because their student orientation session typically only taught them about white American culture from a white American perspective, rather than a broader scope of experiences that include people of color and their navigation of being racialized by the society. Furthermore, study abroad programs in the U.S. (overwhelmingly dominated by white American students who travel to Europe and increasingly other parts of the world) rarely instill any understanding of privilege among departing students. As a result, American students abroad are not typically aware of the history, power dynamics and implications of their presence in various contexts around the world. Even more troubling is the fact that when American students of color study abroad, they are having a fundamentally different experience from their white counterparts and are rarely engaged and supported in their unique experiences. For example, a black American exchange student experiences Ghana in a manner that is fundamentally different from a white American. Interculturalists in study abroad work (who are also overwhelmingly white Americans) are typically ill-prepared to provide the support resources that are critical to deliver to a black American student who is travelling to a country that was historically tied to the Atlantic Slave Trade. We must account for the fact that this history directly resulted in their racialized experience in the U.S., as well as a complex ancestral background without clarity regarding where in Africa their ancestors may have come from. In addition, an effective interculturalist should be able to account for the complex experience and feelings that will need to be navigated and supported as that student walks in modern-day Africa. Winter 2014
What too few interculturalists are willing to say is that in many of the spaces in which our work is applied (higher education, consulting, etc.), we too often are reinforcing historical power dynamics because we are not effectively accounting for it. This reality has created a culture around the intercultural field that has resulted in too much self-congratulatory behavior while ignoring this critical problem that requires us to challenge our own privileges. The worst part of this dirty little secret is that this is the source of why so many American people of color stay away from this field. A synergistic approach that bridges the gap between U.S. diversity and social justice work and the intercultural field can create dynamic results and tremendous impact. By integrating social justice, we can better engage issues of inequity and inequality and attract more people to the field who had been turned off by the lack of accounting for power and history. They will bring innovative ideas, approaches and perspectives that can help the intercultural field better address issues such as poverty, racism, sexism and heterosexism globally. I am deeply aware of the fact that the U.S. diversity and social justice fields tend to overemphasize social identities and are deeply entrenched in discourses based on U.S. social constructs that are unique to its context and history. However, power is not exclusive to the U.S. and neither are social constructs. They may play out differently across various contexts, but the integration of power is applicable and makes the intercultural approach far more dynamic. Some argue that the intercultural approach implicitly accounts for power; however I am arguing that we must make it explicit. Some may say, this dichotomy is a false one and that power has always been a part of the discourse of the intercultural field. One could also argue that critical perspectives emerging in the field of intercultural communication are speaking about power on a regular basis. These are fair critiques, however my response is to direct you 13
to the culture of the intercultural field as well as how it is structurally applied in organizations and institutions. In American higher education, the dichotomy could not be clearer; U.S. diversity and social justice resources typically operate in distinctly different spaces from resources grounded in intercultural approaches (international education/student support and study abroad). I have been operating across this chasm for most of my career. In the meantime, we are seeing resources move away from U.S. diversity work and increasingly towards international resources in higher education under the guise of ‘globalizing education.’ I envision a future in which these resources do not need to be pitted against one another but rather synergized to address a multitude of issues and needs. I envision intercultural social justice centers on college campuses that support numerous communities and populations (American students of color, international students, LGBTQ identities students studying abroad) with a commitment to instilling social justice principles across all populations and resources. I envision spaces for diasporic dialogues in which students who share common ancestry can engage and support one another while discussing injustices being faced by people of their identities across the world. I envision returning study abroad students connecting with international students and American students with cultural connections to the country they are returning from. I envi-
sion spaces in which students of numerous backgrounds begin to make the connection between local injustices and global ones. Ironically, the place that I already see this synergy occurring is amongst activists. In spaces like the World Social Forum and affiliated forums, activists like Arundhati Roy, Grace Lee Boggs, Desmond Tutu and many more understand the connection of struggles for justice around the world. In addition, indigenous rights groups are increasingly building solidarity movements across the world to strengthen their voices. These realities cause me to wonder why interculturalists are not more deeply invested and engaged in such efforts. We have expertise and capacities that can support such work and efforts that can make a tremendous impact. I hope that we as interculturalists can embrace this logical next step for our field. At our core, I believe we truly want to address the injustices in the world. In order to do so, we must confront the challenges of our time and embody the change we want to see in the world. It might require us to get uncomfortable, but the growth that will emerge will make us more relevant and dynamic than ever before. ___________________________________________________ 1 M. J. Bennett, “Towards Ethnorelativism,” Education for the Intercultural Experience, ed. M. Paige (Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press, 1993), 21-71.
Intercultural Management Quarterly
Twenty-Eight Nations Under One Roof: Learning in and from a Highly Multicultural Workplace by Emily Ham
ehind my desk hangs a “Misplaced Texan” bumper sticker. In my office sits a Romanian, a Spaniard, a Brit, a Turk, a Dutch, a Pole, an Italian, a Norwegian, a Czech, and a German. Civilians dressed in business clothes occupy workspace next to military personnel in camouflage uniforms. At the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military command, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE), this is normal. Serving as an Officer in the United States Navy at NATO, I find myself enmeshed in a culturally diverse, occupationally complex, and incredibly unique environment. I have overcome the size difference of A4 paper and the occasional Turkish or Greek keyboard, but I still find myself faced—in both advantageous and challenging ways—with evolving cultural dynamics. In order to delve deeper into the national, organizational, and occupational cultural influences at SHAPE, I circulated a voluntary questionnaire to members of the workplace. Comprised of twelve, mainly qualitative questions, the research tool sought to gain a multi-cultural and multiemployment status perspective on the advantages, challenges, influences, and processes of working in a highly international environment. The following discussion represents the overarching trends within the various answer subtopics. Forty-five responses from eighteen nationalities not only provided remarkable insights into the compounding dynamics at NATO, but reaffirmed the need for continual questioning of stereotypes, identified knowledge and training gaps. Survey findings also emphasized the vital importance of initial understanding and acknowledgement of cultural differences in order to form solutions to overcoming the challenges of an international workplace.
The territory of NATO member nations stretches from the western tip of Alaska to the eastern edge of Turkey. With twenty-eight member states, the organization comprises the world’s largest military alliance. All full-member states, as well as many partnership nations, employ personnel at SHAPE, the military headquarters of NATO proper. These military members work alongside a civilian contingent of contractors, full-time analysts, and support staff. Each member state runs operations from a national office, contributes one national holiday to the overall staff calendar each year, and sponsors festivals and events celebrating their cultural heritage. Eleven civilians and thirty-four military personnel, representing eighteen different nationalities and ranging from twenty to sixty years old, voluntarily responsed to my questionnaire. Over seventy-five percent listed working in an international environment as a significant factor influencing their decision to work for NATO. For non-native English speakers a common factor influencing the decision to work at SHAPE was to improve or practice English skills. While Americans employed by NATO have few problems adapting to the “common language,” other nationalities communicate in a second, sometimes third, language. When asked how a respondent learned English, the main trend involved education, both nationally sponsored mandatory programs and elected courses of study. However, more insightful responses addressed why a respondent learned the English language. Many stressed the importance of the “universal language,” citing English as “essential,” “the language of a globalizing world,” a “world language,” and the key to “better education,” “career progres-
Emily Ham is a International Relations master’s candidate in the School of International Service at American University. She is an active duty Lieutenant in the United States’ Navy currently serving at NATO Military Headquarters in Belgium. Winter 2014
sion,” “better chances for worldwide communication,” “opening one’s mind,” and “cultural understanding.” If the majority of employees at SHAPE speak the same language—albeit with varying accents, levels of proficiency, and motives for doing so—and all generally want to gain experience working in an international environment, why then does communication sometimes break down, meetings often result in perceived “failure,” and common processes frequently result in misunderstandings and varying results? Underneath the shared roof of office space and transcendent of the shared motives for operating within the international environment roam the ever-evolving dynamics of occupational and national culture. The differences in these compounding factors often shape interactions in unconscious and intangible ways. Some cultural differences result in harmless situations. However, others carry serious detriment and even potential harm. For instance, a Spanish co-worker, in an attempt to get to know and build relationships with his team, asked personal questions of each employee in a group setting. A German colleague, who felt these queries too private to unveil in a team setting, shortly quit the position, citing the cultural differences as uncomfortable and insurmountable. When asked to elaborate on the challenges of working with members of other nationalities, respondents stated: differing intrapersonal perspectives of mentality, gender, and humor; interpersonal issues of stereotypes, varying work ethics, political sensitivities, vacation policies, treatment of military rank; and inherent cultural beliefs such as values or religion. With regards to communication, respondents identified hurdles of meta-language (high context situational dialogues), an inability to express thoughts in another language, dealing with criticism, conflict resolution, and misunderstanding non-verbal cues. 16
Stepping back and reviewing this list of difficulties produced by the tensions of varying cultural styles, perspectives, and viewpoints, it seems a miracle work gets accomplished. Ironically enough, when asked to identify advantages of working with other nationalities, the list of trends within responses appeared relatively similar to the challenges. For example, different approaches to problem solving and variance in perspectives proved hurdles to effective communication in the multi-cultural workplace, but they also constituted the top two listed benefits. Many colleagues reported that the collective experience of working through the challenges fostered exchange of ideas, manifested friendships, broadened professional opportunities, forced “out-of-the-box” thinking, and uncovered previously unknown commonalities. More importantly, working with members of other nationalities to overcome differences opens minds, heightens cultural awareness and understanding, and dismantles stereotypes. One colleague, citing Geert Hofstede, stated these interactions allow individuals to “understand the motivations (constructions) behind the decisions made by others – and recognizing that in some cases certain nations may make certain decisions based on their culture.” After receiving an email from civilian counterparts with a meeting invitation and instructions to “come prepared to discuss,” my team of military analysts prepared talking points and a few Power Point slides. To our surprise, the civilians brought only their thoughts. The military perceived the civilians as unprepared and uncommitted, whereas the civilians perceived the military as limiting the brainstorming process by arriving with pre-conceived ideas. To identify the uniqueness of this experience and to test some of the postulations by Gary Althen’s in his The Intercultural Meeting,1 I polled respondents about their first step when assembling with colleagues to work on a project. The majority of answers surrounded introducing oneself and establishing a relationship, but in very nuanced ways. Civilians highlighted details Intercultural Management Quarterly
within the introduction process, such as giving background on oneself, establishing how a person prefers to be addressed, gaining a perspective on what a person can contribute to the project, and “asking someone how they are.” Military personnel portrayed introductions as more of a formality by combining establishing relationships with setting the agenda, appointing a leader, outlining responsibilities, establishing the way ahead, limiting the time, and understanding the purpose. While civilians stressed maximizing debate, military personnel focused on developing a common understanding of the agenda. The list of challenges of working with members of other occupational status does not seem incredibly surprising. For example, civilians listed challenges such as biases against women, inflexibility to operate without direct orders, structure hampering solutions to problems, and their opinions not being acknowledged or heard. In contrast, military personnel cited civilians’ lack of discipline, different understanding of procedures, improperness with rank, working hours, and poor organization as hurdles. Generally, military responses seemed to center around the civilians not fitting their structure and processes. One respondent said this best by stating civilians who work well “know how to fit the landscape.” Interestingly enough, one group saw rank, order, and structure as stability in the workplace, while the other viewed these elements as constraints to their contributions. Working with different occupational statuses and a group’s perceived difficulties with the other also comprised its most beneficial qualities. For example, over half of the civilian responses cited the structure, discipline, rigor and/or timeliness of the military personnel as advantages. Similarly, the majority of military responses listed different perspectives, reducing groupthink, enhanced understanding, beneficial expertise, sharing of ideas, out-of-the-box thinking, and alternate points of view as pluses when working with civilians. Several responses, perhaps the most insightful, highlighted the openness of working Winter 2014
with civilian counterparts and how, according to one person, rank did not pose a barrier to discussion, allowing one to appropriately express views. In the context of NATO, military and civilian differences cannot hide. Recognizing the differences and acknowledging a group’s perceptions, viewpoints, and processes can dismantle stereotypes and reduce the tension surrounding challenges. Only by not forcing people into another group’s mold and appreciating a person’s strength without bias of one’s own occupational culture, can we begin to bridge the divide. Before arriving at my SHAPE post, I attended a mandatory two-week NATO orientation in Washington, DC. The course mainly covered command structure and history, and upon its termination, I was given a certificate of completion and the tome-sized reference book Kiss, Bow or Shake Hands: The Bestselling Guide to Doing Business in More Than 60 Countries. Some of the information acquired in these trainings did prove useful, but it did not properly prepare me for the cultural challenges ahead. Out of the fourty-five NATO personnel who took part in the survey, only nine reported ever receiving some form of intercultural training on working and interacting with other nationalities. Of these few, only three persons actually received this training from a NATO entity. Some respondents highlighted a “European Identity” and the geographic proximity as reasons why they either had not received, or would not find value in this type of training. Even if a “European Identity” does exist — which is another argument entirely — its members must interact with other member states. Regardless, when respondents who did not receive training were questioned as to whether this training would prove helpful, well over half responded affirmatively. Topics for potential training offered without solicitation included office behavior, leadership, cultural awareness, introduction to military practices/ranks, political sensitivities, and communication styles.
While training would not serve as a panacea for the interpersonal and intercultural challenges in the international workplace, perhaps helping people to think about another’s behaviors, perceptions, viewpoints, and backgrounds would start the process of overcoming these difficulties before communication breaks down and meetings prove unfruitful. The very last question on the survey I circulated around the office read, “Which is more significant in your work at NATO: working relationships or mission orientation?” This phrasing was an attempt at testing the “to-do” versus “to-be” cultural dichotomy. In short, this theory broadly generalizes cultures into two categories based on communication styles, non-verbal messaging, ways of thinking, social structure, outlook, thought patterns, perception, and interaction context, in which some cultures fall on the low-context/abstractive side, which values what a person does in life and others sit on the high-context/associative side, which values who a person is in life.2 To my surprise, a more interesting answer trend emerged. Out of forty-five respondents, five listed mission orientation as most significant, and eleven chose working relationships. Instead of highlighting or circling a listed choice, twenty-
seven people wrote in that both elements were necessary. Placing oneself in the context of another’s national and/or occupational culture — the practice of realistic cultural empathy — can begin the process of dismantling stereotypes, provide context for behavior, and foster a mutual spirit of understanding. Only then can the disadvantages of working with other nationalities convert to advantages, the gap between military and civilian cultures be closed, and the value of diversity be truly realized. This plea for understanding is undoubtedly applicable across the business and military world. The challenges listed in this paper do not have specificity to NATO, nor is the organization at fault for its existence. In today’s rapidly globalizing world, the level of intercultural interactions will only increase. Challenges to the multicultural and international workplace will grow in number; however, if diversity is truly valued and capitalized upon, the resulting solutions will exceed expectations. ______________________________________________________ 1 Gary Althen, “The Intercultural Meeting,” National Association of Foreign Student Affairs Newsletter, November 1981. 2 Gary Weaver, Intercultural Relations: Communication, Identity, and Conflict (Boston: Pearson, 2013), 21-25.
Intercultural Management Quarterly
Utilizing Sports as a Medium for Normalizing Homosexuality by Caitlin Murphy
ith the Super Bowl in the near future and March madness just a few short months away, sports fans will be tuned in and proudly supporting their favorite teams and professional athletes. Fan support may come from a myriad of reasons including touchdowns, goals scored, points average, tackles etc. Others may like an athlete for their charisma, leadership, team play or overall sportsmanship, but with these favoring opinions, will there be support for a player’s sexuality, honesty, equality, and more? Last April, the media reported a milestone in the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) history. Jason Collins, a free agent center, became the first basketball player to ever openly announce he was gay. Having been in the league for twelve years before his announcement, the media immediately flocked to Collins’s story. The amount of press coverage Collins received following his announcement is indicative of the current atmosphere and debate surrounding homosexuality and the world of sports. An industry symbolized as purely masculine, many asked how someone who is homosexual could survive? Collins, described as the enforcer on the court and standing seven feet tall, challenges assumptions about homosexuality and masculinity, opening the door for a critical look at the images surrounding the typical notion of identity for athletes. A number of questions arise when looking at perceptions of sports: why is it that masculine male athletes are perceived as heterosexual and women athletes are perceived as masculine and homosexual;1 when thinking of athletes, why don’t characteristics of discipline, sacrifice, determination and hard work overpower these cliché symbols of imposed sexuality; after all, what does sexual preference have to do with field goal per-
centage, rebounding, and turnovers? The assumptions associated with these questions might explain the lack of media attention given to top WNBA Draft Pick, Brittney Greiner after she openly came out to the media that she was a lesbian, just two weeks before Collins’s announcement. Her confession was not met with much attention, although she is one of the most famous and recognized women basketball players currently in the game. With minimal media coverage, it feels as though no one is surprised that the 6’8’’ center admitted to liking women.2 Few link feminine characteristics to successful athletes, just as most do not link homosexual men to competitive team sports like basketball. Greiner and Collins’ confessions have reignited a debate that had surfaced many years ago when Czech American tennis star, Martina Navratilova, told the world she was a lesbian. The irony is that Collins named Navratilova as his role model for her courage and now Collins has followed suit. Of course then, Navratilova was a pioneer in this act, and society was not as welcoming. She lost endorsements and was highly criticized. Over the past thirty years, both male and female athletes have slowly whispered some of their sexual orientation secrets to reporters, teammates and coaches. Very few have become advocates, ready to take on the criticism and embrace new obstacles that could define their athletic career. The sports industry is one of the last facets of society that still harbors homophobia. To be a homosexual in a major sport is still a landmark that many are awaiting. As Collins has finally broken this barrier for a current athlete in a major American sport, others will still hold their breath for a gay athlete to surface in other sports. Al-
Caitlin Murphy is a masters candidate in the International Communication Program at American University’s School of International Service. Her professional interests include training within the fields of International Education and Intercultural Communication. Winter 2014
though there were rumors that four NFL players were on the brink of coming out, there has been no news, almost a year later. Despite these shortcomings for gay athletes, there still have been some that have led the fight for acceptance within the sport industry.
ness through sport. Speculation that Nepal may officially add “transgendered” to its gender classifications is starting to illuminate the lingering shadows of silence.
These games are even influencing cultures where homosexuality is taboo. The first All-Gay Tournament was held in Asia in 2012 in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu.5 The tournament attracted over 300 gay, lesbian, transgendered, and bisexual athletes from around the region, opening with a local soccer match between two teams. The three-day event showcased the need for more discussion, presence, and support of homosexuals in Asia, and the success of harboring that aware-
In order for the international gay sport movement to take true hold of societal perceptions, it should consider targeted cultural approaches to spreading their message. First, it is important for each national culture to have an idol or mentor who is championing the fight. If a homosexual athlete was too afraid to come out openly, then maybe an ally would take that role. For instance, as the NBA has a large following in China, maybe Collins can serve as an inspiration
Unfortunately, these specific games have not roused much of the mainstream media, prov Ex-Olympian Tom Waddell has built an ing these athletes have a long battle ahead. It is approach to gay rights advocacy since the 1980s, important to note that any movement takes time as he focused his last years on constructing celto build speed and reach the finish line. While ebratory games that mirrored the Olympics, but the games have not yet wiped away homophobia strictly for the gay and lesbian community. Named throughout the world, the international gay sports the “Gay Games,” this event has offered amateur movement is vital for the advancement of the athletes the opportunity to compete in athletic homosexual culture and their rights. Athletes like contests, strengthen a community, and advocate Collins and Greiner are necessary figureheads to for gay rights. The “Gay Games” have been held start the conversation and question the assumpevery four years since 1982 and they have grown tions underlying athletes around the world. multimillion-dollar budgets with recorded attendance that surpasses the Olympics.3 Sports as a medium for sharing aspects of homosexual culture is an imperative way for These games are part of what has been debunking stereotypes and increasing acceptance. recently termed the “international gay sports Sport, as a pastime in nearly every culture, is an movement.”4 The “Gay Games” as well as the arena where communities can find camaraderie “Outgames” have attracted participants from all or competition. Often there cannot be progress around the world, all focused on winning the con- without challenge, and so healthy debate about test; the one of equality and acceptance. The “Out- homosexuality may be very necessary as it is ocgames” emerged in 2004 by the Gay and Lesbian curring now with some critics of Collins. Fans International Sports Association (GLISA). Their attach emotion to sports and can idolize specific mission, known as PRIDE (Participation, Respect, athletes, coaches, and programs that have proven Diversity, and Equality) sets the discussion of why successful, diversified in style of play, or carry a such games are necessary. The “Gay Games” and strong tradition. If the fight for the acceptance of “Outgames” are not trying to separate or isolate homosexuality is being fought by not only specific the gay community in athletics, instead the games athletes but in a movement that identifies sports allow for more representation of those interested as its medium, then homosexuality is sure to be in a cause and a supportive environment for such acknowledged, discussed, reasoned, and hopefully athletes to compete. tolerated or accepted.
Intercultural Management Quarterly
to many fans there. Next, as the “Gay Games” and “Outgames” are held in other countries, there should be a regional focus on the way in which they market the game to address a specific current act of violence or issue relevant to the homosexual community. Encouraging more coaches and players at all levels to talk about homosexuality and share their stories, may help plant the seed for a generation more accepting of homosexuality. As one of the most controversial industries to advocate gay rights, the sports industry can carry the torch of homosexuality further along the track than any other field could slowly stagger. Sports, with its broad cultural appeal, widespread following, and accessibility to such a diversity of athletes, may be the most powerful medium for normalizing homosexuality in the world today. Certain
fans and athletes all across the globe have waited for this. Perhaps, one day the public will also be cheering loudly in a consensus of support too. _____________________________________________________ 1 Sarah Holley, “Put me in Coach, I’m Good: Confronting Stereotypes of Female Athletes,” The Yale Herald Online. October 30, 1998, http://www.yaleherald.com/archive/xxvi/10.30.98/opinion/ saraholley.html. 2 Anne Friedman, “When Lesbian Athletes Come Out, We Hardly Notice,” New York Magazine Online, May 2, 2013, http://nymag. com/thecut/2013/05/when-lesbian-athletes-come-out-we-hardlynotice.html. 3 Judy Davidson, “Sporting Homonationalisms: Sexual Exceptionalism, Queer Privilege, and the 21st Century International Lesbian and Gay Sport Movement,” Sociology of Sport Journal 30, no. 1 (March 2013): 57 – 82. 4 Ibid. 5 “Asia’s First Gay Tournament Begins in Nepal,” NDTV Sports, October 12, 2012, http://www.ndtv.com/photos/sports/asia-s-firstgay-sports-tournament-begins-in-nepal-13965/slide/6.