Snapshots That Frame Us
I call that quick glimpse we get of someone else a snapshot. That quick glimpse is often all we have to frame a person that we know little about. I remember a time when I was talking with people that were quite different from me and was preoccupied with how others might be framing me, how others may have seen me in that moment. After all, the saying “birds of a feather flock together” is how many of us make our determinations of other people. So, growing up in South Central Los Angeles, it wasn’t thought of as cool to hang out with the kids who read books more than they played ball. In college at Cal State Long Beach I ran the risk of being framed as an “Uncle Tom” (especially by other members of the Black Student Union) if I had too many white friends. As a graduate student, having become more enlightened about heterosexism and homophobia, I remember still having a concern of being framed as “gay” by others who might see me rapping with a group of men who were romantically interested in men.
As a professor I can be framed as an elitist if I am too often surrounded by my best students (even if it is them who seek me out) or a philanderer if I am surrounded by too many female students. I remember a few years ago eating lunch with a female student in Broadview Deli and being approached by a woman who knew I was married and wasn’t good at hiding the fact that she wanted to know what my relationship with this much younger woman was. Of course she didn’t know that this young woman had taken three classes from me, was twice my Teacher’s Assistant, and perhaps more importantly, had become one of my wife’s best friends (having traveled with her to the New Orleans Jazz Festival and other similar locales).
At times I still battle the racist frame if I talk too much to underrepresented students while talking too little to white students, an intellectual lightweight if I am not having coffee with colleagues, and an aloof faculty member if I am not seen hanging out with students enough. When Andre Agassi popularized the adage “Image in Everything,” was he stating a fact or delivering the marketing phrase that would send consumers running to Nike products (while Agassi himself was losing tournaments until he figured out image wasn’t winning him grand slam tournaments)?
How many of you find yourselves overtly preoccupied with people’s perceptions of you?
How many of you think that you might have some sort of subconscious reaction to the way people could be framing you which then makes you conform more to others opinions than your own desires.
How much should we consider other people’s opinions on what we do? Why? Why not?