Ribbons, ribbons everywhere 

I am at TESOL international convention and English language Expo, held at Toronto this year. For those, who might not know, TESOL is the largest professional association of teachers of English as an additional language in the world. Being so large, TESOL is broken into interest sections, and every member can join one or more sections, depending on the field where they work. With one click you can join mailing lists,  get access to forums, share and download teaching materials and such.

Last year, people In charge of TESOL realized that people can’t recognize each other at the convention, even though they might belong to the same interest section. To address this issue, they have introduced ribbons that one can attach to their convention  badge, issued at the beginning of the convention. Here they are this year, so bright and pretty:  

But what I have observed, these ribbons become a powerful tool for identity construction. Do you choose “First time attendee” ribbon and mark your novice status? Maybe you choose  an “award winner” one and brim with pride when people notice it? Or would you forgo these ribbons all together?  How do there’s choices reveal your beliefs and what you hold valuable?

When I got to these ribbons, I did not select the novice ones (new member, first time attendee, student, etc.), neither did I choose any celebratory ones (award winner, distinguished member, interest section leader, etc.), so I was left with these:

It is clear to me in retrospect that for me TESOL is first a professional space where my professional interests should come first. Also I can’t help but notice that all my ribbon colours are gendered (pink, red,gold), but that wasn’t my choice at all. So here I am, having constructed my professional identity, I walk around and search for people who wear the same colours on their badges, but there are so many variations it is hard to single out those who resemble mine. So in the end, what purpose did the ribbons serve? They don’t really seem to  help people connec, but they seem to allow us to please our egos without feeling too bad about it.


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