Update from the Author: “The author was dumb in college. He no longer holds these views. -Jan 20, 2017”
Citing the song as a timeless tribute to strong women everywhere, Scripps students voted unanimously for the new anthem. Incoming freshman Rebecca Draper was ecstatic at the news: “The song really speaks to me as a feminist. I think if we all took its message to heart and just had a little more understanding for each other, the world would be a better place.”
Newly selected President Bettison-Varga couldn’t be reached for this article, but rumors are circulating that she’s planning a blowout dance party in the Scripps parking lot to ring in the new anthem.
Well actually, not really, but sometimes I wonder.(1) Personally, I’ve had enough. Enough of the ideology that lets girls plaster “You count. Calories don’t.” all over their walls one moment and then lets them play this childish game of hide the crouton. I’m tired of seeing fliers for “Wellness Seminars” next to girls with protruding collarbones. I’m disgusted at the pathetic show of friendship that Scripps girls show when they insist their friends are strong women whatever the reality. Mostly I’m disheartened because I fear that genuine acts of courage like Zoe Larkins’ will be lost in this sea of bullshit.
Isn’t there something seriously wrong with the culture of Scripps? It’s as if the college specializes in deterritorialization: universal concepts are everywhere stripped from their meaning and become free-floating injunctions. And I’m not the only one who sees this:
“What I find most difficult about Scripps women is their willingness to speak out on how terrible eating disorders are, how we should all appreciate our own bodies, how we should grant ourselves permission to enjoy food because we deserve to nourish our bodies—and yet these same women engage in disordered eating and constant exercising.” –Alicia Jenkins (in response to a post on the Voice)
Wellness blurs into disordered eating seamlessly. Extolling the virtues of a healthy lifestyle and then having a carrot for dinner has no contradiction because that pronouncement had no ontological meaning. The declaration existed purely in the symbolic – a perfect breeding ground for this kind of hyperideology. Its principles – therapeutic wellness, female empowerment, etc. – are so structured, so crystalline that the actual meanings underlying them apparently are irrelevant.
Consider the core of Scripps’ ideology: Feminism. I always thought the underlying point of Feminism specifically (and the civil rights moment generally) was that you are supposed to judge people on “the content of their character, not [arbitrary things like] the color of their skin.” Yet all too often at Scripps that ideal encapsulated in words like “Feminism” or “Freedom” is disconnected from its actual meaning and made to serve as a blunt reaction. If Scripps’ “Feminists” were really as committed to Feminism as it should be defined, they would be just as outraged at the discrepancy between the percentages of men and women going to higher education as they are about the wage gap.
In a sense, I think I can see where they’re coming from. You look at humanity’s recent history, and it’s dominated by white males. That history includes some pretty fucked up things, including the forced domestication of women. I imagine it’s easy to be consumed by the scope of that history and the magnitude of that blatant injustice. So consumed that you feel the need to fight it with everything you’ve got. That understandability, though, doesn’t make it ok.
Far from it. Besides being simply wrong, the idea that only white males are racist is totalitarian. You’ve set up strict intellectual limits around something that delineates it completely. What’s racism? It’s the pejorative actions that white males take against other races. Oh, ok. I had no idea it was that simple. Neat-o. Similarly it’s totalitarian to try to force all discourse through the lens of gender. Our world is actually too complicated for that. Though I suppose, to be fair, if they’re feeling intellectually expansive, Scrippsies will include race and other historically underprivileged groups as means to valuable insight.
Perversely, this shuttered way of thinking can come full circle and be detrimental to women’s rights. Take the following quote from the Scripps’ Voice for example:
“Many expressed a disparity between the empowerment they are supposed to feel at a women’s college, and the strong image consciousness they observe on campus. This might reflect, some students suggested, a lack of basic feminist education. Why, someone suggested, didn’t we study feminist theory in Core I?” (2)
I don’t get how any self-respecting woman doesn’t feel insulted by this statement. Are women supposed to feel less empowered when they’re not at a women’s college? Do they need the company of other women to feel that they have authority and power? Or is it just that the girls that go to a women’s college are somehow weaker, need empowering? Note too the immediate turn to Feminism. Maybe that’s actually what’s needed in this case, but I can’t help but be cynical. As empowered, strong women, might the students of Scripps College need education in something other than their gender to combat this pernicious image consciousness?2 Like maybe the superego: stop fucking caring about what other people think.
There’s an eerily similarity between this Scripps’ ideology and Tyra Banks on her show America’s Next Top Model [excerpted from a post on More Intelligent Life, an Economist publication]:
“And this is where the paradox of Tyra comes to a head. She hugs and gives rehearsed counsel to the eliminated contestant, encouraging her to still follow her dreams. But to emphasize inner strength in a game where success hinges on ten pounds or a bad photo is dishonest. Tyra has a chilling ability to shuffle among masks without acknowledging their incoherence, which is an eerie quality for a self-styled self-empowerment guru to have, since it obscures any idea of a “self” to begin with. But it is also, in a nutshell, the only learned skill that a model must possess.”
Can’t you picture Scrippsies doing the same song and dance, telling their friends to eat and be healthy, while simultaneously judging their every nutritional move in the cold war of calorie attrition? This weird ideology has claimed enough casualties. So I say enough of this mental Valium that they call wellness talks, enough of this femino-centric worldview, and enough of this cycle of bullshit generally. Scrippsies – like all budding young adults – need an education in how to live as responsible, productive, and fulfilled people, pure and simple. Feminism and wellness and all that other jazz they love up there can be a part of that, but just that: a part. Life demands and the Scripps young women deserve much more than this lame culture of broken ideals.
(1) In the interest of full disclosure, I must confess: I read the Scripps Voice. I know, I know. But how else would I find gems like this? “It is always the time to question our policies, but now we need to do so with the expectation that the decided solution will succeed.” I mean it takes something really special to be that confident with that level of internal contradiction. Personally, I think every writer for the Scripps Voice secretly aspires to be a host on the View. But I digress.
(2) Because aren’t they supposed to be treated as members of humanity – not simply as an elaboration of a sociophysical construct like gender?