Wilf Campus, a bipartisan event. Students are invited to attend and watch the election.
Enter Stern students.
He approached her, immediately asking if she’s a “crazy, left-winger, a liberal.” The smirk on his face. He is a YC student. She, a Stern student. He is eager to speak to her about politics, and she welcomes the conversation. But not in this manner.
“Hi there. I’m sorry, I’m forgetting your name.” she wishes to offer.
What a strange claim to make, to assume her political affiliations, when she had never spoken to this student before. And how strange to assume one is crazy due to her association with the left-leaning camp, connoting something must be wrong with this political ideology.
She had no intention of telling him which candidate she had just voted for. It was a private choice she had made and felt no need to share. Nor did she wish to spend any time defending herself. She had simply come to enjoy an event on campus which she had helped organize. She was hoping to engage in interesting conversations, ones which would not start with baseless assumptions and leave her no room to speak.
Enter more YC students.
“You’re probably liberal because you’re in college and have been influenced by liberal professors…that affects people.” He’s proud of his assertion.
She smiles politely, choosing not to remind him that he too is enrolled in a university, or that they are pursuing the same discipline of study, with the intention of pursuing the same graduate degrees. She notes, silently, how his assumptions are ungrounded, as he continues to prescribe her political and personal stances with any sort of evidence. He tells her what to think.
She offers a response, but is met with a shrug of the shoulders and dismissal. He is not interested in listening to anything that would contend with his claims. She may stand her ground, but he will just as confidently wave his hand, brushing her off altogether. How welcoming.
Later, a group of YC students ask if she and other Stern students consider themselves “feminists.” Their tone of voice implies that if the women answered in the affirmative, they would be those types of women. The horror.
One YC students turns to the other as the term “feminazi” is thrown around and approving slaps on the back are shared. She wonders if she took a wrong turn and accidentally entered a fraternity house, on Wilf Campus, no less.
A loud voice pipes in, “Women don’t need birth control, they should just stay abstinent.” She has turned away, but a friend tugs at her arm, whispering “They’re rating the attractiveness of the Statue of Liberty.”
They were also screaming, “Lock Her Up.” At a bipartisan event. The cheering and chanting matched that of a SuperBowl event. She invited confrontation, discourse and even disagreements. But her commitment to creating platforms for students to debate was met with aggression. Grumbles and shouting. Football matches suddenly seem like serene, soothing experiences compared to this debacle.
Jokes ensued, comments made regarding sexual assault followed by more chuckling and shaking hands. A YC student says it’s not a laughing matter and proceeds to crack jokes, his smile widening as he gains approval from his crew.
She hopes she has misheard them. But she knows she hasn’t.
Trivializing sexual assault. She knew people spoke this way and had heard such statements before. But never in conversation. Not with peers. Not with peers from Yeshiva University.
They reassure her that it’s all in jest, that they mean well. Justifications. She’s heard this before” “men will be men.” This is simply the manner in which males speak. What respectable males, she demands, what humans speak this way?
Exit, Stern students. The shuttle couldn’t come sooner.
She knows these encounters with YC students and her discomfort at the event will fall on deaf ears. She may speak out about them, perhaps even reach out to a Dean, but she will ultimately be reminded that males of this age demographic will say nonsensical things and that she need not take these statements to heart. He’s flirting with you. They all are just trying to start a conversation with you. They are nervous, give them a chance…
She tries to remember the last time being ill-mannered, dismissive and crude would gain the interest of someone of the opposite sex.
“Perhaps I respect myself too much. Expecting people to understand the notion of mutual respect, well, that was a naive assumption on my part.” Yes, that must be it. Less respect. And the school will follow suit.
She might be told that she need not engage in such conversations with students. But she had been approached, and was open to debate. But her experience in debating always involved two or more perspectives, people listening to one another. Not the immediate dismissal by one party of another party’s opinions.
She can understand that her presence in the Beit Midrash would be considered a disgrace and that she must be respectful of certain areas of her own campus. She will not cross boundaries where boundaries are drawn. But she had expected that when running her own event on the Wilf Campus, her peers would not make such comments, would not dismiss her views and laugh with one another. She must remain polite, as she watches her male counterparts do nothing but violate all codes of general sensibilities. She can not understand being jeered at as YC students poke at her with questions, not caring to hear her well-thought out answers, just eagerly waiting for the next chance to put her down. A silly feminist, that’s all she is. She will simmer down. She’s not grounded in her views: she’s a feather, fragile, really. Just what we enjoy, small talk, drop a few condescending comments, she’ll nod along but she won’t contend with our views. A lovely evening had by some.
Silly feminist. That and much more.