COUNTERPOINT THE WELLESLEY COLLEGE JOURNAL OF CAMPUS LIFE APRIL 2013 volume 34 issue 6
Cover Art / Original work by Berndnaut Smilde, photo from kiki-jiji.tumblr.com/
EDITORIAL STAFF Editors in Chief
Holum Kwok ’13 ’14
Publicity Chair Staff Editors
Catherine Binder ’15 Constance Chien ’14 Michelle Sit ’15 Alison Lanier ’15 Nora Mishanec ’14 Oset Babur ’15
DESIGN STAFF Art Director
Lin M. Han ’13
Holum Kwok ’13
BUSINESS STAFF Treasurer
Aishwarya Singh ’14
STAFF WRITERS Alison Lanier ’15, Constance Chien ’14, Holum Kwok ’13, Madeline Furlong ’14, Sharon Tai ’13, Oset Babur ’15
COUNTERPOINT THE WELLESLEY COLLEGE JOURNAL OF CAMPUS LIFE APRIL 2013 Volume 34 / Issue 6
POLITICS MARIANA ZEPEDA
HERE & NOW OSET BABUR
NEW JERSEY, I LOVE YOU, BUT THEY ARE BRINGING YOU DOWN
A VEGETARIAN’S FIRST BITE
TALKING LIKE A FRAT BOY
LET’S TALK ABOUT FOOD
OKCUPID & THE FACEBOOK ZEITGEIST
CONTRIBUTORS Shruti Sitaram ’16, Jiae Kim ’13, Katie Joh ’14
TRUSTEES Matt Burns MIT ’05, Kristina Costa ’09, Brian Dunagan MIT ’03, Kara Hadge WC ’08, Edward Summers MIT ’08
SUBMISSIONS Counterpoint invites all members of the Wellesley community to submit articles, letters, and art. Email submissions to email@example.com. Counterpoint encourages cooperation between writers and editors but reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.
SUBSCRIPTIONS One year’s subscription: $25. Send checks and mailing address to:
Counterpoint, Wellesley College 106 Central Street Wellesley, MA. 02481 Counterpoint is funded in part by the Wellesley Senate. Wellesley College is not responsible for the content of Counterpoint. Counterpoint thanks its departmental sponsors at Wellesley: the German and Political Science departments.
ARTS & CULTURE ALLISON LANIER
SEEING THE METAPHORS THROUGH THE BIKINIS
CAMPUS LIFE KATIE JOH
THE RATIONAL DELUSION
IN DEFENSE OF WOMEN’S STUDIES
CROSSWORD PUZZLE cou nter point / apri l 2013
Heading Home BY MARIANA ZEPEDA
found out about Hugo Chavez’s death from a New York Times breaking news text message on a tired Wednesday afternoon. My eyes lingered over the short headline: “Hugo Chavez, Venezuelan President, Dies,” succinct and straight to the point. Cold with shock and dizzy with adrenaline, I called home to a stale busy signal. I grew up in Caracas, Venezuela in a time and circumstance that in hindsight seems glaringly unsustainable. My family moved there from Mexico, our home country, and lived in the usual luxuries of expatriate life. At the time of our arrival, Venezuela looked like one of Latin America’s most stable democracies—the country didn’t share the same recent history of political abuses and bloody totalitarianism that characterized other countries in page 4
the region. As in many other swiftly developing countries, the capitalist market in Venezuela thrived despite the lagging social development. Even though poverty was rampant in Caracas, its presence wasn’t as immediate and explicit as it is in Mexico City today. Buried in grey side streets and out of the way slums, poverty was forgotten, willingly and unwittingly, by the upper classes. Despite the Caracazo riots in 1989 and the 1992 military coup, life in Caracas was quiet and comfortable. Now, it is clear that Caracas was a ticking time bomb. Hugo Chavez had been in power for about two years when my family left in late 2001. His victory at the polls pushed some of the middle and upper classes, enemies of his platform by nature, to leave the country. My parents had planned to
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live in Venezuela permanently, but when he ran for office, they began to think about moving back to Mexico. It didn’t take a political savant to feel the heat from the glimmers of Latin America’s revolutionary history in his speeches. Chavez echoed Fidel Castro and Che Guevara’s rhetoric, condemning the upper classes, promising to improve living conditions for the lower classes at any cost. His radical words left right-leaning Venezuelans cold. Chavez had seemed, for a time, an unlikely contender for the presidency. Many saw only an ex-con with a military coup and stint in jail under his belt. Decades of political disillusionment bred opposite effects on different sectors within the populations. The disenfranchised garnered hope from Chavez’s political platform, casting him in the role of the messiah
as he underlined his own humble beginnings and outlined his plans for Venezuela’s future. Many members of the smaller middle and upper classes, however, fell further and further into political detachment. When Chavez won the elections, the population’s former indifference toward politics came to a sudden, grinding halt. As Chavez rewrote the Constitution, renamed the country after Simon Bolivar (Venezuela’s national hero, who championed an ideology of Pan-Americanism), and began to cast his political agenda in stone, politics became part of everyone’s daily life. As Chavez fought to fundamentally alter life in Venezuela, my family dealt with our return to Mexico after almost eleven years away. My brother and I gradually lost our Venezuelan accents, reacquainted oursevles with Mexico’s history, and struggled to memorize state capitals and the national anthem. As troubling tales flooded news outlets, people praised my family’s foresight. The bitter realities described by CNN reports seemed increasingly distant, until news on Venezuela became just another news report featuring a volatile, unstable region. Even the stories we heard from friends unfolded in a place I could no longer recognize. A former colleague of my father told us that the golf course they’d both played in was being appropriated and turned into an agricultural field. An old teacher gave us updates as attendance at our elementary school dwindled from a thousand students to a mere two hundred. My mother’s friend Agueda called the morning after a particularly frightening incident. One evening during a riot, rocks pelted her house, injuring her driver, forcing everyone in the house under the vast dining room table with the lights turned off. The next morning, they cleaned the shattered glass from their lawn and, for the first time, thought about leaving home. As the country began to empty and the phone lines that linked the two countries grew faint with static, we slowly lost
touch with old friends. Some—business owners and fervent nationalists who refused to bow to the terms of Venezuela’s diaspora—remained. I saw Agueda’s daughter (also named Agueda), one of my oldest friends, during spring break in New York. Over Korean food and Diet Coke, we spoke of Chavez’s rise and sudden death. Her parents remain in Venezuela but sent her away to school in Boston as soon as they were able. She lives in New York now and works in the financial district, worlds away from the city her parents still inhabit. Once we started talking, we couldn’t rein in our emotion—our words tumbled out at breakneck speed. My friend expressed her own surprise at the news; despite Chavez’s dwindling health, most of her people (strictly his opposition, strictly my people as well) had resigned themselves to many more decades under his rule. She looked down at the edge of the table as she said, hesitantly, that she had begun to hope that, when she had children, they could grow up in Caracas like we had. The fact that I was an expatriate child meant circumstances that differed drastically from hers. I, unlike my friend, had a country to return to. I couldn’t help but deliberate over the ways in which my life, too, had been transformed. Had circumstances differed, instead of flying into Mexico City every summer, I’d land in the humid heat of La Guaira airport in Caracas. It’s true that I’d never gotten to know my home country, had we remained in Caracas. But when I think about how difficult my transition back to Mexico was, it’s hard not to feel bitter toward Chavez on a personal level. Wellesley has taught me to set such events into context, softening years of accumulated anger into nostalgia—and the drive to study history. But academic objectivity often pales in light of personal experience. As academic subject matter, I find Venezuela’s recent political history fascinating, and Chavez’s agenda resonant, even, perhaps, compelling. Still,
when I imagine the world my family left behind (and when I think of friends like Agueda), I can’t help but wonder whether this sort of abstraction from the details of everyday life truly sets history into context. It’s true that personal experience can breed tunnel vision. But does objectivity facilitate deep understanding of an event? Is objectivity even attainable? I guess regretting the past is far less productive than trying to make sense of why things came to pass. After all, we’re all prisoners of political circumstance. As much as we want to keep our distance, politics are inherently personal, especially at times when we ourselves become collateral damage. My mother was in Venezuela earlier this year for the first time since we moved away. She described the city carefully, affectionately. It was as if time had stood still over Caracas, she told me. She’d stayed at a hotel we knew well, the Tamanaco, on the third floor. The floors above had not been remodeled or kept up in the past ten years—partly due to financial worries, partly due to fears of appropriation. The same proud buildings decorated the Caracas cityscape, the same modern infrastructure wound its way through the inner boroughs but, ten years later, they were all rusting, decaying, slowly crumbling from lack of care. I didn’t watch as the country unraveled into the Venezuela that the rest of the world came to know through news articles and hearsay, and I haven’t returned since then. It would be paralyzing to always be looking back, but sometimes pauses are necessary to take stock of what happened. A political reality my family counted on, and structured our lives around, has vanished—and though what will rise in its place remains uncertain, the idea of returning to Venezuela has already begun to haunt me. Mariana Zepeda ’14 (mzepeda@wellesley. edu) loves Venezuela more than Kanye loves baby Easton.
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New Jersey, I Love You, But They Are Bringing Y
veryone has her quirk, her catchphrase, something that works when she introduces herself to that guy who can’t hear you over the music anyway. I’m the girl who begins awkward, inorganic party conversations with “I’m from Jersey,” only to be corrected with Oh, not really “Jersey,” once people find out I’m from Princeton—not Newark or Jersey City. Why don’t I have the rolling accent? How many pizza places are within a ten-mile radius of my home? (The answer is four.) I don’t know how to answer these questions, and the process of defending my hometown usually turns into something not unlike a child claiming “But fairies do exist, Mom, I promise, and they’re beautiful!” only to be dismissed as insane. But New Jersey, I love you, and people are bringing you down. Every time someone makes a Jersey quip or a snide remark about the shore, I’m there. I’m listening. And I think you’re full of shit. Why? Well, thanks to NJ Transit and the NJ Turnpike, we get the perks of New York City without having to pay outrageous rent. Since Hoboken, Jersey City, Secaucus, and Weehawken are all roughly twenty minutes away from Manhattan, Jersey residents have the option of driving, taking the ferry, or taking the PATH train into the city. The best part is that we can leave when we want, do our shopping in beautiful, tax-free New Jersey, skip over the Hudson for a drink (or two or three), and then go home to some peace and quiet. All because we live in an apartment in the Hudson Tea building in Hoboken, which happens to be a lovely building previously owned by Hudson
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You Down BY OSET BABUR Tea and Maxwell Coffee. Flats in the Hudson Tea building boast high ceilings and views of the Empire State building, the Chrysler Building, and the Financial District. Armpit of the country indeed. The next step to the typical awkward New Jersey conversation is usually “So you must really like quiet college towns, Wellesley and Princeton are probably pretty similar.” False. Wellesley is the Dementor’s Kiss of college towns. Not only is there nothing to do; it is filled to the brim with yuppie thirty-something moms toting UGGS, Starbucks lattes, and Juicy sweatshirts that should have been set on fire years ago. Princeton is home to glorious venues like Hoagie Haven, you can get a sub filled with steak, cheese, onions, and lettuce and where vegetarianism is unheard of. The Princeton Record Exchange has been around for the past forty years, trying to get dads to sell their Jethro Tull records, so some kids who don’t actually own record players can buy them, throw out the vinyl records, and hang the covers up on their walls. If you ever feel like being judged (or being rewarded with a nod of approval) for your music taste, PREX is the place for validation and destruction. Suburban New Jersey has the multifold appeal of friendly people, affordable shopping (outlets, outlets everywhere), and some good company, like Paul Simon, Jon Stewart, Bruce Springsteen, and Zach Braff. If you want to roll with that kind of crowd, that is. The graces of rural Jersey aside, there is a special joy to knowing that everyone will be on the same three-mile stretch of beach after prom (or in my case, Lambertville—look it up, it’s
beautiful) and knowing that the boy you like will be at Bagel Barn at 10 AM on a Sunday, guaranteed. So really, New Jersey deserves some love because the state isn’t trying to be New York (trust me, that ship sailed once Jerseylicious hit Bravo), and it isn’t about to be Bumblefuck, Connecticut, either. It’s just trying to feed you the best pizza you’ve ever had, entice you with the beautifully carefree life you could have had if you had gone to Rutgers with the rest of your high school class, and let you get to Manhattan if you can afford 28 dollars and an hour-and-a-half to ride the train. Honestly, have you ever asked yourself, “What’s even in New Hampshire?” or, “ Why am I driving through Connecticut, and when will this landmass evaporate away?” Well, New Jersey is there for a very clear purpose. New Jersey wants you to have a good time without feeling bad about it— because we won’t judge you and we won’t tax you for it either. We’ll give you a slice of pie, a beer, and a promise that you can find a patch of green somewhere to have your very own Moonrise Kingdom moment. Plus, let’s be honest; without us, you’d have to go through Delaware to get into the city. Without us, you would have nothing grease-filled to stuff your feelings with on a Sunday night, along with an unhealthy dose of MTV. Do you really want that? No? Then start paying Jersey some respect.
Oset Babur ’15 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
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n November 15, 2012, I participated in Part II of the lecture series “Model (Minority) Thin,” hosted by Wellesley College’s Chinese Students’ Association (CSA) and co-hosted by other Asian and Asian-American organizations. The organizers of Model (Minority) Thin Part II invited Lynn Chen, actress in “Saving Face” and writer of the popular food blog “Thick Dumpling Skin,” and Dr. Wendy Huang, Wellesley College Stone Center counselor, to facilitate the discussion. I have never faced an eating disorder, and gratefully so. I entered Harambee House for the discussion unsure what to expect. My closest encounter with an eating disorder was when a friend told me that she used to be bulimic, “used to” being the key words; eating disorders have never been an immediate concern to me. Nevertheless, eating disorders are widespread especially among females. A quick Google search yields sobering results: according to the Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders website, up to 24 million people suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia, and binge eating disorder) in the U.S. Furthermore, of the student population, “25% of college-aged women engage in bingeing and purging as a weight-management technique.” When the facilitators entered the room, I was immediately struck by Chen’s beauty; she had dimpled cheeks, wavy flowing hair, and high rounded cheekbones. The sweater she wore seemed to be too big for her slender frame. Knowing the topic of the night’s discussion, I wondered quietly, as I took a seat near the facilitators, whether her thin frame was the
result of something other than a healthy lifestyle. Chen, categorically Asian American and female, was not shy about relating her personal history, struggling with binge eating most of her life and later battling
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anorexia for six years. Chen considers herself a body image activist and has worked extensively on spreading awareness about food disorders; her efforts include documenting her experience with food on her blogs, “The Actor’s Diet” and “Thick
“When can I get a Kit-Kat bar in my mouth?” —Lynn Chen, actress and blogger
Photo / www.nytimes.com.
BY JIAE KIM
Dumpling Skin,” and serving as an Ambassador for The National Eating Disorders Association. “I have a love/hate relationship with food,” Chen said as she started her to speak to us what eating disorders and body image meant to her. I cannot perfectly recreate her words from the discussion—or the impact of her words to me— but Chen illustrates her struggles on her blog “The Actor’s Diet:” I always slept hard the night of a binge–10 to 12 hours. Sometimes the next morning I’d have another “lighter” binge day, some days I wouldn’t have any problem not eating all day, except for a “sick meal” of soup in front of my husband. At the same time that it was scary for me – I knew I was out of control and feared this cycle would never stop – it was also extremely comforting. I always knew what a binge would feel like – before, during, and after. A few times the binges made me so sick that I involuntarily threw up – with food-poisoning-like symptoms for days – and I would vow to Abe [her husband] and myself to never repeat the behavior again. But I would. Despite having been free of her disorders for four years, Chen asserted, that in her experience, it is much easier to return to a road that has been traveled. To Chen, the potential for relapse is an impor-
Let’s Talk About Food
tant reason behind her goal of spreading awareness of eating disorders—especially within the Asian American community in which such issues are kept hush-hush. The discussion also focused on the prevalence of eating disorders in the Asian and Asian American community. Model (Minority) Thin Part I dealt with the enormous social pressure that Asian and Asian American females face to be slender. I resonate with the main point. In the Asian dramas I watch, the heroines are all fashion-model thin. Asian female music icons flash skinny bare legs and flat stomachs as they dance in synchronized steps. Nowhere in modern Asian media do you see pounds of “unnecessary” fat. Dr. Huang aptly summarized the present issue: “Asians—you have to be thin.” Accordingly, among Korean internationals, 40 kilograms—or about 87 pounds— is the golden weight that females strive for. Adding to the social pressure are Asian family dynamics. In general, Asian and Asian American family members are more direct than their American counterparts. As Chen elaborated from her personal experience, it’s not uncommon for mothers, fathers, aunts, or other family members to say “you’re too fat” or “you’re too thin” if they feel so. Further complicating the issue is the
importance of food within Asian culture. Food bridges history, culture, and generations. Asian mothers, like mothers of many other cultures, use their cooking to communicate their love; refusing to eat, or even refusing to eat in copious amounts, can be considered offensive. Asian females are caught between the pressure to please family members and the urge to comply with society’s standards of beauty. This pressure, in turn, can increase chances of suffering from eating disorders. Huang posited that eating disorders are a sort of coping mechanism. Because the body is very tangible, attempts to change one’s body can yield more concrete results than attempts to change one’s social situation, for example. Thus, in times of stress, individuals can regain their sense of control by changing how they look. Wellesley College students can be susceptible to eating disorders due to the college’s stressful environment. Though eating disorders may be prompted by stress, the need for control, or the like, as well as pressure from society through the media and the deep belief in a “should-be” body are also to blame. Jiae Kim ’13 (email@example.com)
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HERE & NOW
A VEGETARIAN’S FIRST BITE BY SHRUTI
ne frigid Delhi December morning—I hadn’t yet been to New England—my unfortunate inability to say no landed me aboard a school bus on the way to a French cultural presentation. The prospect of having to sing aloud (in a foreign language, no less!) and play the keyboard for a staring gaggle of complete strangers horrified me and left me feeling as naked as the chimpanzees at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Deeply absorbed in ruminating on all the beautiful disasters that could excuse me from this atrocity, I was surprised to find my attention suddenly diverted—enticed by a fragrance wafting from the seat next to mine. Natasha had in her lap a box of chicken nuggets. My poor vegetarian heart was filled with revulsion, but my mouth watered nonetheless. Natasha, unaware of my vegetarianism, politely offered me some. My hand moved seemingly of its own accord, resulting a moment later in a sweet explosion of taste in my mouth. I had, in that moment, overcome fifteen years of strong religious conditioning. In Indian society, one’s diet forms a heavy-duty bond between the spiritual and the earthly aspects of one’s life. Thus, it is easy for one to go through life without questioning the moral, health, or any other non-spiritual implications of one’s dietary choices. In short, “I’m vegetarian because I’m Hindu.” It therefore struck me as remarkable when vegetarianism as a lifestyle gained popularity in the western world for ethical or health-related considerations—
remarkable because for most of these people, vegetarianism was a conscious decision. To me, vegetarianism has never been an option but an immutable part of one’s identity. Sheena Iyengar, an expert on choice, argues that the perception of having a choice, even with regard to matters as personal as whether to eat meat, is often culturally determined. While many from Eastern cultures defer personal decisions to factors external to them, those in Western Europe and America are often reluctant to let such personal decisions rest in the hands of others. Iyengar explains that the American perception of choice is often based on certain assumptions. One such assumption is that one’s degree of control predicts quality of outcome. But this agency, linked to the perception of individual identity by society, is only appealing to some cultures. While in Western cultures the individual is often seen as completely divorced from the collective, such clear interpersonal boundaries rarely exist in Eastern societies. In Eastern cultures, decisions are perceived to have great implications even for others around us. Such an immutable connection between the individual and society implies that we also suffer consequences when we negatively affect others. I was raised to believe that meat was unpalatable, but I also strongly believed that by doing so, I would be disrespecting my family’s religious beliefs. The collective nature of the choice has led the vegetarian lifestyle to be an integral part of our culture. By precluding
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non-vegetarian alternatives, Indians have come to develop the world’s possibly most extensive vegetarian cuisine. The wide range of food has evolved out of sheer necessity, and alternatives to meat are not limited to substituting tofu for beef. But because vegetarianism is founded on deep-rooted religious sensibilities instilled from infancy, opening to non-vegetarian choices is difficult. When my dad was on a trip to Kolkata in eastern India, his eye fell on a delicious-sounding panini in the room-service menu. However, when the panini arrived at his room, he looked inside it only to discover a slice of salami. The discovery of a glistening slice of preserved meat brought the manager’s sincerest apologies and deepest regrets, a bottle of fine wine, and a free dinner at the hotel’s restaurant. Societal, cultural, and religious constructs have rendered meat uneatable. This decision was made at a societal level and thus any form of breach is perceived as disrespectful towards age-old tradition. In Indian culture, to violate this collective choice is highly offensive. What of my choice then? Was eating that chicken nugget equivalent to kicking my vegetarian legacy in the gut? When I got home that evening and sheepishly told my parents about the chicken nuggets, they were unexpectedly calm about it. All I got, for all my nervousness, was an “Okay.” I am still not permitted to bring meat into the house, and when eating out with my family, I mostly stick to vegetarian food. Overcoming the deep-rooted notion that meat is “unclean” remains difficult, and as a result I have teetered on the brink of vegetarianism for the past three years, unable to eat certain kinds of meat. My selective vegetarianism may not be most logical, but I also think “the shrimp looks too alive” is a perfectly good reason not to eat it.
HERE & NOW
here are certain things people do for their health, like eating organic food, exercising regularly, talking to a therapist about their feelings, and basking in the sun. Well, I don’t do any of that. I can’t afford organic food; exercising regularly is too much effort; I don’t believe that ruminating on my feelings would help; I don’t like the sun—it hurts my eys. Instead, I say the f-word. Or the s-word. Or the b-word. Or, when I am feeling particularly wild, I combine them. There is only one rule in this game. The bad word should not be directed at a living organism or used to derogate another human being, unless his or her actions fit the description. A good example would be: “Hey look at that bunny shitting in the garden.” Swearing is essential to my psychological and physical wellbeing. Just as every pesticide covered fruit, every forgone opportunity to exercise, and every night at the pub shaves off a decrepit day from the end of my life, every bad word that comes out of my potty mouth adds another. Swearing makes the unbearable, bearable. I have a sign on my door that says, “Shit happens.” Indeed, shit does happen. Why else would we get sick? Why else would our computers crash? Why else would we have to file tax returns and pay the most banal and abhorrent cost to living in a civilized society, every single year? Life is unfair, but the psychological truth is that most of us go on trusting that we live in a just world, that we should get what we deserve. It is no wonder we feel jilted. In contrast to what we naively assume, the merit rarely matches the effort, the consequences are often far from what our actions would predict, and the prettiest girls always get double the free drinks. Life is clearly unfair.
TALKING LIKE A FRAT BRO BY ANONYMOUS
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The instances when you are shit out of luck, when you are forced into difficult situations, when you feel that the universe is conspiring against you, you can count on the f-word, or the b-word, or the s-word, to be there for you. “Why did you have to crash when I am finishing my tax forms? Fuck you. Crawl back into Bill Gates’ brain you fucking asshole.” See? Now you feel much better. Instead of ruminating on the fact that you will have to start all over again, you can move on in peace, unburdened by the anger that you just spewed into empty space. Your qi, as one might say, has been rebalanced. All because of your creative use of “fuck.” These bad words may have gotten you in trouble in grade school, but really, they can be your bestest friends. Of course, there is a downside to swearing—others judge. People are appalled that you just used the f-word; it blows their mind how rude and aggressive you are. Suddenly, they are not sure how to act around you. Suddenly, you are not so funny and charming anymore. Suddenly, people are standing there, desperately thinking of an excuse to walk away, even though a second ago you were touching elbows, heads thrown back, laughing about…something. What was it again that you were talking about? Well, that’s no longer relevant. By dropping the fbomb you have violated some kind of social contract, some interpersonal equivalent of a post-WWII disarmament agreement that you had not known existed. Why you are subject to these rules, however, is unclear. As with international agreements regulating nuclear testing, there is a double standard—some countries are allowed to be more aggressive than others. When men drop the f-bomb, no one bats an eyelash. Men can say many things without anyone batting an eyelash. When
once in a while, men speak with eloquence, maturity, and civility, people are simply amazed by the degree of sophistication of their speech! It is like watching an infant speak for the first time. Any sound that even mildly resembles the correct pronunciation is rewarded with oohs and ahhs. Men and women are subject to different rules of grammar, graded on different curves if you will—their high bar is our average and their A is our B-. Oh wait, it’s just like being at Wellesley! I have a theory: it is not the meaning of the word that makes people uncomfortable, but the anger and aggression that motivates its use. I hypothesize that a person running around screaming “Sex! Fornication! Copulation!” will be regarded more favorably than a person running around screaming “Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!” Evolutionarily speaking, it is advantageous that we instinctively withdraw from signs of anger. By doing so, we avoid potential conflict and misunderstanding that could otherwise result in injuries and hurt. Our natural reaction to others’ anger serves as a kind of social lubricant—or better yet, a form of social control. All seems reasonable to me. What troubles me is the double standard: why are men allowed to swear when women aren’t? Why are people more upset when women get angry? Especially when, as a woman, there are so many more things to be mad about! If any group is justified in using bad words to cope with life’s frustrations, it should be us. We are constantly deemed less capable than our male peers, we face a higher rate of practically all forms of abuse, and we have to suffer the “miracle” of childbirth, amongst many other instances of “shit happens.” I can’t say I’m surprised that such a double standard exists, even with regard to
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an act as trivial as swearing. Even though many women have become leaders of countries, states, and organizations, sometimes people only see supportive, docile wives and doting mothers. The traditional gender roles that prevail today still reduce us to delicate, gentle, helpless objects that solicit men’s protection and adoration. Such a condescending but still relatively innocuous view of women is the benevolent end of ambivalent sexism, as psychologists call it. Of course, there is always another end to the stick. When women contradict the stereotype of the gentle, kind, delicate wife/ mother/daughter, we immediately become “bitches,” “harpies,” “boner-shrinkers.” To some, women occupy the extremes—we are either virgins or whores, bitches or saints, femmes fatales or ingénues. What, you ask, constitutes a violation? From my experience, saying “fuck” would do the job. Thus, reclaiming the right to swear and be angry is essential to reforming the traditional gender stereotypes that bind us. For this reason—and for my psychological wellbeing—the f-word means more to me than its definition in the Merriam Webster dictionary. I stand by my right to be angry, and more importantly, the right to express my anger as I please. Just as I stand by my right to be appraised based on my ability and not my gender. With that said, I apologize if my choice of diction offends you. I apologize if you think “sex” is a better word for “fuck.” I apologize if I said “shit” in front of your kids. But if my choice to swear offends you because I am a woman, then you can kiss my ass.
Annonymous ’13 is learning how to swear like a lady —without shame.
good, well-spoken, intelligent, attractive young man is hard to find, but I had found him. The only problem, it seemed, was that I met him on OKCupid. I justified it to myself first with the fact that we had many mutual friends. After all, it would have only been a matter of time before I would have met him in person some Thursday night, visiting a friend at a film archive. We would have all been at his room drinking coffee and we would have eventually found out that we both loved the same Symbolist poets, were obsessed with modernist architecture, and spoke the same several languages. It would have been organic, natural, old-fashioned, and terribly sweet. There would have been no shame.
But this time, it was a series of calculated messages, a carefully composed profile. The right balcony photo from Paris. The wistful kind of conversation that is exchanged between idealistic liberal arts students who think and feel too much and too deeply. I decided to meet him, and the relationship progressed most strangely. Almost immediately, it was intense but awkward, growing in an unnatural way. The strange expectation of knowing what the other wants, of there being no mystery, of knowing so much already about each other before even having met. Of desiring without the agonies and ellipses. OKCupid makes me want to cry. Perhaps I should preface this by noting that I gave up Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr for Lent and felt entirely out of place. I Photo /www.sourcewire.com
HERE & NOW
OKCupid & the Facebook Zeitgeist BY CONSTANCE CHIEN
had let go of my stake in the collective Internet consciousness; I had given up an online presence defined by the friends I add, the pages I “like,” the profile photos I upload, the names I choose for my photo albums, and the punctuation and style of capitalization I employ. As a result, I realized that I actually hate defining myself by my bookshelf and music backlog. I hate defining myself by the discrete units of information that supposedly compose a person. I don’t believe that they can add up to a person in the flesh. They can be reflective of someone’s desire for self-expression, but they are most likely just some characteristics that adhere to a particular cloud of traits in a vast conglomeration of social interconnectedness. If you like the Arcade Fire, I
can expect that you’ll like Vampire Weekend, The Strokes, and Radiohead. I can expect that you’ll have favorite books. I don’t mean to be superior and oh-soover-it (even though I kind of am). I am just incredibly frustrated with self-definition through vague characteristics that don’t even really define a person’s values or personality or way of living. What have our lives become such that we can’t meet like-minded individuals through day-today contact? I know that similar systems of meeting people have existed pre-Internet, but the OKCupid phenomenon feels like an extension of the Facebook mentality. I wonder what the contemporary dating scene would be like if OKCupid didn’t exist— would lonely people remain lonely? Does everyone deserve to be romantically hapcou nter point / apri l 2013
py? Does OKCupid encourage a sort of haphazard quick-and-ready way to meet people that matches perfectly with the desires and tempo of contemporary society? I don’t know. I just feel terribly conflicted. I never thought I’d find myself on a dating site. I never thought I’d want to meet someone with whom I had communicated only by textual means so terribly much, that I’d meet someone without the barriers of my thick glasses and composed style of dress but by means of superficial but common interests (that actually mean so much to me and are increasingly the reference points by which I live my life). There’s the terrible stigma and secret thoughts of not having quite enough personal charm and charisma to meet someone in “real life,” to have some cute story, but honestly, what was the difference between my meeting this wonderful person on OKCupid and my meeting that boy in my high school Latin class who had the brightest blue eyes and read Hesse and Faulkner in between classes? Or that kid in my journalism class who wore a leather jacket and read the New Yorker during lunch? It’s the same ritual, I guess. Just a bit fast-forwarded and not quite as one would expect it to happen. Lots of conditionals all over, but nothing ever seems to be quite as one would want to imagine it. In any event, I returned to Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr on Easter. Almost immediately, it was overwhelming, far too overwhelming for the relatively slow existence I had led since giving up social media (my social life was fuller than ever, but I knew less about everyone). The problem now was that I was being inundated with far too much about everyone. The guy I had a crush on in high school was now dating a girl. My aunt broke her pottery on the kitchen floor. My best friend posted a photo of the soup she had for lunch. My head ached. Everyone had a different profile photo. Everyone was growing up nicely. Everyone was leading excellent, happy, productive lives. And these lives page 14
were somehow inherently different from those that I encountered on an everyday basis. It is as though we live separate lives these days. One life carefully constructed online, and the other is the existence we project physically. Am I meant to know that my aunt, who lives in France, broke her pottery on the floor? Am I meant to know that my high school crush is now bearded and a philosophy major? Facebook makes everything seem so present and alive, as though we are all participating in some vast sea of consciousness, and even things from the past exist simultaneously with the fleeting instant of now. I looked at a wall-to-wall—a series of public posts shared between a friend and I on our respective Facebooks over the past five years. Our photos from five years ago are just as present as our photos from last weeekend. Our high school obsession with Edith Wharton was for all to see. Conversely, I keep photo albums of analog photos I’ve taken in the past (I still take film photographs; going to CVS is a monthly ritual), and it is so easy for those photos to collect dust on my bookshelf, for the image of myself five years ago to induce a paroxysm of nostalgia, a true rediscovery of past self. All the past hurts of yesterday are ever present today. That’s true regardless (we all carry past hurts in layers of memory), but Facebook is a real-time manifestation of collective memory to which everyone—all these hundreds, often thousands, of people—are privy. This is all to say that the popularization of OKCupid is perfectly representative of the way we interact with people at present. We date our virtual selves and encounter one another as consequences of that. Even if we don’t meet people online, to what extent is a relationship cultivated and curated online? The photos, the friends you add as a result of dating someone and meeting their friends, the late-night Facebook chats, the new photos that arise on the site.
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But all I want—really, what I want more than anything—is some sense of permanence. Yet how does one attain that in this era? Delete your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr? Only write letters? Refuse to check your cell phone? These are all unreasonable, of course. I can’t delete my email; it’s too late. There was a time a few years ago when it would have been perfectly ordinary to not have had a Facebook or any social media presence. It was OK in middle school to not have a cell phone. Only ten years ago my parents used to write letters to relatives back in China on a weekly basis; now they use Skype. How do we attain a sense of permanence and “realness” when what seems permanent and real is constantly shifting? That’s what I want to know. Constance Chien ’14 (cchien@wellesley. edu) would like to thank Facebook for her most recent existential crisis.
ARTS & CULTURE
BY ALISON LANIER
Seeing the metaphors t hrough t he
rom the Internet hype to the posters in Urban Outfitters’ windows, Spring Breakers was anticipated as one more truly terrible, hideously hedonistic, R-rated hot mess. Pink-haired girls in perpetual bikinis, ex-Disney stars hyper sexualized into beer-drenched co-eds. Typical. The writer and director, Harmony Korine, though, is not known for this sort of trivializing work. His movies are highly metaphorical, symbolic, and fragmentary pieces that tend more toward the indie and the art house than the Jersey Shore. It takes a few sequences before the ambiance of the movie appears clear. Spring Breakers is a movie that wants to be referenced as a “film.” In a basic sense the movie is an art-house parody of the typical sexy spring break flick. Reviews of the movie from sources like the Huffington Post deal with the movie in terms of symbolism. What, reviewers ask, is the significance of the pink ski masks that the girls wear in the movie’s most violent— but perhaps not the most problematic— scene? This movie is something between an adolescent wet dream and a thoughtful social commentary, and it’s often difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. The director admits to his own fairly immature personality in interviews. This movie is immature but its craftiness and subtlety keeps it from becoming a chaotic fantasy. Through languorous editing and high-contrast cinematography, the movie takes care to lace every scene with commentary despite its outwardly ridiculous subject matter. To say the least, parts of Spring Breakers are highly problematic. One party-scene clearly implies that one of the drunken, half-naked protagonists was at risk of being raped. In addition, the film’s depiction of gun violence, during a time when depictions of shootings hit far too close to home, comes across as callous rather than topical. cou nter point / apri l 2013
ARTS & CULTURE
The filmmaker takes none of these issues lightly. The whole movie, even the opening scene of beer-drenched co-eds and bare breasts in a Bacchanal revelry, comes with unspoken thoughtfulness, if not with exactly cerebral presentation. The film (dare I say) has a sense of weight and hesitancy that makes the insane hedonism it depicts, the pop images, the Britney Spears song regaled drunkenly outside a convenience store, oddly depressing. The director tries to deal with the images on screen—images of bikiniclad girls on Vespas, beach parties, sex, drugs, guns, etc.—with an almost anthropological distance from the oft-repeated entertainment images. He tries to make the images feel alien to the viewer, estranged from the typical, extravagant presentation of subjects like this in such a way that viewers are forced to consider the images on screen with a distanced clarity. An oddball case of making the familiar strange, in the popular motto of ethnographic thought. The film argues through this curious balancing act of familiar pop images and distanced discomfort that images like this cannot be taken as pure entertainment, that the painful price of a Jersey-Shore-esque frivolity feeds into an ugly, dangerous cultural underbelly which is presented to young people as an ideal. What do we do with a movie like this? A movie that so desperately wants to be taken seriously and at the same time pres-
ents such twisted MTV-esque sexuality and violence. It certainly won’t win any awards, mostly because the Academy— the Academy which overlooked the sexwrought Shame of Michael Fassenbender frontal-nudity-fame—will probably deny having watched it. Part cringe-worthy and part-indie melancholy, Korine has created a marketable, eye-candy movie that will draw in the demographic of cinema-goers who will only be paying for the neon bikinis and not for the “thinking movie” commentary. It’s a tricky business. How does a well-made movie like this become successful as a well-made movie, rather than a messy MTV spin off that doesn’t exactly deliver the expected load? Sadly, Spring Breakers doesn’t seem to have done the job well. Its subject matter has given critics, like Mike McCahill who wrote the Telegraph’s scathing review, enough of an excuse to squirm uncomfortably away and deliver a vitriolic condemnation of the movie, calling it nothing short of “raw sewage.” However, in terms of the screenwriting, editing, and generally craftiness, such criticism is clearly an overstatement. What the critic refers to as “sewage” and goes on to condemn is not really how the movie was put together but rather the subject matter. “Where you and I made do with a Whizzer and Chips special and Junior Kickstart on the telly, this is what the Easter holidays apparently look like Stateside,” Korine’s spectacle shoots
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itself in the foot in this way. The subject matter is easy to dismiss before viewers actually access the tone with which it is presented. Seeing only the MTV-esque spectacle, critics and viewers take Korine’s timely spring break flick simply as what it appears to be, condemning the film as a feeble attempt at satire. The film’s subject matter overburdens its message. If all you are thinking about are the boobs bouncing on screen, chances are that’s all you will get out of the movie. I’m not trying to say that Spring Breakers is the cinematic piece of the decade and deserves universal praise for its—in the New York Times’ words—“savage social commentary.” But it is a fascinating study in toeing the line between Hollywood babble and…well, filmmaking. Or rather, how a quote-unquote-filmmaker tries somewhat unsuccessfully to talk about the industry through the medium of the industry itself. And really, again in the words of the Times, it depends on how you hold the movie up to the light. From different angles, it reveals different patterns. Spring Breakers was half-successful at best in its attempts to speak through the opulent mess of the subject matter.
Alison Lanier ’15 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is willing to bet $$$ that T-Swfit is dying for a turn at Spring Breakers 2.
become deeply disconcerted when faced with the irrational. I was that annoying five-year-old who never stopped asking, “But why?”, and I have never grown out of that mindset. After two and a half years of sitting in classrooms with Wellesley women, I can safely say that I’m not the only one. Perhaps this is why I find it so intimidating to talk about my faith with other women here. Wellesley does an excellent job of fostering an environment that is tolerant of many different beliefs and lifestyles, but I know from experience that Wellesley women will follow a seemingly flawed point through to its resolution, and because I respect you all so immensely, I’m really quite afraid of seeming ignorant to you. I am secretly desperate for you to think I am intelligent—more than that, I want you to think I am decent. I am terrified that if I write one wrong word, you will see me as yet another bigot, set out to convert the world. As dear
here’s an example. In the same way that you might ask, “Have you ever really seen God?” I might respond, “Have you ever seen Napoleon?” or, “How do you really know that a star is a made up of burning gases and other elements?” There is significant evidence that Napoleon existed and that stars consist of burning gases, of course, but many religions can also present significant empirical evidence for the foundations of their beliefs. In all of the above scenarios, I have to make a conscious choice to believe in the credibility and sufficiency of such evidence. I may have never felt the vibrations of God’s voice, but neither have I spoken with Napoleon, nor been inside a star to sample its make-up. I have not tangibly experienced these things; the proof of their existence lies nowhere in my personal experience. Yet my lack of physical experience with these things does not make them any less true. This is a bold assertion to make, and I
you to share my particular faith, C.S. Lewis’, or anyone else’s. Lewis’ analogy is simply a beautiful expression of something I have observed thus far in my life: that when you believe in something sacred, really believe with your whole heart and let it take over your whole life, it illuminates everything else. I still trust in the power of logic, and consider myself beholden to respect it in almost every situation. Nevertheless, I made a decision a long time ago to build my life on something I could not definitively verify or test, and it has made a world of difference. My faith— that which I believe in blindly─gives me the strength to wrestle with all the complexities of a world as damaged as ours and still hope that it can be healed. Believing in a God I cannot claim to comprehend gives me the means to understand how the world can be so thoroughly broken and beautiful at once. But maintaining this faith requires trust, and sometimes, the sacrifice of my in-
The Rational Delusion
BY KATIE JOH as I hold my beliefs, some part of me can’t help but wonder if saying, “Yes, I believe in God; yes, I believe that I have a reciprocal relationship with the invisible source of all Love and Truth,” will kill your respect for me. Yet the farther I venture into the world of academia, the more I realize that even academic study itself—a realm we all inhabit at Wellesley—is predicated on some degree of blind belief. Of course, we question, test, hypothesize, and debate, but there are some “facts” we cannot definitively prove, things we accept without the certainty from firsthand experience. One might go so far as to call this faith. It’s taken entire lectures and books to bring me to this particular conviction, but
present it with the expectation that some of you will disagree with me. Take my point or leave it as you will, but I ask you nonetheless to consider this: Why, if both rely on some type of faith, is religion so much more divisive and controversial than academia? You may have your own answers to that question, but here is my theory: religion not only affects your cerebral convictions, but your lifestyle as well. Religious faith demands more than your spoken consent; it demands a leap. C.S. Lewis, best known as the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, was also a prodigious writer on theology, and he once said this: “I believe in Christianity as I believe in the rising sun; not because I see it, but because by it I can see all else.” I am not asking
stinctive need to understand everything. While I do not claim to know what faith looks like for you, I do think that most everyone believes in something. The unexplainable—whether it be painful suffering or the explosive joy of love—is a fact of life, and we all have our own ways of coming to terms with these mysteries. Maybe you do ascribe to a religion, or some other form of belief. Maybe you’re not quite sure what you believe. All I am trying to argue is that in this bubble where we make logic and evidence the center of our lives, sometimes we just might have to make room for things we cannot explain.
Katie Joh ’16 (email@example.com) will be summering in Narnia.
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In Defense of Women’s Studies BY MADELINE FURLONG
think that sometimes we forget. I think that sometimes we forget, at Wellesley I mean, what it means to be a woman. Let me explain. These thoughts come to me as I head reluctantly toward my senior year, and as I reflect back on why I chose this major a year and a half ago when I was naïve and nineteen and senior year lay across the great oceans of sophomore spring and study abroad. I became a feminist my junior year of high school, after I had spent the summer hating men. I had bleached blond hair back then and a lifestyle that would have landed me in a sorority at a state school instead of the Shakespeare Society at Wellesley College if it had con-
tinued. But after a trip to South America (where men would follow me, touch me, proposition me), and a summer spent sneaking out to parties (where I learned American men were no different), I had had enough. I became an angry feminist, dumped all my conformist friends, and
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dyed my hair dark dark brown. I became a feminist when I was made aware of how vulnerable I am as a woman. I became a feminist when I became aware of how vulnerable women are all over the world. It started with my own feelings of anger, and the more I read about the enduring and ubiquitous violence against women’s bodies throughout the history of the world, the more my anger grew. When I came to Wellesley and took my first women’s studies class, it was like someone had lifted a weight off my shoulders. I didn’t have to be angry anymore. I became a women’s studies major sophomore year because it was the only thing that made sense. I became a women’s studies major because the struggle and oppression and liberation and empowerment of women is absolutely integral to my identity. But I think that here, surrounded by women (and so few men) on a daily basis, even I forget sometimes what it really
means to be a woman. We don’t see how men often dominate leadership positions and silence women in classes, because there are so few men in our classes and none who preside over orgs. We gained a lot of privilege when we walked through the door to Wellesley. We are taught we
can do anything. And we probably can. We have feminism and political correctness forced down our throats so forcefully that we sometimes no longer understand why it’s important. Let me explain what triggered this.. I recently attended a lecture in which a student angrily criticized the Women’s and Gender Studies department. They (I don’t know their preferred gender prnouns so I’m going to use “they”) referenced an incident in a women’s studies class they had taken where the professor had asked them to write an essay through the eyes of a woman. The students were upset because several members of the class were openly transgendered, and therefore I presume did not feel comfortable writing from the point of view of women. I spoke to several people after the lecture who had more knowledge of the incident, and from what I can gather, the assignment was intended for students to critique a specific historical time period and setting from the point of view of a woman. This student found this assignment offensive and accused the women’s studies department of being unsafe and transphobic. I found the comment infuriating, so I left the lecture. Later, as I fumed in my room, I thought about why this student’s comment had upset me so much. In many ways I agree with them. I think professors, faculty members, and students need to be aware and unconditionally respectful of the trans* and gender queer students in their classes. I think that the language we use needs to reflect the diverse gender presentations and gender identities we have at this school. But what made me so angry was that by recognizing the rights of some students, this student had denied the voice of others.
There is a reason women’s and gender studies exist. And there is a reason that once it was simply called, “women’s studies.” There is a reason that this major exists, for the same reason that Africana Studies, East Asian Studies, Asian American Studies), and Chicana Studies (unfortunately not yet offered at Wellesley) exist. Women, like these other groups, have been historically oppressed and marginalized not only in our country, but all over the world for the entire history of civilization. Being a woman is integral to many people’s identity, and the challenges we face are unique and specific to us. These challenges are complicated and layered through intersecting identities of race, sexual orientation, class, nationality, and more, but they are nonetheless shared struggles. Women have been marginalized, oppressed and violated more than almost any other group. Even marginalized groups further oppress and are violent toward their own women. For the history of the world women have been denied social mobility, employment, positions of power, inheritance, freedom of choice. Rape has consistently been used to control and oppress women throughout the history of every major conflict and war. Throughout history we have been abused, molested, physically mutilated, burned and beheaded for witchcraft or adultery. Domestic violence didn’t even have a name until 1973. That leaves thousands of years where wife beating, marital rape, and verbal and/or physical abuse was unnamed, unpunished, and sometimes even encouraged. God forbid you have to look through the eyes of a woman. Women’s studies was born out of second-wave feminism, which recognized
a need to deconstruct patriarchal social constructions that oppressed women. Since then it has grown into a multidisciplinary major which works to incorporate the voices of all women, regardless of race, ethnicity, class, nationality, or sexual orientation. But it should always be about women. We are not a privileged demographic; we need this major so that this country won’t forget that equality still hasn’t happened, violence against women still hasn’t stopped; women still die in childbirth; and female genital mutilation is still practiced in parts of the world. Society owes us a voice. Every man—cis or transgendered—should look through the eyes of a woman and recognize his own privilege, the same way that I try to look through the eyes of those of different races and classes in order to recognize and curb my privilege. We will never stop the violence and oppression of women until men walk even a day in our shoes. What I am saying is that our women’s studies department might not be perfect, but don’t attack it for asking you to look through the eyes of a woman and dare you to say what you see. Because God forbid you look through the eyes of a woman in a women’s studies class. I once told my sister that no man will ever understand what it means to be a woman until he grows a vagina and a pair of breasts. But that is not to say he cannot try, that he cannot be aware, and that he cannot even be a feminist. Because he can. But it means we (and I speak for women) cannot afford to forget our history. Madeline Furlong ’14 (mfurlong@wellesley. edu) thinks Lil Wayne can use a woman’s perspective.
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april is the cruellest month BY CONSTANCE
Across 3. capital of Croatia 4. acetic acid and water; lovely on salads 7. a platform upon which a column rests 10. wrote Pale Fire and The Real Life of Sebastian Knight 11. title of a Magnetic Fields album; movement for representation without artifice 14. Earl Grey tea contains the essence of this citrus fruit 16. Mrs Dalloway’s first name 17. Artschwager placed hundreds of these throughout museums and campuses 18. more beautiful than fluorescent light 19. Balzac protagonist, ruins himself in attempting to buy his daughters’ love 20. the points used in calculus for determining a local max/min 21. Aristotle asserts that substances are composed of form and
23. French literary style before Symbolism and after Romanticism 25. Vladimir’s nickname, Waiting for Godot 26. the study of signs and symbols Down 1. 91.5FM 2. subject/ 5. root vegetable; cross between cabbage and turnip 6. a day for celebrating James Joyce and Ulysses 8. April breeds these flowers out of the dead land 9. frantically apply to these to occupy your summer months 11. herbaceous perennials with large leaves; eat the stalks 12. the Wife of Bath has enough experience to speak of the woe that is this 13. orange in French 15. district of Paris named for the home of the Muses