COUNTERPOINT the wellesley college journal of campus life december 2015 volume 44 issue 4
ARTS & CULTURE
M A G N E T P O E T R Y BY ANONYMOUS
For information about work published anonymously, please contact the Editors-inChief (firstname.lastname@example.org, cnowell@ wellesley.edu, or email@example.com).
Cover: Elle Friedberg ’17 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
E D I TO R I A L S TA F F Editors-inChief
Cecilia Nowell ’16 Hanna Day-Tenerowicz ’16 Olivia Funderburg ’18
Chloe Williamson ’16 Gabrielle Van Tassel ’16 Bindu Nicholson ’16 Kathryn Sweatman ’17 Anne Meyers ’17 Urvashi Singh ’17 Lara Brennan ’18 Rachele Byrd ’18 Jasmine Kaduthodil ’18 Parul Koul ’19 Samantha English ’19 Kelechi Alfred-Igbokwe ’19
D E S I G N S TA F F Art Director Layout Editors
THE WELLESLEY COLLEGE JOURNAL OF CAMPUS LIFE DECEMBER 2015 Volume 44 / Issue 4
A R T S & C U LT U R E ANONYMOUS
M E N TA L H E A LT H
Jayne yan ’16 Midori Yang ’19 Roz Rea ’19 Maggie Rivers ’19
B U S I N E S S S TA F F Treasurers
Hannah Davelman ’16 Cynthia Chen ’18
C O N T R I BU TO R S Elle Friedberg ’17, Mina Oh ’18, Julie Renfroe ’19, Carine Ilunga Wete ’16, Saraphin Dhanani ’16, Hannah L., Melissa Jo
TRUSTEES Oset Babur ’15, Alison Lanier ’15, Matt Burns MIT ’05, Kristina Costa ’09, Brian Dunagan MIT ’03, Kara Hadge ’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, firstname.lastname@example.org, and ofunderb@wellesley. edu. Counterpoint encourages cooperation between writers and editors but reserves the right to edit all submissions for length and clarity.
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Counterpoint, Wellesley College 106 Central Street Wellesley, MA. 02481
POLITICS JULIE RENFROE
I COULDN’T BREATHE
CAMPUS LIFE 13
THE PROBLEM THAT HAS NO NAME
SEXUALITY, SEXITUP, & SUPER HOT MYSTERY GIRL
SO YOU WANT TO BE AN ENGLISH MAJOR
MONTHLY POLL: CLEAN UNDERWEAR
CARINE ILUNGA WETE & SARAPHIN DHANANI
ARTS & CULTURE
counterpoint / december 2015
For information about work published anonymously, please contact the Editors-inChief (email@example.com, cnowell@ wellesley.edu, or firstname.lastname@example.org). counterpoint / december 2015
Content warning: descriptions of emotional abuse, discussion of trauma, discussion of eating disorders.
ike any modern romance, we met on the Internet. She had posted on an eating disorder recovery site about a club she had started at her high school aimed at raising awareness about the disorders. I was barely fifteen, three months out of the hospital for anorexia, clinging with bony fingers and white knuckles to a belief in a feminism that told me I was beautiful, adequate. I was the one who emailed her first. I was dating Jack at the time, my first boyfriend. I had loved him as a best friend for years yet couldn’t understand why his hands on my body felt like invaders, or why his kisses made my stomach turn. Wasn’t this what I was supposed to like? By tenth grade Jack had made way for Jeremy, a sweet boy who was eight inches taller than I and who couldn’t tell when I cried during sex. At first, she and I wrote long emails to each other weekly, talking about recovery, joking about treatment meals, comforting each other through weigh-ins and fights with parents that resulted in shattered dishes and slamming doors. She didn’t have a boyfriend, which I didn’t understand because, god, she was just so pretty. After a year and half of friendship, she casually mentioned on a Skype call that she had gone on a date with Francesca, a friend of a friend. You’re gay? I asked, incredulously. Not page 6
BY HANNAH L.
gay, I don’t know, open-minded maybe, she told me, laughing. I was going into my junior year of high school, she into her senior. I had broken up with Jeremy months before, things with Francesca never panned out for her. I was on her Facebook profile all the time, awed by her wide smile, her long dark hair, the dimples on her cheeks. God, I finally said to myself, I think I like her. Like like. I sent her a text: I used to joke that if I were to go gay for anyone it would be you...and I think it’s happened. I asked her on a date and she agreed. We were officially dating by October, our parents driving us the hour and a half between our houses in Connecticut and New York. I first kissed her sitting cross-legged on my living room floor, “Cecilia” playing on the turntable, her lips so, so soft. She smelled like cinnamon and vanilla, and her touches made my stomach churn—in good ways this time, ways that felt like the universe was shifting and everything was falling into place. I ate ice cream for the first time in two years with her, stopping on a country road in Connecticut to get floats in the cold, and she told me how proud of me she was, how much she loved me. I can’t tell you when it started, though my best guess is that it was always there, imperceptible, under the surface. Maybe I should have seen it three weeks into dating; the afternoon I called her standing in the rain after a close family friend had suddenly died. I starting out the call with sobs and ended with apologies for interrupt-
counterpoint / december 2015
ing her during therapy. Maybe I should have seen it, seven months later, when she blamed me for her inability to do her homework because I was just so needy and distracting (yet the only example she could provide of this was that afternoon, when I left her six missed calls because my friend died). Maybe I should have seen it when she insisted that sex wasn’t special or important to me because I didn’t really care about defining what lesbian sex was, because I wasn’t a virgin, because I couldn’t possibly love her as much if it wasn’t my first time. Maybe I should have seen it when she stopped speaking to me after we bumped into Jack, when she told me that she couldn’t stop picturing the two of us having sex, that it made her feel so polluted and disgusted, never mind how it made me feel. Maybe I should have seen it when she told me, quietly, the inches she put between our bodies in my bed feeling like miles, Whenever I touch you I feel like I’m touching every man who has touched you before me. Maybe I should have seen it any of the times she intentionally flirted with other people in front of me, or called to tell me about spending time with the girl that had a crush on her, only to get angry when I was unfazed—I told her I just wasn’t a jealous person, and she said, If you cared about me, you’d get jealous. Maybe I should have seen it in the weekly cycle of her silent treatment and guilt-tripping and my endless apologies and self-doubt. But the answer is I didn’t see it because I thought I loved her, and I thought she
Image: Victoria Yan Uren ’17 (email@example.com)
was right—that I was needy and attention-seeking, that I was dirty and tainted because I had let men touch me, that I was a shitty, insensitive girlfriend who was always fucking up and always hurting her. I didn’t see it because in real life it wasn’t contained to one paragraph where it feels so clear—in real life it was subtle and interspersed with thoughtful gifts and loving gestures and sweet voicemails about how wonderful I was. I didn’t see it because so many things were finally making sense: the intense friendships I used to form with my best friends, the nameless longing in the dark at sleepovers, crying during sex. And I didn’t see it because as far as I knew, abusers were big strong men who drank whiskey and hit you, not softspoken, beautiful feminist girls with long hair and small hands. One journal entry from that time reads, It’s your fault, it’s your fault you’re such a fuckup and you upset her and you’re such an insensitive girlfriend. When my weight started dropping and my therapist asked if it had anything do with my relationship, I denied it, though now it makes perfect sense that I fell into my worst ever relapse by eight months with her. I grew smaller and smaller and she grew louder and louder. You’re doing this to hurt me, she told me. I know how eating disorders work, Hannah, I know you’re trying to push me away and prove that I don’t love you, but I’m not going to let you do it. My relapse was every excuse she needed to monitor me, ask where I was going and what I was doing. Any defense I gave—I hung out with Jack because we’ve been
friends since we were twelve, not because I’m cheating on you—was insufficient. Your eating disorder is in control now, Hannah, this isn’t you, promise me you won’t do it again. At the same time, it was, You’re dragging me down, I’m in a good place and you’re a burden. You’re lucky I’m still here. Once I told her, This feels like manipulation, and she responded, Don’t you know you can’t think straight when you’re not eating? There are so many more things I could say, worse things, but I don’t want to fill this piece with triggers, and the important point is that abuse is so much more than the sum of its parts. The potent thing about emotional abuse is that it leaves you grasping at individual instances, trying to make sense of the feeling of total helplessness and powerlessness, thinking if you can just cite the one really fucked up thing they did, it will all make sense and everyone will believe you and you will believe yourself. But abuse can never be understood in terms of individual events. It can only be understood in the context of a pattern, a pattern that starts so small and grinds at you until suddenly you are Alice in her rabbit hole, wondering how you got there and if you can ever get out. It is the cumulative toll of months or years spent walking on eggshells, never knowing what will set them off, doubting your own sense of reality, doubting that anything is even happening at all, that anyone you tell might commiserate with you about the most recent action but will not see, cannot understand that it is breaking you, that it has broken you.
————— It wasn’t until the third time I broke up with her that it stuck. By the time of the second breakup, when she said to me, Were you doing anything or with anyone I wouldn’t approve of? her control felt so explicit to me, yet still I went back. I went back because I started to think that maybe I was being too hard on her, and because I was a lonely queer kid and she had spent the last year systematically grinding my self esteem to a pulp and I honestly didn’t think anyone else would love me. During our final breakup, I sat in the car in the dark, my hand on the phone shaking. She kept saying these things, The reason we broke up before was because you’re in a bad place with your relapse and you’re dragging me down and I won’t let you, and I was so mad that she stayed so so calm while I cried and yelled and said, You’re crazy, even my sisters think you’re crazy, and a relationship is two ways and you did things that hurt me too, and she said, Until you can calm down and have an adult conversation with me, I have nothing to say to you. The next day I messaged her and said, I’m sorry that I got upset and I know I said hurtful things and for that I’m really sorry. For the record, you really hurt me too. She responded, but you didn’t hurt me, so….. It has been three years since we broke up for good, fourteen months since her last act of abuse, and thus fourteen months since I blocked her on Facebook, one year since I started calling what she did to me abuse, three months since the last time an unexpected reminder of her made me throw up, two weeks since my last nightmare about her, six days since
counterpoint / december 2015
my last panic attack, one hour since I last thought, you’re making this all up and there’s no way she was abusive, one minute since I last thought, that fucking manipulative abusive bloodsucking monster, I am my own person and you have no power over me anymore. In a journal entry from last summer I wrote so hard the page ripped and the ink bled through, You do not own my sexuality, I would still be gay without you, I can like girls and still hate you, you did not change me you did not wake me up ALL YOU DID WAS HURT ME AND FUCK WITH ME UNTIL YOU WERE SATISFIED, YOU DO NOT OWN ME ANYMORE I AM NOT YOURS ANYMORE I AM NOT YOURS TO FUCK WITH, I DON’T BELIEVE YOU ANYMORE I DON’T BELIEVE YOU, YOU ARE WRONG YOU WERE ALWAYS WRONG. ————— One year ago, SAAFE (Sexual Assault Awareness for Everyone) brought an organization called The Network/La Red— a survivor-led, social justice nonprofit working to end partner abuse in LGBQ/T communities—to campus to lead a workshop on the topic. I sat shaking through the entire workshop and left immediately afterward to find the nearest Pendleton bathroom to burst into tears in. I had been involved in anti-violence activism for years and never once identified with the narrative I had been teaching others. There was something so incredibly powerful about hearing that same-sex abuse is a thing that happens, that I was not making it up, that maybe all the fucked-up unnamed feelings I had been ignoring for years were valid, that someone hurt me and I have a right to heal. Now I call myself an activist and an advocate and a survivor. And I wonder if things would have been different if I knew then what I know now, if I could have for one second believed that even cute radical feminist girls can be abusive. If I hadn’t been any other queer kid in their first page 8
queer relationship with no idea what gaslighting and escalation and the cycle of abuse meant, with no model of what a healthy partnership looks like, and no sense of what is okay, even from another woman. If my sisters’ response to her behavior wasn’t, Hannah, she’s crazy, but instead, Hannah, what she is doing is manipulative and controlling and this is emotional abuse. It is so easy to dismiss a woman as crazy. It is so easy to believe that our community is safe and that the couple that U-Hauled one week into their relationship is healthy and that your friend’s invalidation of their partner’s sexuality is just one of their quirks. It is so easy to think of abuse as a man’s problem and to think of the patriarchy and masculinity as violent and forget that all oppressions are violent. That we all live in an oppressive culture that condones and rewards the use of power and control over others. We all learn the tactics just by looking around us, and yet some of us develop the belief that we have a right to use these tools against our partners and make the choice to do so. Abuse is a choice, and your sensitive radical activist friend can make that choice just as well as the loud misogynist next door. It is much harder to educate ourselves about what abuse is and how to identify its signs. It is much harder to understand and believe that emotional abuse is just as real and damaging as physical abuse. It is much harder to look toward our communities and name the silence that surrounds the violence hidden in plain sight. But I would not be writing this if I didn’t believe it was possible. It is possible to take action at Wellesley, to know that our culture is no different just because we are queer, or women, or activists. It is possible to hold our friends and ourselves accountable for our behavior, to create cultures of mutual love and respect and safety. It is possible to end abuse by educating ourselves and our communities, by refusing to condone the violence we see, and by supporting survivors and their voices.
counterpoint / december 2015
This past summer I interned for The Network/La Red, and I continue to volunteer with them weekly. If I have learned anything, it is that there is unbelievably transformative power in survivor-led activism, and that I have a right to be there and be part of it. There is also extraordinary power in visibility, in breaking down the silence that shrouds this experience, that allows abuse to thrive. I know that every time I call myself a survivor and every time I am honest about my experience, I take her power away a little bit. We need to start talking, because the amount of people who have since come to me in survivorship and solidarity is staggering. I am a survivor. My friends are survivors. So many people in my communities are survivors. If any of this resonates with you, you are not alone. My name is at the bottom of this article—message me, email me, knock on my door, call a hotline. This article is not intended to be a handbook on recognizing signs of abuse, but a call to start acting on the promise of safer communities, ones that vocally condemn rather than silently condone abuse that takes place in isolated dorm rooms, in unsettling patterns of behavior. It makes me fucking angry that I gave a year of my life to my abuser, that she continues to haunt me, that trauma is complicated and feels endless, but I’ll be damned if I haven’t turned trauma to rage to power. Take power away from abusers. Take away their social capital. Delete them on Facebook. Be vocal about your support for survivors. Stand physically with survivors when their abuser enters the room. Educate yourself. Support each other. Do something.
To get in touch with Hannah L., please contact the Editors-in-Chief (hdaytene@ wellesley.edu, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com), or pick up a physical copy of the magazine.
Image: Kera Curing via tumblr.com
ack in the summer following my sophomore year, I was just your average college student going to the movies with my friends to watch The Fault in Our Stars. I, along with every other person in the room, bawled my eyes out as John Green’s heartbreaking love story was torn apart by the unfathomable realities of cancer. The plot was emotionally wrenching, but still felt comfortably distant—I knew it was just a story. What I did not know was that in just a few months, I would be the Hazel of my own narrative. I would be just 19 years old and alone in a doctor’s office, only to hear that my days as my bubbly, carefree college student were over. I was diagnosed with cancer, and—sorry to disappoint—did not get a heroic Augustus Waters to comfort me with cliché one-liners. The cause of my diagnosis will never be pinpointed, as no one knows when I
truly became ill. But, in the middle of my sophomore year, I noticed that I never felt quite right—I was either nauseous or experiencing a stabbing pain in my abdomen. The symptoms only worsened over time and before I knew it, I became a regular at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. However, the prognosis of my disease and the exact chronological timeline of my treatments is not what is important here. The lessons were not learned from chemotherapy infusions, radiation treatments, or the immunotherapy clinical trial, but rather from having to pull myself together after my academic potential, career as a student athlete, sense of capability, and identity were taken from me by a disease. When you are first diagnosed with a serious illness like cancer, I can guarantee that your friends will rally together in a huge wave of support. You will be the
one fighting the battle but they’ll swear to be along for the ride. You’ll lose count of how many offers you receive for rides to appointments, grocery deliveries, class notes, and Netflix buddies. It’s endearing and keeps you in denial of what you are about to endure. At the beginning of my diagnosis, I felt like I was unstoppable. I was going to be the cancer-warrior who would flawlessly take down this disease in true Wendy Wellesley fashion. What I did not expect was that through the ups and downs of treatments your support system slowly sheds its layers as those around you begin to feel helpless. Their helplessness is very similar to your own, but you do not have the option to leave. They do not know how to talk to you on the tougher days or cheer you up when a scan result is less than ideal. But who can blame them? The books and movies tend to cut out the harsh realities of illness and moments
counterpoint / december 2015
counterpoint / december 2015
was now going to become obvious to the world. I couldn’t pretend to be okay; my illness was no longer going to be my secret. I ended up compromising and cutting my hair to a very short pixie to pass it off as a “Wellesley Chop” for as long as possible. Through the winter, I learned to rock headwear and ignore snarky remarks about my new hat obsession. During Wintersession, I finally had a break from chemo and did my best to enjoy my time at home. I was still pushing myself to be a cancer warrior who was too strong to feel discouraged. Looking back, I caused myself so much exhaustion by trying to be someone who I could not be. I returned to school because I was too stubborn to give up my identity as a student, even if I felt like an incredibly incompetent one. I do not regret going back—school filled voids in my life and gave me a reason to get up. Where I went wrong was choosing to hide my fear and sadness, instead of utilizing resources and being open with my professors. I hated the guilt of missing class, and began to feel like I was a pathetic excuse for a Wellesley student. I had so much anxiety around feeling judged, and was too embarrassed to ask for help. The last thing I wanted to do was tell my professors that I was experiencing mentally debilitating brain fog from chemo, when I could barely explain that showering in the morning left me out of breath for hours. The semester continued and I missed my old self more as each day passed. Cancer ruled my life: I could not go out with my friends, be in high-risk germ environments, go five hours without taking a nap, or be the athlete that I once was. I often went through small-scale identity crises that led to crying over old Facebook pictures, or staring at my unrecognizable reflection in the mirror. I felt hideous and had no sense of the person inside of me. My depression worsened and soon
when you believe that your existence is pointless. Over the past year, I have watched others distance themselves from my life while our friendships disintegrated from “Sisters forever!” to an uncomfortable “Hey, how are you doing?” in the dining hall. I answer these questions with a vague statement about how things “are going.” Part of me has never been able to resent these past friends as I have never been in their shoes. But the other part of me can only hope that one day they’ll realize that while cancer has taken away major parts of my life, it can’t take away who I am. So many of my friends have stuck by my side while new ones have entered my life, but it will always hurt to know that, to some, my illness made me a burden not worth keeping around. As mentioned earlier, it is only when you have passed the beginning of your treatment that the realities of cancer set in. I remember going to an afternoon seminar following my first chemotherapy infusion and pretending that everything was normal. I lived in this state of emotional denial for quite a while as I attended my appointments, got stabbed by needles, made friends with infusion nurses, and took eight hour naps. I was the cancer warrior and nothing could stop me. It wasn’t until early November when I woke up one morning, expecting the average struggle of making it to class, that I faced a rude awakening. What I didn’t have on my radar that morning was waking up to three chunks of hair next to me on my pillow. I didn’t go to class that day. I chose to spend two hours crying, an hour writing an absence e-mail for my professors that didn’t include “mental breakdown,” and the rest of my afternoon frantically doing make-up work. Watching my hair fall out wasn’t this cosmetic loss that society makes it out to be. What I realized that day wasn’t about a loss of beauty, it was that my invisible illness
enough I was arguing with my oncologist because I wanted to refuse further treatment. I didn’t think anything could be worse than what my life had been reduced to. In the spring of 2015, it is safe to say that I hit rock bottom. It is a point that I never want to return to. I had nothing to live for and became my own worst enemy. My heart still aches because of how much pain I was in. It is a miracle that I made it through last spring, but summer was a time to experiment with new treatment combinations and find ones that were more successful. Coming back for my senior year was a hard decision and I still face obstacles on a weekly basis. Most of my semester has been spent off treatment because my blood counts and lab results need attention. But through this uphill battle of fall semester, things are finally looking better for me. I’d love to give you all a John Green ending where I say “I’m healthy and everything is perfect.” But this is the real world, and I am only slowly getting better. Yet it is that “slowly getting better” that I am ecstatic about. In fact, I finally have a ten-week long treatment plan that has high possibility of success and NED (no evidence of disease) clearance. And while I know that these weeks will be physically and emotionally difficult, I am able to believe in my own ability to persevere through it all. I stand here today with a port in my chest, a permanent inability to have kids, a daily regimen of 18 pills, and so many memories of the pain I have endured. But I don’t hate myself for these things anymore and I don’t feel like a lost cause. It is that strength that allows me to smile each day and know that I will make it through these weeks. Cancer will never be that tragedy in my life that I am thankful for because it gave me a new perspective or made me a better person. If I had the option, I’d throw my disease far away and take ad-
vantage of the academic opportunities that my healthy self would have had. However, that isn’t an option, and I can finally say I am proud of the ways in which I now carry myself, despite my sickness. I’ve learned to trust my doctors, and let them serve as the support system that they want to be. And, as I learned to be open about my health, my professors also proved me wrong and have only encouraged me to let them help. Learning not to apologize for my sickness may be one of my greatest achievements to this day. I am so grateful for the professors who allowed me to see that I was never dumb, and that there are more important things than my academic record. I no longer feel ashamed when I am asked if I am applying to intensive summer internships or jobs. I no longer feel as if I am an embarrassment to Wellesley College. And when it comes to my Wellesley siblings, I am lucky to say that I still have the best cheerleaders. They have supported me in learning that I don’t have to prove myself or my strength to anyone. As I like to say now, I am not brave for having cancer, I am brave for getting up everyday to continue this fight. Leaving you with my story, I can only hope that I have successfully shared the complexities beyond the diagnosis and medical components of illness. I could have written about my radiation tattoos, the time I passed out after a saline flush, or how I’ve been in fetal position for the past few days because the first week of treatment hits you hard. But that would be pretty boring and would completely miss the point. It isn’t about what happens inside hospital walls or during doctor appointments. It’s about discovering your own coping strategies, and reconciling the identity you had prior to sickness with the one you are forced to develop after your diagnosis. It’s about forgiveness as your former self crumbles below you and realizing that your current self is equally
important. If someone in your life becomes sick, please remember to be compassionate toward their struggle. And if their sickness makes you feel awkward, be honest about it. They may not be able to attend certain activities or the late nights out that they once could, but I promise that Netflix sessions and nights on campus can be just as fun. Just be there for them, even if that only entails offering an ear to listen or a shoulder to cry on. That small gesture can make all the difference in the world.
For information about work published anonymously, please contact the Editors-inChief (firstname.lastname@example.org, cnowell@ wellesley.edu, or email@example.com).
counterpoint / december 2015
istance disconnects us from the world. Distance hides reality from our vision and encloses us in a veil of ignorance. I always thought distance was a passive thing—I never knew people could use it as a tool to invalidate me. This summer I learned otherwise. While I laid in the comfort of my home on July 17th, Eric Garner was laid out on the ground, dead. Fortyfive minutes away from my house, several police officers threw themselves on Garner—as if he were an animal. Through gasps of air, Garner’s plea of “I can’t breathe” did not stop the police from suffocating him to death. For the first time in awhile, this atrocity taking over the news stations on TV physically affected me— thirty five miles away, a man was slaughtered. I couldn’t breathe... When I posted the quote “I can’t breathe” on Instagram, with a caption embodying my frustration toward this disregard for human life, I did not expect what would come next. A comment of my co-worker at the horseback-riding barn I coach at on my post left my lips paralyzed.
I Couldn’t Breathe
BY JULIE RENFROE
My gaping mouth could not form words to describe my utter astonishment and anger. Have you ever had someone tell you that expressing your opinion about basic human rights and equality was inappropriate? Call you a racist for not tiptoeing around the fact that race affects things? Accuse you of setting a bad example for the kids that you teach? I couldn’t breathe... The next day I took away her tool of distance. When I confronted her she was timid, yet her statements still stood. “If we don’t talk about race, it won’t be a problem,” she said. “You are being a bad role model,” she said. “I could get you fired for this,” she said. My body was trembling. I couldn’t form words, a sound, a simple thought. I couldn’t breathe...
counterpoint / december 2015
I had to distance myself. Collapsed on the wheel of my car, I cried for Eric Garner. I cried for the people whose bigoted opinions will never change nomatter what. I cried for our shattered world. Finally, I stopped shaking. Finally, I could breathe. Eric Garner, and people of color before him, and the ones to come, will never have that luxury. Images: tumblr.com
Julie Renfroe ’19 (firstname.lastname@example.org) is not silent.
The Problem That Has No Name
ow many of you would prioritize having a career over a child? Nearly all hands shot up as Professor Julie Matthaei proposed the question to the students in her Feminist Economics class. Matthaei, who has witnessed and championed for feminist transformation since the mid-20th century, was left baffled by students’ prioritization of a career over childbearing. During the 20th century, second-wave feminism permeated American thought, with feminists advocating for equality between sexes and challenging their roles as traditional housewives by seeking access to the paid labor force. Betty Friedan, a late 20th century feminist exponent in the late 20th century credited with sparking the beginning of second-wave feminism in the United States, researched the unhappiness of several college-educated women living in material comfort and raising families. Friedan described this unhappiness as “the problem that has no name.” The response of Feminist Economics students to prioritize having a career over children highlights a shift in priorities from the mid-20th century. This study seeks to better gauge what Wellesley College students prioritize in their work-life balance as they look to the future. We aimed to critically analyze the intersectionalities of race/ethnicity, class, and gender to understand students’ future plans after Wellesley in terms of career prospects and raising children, and their attitudes towards the role of the devalued traditional homemaker by encouraging students to question their own priorities.
BY SARAPHIN DHANANI & CARINE ILUNGA WETE
In order to answer these questions, we distributed a 27-question survey among the Wellesley College community, with the goal of receiving 250 responses from each class year. The full demographics of our survey results can be found online at WellesleyCounterpoint.org. Demographics In Fall 2015, 2,178 students were enrolled at Wellesley College. Though the goal of this survey was to gather 250 responses from each class year, 210 total responses were gathered from the entire student body, with a majority of responses from the class of 2019. Thus, this survey captures approximately 11.5% of the student population at Wellesley (Figure 1). At Wellesley College, ~30% of Wellesley College students identify with being Asian/Asian American, ~7-9% being Latina, ~7-9% being African American/ Black, and ~42-45% identify with being White/Caucasian. Most of our respondents (60.5%) identified with being White American. Thus, our data is not a perfect depiction of Wellesley College students—Asian/Asian American students and international students are underrepresented, White American students are overrepresented. Of the 210 students surveyed, students were asked to select one socioeconomic class their family identifies with. A majority of student responders identified being Middle Class and Upper-Middle Class. Furthermore, 61% of the students who responded reported receiving financial aid, accurately reflecting the student body as a whole (~58-60% of students receive
financial aid). In terms of sexuality, a majority of the students (~63%) identified with being heterosexual. Analysis of Career Prospects The popular opinion at Wellesley is that most students are interested in careers in investment banking and/or consulting after graduation. The incredible number of banking and consulting jobs offered at the Career for Work and Service (CWS) website adds to this widely held belief. This survey aims to capture the intersectionality between ethnicity and class in order to understand the correlation between the selection of future career plans, students’ socioeconomic class, and the influence of their cultural upbringing in making career choices. To gain such understanding the survey asked students about what their ideal career was and what was most important to them when selecting such a career. Surprisingly, banking and consulting were not on the top of the list. Ideal careers at Wellesley ranged from becoming a TV producer, an actor, a novelist, prime minister, a professional opera singer, head of NASA, and an auto mechanic. Also, when asked what was most important to them when selecting a career, passion for one’s job was the top choice (86.6%), followed by location (70.3%), and salary (62.2%). Surprisingly, having women in high managerial roles in the company was the least important to Wellesley students when selecting a job/ internship.
counterpoint / december 2015
Impact of Resources Offered and Race/Class Upbringing in Career Prospects To better understand how resources at Wellesley College impacted students’ decision to pursue a particular career, we asked whether students thought Wellesley College (via the CWS, staff, academic departments, professors, etc.) provided the resources for them to pursue their passions, explore their interests, and feel supported in their ideal career selection while at Wellesley. The majority of responses received highlighted that academic departments and professors were most helpful in providing the resources needed to explore one’s passions and interests. Networking with Wellesley staff (Class Deans, Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, etc.) or networking within student organizations were also mentioned as a positive way to explore one’s interests. On the other hand, most students at Wellesley felt that the CWS was the least helpful in providing the resources needed to pursue one’s passions and interests. Responses varied from “the CWS is a joke” to “the CWS is trash.” Most unsatisfied students blamed the quality of the service, the vagueness of responses, and the focus on banks and finance jobs as some of the reasons for their unhappiness with the CWS. These students wished the “CWS was as ambitious as Wellesley students...because CWS isn’t going to get you a job so you have to do it on your own.” On a positive note, some of the few students who responded positively remarked that the CWS was a great place to have one’s resume and cover letter checked and that the CWS was helpful with fellowships or jobs/internships for humanities or social science majors (but not helpful when it came to alternative careers outside of banking/law/consulting careers). In order to gauge the intersectionality of Wellesley students between class, gender and career selection, the survey asked two specific questions: (1) How much did page 14
Figure 1 What is your class year?
2016 2017 2018 2019 Davis
46 35 45 82 1
22% 16.7% 21.5% 39.2% 0.5%
Figure 2 Does your cultural upbringing and/ or socioeconomic background influence your career prospects?
Figure 3 Do you feel pressured/have you felt pressured to choose a certain major or study a particular subject at Wellesley to secure a job after graduation?
counterpoint / december 2015
did students’ cultural upbringing or socioeconomic background influence their career prospect (Figure 2); and (2) Did students feel pressured to select a particular major in order to secure a job after graduation (Figure 3). Students from a more privileged background were divided between trying to reproduce class by going into more “prestigious” careers (as expected by their family and social circle), while others felt that their privileged background allowed them to select careers that paid less or paid nothing at all. A student mentioned she wanted to become a full-time homemaker upon graduation from Wellesley because her privileged background allowed her to do so. As she would be debt-free upon graduation from Wellesley, she would like to be an elementary school teacher because “no one else in [her] family is a teacher... but [she] thinks it is important work that [suits her].” Only students from highly privileged backgrounds shared that they wanted to become full-time homemakers upon graduation because they could afford to. Students from lower economic backgrounds felt pressured to find job/ careers that allowed social mobility in order to take care of themselves and their loved ones. Another observation was that regardless of one’s socioeconomic class, students’ exposure or lack of exposure to certain careers also influenced their selection of prospective careers Students from affluent families felt pressured to pursue careers that reflected their social status. At times these students were able to use their personal connections in order to get coveted internships or jobs. Furthermore, these students were encouraged by their loved ones to major in Economics, STEM, and Computer Science. Students who loved these majors felt right at home while students who did not particularly enjoy them either decided to opt out and major in something they truly liked or double major with a second ma-
Figure 4 Would you prioritize having a career over children or having children over a career?
Career over children Children over career Other jor that matched their true interests. Children and Work-Life Balance Along with students’ career prospects, the survey asked whether students wished to have children, and if so, whether they want to have children with or without a partner. Over 60% of students had prospects of having children in the future, and over 80% preferred to raise their child with a partner. Upon gathering data of students’ career prospects and their future work-life priorities, students were then asked to prioritize either a career over children or children over a career (Figure 4). Similar to the responses from the Feminist Economics students, 52.5% of the students who were surveyed would prioritize a career over having children. Most students explained their desire to be financially stable before having children, and many others recognized that at this point in their life they would choose a career, but that this might change in the future. A number of students also explained that they were in charge of their own life, and rather than abiding by society’s expectations of child bearing, they would rather challenge that norm and live their life prioritizing a career. One notable response was from a student in the class
106 35 61
52.5% 17.3% 30.2%
Figure 5 Would you choose to take time off from the paid workrforce to raise your children?
Yes No Other
97 50 59
of 2018 who recognized the limitations of the education system for failing to promote the balance of both a career and childbearing. According to this student, the education system must adapt to women’s desires “to work, have children, and balance other responsibilities if it [wishes to retain] students in STEM fields.” Another student echoed these concerns, but cited the workplace as being sexist against women and making it difficult for women to have successful careers while having a family. Interestingly, almost all of the ~17% of the students who prioritized having children over a career self-identified as upper class. Similar results were more evident when students were asked if they would prefer to be a full-time homemaker upon graduation. About 94% of students responded that they would not want to become a full-time homemaker and would choose to join the paid labor force. A number of them reasoned that they did not want to be financially dependent on another person and therefore would rather join the paid workforce. Students also recognized that society devalues traditional home-makers, and as a result, they would rather earn respect for their hard-work in the paid labor force. Of the 2.9% of students who select-
47.1% 24.3% 28.6%
ed they would rather become a full-time homemaker upon graduation, 4 of out of the 6 students came from a middle-class background, and they all self-identified with at least the White American identity. Thus, the privilege of race and class does allow students who fall in these categories to be more flexible and open to unpaid labor in the household when choosing their career paths. And finally, in order to value the devalued traditional homemaker, the study asked if students would choose to take time off of the paid labor-force in order to raise children. Approximately 47% of students surveyed said they would take time off the paid workforce to raise their children (Figure 5). A number of Wellesley students who selected taking time off of the paid labor force to raise a family were hoping to get maternity leave benefits from their jobs or taking time off during the early years of their child’s life-development. Their reasoning for taking time off was that they too were raised by a stay-at-home mom, and their moms’ support built their character and allowed them to excel inside and out of school. On the other hand, quite a few students who refused to take time off mentioned that their mom took time
counterpoint / december 2015
off and had a hard time getting back into the labor force. While such forces do exist that deter women from wanting to take time off of the paid labor-force, some students had a contingency plan. They hoped to establish a career and financially secure themselves upon graduation in order to have the means to raise a family and take time off the paid labor-force. Moreover, students also cited their plans to continue working part-time from home in order to continue building their resume. Conclusion From this study, Wellesley College students experience “the problem that has no name” in the feeling of discontent with their own accomplishments and feeling pressured to seek out the next best opportunity, only to be left burnt-out. Two questions in particular led to this conclusion: (1) What do you think “having it all” means? and (2) Do you feel proud with your accomplishments thus far, or are you constantly seeking the next best opportunity, or both? When asked about their overall satisfaction with their experience at Wellesley and what “having it all” meant to them, most students surveyed shared how they love Wellesley and are happy with their overall experience here. They felt grateful to be here and said that Wellesley has been a great place for them. Wellesley has provided them with a “very good education,” allowed them to learn a lot about themselves—their strengths and weaknesses, enabled them to become “stronger, more open-minded, smarter individual,” given them an opportunity to study abroad and to interact with amazing professors, and helped them form great friendships. A few responses highlighted how frustrating their experience at Wellesley has been due to the stressful environment, grade deflation policy, GPA outcome, and the lack of professors of color to mentor them. When asked how happy students felt page 16
with their accomplishments thus far, most students surveyed shared that they were happy with their accomplishments at Wellesley, but were not content as they are always looking for the next best opportunity. A number of students cited the cut-throat, competitive culture at Wellesley that makes students feel they have not done enough or not doing enough. Furthermore, the lack of adequate resources to meet the demands to pursue idealistic careers and interests might also be a contributing factor in students’ discontent. Comparing oneself with other students has allowed students to push themselves to their highest potential, but also contributed to feelings of unhappiness, inadequacy, and ‘hollowness.” This is the feeling that “has no name.” For 21st century women at Wellesley feeling ‘hollow’ has a different meaning from Betty Friedan’s 1950s college-educated women. According to the students who were surveyed, for Wellesley students ‘hollowness’ means not being able to use one’s education to better society or the inability to choose between having a career or a family. But in today’s society it is much more acceptable for women to prioritize their career over having a family and it is also somewhat expected that women should ‘have it all.’ Women are expected to have a career and take care of their household while looking fit and glamorous all the time. For Wellesley students who were surveyed ‘having it all’ means being happy, healthy, having a fulfilling career that challenges them, traveling, feeling financially secure, giving back to the community, and having healthy relationships and family. Almost none of the students mentioned finding the right balance in juggling work and a family as their primary concerns for ‘having it all.’ It is also understandable that, for the most part, Wellesley students are still young with no marital or childrearing concerns in view. They understand
counterpoint / december 2015
that ‘having it all’ comes in bits over time and not necessarily all at once; that ‘having it all’ is “an impossible and damaging fallacy that we created to further devalue the household and child-rearing work that women traditionally do”; that “balancing it all means sacrifices in some arenas of your life to succeed in others.” The present-day superwoman expectations society has on women has them feeling weary. But as Mei Mei Tuan ‘88, Managing Partner and Co-Founder at Notch Partners, LLC, stated at the Wellesley Effect campaign event last month, “Women don’t have to have it all at once.” Wellesley women have been afforded to choose which direction their life is heading and how to best live their lives apart from society’s pressure. Wellesley College students should strive to strike a balance between life and work as they look to the future, and keep an open mind by embracing all facets of life at different points in time. This includes valuing unpaid labor and homemaking activities just as much as paid labor. Such shifts in cultural attitudes are mandatory in order to truly accomplish equality between the sexes and pave the way for systematic policy changes that promote work-life balance for both working men and women.
Saraphin Dhanani ’16 (sdhanani@ wellesley.edu) and Carine Ilunga Wete ’16 (email@example.com) invite you to read more at wellesleycounterpoint.org!
Sexuality, SEXITUP, and Super Hot Mystery Girl BY MELISSA JO
Images: Emma Regan ’16 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
hen I was in high school, I had a beard. And no, I’m not talking about the beard on someone’s face, but a beard that concealed identity. My beard was so thick, it even fooled me. I should also mention this was not an “I dated a cis-man, so no one would know I’m gay” beard. I just had a lot of crushes on cis-men. If you asked anyone who knew me during my elementary, middle, or high school years, they would label me as “boy-crazy.” At any given time, I had multiple crushes on multiple boys, and every time I had a new crush, there needed to be a public announcement. I once went through my high school yearbook and counted the number of man-crushes I had. That number was over fifty. OVER FIFTY. How did I even have time for that?! When I headed off to college, I made sure to bring along my man folder. It held such classic hotties as Taylor Lautner, Zac Efron, and...Jordin Sparks? Jordin Sparks is a lady FYI, and when your man folder has a lady in it, you should probably take a hint. But no. The reason Jordin Sparks was in my man folder was because she inspired me. Her figure was flawless, and I hoped to have a flawless figure just like her someday. Little did I know that I already had a flawless figure. And still do! When I walked into psych class for the first time my first year, I couldn’t help but notice someone. She wore a backwards flat-brimmed cap, black v-neck, baggy jeans, and sweet kicks. Every class, I would look back at her over my shoulder. Keeping it real cool. Real casual. I
finally got to talk to her during a Día de los Muertos celebration in November. We bonded over our love for flan, and it was pure bliss. That night, I told my friends, “I think I have a crush. On a girl.” Almost immediately they decided they needed to write an isawyouwellesley (a combination of Wellesley Crushes and Wellesley Compliments). It was entitled “SEXITUP” (subtle) and went as follows: Dear Lady in the Cap, We just started talking and bonded over our love for flan. Your nose is perfect. You are a lovely human being, and I’d love to get to know you better. Get inside your mind? By mind I mean pants. Your not so secret lover. WHAT?! What?! Who were we? “By mind I mean pants”? Well, thankfully she did not see it. That is until I told her about it...whoops? She read it and was actually flattered. Getting an isawyouwellesley written for you was a HUGE deal. Even though you would think this post would freak someone out, we ended up kissing that night. I was expecting magic and butterflies and unicorns, but it kind of just happened and ended with zero spark. Well. I had now had my first lady kiss and felt like a badass. As soon as I got back to my dorm, I wrote a poem: The touch of your skin against mine / Pulling you in for the softest of kisses / Disbelieving what is happening / Yet living in the moment / A situation now frozen in my mind / A situation placed forever in time. It may not have been the best kiss nor the best poem, but it got my creative juices flowing and my feelings all tied up.
Now that I was out to myself, I saw things in a different light and opened up in new ways. This brings me to the Super Hot Mystery Girl situation. There was this beautiful woman, but no one could tell me whom she was. When I found out she was coordinating an event in the pub, I decided I would serenade her with a song she inspired me to write then and there. And so, later that night, my first year self went up to this stunning senior and asked if I could sing a song I wrote for her. Ballsy, I know. She loved the song, but unfortunately had a girlfriend. Oh well. I have always been a firm believer of sharing your feelings for someone, because if there is a chance for something to happen, I wouldn’t want to miss it. Now that I am more sure of myself and my sexuality (which I sometimes like to label as “Open for Business”), my crushes have slowed down. I no longer need to pine after someone else who will accept me and fill my void. I finally accept myself, and I feel whole.
Melissa Jo is forever a Wellesley icon.
counterpoint / december 2015
So You Want to Be an English Major
o you’ve decided you want to be an English major. Good. Great! I’m all for it. But be forewarned: you need to prepare yourself for the reactions. There will be some surprised smiles, accompanied by exclamations of, “Oh, good for you!” There will be slightly condescending replies of, “That’s great!” And then there will be questions: “So, what are you going to do with that?”—or some variation thereof. Recently I got a new one: “Oh, so you want to go to law school?” Not so much a question as an assumption. Do note that I don’t think this problem is unique to being an English major (that’s just where my experience lies). There seem to be a lot of adults
who are judgmental, or at least wary, of young people studying humanity or humanity-esque subjects because they’re “impractical.” Or something. Many people prefer a major that directly correlates to a career in politics, business, or something else obviously lucrative and important to society. If you ask me, pursuing a college degree in anything is practical; there’s value in higher education no matter what subject you pursue. I’m only a recently declared English major, but I knew last year (as much as one can know) that English would be my major. Over the summer, working in retail and partaking in obligatory small talk with customers, I had these kinds of semi-uncomfortable interactions fairly often. Almost every
counterpoint / december 2015
time people asked me about my goals after finishing college, I would reply, “Well, I want to work in publishing.” Which is potentially true, but why should I satisfy their belittling questions by saying so? When I give this response, it seems to imply that I’m an English major because I want to work in publishing. That’s not exactly true. If anything, that is quite the opposite of the truth. I’m an English major simply because I love to read. Love to. There’s nothing more fascinating to me than dissecting a good book. I could talk for hours about Great Expectations or The Great Gatsby. And I don’t just love the “classics”—I’m also a (huge) fan of current young adult literary hits like The Princess Diaries, The 5th Wave,
Images: Mina Oh ’18 (email@example.com)
BY OLIVIA FUNDERBURG
City of Bones, The Hunger Games, the list could go on (don’t even get me started on Carry On, my newest favorite). I’m equally as impressed by the Dickens, Brontës, and Fitzgeralds of the world as I am by the John Greens and Meg Cabots. Granted, being an English major involves a lot of writing along with all of the reading, but I’m down for that too. In terms of my future career, I might want to work in publishing. I love to read and will have studied a wide array of literary works by the time I finish my degree. Being a part of the process that produces the kinds of books I’m so fascinated by could be one of the most fun and rewarding careers for me. But I don’t have to do that. I could go on to become a professor. I could do research on a branch of literature or the publishing industry. I could become a journalist, or a doctor. (I could go to law school.) Honestly though, does it matter what I do? Or that I know now exactly how I will put my English major to good use? I don’t know if this is a new trend, but I’m not loving the obsession people have with knowing I’ll have future economic success with my chosen (albeit expensive) college degree. Now that I’m aware of it, I should make it my mission not to play into people’s
notion that it’s not good enough just to go to college, you also already have to know how you’ll make money afterward. Is it not inherently valuable that I will leave college well-read, skilled in writing, practiced at speaking my mind to an audience, and versed in analyzing situations from multiple perspectives? Those seem like pretty valuable skills to me, not to mention skills that could be useful in many different fields. Even if I don’t know what I’m going to do with that English major yet, I know damn well that I’ll do something meaningful with the tools that I’ll have. My advice to anyone who doesn’t know what their major will be yet, or is unsure of the one they’ve chosen as of now, is to do what you love, whether that be studying literature, chemistry, anthropology, music, or engineering. Don’t spend four (or more) years studying something you aren’t passionate about! I hope you go to class excited to explore whatever it is you choose. Chances are you’ll be more successful if you major in something you actually like. Even better, you’ll probably end up doing something you like after graduation. So if you want to be an English (or anything else) major, don’t listen to the haters! There will always be someone out there who questions or
disagrees with your choices, but that’s their business. Your major is your business. Totally and completely up to you. Proudly study what you want to study, and do it simply because you want to. For one, we’re still young and have plenty of time to figure out what we want to do with our lives. More importantly, we should, and can, go through college learning new things simply for the sake of learning: knowledge for knowledge’s sake. Finding a job can be a concern for senior year, after graduation, or even after graduate school. For now, I’m going to keep going to class and being engaged, not because I need to get good grades to get a good job after I graduate, but because I like what I’m doing here. And I hope you do too.
Olivia Funderburg ’18 (ofunderb@ wellesley.edu) doesn’t know where her English major will take her, but she’s excited to find out.
counterpoint / december 2015
MONTHLY POLL: CLEAN UNDERWEAR
For science, Counterpoint decided to ask the Wellesley student body what they do when they run out of clean underwear. We all know that paying for laundry can get expensive (not to mention time-consuming), and during finals-season it’s oh-so-tempting to wear the same clothes over and over again. 505 people responded telling us about their laundry habits with the options: “Do laundry,” “Wear your underwear inside-out,” “Go commando,” “Buy new underwear” (can you say Gap), “Borrow some from a friend,” and “Don’t give a fuck.” Here’s what they said:
MOST AMUSING ANSWERS: “I have so many fucking pairs of underwear, I think running out is a mathematical impossibility”
“Cry because I definitely don’t need this right now”
“I have enough to get me through the apocalypse”
“existential crisis and fetal position”
“I never run out of clean underwear 1) because I have over 30 pairs, 2) because I wash my things frequently and I’m not disgusting”
“I don’t. I suffer from ex-KGB levels of paranoia, mostly focused on arriving in the correct location at the correct time and never running out of underwear or peanutbutter cups.”
“I have anti-bacterial underwear that I can wear for six weeks straight” “This would never happen to me.”
“I’ve never run out. I own LEGIONS of underwear.”
“I DONT RUN OUT OF CLEAN UNDERWEAR IM NOT A HEATHEN”
“inside out, then bathing suit bottoms, then commando . . . THEN (if I also am out of socks) I do laundry”