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Gender issue exaggerated

Observer Viewpoint | Friday, August 26, 2005

Kudos to the Gender Relations Center and the Student Senate Gender Issues Committee for putting themselves on the bleeding edge of absurdity.

While it is true that I and students of my acquaintance have found cause to complain about the interaction between the sexes here at Notre Dame, it is clear that this sentiment reaches these groups – supposedly acting to rectify the situation – devoid of any context. In the Wednesday, August 25 article (“Frosh-O gender tensions tackled”), the Gender Issues Committee chairperson Ali Wishon states, “By encouraging events that reinforce typical gender stereotypes and the college ‘hook-up’ culture, we are setting a dangerous precedent for freshman to uphold.”

I’ll ignore the obvious point that no precedents of any kind are set during Frosh-O, because there are two much more substantial errors with her statement. Foremost, Wishon’s term “typical gender stereotype” refers to the desire to dance and socialize with members of the opposite sex. The preferred term is not “gender stereotype,” but rather, “student desire” or simply “fact.” What possible benefit to gender relations can occur when ordinary socializing is viewed as a “stereotype.”

Notre Dame’s conservative archaicism may have banned the more colorful, physical forms of gender interactions, but it apparently takes the New Guard of college culture-creators to put a proscription on flirting, dancing and exchanging phone numbers. God help us.

Secondly, referring to the climate of this university as a “hook-up culture” is simply laughable. Trust me, nobody complains about gender relations in a “hook-up culture.” This is a desperation culture. The perceived malady she cites is the complete antithesis of that espoused by the clear majority of students. The article also quotes student government’s characterization of Frosh-O events as “juvenile and hypersexualized.”

While this is probably a fair description of our tepid mixers, it is a much, much more adept synopsis of every aspect of modern culture that young people actually enjoy. C’mon, if we weren’t at those events then a good number of us would be watching “The O.C.” Juvenile and hypersexualized is haute culture. However nobody who attended a co-ed high school or has friends at state school would describe Notre Dame at large as hypersexualized. “Developmentally arrested and sexually inept” is a far more common phenotype in our dating pool.

Poor gender relations are an inevitable side effect of living with both youthful physiology that drives us inexorably toward sex and cold, formalist policies and traditions that drive us away. It’s a blessing that those of us who endured the upbringings we did can even muster the courage to fake relating to the opposite sex. Having to fling ourselves into contrived approximations of social situations with people who are considered contraband for a third of the day’s hours is certainly not helping Domers come out of their Catholic shells. But robbing us of that and replacing it with sterile pseudo-theory sure won’t do any better.

Dave MangoldseniorSt. Edward’sAugust 25