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Students explore the pressures of ‘being a Saint Mary’s poster girl’

| Monday, April 20, 2015

In the latest installment of the Saint Mary’s Justice Friday series, freshman Alex Shambery and junior Angge Roncal presented “Being an SMC Poster Girl,” a discussion on the pressure to “have it all.”

The presentation was an open discussion between Saint Mary’s women about the pressures that come with being a Saint Mary’s poster girl and how that affects the students as leaders, Shambery said.

The question of who or what an SMC poster girl is was opened to the audience.

“I think it’s trying to tackle everything,” first year Morgan Matthews, an audience member, said. “It’s being very well-rounded but not in the best sense. You have to be religious, you have to be studious, you have to be inviting, you have to be personable, you have to have a lot of friends and be really incorporated into the community.

“But that’s not everyone. You have people who want to stay in their own shell, who like to be alone. I think that puts pressure on those who don’t meet those expectations.”

Shambery then asked the audience about the various pressures they have felt while on campus.

“We go to a single-sex college, all women, and you think that we shouldn’t be led by these pressures,” Roncal said. “We’re still held to these social standards. A woman is expected to do certain things, but she’s not allowed to complain. She’s expected to act a certain way, and not let her ‘silly’ emotions come into play.”

The pressures at an all-women’s college are different than at a school with men, because the all-female environment gives women an empowered atmosphere that may add to the pressures, Matthew said. 

“I would say that sometimes they portray [Saint Mary’s] as the place where you go to become a social butterfly and they portray [Notre Dame] as the place where you go to become a CEO,” Shambery said. “I think that itself puts pressure on us because we want to let them know ‘I can be a CEO and I can be a social butterfly’ or ‘No, I don’t want to be a social butterfly. I want to do my own thing.’ I think that that adds pressure to the pressure we already put on ourselves.”

Another audience member, first year Courtney Weston, said she feels the school itself puts pressure on students.

“They advocate that you’re going to come here and you’re going to become this great woman,” Weston said. “You’re going to have good leadership [skills]. That’s what they promise. So you’re here and now have to be a leader and learn these qualities. What if you don’t want to be a leader?”

Students also named the pressure to pick the “right” major as very prevalent on the Saint Mary’s campus. The pressure among majors stems from society and the need to find a job right after college, Roncal said.

“It’s no longer based on really enjoying the subject,” she said. “It’s more if it will make you money or if you’ll be better off.”

Matthews identified diversity as an issue that acts as a source of pressure for some students.

“You see the stereotypical white, Vineyard Vine-loving girl. It’s very preppy … I wouldn’t say it’s a pressure, but it’s the fact that if you look like an outcast, you have to fall in with the norms and you have to start dressing preppy and acting preppy.”

“It’s why everyone has to have the Hunter rain boots or the [L.L.] Bean snow boots, the LuLu Lemon workout clothes,” Weston said. “It’s something that everyone has, but if you come here not having any of that, you think, ‘Maybe I should start having that.’”

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About Nicole Caratas

Nicole is a senior English Writing and Humanistic Studies double major at Saint Mary's College. Now a senior news writer, she previously served as the Saint Mary's Editor. She was born in real Chicago but grew up in the suburbs, and she currently lives in Opus Hall.

Contact Nicole