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Perfection a problem for GRC

Brian McKenzie | Thursday, February 28, 2008

Heather Rakoczy, the director of the Gender Relations Center, led a discussion Wednesday on how competitiveness and perfectionism affect men and women on campus as part of the “Notre Dating” series about relationships at Notre Dame.

“Students sometimes think that parietals and single-sex halls are the biggest factors affecting gender relations here, or that if we got rid of the Catholic character of Notre Dame then it would be more like other schools,” she said. “But I think the factor is perfectionism and competitiveness. Those create obstacles to friendly relations with the other sex.”

One obstacle caused by competitiveness was “compartmentalization, a work-hard-play-hard lifestyle where students pull all-nighters from Monday to Thursday and then drink and hookup on the weekends,” Rakoczy said.  

Compartmentalization is dangerous because “it creates unrealistic expectations,” she said.

“Even if you could sustain that for four years, you can’t for the rest of your life.  And I don’t know if you would want to,” Rakoczy said.

Senior Sarah Waller said that high-pressure, compartmentalized relationships encourage a “hook-up culture” on campus.

“Hook-ups are a way to avoid a spectacle where everyone knows that you’re trying to get married,” she said.

Patrick Tighe, the co-chair of the Gender Issues Committee of the Student Senate, said that hook-ups are sometimes expected, particularly of male students.  

“There’s just this expectation that you’ll have a hot girl with you to impress your friends,” he said.  “That’s the goal for a lot of guys.”

Sophomore Patrick Bears said that goal-driven relationships turn lovers into commodities.

“You don’t think of them as another human being, someone you really care about being with, but something that can get you where you’re going,” Bears said.  

Tighe said that it was logistically difficult to have meaningful friendships with women in the dorms.

“It’s a little hard, a bit weird to just hang out with a girl in the dorm,” he said. “All your guy friends will wonder what’s going on.  But I don’t have a car to go off-campus.  What are going to do?”

Senior Gina Torres said that relationships at Notre Dame are complicated by the potential for misperception.  

“People generally think that there’s something sexually charged when people go to dinner together,” she said. “It’s just dinner.”

Senior Katie Smith said that the potential for misperception worries her.  

“How does a question like, ‘Would you like to have dinner tonight,’ translate?  I’m not trying to trap him into marriage.  Eating at the dining hall should be normal,” she said. “It’s not much more loaded to say more forward things at a bar.”