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5 Star Review: 5 Star Reviews

| Wednesday, October 1, 2014

web_5 star reivew-10-2-2014Samantha Coughlin

“I feel like I am going to get five-starred due to my contribution to this article.” – Kate Kulwicki, SMC ’17

Life is dangerous. At least it seems like it as I’m walking into my first class at Saint Mary’s for an English education requirement. I’m a guy. Now, I don’t think of myself looks-wise, but I can’t help feeling looked-at as I take my spot as the only male in the thirty-some person class. For the first time in my upper-middle-class, white-male life, I feel different – like I don’t belong, like I’m a source of discomfort. And to make it all worse, I know my social situation is a million times easier than the girls around me, than the racial minorities that attend Notre Dame, than ninety-nine percent of the world’s population. Because when it comes down to it, I can express myself without being judged, put into a box, shoved aside and dismissed.

The opportunity to write this column – one geared at acclaiming and appreciating objects, phenomena and pieces of art that others value – has allowed me to slip into other’s shoes and try to bring their joy and experiences into life through my words. And while I’ve only written two articles in the series previous to this one, I’ve already received loads of suggestions for topics to review: fans, dining hall music, movies, high-fives – you name it. Being able to talk with friends from a range of backgrounds about the awesomeness of everyday happenings and popular culture is a joyful, unifying experience.

The fact that people are excited enough about the concept of the “5 Star Review” column to consistently recommend topics for it, fills me with happiness. Even though many of the people I speak to are so different form me, I am granted the opportunity to speak for them. The “5 Star Review” has the potential to have an impact that transcends the preconceived notions of its gimmicky premise. Even if my column only serves to heighten readers’ pleasure or appreciation for oddball parts of life, it remains a hybrid of my voice and others’. And this gets me to perhaps the greatest thing the “5 Star Review” has given me – whether I like it or not, my race, gender, sexuality or socioeconomic status does not prevent me from speaking for those whose experiences I do not share.

As Emma Watson eloquently argued during her speech at the UN recently, men need to take a stand alongside women in order to move towards complete, prejudice-free equality for both sexes. The issues that others face in our society are our own, even if we individually do not directly cause them. Perhaps the reason that Tal Fortgang’s “Check Your Privilege” article was so enraging is that it makes a case for inaction and lack of responsibility for the non-oppressed to end the oppression of others. As white, male university students, Tal and I have been granted ridiculous, unearned power to counteract the issues we see in the world. To not use such an opportunity is nothing short of oppression itself.

The “5 Star Review” has, perhaps, not changed any life except my own. It may seem silly, or even fatuous, to many readers. But today, Kate Kulwicki’s suggestion that I write a five-star review on my “5 Star Review” column made me contemplate the worth of the column, and of my writing, in general. It has woken me up to the power and responsibility I have as a writer in this world and at this university. So for that, I feel like I can give her recommendation a five-star review. Perhaps someday I can write something worth the rating itself.

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