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The double standard of Notre Dame parties

| Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Last Friday I awoke to a stinging email. I, along with off-campus residents of the Lewis Hall community, would not be allowed to attend our signature SYR, Crush. Why? It is because I had the audacity to click “Join” on a Facebook event that promoted a series of off-campus parties to celebrate Crush week. I had been charged with distracting the community and promoting underage drinking (read here: putting underclassmen at risk). I was allowed was a refund of my four dollars and told my Rectress “will be available to talk with [me] about how [she] reached this decision.” These accusations perpetuate the double standard we’ve all come to recognize, male and female, during our years at Notre Dame. And the resulting culture this double standard promotes does more to threaten the well being of all the women of Notre Dame than it does to protect them.

It is no secret that Notre Dame supports a blatant double standard when it comes parties. All residents of male dorms have to do when they decide they want to have a party is turn in a social gathering form and move all their furniture to one room. There is simply no way for women to drink socially on their own turf. Women must resort to locking their doors, turning their music “up” to barely audible levels and sipping on their mixies while trying to squash the overwhelming paranoia that the whole hall staff is currently charging down the hall to get them. So, if girls want to party they must search for an outside environment — either in a male dorm or off campus. Given the culture of this campus, the majority of off-campus parties are thrown by men. Last week’s incident with the Crush SYR is a clear indication that this double standard extends off campus and further compounds these gender issues. The discipline thrust upon the off-campus women of Lewis hall is unheard of consequence for male off-campus activity.

While many accept this as an unfair bias that women at Notre Dame just have to live with, what many students don’t realize is that our University has created a party environment that places its women at higher risk for experiencing sexual assault. It comes down to the simple idea of control. Since men are the people who are allowed to throw parties at Notre Dame, they control all aspects of the party environment. These aspects include inputs such as alcohol, an appropriate venue, music and guests. These environments are also sexually charged and young female guests feel an uncomfortable pressure of compensating the hosts. Women often feel obligated to talk, flirt, dance or be more intimate with a guy if they’ve received an invite to a party or a drink from him. This factor, when mixed with a deficit of familiar surroundings and alcohol consumption, can leave girls in a vulnerable position.

I am not trying to say this environment causes men to take advantage of women; I am saying this environment makes it easier for a man who does want to take advantage of a woman to do so. Notre Dame may claim to do all it can to protect its women from experiencing sexual assault, but with one simple cultural change like allowing women to throw their own parties, it can limit the male-dominated environments that are a major cause of sexual assault.

If women at Notre Dame are allowed to throw their own parties, they have control over their own party experience. When women throw parties, they are in locations that are familiar to them, they are able to invite those whom they trust and feel safe around, they make their own drinks and they feel obligated to no one because of their opportunity to party.

This is not going to be a cure-all to the problem of sexual assault. Unfortunately, when alcohol is involved, the opportunity for women to be taken advantage of will always be present. However, I wonder if the University has ever stopped to consider that an effective way to protect us is allowing us to protect ourselves? I implore Notre Dame to consider the consequences of a set of procedures that consistently demeans the freedom of its women.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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