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Extending kindness beyond the casual

| Wednesday, September 29, 2021

If you have used Yik Yak in the last two weeks or if you read The Observer, you have read, or at least heard about, the incredibly unkind and degrading messages towards the women who attend Saint Mary’s College. While nothing new, many of these messages were sparked over the fact that Saint Mary’s students were also included in the ticket lottery for the Shamrock Series game against Wisconsin last weekend, and thus scored tickets while some Notre Dame students did not. The statements made toward Saint Mary’s students were degrading, derogatory and downright disgusting. 

It is clear to me that the bitterness some people hold towards Saint Mary’s students and surfaces every so often goes beyond Saint Mary’s College and the University of Notre Dame. In my opinion, it is a microcosm for the willingness of women to tear down other women without a second thought. I am in no way trying to dismiss or ignore the statements and messages that were made towards Saint Mary’s students, and I do not want to downplay the hurt caused by these words. However, I believe there is hope that women in general, and the women of Saint Mary’s, Notre Dame and Holy Cross are much kinder to one another than what Yik Yak might make it seem. 

Last week, during a night out with a friend, I suddenly felt pretty sick. A group of girls I didn’t know stayed by my side and helped me feel better until I found the friend I came with. These girls did not ask me what school I went to because it didn’t matter. What mattered was that they could help me.

In fact, I know that the kindness and camaraderie amongst (usually) drunk girls is a fairly common experience. Walk into a busy public restroom at a bar or party as a woman, and you will more than likely be greeted by three or four other women complimenting your outfit or hair and making small talk while you wait in line. Walk into any busy party or bar in South Bend, and I can promise you that this is occurring in every women’s restroom, without any reservation about whether you attend Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s or Holy Cross.

I think that, in those brief moments of interaction at a busy party or bar, there is a recognition of each other as human beings and the vulnerability of being a woman. Certainly, a college party or bar is not the safest environment to be a young woman.

So, when there appears to be nothing but support and kindness in the female public restroom, why are women so quick to put each other down in almost any other atmosphere or circumstance? Whether it’s jealousy, insecurity or something else, is unclear to me.

However, I cannot help but to think of a conversation I had with my mom over the summer. After I was told about one of my brother’s many accomplishments, I quickly chirped back with one of my own, before even congratulating my brother. Upon reflection, I realized that my reaction came from a place of insecurity within myself and did not accurately portray how proud I am of and how much I adore my younger brother, who is incredibly talented and accomplished in so many ways. My mom told me maturing is realizing that you can love someone so much that you can be purely happy for them and love them without consideration of your own accomplishments or lack thereof. The way I understood her words was that it is so important to be content in yourself so that, in every interaction, you can do the loving thing, which is to be happy for others with no reservations.

My hope is that the wisdom of my mother, who is a Saint Mary’s alum, for the record, can resonate with anyone before expressing meanness towards another person. Ultimately, I think the world, and Yik Yak, would look more like a female public restroom if we could find solitude within ourselves to support one another with no reservations.

Claire Miller is a junior majoring in political science, with a minor in Innovation and Entrepreneurship. She is a proud resident of Flaherty Hall and the state of Texas. She can be reached at [email protected] over email.

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

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