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Thank you, men of Notre Dame

| Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Like many alumnae of Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame, my Facebook newsfeed lit up with articles regarding the YikYak posts.  My gut reaction reading the posts was the same as it’s always been — anger, followed by loss. Anger that a group of bright, intelligent women who sincerely want to make a difference in the world are thrown into a sexist stereotype. Loss, because I reflect on how navigating those stereotypes was part of my college experience.  And I always wished it hadn’t been that way.

I graduated with honors from Saint Mary’s in 2007 (and earned honors in German at Notre Dame, thank you very much), before going to law school. I missed Saint Mary’s (still do) but the marks left from slights Notre Dame students paid me always stung.

Today I realized something: if I hadn’t learned to navigate these sexist stereotypes at the age of 18, I sincerely don’t think I would have soldiered through everything I have in my female adult life.

Being a Smick Chick can be tough — every slight at a party, hearing “Notre Dame to wed, Saint Mary’s to bed” and when someone says “oh I’m sorry!” when they realize you’re not a woman of Notre Dame.  But I promise you — it prepares you to be a woman in a world that still has a glass ceiling.  The men of Notre Dame aren’t the only males who will assume you are not capable of what you know you can achieve.

So, I would sincerely like to thank the men of Notre Dame for giving me the massive chip on my shoulder that helped me achieve the following:

To write on to Law Review, and remain an editor through my third year of law school.

To work on a presidential campaign, monitoring the polls in Alabama.

To pass the bar exam with four perfect scores on my essays.

To win the first case I ever tried.

To be part of a thriving law practice at one of the largest firms in my state.

Belles of Saint Mary’s: you think the college boy mentality ends at graduation? It does not. I’ve gone to depositions where opposing council thought I was the court reporter, not the attorney. They also register surprise when you explain you have a family and a career.

Do I condone the Saint Mary’s shaming? Absolutely not. But I encourage all Saint Mary’s students to embrace the struggle and rise above it — because I promise you, it won’t end at graduation.

Helen Casey

Saint Mary’s, class of 2007

Sept. 27

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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