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Don’t delay discernment!

Before coming to Notre Dame, I had never heard of discernment. Now, I would be lost without it. Discernment has not only brought joy and clarity, but it has also become the subject of my senior thesis.

My research investigates the nature of discernment at Notre Dame, so I have become familiar with the theories and practices of discernment, as well as the manifold ways discernment is manifest on campus. The purpose of this biweekly column will be to explain the whys and hows of discernment. I will argue in favor of taking time to discern, and I will provide concrete methods for you to practice discernment.

But first, I want to tell you a story, the story of my own discernment journey. Then you may appreciate why I think so highly of it.

Coming into college in the fall of 2018, I was bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, fresh and full of confidence. After all, I had succeeded in achieving and accomplishing all the accolades in my high school days. Why would anything be different now?

As many first-years, I was full of confidence and ego. I rushed through Moreau reflections. I procrastinated on my homework and hurried to complete assignments before the midnight deadline. My motto was: “Due tomorrow? Do tomorrow.”

Aside from competing on the track and field team, I was inactive in my dorm, clubs or other extracurricular experiences. On the weekends, I went to parties on Friday, tailgated hard before football games on Saturday and played video games on Sunday. In general, I took a utilitarian approach, seeking to maximize the apparent good.

Later, I learned that what I perceived as good was not always so. Conversely, what I thought to be worthless was of highest value.

Needless to say, I neglected discernment.

I avoided discerning probably because I subconsciously knew it would be painful. I knew the path I was heading down was not the one for me, so I steered away from this realization.

Throughout my first year, I successfully suppressed the quiet voice of my conscience, but that strategy was bound for failure. In my second fall semester, a series of events left me vulnerable and confused. Though I still projected an aura of confidence, I felt more uncertain than ever. There were so many questions. “What is my purpose?” “What kind of life do I want to live?” “What kind of person should I become?” These questions broke through my hard heart and overwhelmed my stubborn mind with doubt and anxiety. 

Back then, men did not address mental health so candidly. I did not seek support but instead self-isolated. I skipped class because I felt that everyone would discover the imposter I really was. Eventually, I became quite depressed.

Soon thereafter my loving parents paid me a visit. They knew something was off. After opening up with them, we decided that I would withdraw from the University and reapply next fall.

That year away from college was the best gift I could have received. Indeed, God was seeking me before I could seek Him. I got a job at LifeTime Café, took classes at UNC Charlotte and attended therapy sessions with Dr. Mermelstein. I enjoyed the time at home with mom and dad. I cooked dinners, baked bread and gardened.

Most importantly, I was compelled to reflect on my withdrawal from school. I was forced to discern. Thank God.

After taking a quasi-gap year, I returned to Notre Dame, switched from engineering to philosophy and quit the track and field team. I explored different courses of study and career paths, decided to reflect deeply and began to embody the values toward which I aspired.

Since then, since experiencing that failure, since walking through a valley of darkness, I have experienced the most fulfilling years of my life. I discovered my interests, found my calling and became more discerning in my everyday judgments. As I was living in darkness, I saw a great light.

The message of this story is twofold. First, take time to discern. Take time to reflect with yourself and with others on those big life questions. Second, if you are living in darkness, you may soon experience a great light. It was not until I had experienced darkness that I could appreciate the light.

So, do yourself a favor and don’t delay discernment. Don’t do what I did my first year, letting life pass by unexamined. Instead, think about what is truly important to you. Think about what you really want in life. Think about where God is calling you to go and who He is calling you to be. 

Whether you are choosing your major, choosing your career or choosing ways to spend your free time, discernment is for you.

Joey Jegier is a senior at Notre Dame studying philosophy, ESS and German. He enjoys coffee, conversation and taking time to be still (when possible). Areas of interest include mysticism, education and discernment. Joey loves the city of South Bend and regularly visits the farmers market, his only source of milk and eggs. He would love to chat about anything and can be reached at jjegier2@nd.edu.

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

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‘Impermeably and forever’: Reflecting on Rory Gilmore’s graduation speech

“Gilmore Girls” has been a comfort show of mine for years. Through my many watches, I’ve processed that Rory Gilmore is no perfect character. In fact, she’s one of the farthest main characters from “perfect” that I have come to know in my 22 years of reading, watching and learning. While she and Lorelai didn’t always get everything right, they’ve shaped who I am from some of their best moments and I’ve learned from watching some of their worst. 

One of Rory’s biggest, humblest moments (and simultaneously one of her best) is her Chilton valedictorian speech. In it, she touches on all that she learned and all those she loved. It is this speech that feels like the most relatable piece of Rory’s character for me at this moment in time. It felt that way at the end of high school, and it feels the most fitting now as the class of 2023 enters our final semester.

Because the speech feels so fitting, I’m going to follow its framework as I reflect on the people and the things that made these four years possible and made them worth all the work they required before I fully embark on my last semester on Notre Dame’s campus. A semester that I know will be full of light and laughs, but that ultimately came too quickly.

“I live in two worlds. One is a world of books.” 

For anyone who knows me, they know I understand that the ability to read and write day in and day out has been a gift. I’ll pick up anything from a pop culture magazine to Proust and read them cover to cover. Sure, reading has been tedious at times, but this university gifted me with the space to explore. My very first class started with Sophocles and his stories about Oedipus and Antigone. I learned that a coffee mug has one side and is, in fact, a doughnut. We read everything from Plato and St. Augustine to Betty Friedan and Malcolm X. And I defeated George Foreman with Muhammad Ali after simulating an acid trip with Timothy Leary. I can’t thank my professors enough for introducing me to some of the greatest minds of every generation. Especially the professors that have become my mentors in other facets of my work, as well.

I have not only read as much as I wanted, but I’ve also had the chance to put pen to paper. I’ve written essays I couldn’t be prouder of (and some I wish to never see again). I’ve interviewed some of the coolest athletes and coaches this university — or the world — has ever seen. And I’ve told their stories the best way I knew how. Writing has been an outlet and an exercise throughout my four years. I am so grateful to have taken the classes I did. They really focused on using the knowledge I gained in the ways I knew how: in my own voice.

And to The Observer, for training my journalistic voice in ways I would never be able to just in the classroom. There’s nothing more important to me than the work I have done in the basement of South Dining Hall. I will carry those skills for the rest of my life. And I hope to always read all the important work student journalists do on our campus each and every day. 

“It’s a rewarding world, but my second one is by far superior.” 

I am so grateful for all that I have learned here, but that is a fraction of what Notre Dame has come to mean to me. My second world includes the people I have had the chance to meet here. These people, like the people of Stars Hollow to Rory Gilmore, are eclectic, fun and beyond intelligent. Everyone I have come to know on this campus is “supremely real, made of flesh and bone and full of love.” I could not have grown and learned in all the ways that I have without the discourse, the support and the care of my friends here. 

From late nights in the library to similarly late nights out. From fabulous birthday parties to sitting on the couch playing a board game. I have come to recognize the people here as my family. Without them, my life here would not be the same. They let me cry in my hardest times, called me out in my stupidest and celebrated with me my achievements, no matter how big or small. I am every bit who I am after these four years because I got to know them. To the group of friends born of a math class we had to take — despite none of us wanting anything to do with math — I am so lucky we bonded as tightly and quickly as we did. To the friends who have come since then, you have come to mean the world to me, just as quickly. 

“My twin pillars … from whom I received my life’s blood and … without whom I could not stand.”

While I love it here, I had to get here first to figure that out. And it’s at this point that I stray slightly from Rory’s speech. She thanks her grandparents at this moment (and while my grandparents have always been the brightest lights in my life) I’d like to combine her words for them and her words for Lorelai into some for my parents.

To be at Notre Dame would not have been possible without the love I know from Heather and John McGinley. They truly are my twin pillars. They created a space for me to ask questions, figure things out and learn from everything I do. My mother and father “never gave me any idea I couldn’t do whatever I wanted to do or be whomever I wanted to be.” My mother showed me every role model imaginable, but none as influential as herself. And my father? He is the reason for my confidence. I never feel more prepared for anything than I do after talking to them. Without them, succeeding here simply wouldn’t be possible. And it wouldn’t mean all that it does to me. 

“But my ultimate inspiration comes from my best friend … the person I most want to be is her.” 

And I save the rest of Rory’s words for my very best friend in the entire world. My little sister is the person I learned from the most and has guided me through these four years even without trying to. She knows my every move, how I react, what to ask when I don’t know where to start and how to respond to my answer.

Without my little sister, I couldn’t do what I do. She inspires it all and I am so grateful. Weekends she would visit for football or for the hell of it were bright spots in semesters. Watching her perceive the people and spaces around me gave me new perspectives. For a while, she practically knew me better than I knew myself, and it helped me to find the right people in my life. I have so much more to learn from Ry but I cannot thank her enough for all that she’s taught me already. She’s a “dazzling woman” and the Lorelai to my Rory. She helped me to shape the person I have become and pushed me in ways no one else knows how. 

“Impermeably and forever”

The last thing I want to steal from Rory Gilmore is the sentiment that this isn’t an ending but a beginning. At least, that’s what everyone will tell us. We will get jobs. We will start new schools and we will do work in other ways and continue growing outside the gates of Our Lady’s University. Still, that doesn’t mean I want to reach my last days here and say goodbye to all of this. It has meant so much to me and become such a powerful part of who I am. 

In spite of that, I know that at some point this semester, I will catch myself wishing it were all done. Wishing I could turn in my thesis as is and finish my finals already. I caught myself doing it in the seven semesters leading up to this one. This time, though, I refuse to hurry anything, even in those moments. I am going to cherish it all. For as quickly as this semester has come, I don’t want to see it go. As Rory Gilmore said, leaving here “means leaving friends who inspire me and teachers who’ve been my mentors, so many people who’ve shaped my life… impermeably and forever.” It’s going to hurt making that leap from our home under the dome. 

But that’s the thing about it. Yes, we will be leaving, but Notre Dame will always be our home. “Impermeably and forever.”

Contact Mannion at mmcginl3@nd.edu.

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

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Thank you social justice volunteers

The University of Notre Dame does an excellent job of reminding us how important it is to reach out to “the least of our brethren” and practice social justice as part of our daily lives. There is the Center for Social Concerns on campus that does an excellent job clarifying this for us. One of the other organizations on campus that also actively practices social justice in our community is the Sacred Heart Parish on campus. They have a Social Justice Ministry that has been active for many years with a number of parishioners who have also been active in such ministries.

One of the local organizations in South Bend is the Catholic Worker House. A current faculty member, Prof. Margie Pfeil in the department of theology, was one of the founding members of the Catholic Worker. One important outreach of the Worker was the opening of Our Lady of the Road (OLR) that is located at 744 South Main Street in South Bend. This is a drop-in center, following the example of Dorothy Day, that is a welcoming place which, among other assistance, serves breakfast to the poor and homeless every Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The guests can also take a shower, launder their clothes and can often receive a haircut. Some members of Sacred Heart serve breakfast on the third Friday of each month. We see a good number of ND students, both women and men, who have been going to OLR to serve those who come in for breakfast. I’m reluctant to give names as I don’t want to omit someone I may forget. One of their important observations is how thankful and polite the guests are, and most reply with a “thank you very much, and may God bless you.” We welcome any students who would like to volunteer at OLR.

On behalf of the guests who come to OLR for breakfast and as a member of the SJM of Sacred Heart Parish, I would like to thank all of those volunteers who reach out and help to serve those in need. They help to continue to make OLR a welcoming place where people can receive a good breakfast, have a warm and safe place to rest and are treated with respect. My God bless you all.

Thomas Nowak

Professor Emeritus

Jan. 26

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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Observer Editorial: The hole in our newsroom

As Walk the Walk week wraps up at Notre Dame, our predominantly white institution is left to think about how to put into practice the ideas we’ve engaged with this week. The University has poured funding and time into curating events with distinguished speakers and alumni and publicly uplifted its diverse students’ stories for the week.  This, of course, is an important first step in championing people of color on our campus and educating a majority white student body but it is, by nature, performative. So, how do we confront the actual problems we face when it comes to including students of diverse backgrounds?

The Observer strives to promote diversity and inclusion in our newsroom, but there are ways in which our efforts can be more performative than substantive. We cover many culturally diverse subjects, such as the Asian Allure showcase, Latinx Heritage Month events at Saint Mary’s, the Black Images talent show and the history of the Potawotami land on which Notre Dame is built. However, in an internal feedback survey we conducted last semester, some writers expressed that our coverage felt tokenistic at times. 

This semester, we pledge to focus on more in-depth coverage on the state of diversity and race relations in our tri-campus. 

Yet even with this new focus, there will inevitably be stories we miss. We want to hear from you on how you feel The Observer has neglected your particular corner of campus. You can email or talk to any of our editors, who are more than happy to discuss story ideas. 

At the root of our problem, The Observer is lacking diverse writers. Having writers of various cultures, identities and backgrounds — and even from various areas of study — expands the range of interests and story ideas of any media organization, therefore, making its coverage more representative. 

This issue is mirrored in newsrooms across the country. In 2021, the New York Times reported that 70% of its leadership was white. In the summer of 2020, during the protests that followed the murder of George Floyd, more than 150 employees of the Wall Street Journal signed a letter to their editor saying that the Journal’s coverage of race was “problematic” and that its staff was not diverse enough. The Chicago Tribune, a paper that serves a city where 55% of the population are people of color, does not officially publish their employee demographics, but stated in a 2021 article that legacy news organizations like theirs “must do a better job of telling the full stories of the city’s Black and brown communities.”

In theory, The Observer doesn’t have as many barriers to entry as most other news organizations. Unlike other college newspapers, we do not require our writers to apply before they write their first story. An opinion piece written by the former Editor-in-Chief of Georgetown University’s student newspaper The Hoya argues that student journalism is often stacked against low-income students because student newspaper roles often require long hours, taking away time that could be spent working part-time jobs. While working at The Observer is time-consuming, we are able to pay our staffers who edit and produce our content five days a week — contrary to practices at many other colleges.

Still, there is clearly something about our culture that is failing to bring in a diversity of students. We want to make joining and writing, editing and photographing for the paper as accessible as possible. Let us know of any way we can make this newsroom more welcoming. If you’ve ever had any interest in working for The Observer, visit our office in the basement of South Dining Hall for our meetings on Sundays: 2 p.m. for Scene, our arts and culture section, 2:35 p.m. for Sports and 3:30 p.m. for Notre Dame and Holy Cross News. If you’re at Saint Mary’s, stop by our office in the basement of the student center for the Saint Mary’s News meeting at 7 p.m. Sunday evenings. If you’re not ready to dip a toe in just yet, we would encourage you to read our site and paper as well as follow our social media accounts to see the variety of work you could do.

The Observer must be a more inclusive place. If you feel you could assist us in that goal, we would also like to invite you to apply to be a part of our Talent and Inclusion department. The department is led by the Manager of Talent and Inclusion (MTI) and includes an assistant MTI position. In this role, you would directly be involved in making our coverage more representative, recruiting more writers of color and other identities and backgrounds, building our presence at Holy Cross and making our newsroom one where everyone feels welcome. Do consider applying here before next Friday.

We take our responsibility to the tri-campus community seriously. We want our staff to reflect the University’s and Colleges’ student bodies as closely as possible. We are your paper and we are independent for a reason — to tell all stories. But we are missing some voices in our newsroom, and we intend to do all that we can to rectify this. Reach out to us if you have any questions, concerns or suggestions for ways we can do better. We want to be a paper you can be proud of.

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Snow days

A few days ago on my way across campus, instead of hurrying to get to where I was going like I normally do, I took time to admire the snow. I noticed how beautiful the Golden Dome looked as the snow fell down and how much people seemed to be embracing the moment. Being from Chicago, I don’t have as much appreciation for the snow as most people do. I love when it snows around the holidays, but not so much when it’s March and nearing April. However, given that we’re still in January, I’ve chosen to embrace the snow for the time being. 

As a little kid, I would always get so excited at the possibility of a snow day. I remember sitting and staring wide-eyed at the TV as a five year old hoping and praying that my grade school would be listed in bold red font as one of the schools that would be closed for the day. At five, a snow day meant that I could drink hot chocolate and go sledding with my friends. In high school, I had the same feelings when it came to snow days. I vividly remember checking snow day calculator apps and refreshing my email numerous times per day in hopes that we had received an email stating that classes had been canceled. Only, in high school, instead of drinking hot chocolate and going sledding with my friends, I mostly chose to take the time to sleep in, something my normal 6:30 AM wakeup had prevented me from doing. 

Needless to say, snow days were always great. During the pandemic, however, I realized that snow days had become a thing of the past. Classes could get moved online and carried on as normal. As nice as it was that people were able to adapt their daily routines to working remotely during a time when the whole world had seemed to stop, there was a huge part of me that longed for the traditional snow day. 

Last year, during my first year of college, there were one or two days where the weather was so bad that classes were moved online. Some of my professors conducted classes as normally as they would have had we been in an actual classroom, while others told us to go out and enjoy the snow. During one of the snow days, I took advantage of the extra time and caught up on some sleep. And during the other, once classes had finished, I remember going over to my friend’s dorm room, where we ordered Domino’s pizza and watched Gossip Girl. Despite having to go to class online, we still managed to make a “snow day” enjoyable. 

As much as I could say I am not a fan of the snow, I realize that snow can bring a lot of joy if you choose to embrace it. Snow reminds me not only of snow days, but also of skiing and snowmobiling with my family. It reminds me of the time I was little and built snow forts with my cousins. And, most recently, it’s given me memories of being here at Notre Dame in South Bend.

Isabelle Kause is a sophomore at Notre Dame studying sociology and minoring in journalism. When she’s not busy, you can find her listening to country music or Taylor Swift or trying out new makeup/skincare products. She can be reached at ikause@nd.edu

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

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‘You can’t ever say you haven’t been told’: My love letter to ‘The Sopranos’

Television, in particular paid programming television, has seen a cinematic revival since the turn of the twenty-first century. While once belittled as the little brother of the silver screen, the current landscape of television has changed drastically. No longer do actors smirk at the idea of taking on TV projects, but rather embrace it in ways not seen before. And while there have been dozens of titles that have received both critical and fan acclaim, all roads lead back to “The Sopranos” (1999-2007), arguably the godfather of modern television (yes, all puns intended).

A contemporary take on the American mafia genre, “The Sopranos” revolves around a crime family in New Jersey, headlined by our titular character, Tony Soprano. The premise begins with Tony as a criminal battling depression, but the show quickly becomes so much more. 86 hours of this show are still not enough to satisfy fans, as even after ending 16 years ago, HBO’s magnum opus continues to be a focal point for conversation, debate and remembrance. Parts drama, dark comedy and commentary on American society, “The Sopranos” has turned thousands of viewers into critics of all other pieces of cinema. I am one of those critics. 

And don’t get me wrong, I have come to love plenty of other shows over the years. Yet nothing has come to match the level of intersecting entertainment and enlightenment that “The Sopranos” has come to represent. Let me explain.

First, I seriously think you could consider several rewatches of “The Sopranos” as a tutorial to the world of business. Think of watching “The Sopranoss” as like a quasi-business school, unraveling before your eyes through the lens of La Cosa Nostra in metropolitan New Jersey. And yes, granted, the business conducted on the show is of course illegal. But the levels of intricacies present in these illegal rackets of the Soprano family can grow an intellectual curiosity inside the viewer that is truly unprecedented for its time. 

The ingenuity of such schemes has always made me wonder that if real-time mobsters used their business savvy, capital and execution toward more noble pursuits of commerce, then maybe their world would’ve been better off. But I digress. One some scheme in season four circles around fugazi (fake) mortgage loans in inner city Newark. First, Tony Soprano and crew, with the help of their combined political capital, buy up houses primed for urban development in the city. Then, using a bribed real estate appraiser, they reevaluate the houses at a 300% markup. The revalued houses are then sold to a not-for-profit also enlisted in the scheme, who then defaults on the mortgage payments. Percentages of the profits are then chopped up “nicely.” Negotiation, organizational management, quality control and conflict resolution are all developed in depth. “Charles Schwab over here,” I believe is a quote. 

But more importantly, as a Roman Catholic, there is truly a triumphant relevance that exists in the show’s discussion of spirituality, God, eternal life, redemption and the evil that is present within the Mafia’s half-hazard embrace of its Catholic heritage. For the Italian members of La Cosa Nostra, their shared religious culture gives a divine dignity to their work. When members are inducted into the Mafia, they burn a photo of a chosen patron saint, simply repeating, “May I burn in hell if I betray my friends.” Additionally, when the discussion of hell is once again broached, characters revert to their place in the mob as a saving grace from eternal hellfire. “We are soldiers, we don’t go to hell,” is a continuous sentiment throughout all six seasons. 

Additionally, when two integral characters are wounded by gunshot, they are left with lengthy recoveries. For these men, gruesome nightmares follow them. Visions of hell as “never-ending St. Patrick’s Days” are discussed, and these characters seemingly see that their current paths are a one-way ticket there. But our mafiosos accept this, and Tony Soprano becomes a sociopathic figure of the devil, leading his crime family into the twenty-first century. Like the devil, Tony attracts all around him with false promises, sin and delight, while ultimately sowing their destruction. “My Uncle Tony, that’s who I am going to hell for,” is often how he is referred to. 

But the most harrowing spiritual encounter of all comes in the form of civilian complacence with the sins of the crime family. In particular, “innocent” family members such as a children and wives are caught up in the crossfire of realizing the truth of their abundance of riches. Carmela Soprano, the wife of Tony Soprano, acts as the centerpiece for this. In the first season, Carmela’s children begin to poke the bear of Tony’s activities as a mafioso, but Carmela is aware of it all along. Tony and Carmela’s children eventually accept the lifestyle, and actually come to defend it, but Carmela’s peace of mind sometimes wavers. Tony keeps her entertained with diamonds, furs and Mercedes SL, but he is serially unfaithful and seldom acts to keep business out of the habitat of the Soprano family home.

In season 3, Carmela sees a Jewish psychiatrist after continuing to struggle with her husband and his infidelity. The doctor gets Carmela to open up, as she truly does want Tony to reconcile for his sins. Carmela insists that she was only ever there to “make sure he had clean clothes in his closet and dinner on his table.” But instead of advice, Carmela gets an ultimatum. The doctor brings judgement and brings it hard. He laments, “You must trust your initial impulse and consider leaving him. You’ll never be able to feel good about yourself. Never be able to quell the feelings of guilt and shame that you talked about. As long as you’re his accomplice… Take only the children — what’s left of them — and go…  I’m not charging you because I won’t take blood money. And you can’t either. One thing you can never say: that you haven’t been told.”

For those who haven’t seen the show, I’m sorry. But Carmela never ends up leaving Tony for good. And while her character fails to answer the spiritual call, what other shows even broach this subject?  The ending of the series is infamously ambiguous and keeps the conversation going, but I think this scene and hundreds of others beg questions on philosophy, spirituality, society, that haven’t been matched on TV. So seriously, sit back and enjoy the show.

Stephen Viz is a one-year MBA candidate and graduate of Holy Cross College. Hailing from Orland Park, Illinois, his columns are all trains of thoughts, and he can be found at either Decio Cafe or in Mendoza. He can be reached at sviz@nd.edu or on Twitter, @StephenViz. 

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

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Words matter: Gendered language in politics weaponizes them against women

One of the most striking aspects of language is its ability to be interpreted in many different ways. A phrase could mean a million different things to a million different people, and a simple change in tone, word choice and syntax could change everything. 

Language and politics are inseparable. Words are the modus operandi of all politicians, and the impact of modern language on women in politics is something to be wary of. 

There are 2,967 women holding elected office in the U.S. This number pales in comparison to the approximately 167.5 million women, of all ages, in the U.S. Women make up more than 50% of America’s population. Yet, they only hold 30% of elected offices on the federal, state and local levels – and this 30% is a record-breaking high, as more than ever before women are now engaging in political office.

A meager 30% is impressively low for a “record-breaking high.” Holding the right to vote for over a century and exceeding men in both quantity and quality of persons educated, American women have all of the tools necessary for success in the political sphere. Yet, the gendered language of constituents, media and other politicians presents an almost impenetrable barrier to women running for elected office. 

For decades, men have benefited from stereotypes around gender in politics, which consistently associate masculinity and effective leadership

Meredith Conroy, a political science professor at California State University San Bernardino, engaged in a research study to examine the use of gendered language in presidential elections from 2000 to 2012. Examining a random sample of 300 print-edition news articles from New York Times and USA Today, Conroy recorded all traits used to describe all presidential candidates and created what is, in essence, a “traits database.” Relying on an existent understanding of “gendered traits” from psychology and political science, traits within the database were labeled as masculine, feminine or gender-neutral. Masculine traits might include “risk-taker” or “fighter,” feminine traits could be “compassionate” or “cautious” and neutral traits were those like “intelligent,” “old” or “liar.” 

Among the articles examined, 56% of the traits recorded as describing presidential candidates were categorized as neutral, 30% as masculine and 14% as feminine. The most common masculine traits were “aggressive” and “confident,” generally framed in a positive light. The most common feminine traits were “weak” and “inconsistent,” generally used negatively. Delving further into the data, Conroy found that, among all feminine traits used to describe candidates, only 31% carried a positive tone. Compare this to the overwhelming 67% of masculine traits used positively, and it is no surprise that masculinity has become associated with effective political leadership. 

Though this study was published in 2015, the use — and potential harm — of gendered language is more relevant now than ever before. And it’s no longer as subtle as character traits. 

Donald Trump’s language during his presidency alone provides one of the clearest examples of the harm done to women in politics by use of gendered, and frankly sexist, language: 

At a news conference in April of 2016, the former president claimed that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, has “nothing else to offer” beyond her “woman’s card … and the beautiful thing is women don’t [even] like her.” 

Following the 2020 vice presidential debate, Trump said that “[Kamala Harris is] this monster that was onstage with Mike Pence … She was terrible. I don’t think you could get worse. And totally unlikeable.” 

Speaking of Senator Elizabeth Warren, Trump said, “Goofy Elizabeth Warren, one of the least productive US senators, has a nasty mouth.” 

Trump referred to former Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, as “Nervous Nancy” on his public twitter account. 

During an interview with Rolling Stone, Trump berated Carly Fiorina, his opponent in the Republican primary, saying that she could never be president because of her appearance. He said, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that … I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really … come on.” 

Unfortunately, the above quotes are only a small portion of the long list of abrasive comments Trump has made toward women in the political sphere. From degrading women for their appearance to calling them weak or unlikeable for exhibiting very normal human behaviors, the former president made a sport of calling forth hostile sexism against women in politics.

Beyond direct attacks on women, Trump’s attempts to emasculate other male politicians by feminizing them further builds the metaphorical wall to women entering the political sphere. In an attempt to convince former Vice President Mike Pence to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Trump said, “[Pence] can either go down in history as a patriot … or [he] can go down in history as a p*ssy.” Trump directly contrasts being a patriot — a positive and almost essential trait for any nation’s leader — and being a woman. By evoking female genitalia in a clearly negative connotation, the former president promoted the historical tie between masculinity and political leadership. 

If the executive leader of one of the most powerful nations in the world told you time and time again that you were not suited for politics because of your gender or sex, would you not eventually start to believe him? 

The heavily gendered language we hear used regularly to describe suitability for the office of the president, compounded with the traditional belief that masculine traits are necessary for executive leadership, fortifies the idea that femininity and feminine qualities are ill-suited for leadership. In consequence, the improper idea that women are not capable of effective political leadership becomes more and more deeply ingrained in the American psyche.   

From their youth, women are taught through history, experiential learning and the language of our culture that politics is a “man’s world” with no room for women. We are incredibly lucky to be seeing so many women run for political office right now — especially given the culture of toxic masculinity which has washed over the American political sphere. 

We need to elect the most qualified candidates to office, regardless of their gender. However, the current pool of candidates is limited by the use of gendered language, as many highly qualified women are discouraged from even considering candidacy. 

We cannot allow gendered language to continue socializing the notion that women don’t have a place in politics. We cannot allow gendered language to continue excluding more than half of the American population from politics. And in a time of such volatility — where change is not only necessary, but also decidedly happening — we certainly cannot allow gendered language to waste our opportunity to put more women in office. 

Such minor things as what we say can impact such major effects as who leads the free world. Choose your words wisely.

Ainsley Hillman, a sophomore living in Johnson Family Hall, is studying Business Analytics and Political Science. She currently serves as the Director of Operations within BridgeND. Some of her research interests include U.S. foreign policy and the intersection of environmental and social justice. 

BridgeND is a multi-partisan political club committed to bridging the partisan divide through respectful and productive discourse. It meets on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. in Duncan Student Center W246 to learn about and discuss current political issues, and can be reached at bridgend@nd.edu or on Twitter @bridge_ND.

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

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A sophomoric farewell column to an unforgettable assignment

This column mentions issues relating to sexual violence.

Last year, two of the most powerful inside columns I read were farewell letters from editor-in-chief Adri Perez and the iconic photography editor — who is an even better water pong partner — Allison Thornton. 

It’s absolutely ridiculous, considering that I’m probably the most sophomoric sophomore on this newspaper’s staff, but I have my own farewell letter. Recently, I switched from Saint Mary’s associate news editor to the same position in the Notre Dame news department. I think my experience working at Saint Mary’s is worth sharing.

But buckle up, because the ride will get rough.

As a Gateway student at Holy Cross, I became good friends with then-Saint Mary’s editors Gen Coleman and Crystal Ramirez. I took a Chinese course at Saint Mary’s that fall semester, and the editors kindly took me under their wing.

I say “kindly” because, though I’m still sophomoric, my freshman self was a full-on menace working at The Observer. Loud, obnoxious and quite inefficient while working at production shifts, I lacked any trace of professionalism. But, thanks to their kindness, the newspaper was nothing but fun for me.

When I applied for Notre Dame associate news editor, I didn’t land the job. Isa Sheikh, who I’m now besties with, got it over me. For that, Isa, you suck, but I still love you, obviously (with a heart-eyes emoji).

In a turn of fate, the Saint Mary’s department needed help to keep the ship sailing last spring. The department’s new editor, Meg Lange, then turned — for the first time in The Observer’s history — to a man, me.

Some may have thought a male Saint Mary’s associate news editor was kind of weird, but I loved it. Out of the 50-something stories I’ve written for The Observer, Saint Mary’s stories make up by far the most important and heavy-hitting reporting I have done since joining the Observer. 

I reported on enviable assignments. For one story, I cleared up confusion about an error on customers’ bank statements at the Saint Mary’s Shaheen Bookstore. It required nonstop communication with public relations director Lisa Knox as well as countless interviews with students to get to the bottom of the matter. In another story, I covered the College’s updated COVID-19 policies and its students’ reactions to them. The stories felt important to report on, something we reporters thirst for while covering news.

There was, however, another aspect of the job that changed my life: the assignments I covered about sexual violence issues and events around the tri-campus, often led by Saint Mary’s organizations.

Being a Notre Dame guy, I can admit that it is easy to forget how real sexual assault issues are.

It sounds ridiculous, but we live with a bunch of good, genuine guys. Despite quiet rumors which circulate about some specific men in our halls, we generally feel good about the rest.

But at Saint Mary’s, I encountered a very different reality. Sexual assault issues aren’t forgotten about; they are felt in a very painful and genuine way. 

Last April, I attended Take Back the Night as a reporter and held back tears as I wrote the story. It sounds dramatic, but I surely wasn’t alone. The night was necessary but incredibly scarring. 

Seeing survivors and supporters gather, hearing those dark stories and witnessing them raise each other back up with prayer, chants, hugs and tears were some of the most intense, most powerful moments of humanity I’ve ever observed.

I also covered several lectures and open-discussion events on the topic of sexual assault. The events included alumni authors, student researchers and Saint Mary’s leadership, who all dove into the topic of sexual violence with unforgettable courage and care for their audiences.

On one hand, the events and stories I wrote left me feeling empty. The utter lack of respect displayed by perpetrators of this heinous type of violence was discouraging for my general worldview. Simultaneously, however, I witnessed some of the strongest, most powerful voices I’ve ever heard through the survivors’ responses.

They all struggle in unique ways but for these events, they fought back. I got to see them build each other back up and battle, literally fighting with their whole hearts, against the unfortunate realities of sexual violence in our society. 

The pain is felt at Saint Mary’s; we must not forget.

I know this column took a dark turn of subject, but I am genuinely grateful for everyone in the Saint Mary’s News Department, from former Saint Mary’s associate news editor, editor-in-chief and journalism icon Maria Leontaras, to Gen, Meg, Katelyn, Cathy, Cora, Rose and the rest. Working for less than a year in the department with them, I can say that Saint Mary’s News is among the most important and sensitive work this paper produces.

Now, my position is simply as an associate news editor in the Notre Dame department. It’s easier for me as a student here, and not at Saint Mary’s, so my lazy self enjoys it. But one thing is for certain: I’m lucky to have been given the chance to work across the street.

So, as an over-passionate writer of this newspaper, take one piece of advice from me: follow their work; or, at least, please don’t disregard them any more than you disregard the rest of this newspaper and print journalism as a whole.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this column referred to Maria Leontaras as the former Saint Mary’s news editor, a position she never held. The Observer regrets this error.

You can contact Liam Price at lprice3@nd.edu.

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

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Article: Here

What would you fight for?

I started off my Winter Break losing brain cells. I watched a combined total of 20 hours of New York City influencer vlogs for the first few days of break and found myself both fascinated and disgusted by their lifestyles: wake up, take a ginger shot, Uber to an overpriced coffee shop on the Lower East Side, drink a matcha (the kind with the swirly foam), Uber home, Doordash a Sweetgreen salad, watch Netflix, get ready for a glitzy influencer event, drink espresso martinis aplenty, take Instagram photos, Uber to your finance boyfriend’s apartment, repeat. 

By the end of my 20-hour binge I felt absolutely gutted and queasy. Something about watching beautiful, rich white girls live glamorous yet shallow lives left me feeling unsettled, so I logged off of YouTube and began browsing the documentaries on Netflix (because, before I was the girl who loved New York City influencer vlogs, I was the girl who loved documentaries). I selected the title “Heroin(e)” a 2017 film about the overdose epidemic in Huntington, West Virginia. 

In the short 40-minute documentary, I saw buff, tattooed men lying helplessly on the floor of apartments; I saw a 20-year-old girl passed out in the middle of Sheetz; I saw women walking up and down the streets late at night in the hopes of getting picked up by men. And I realized, those 20 hours I spent watching the top 1% live their lives of luxury and high-class, I gained more in 40 minutes watching the forgotten people, the people we don’t see in the movies or in media, the people who really actually matter. 

The morning after I watched the documentary, my dad and I dropped my mother off at Union Station. Within five minutes, I saw a boy asleep on the cold tile floor by the entrance; I saw an elderly woman stick her hand in a trash can like it was a pantry; I saw a gaunt man dragging his feet, staring hauntingly at something far away that I couldn’t see. And in that moment, I realized that the documentary wasn’t a shock at all — I’ve seen this kind of struggle my whole life. It existed in my school, in my family, in my community, in my country. But it took 20 hours straight of watching privileged pretty girls frolic around New York City, cocktails in hand, for me to realize just how cruel and unfair this reality is.  

Even at Notre Dame, we exist in a bubble, too busy complaining about the unsafe parts of South Bend to actually take a moment and wonder what we can do about it. We study hard so that we can live in cool cities in luxury apartments with doormen and hot friends and wealth and romance, but too often we don’t take the time to really ask ourselves if that’s all even worth it, if there’s something beyond those material joys. 

Of course, I love cool coffee shops and wellness shots and boyfriends — dear God, I love boyfriends, they seem so fun — but we don’t come to Notre Dame, Indiana to get those things. 

I didn’t come to Notre Dame, Indiana to be like those New York City socialites; I came to Notre Dame, Indiana to be like Jan Rader, the Huntington Fire Chief who dedicates her life to fighting the opioid crisis and spends her days injecting patients with Narcan. I came here to be like Leo Gnawa who self-publishes books about his experience while homeless in DC and advocates for homeless lives. I came here to be like Nyla Fox, my friend from high school who is one of the most hard-working people I’ve ever met. I came here to be like my parents or my nana or the lady at the Coinstar who sparked up a conversation with me while I dumped the contents of my piggy bank into the machine. I came here to be me, to find my fight and learn how to fight well. 

If we really mean what we say when we talk about Notre Dame and “Catholic values” and “What would you fight for?” then we would realize there’s more to life than the next Instagram photo dump or night out at the bar. There’s more to life than football and Dyson AirWraps and LinkedIn connections.

Now, if you asked some of the boys in Keenan what I’d fight for, they might say I fight for free pizza in Za Land. If you asked some of my friends the lifestyle I idolize, they might say a lifestyle where I can dance the night away every night and afford funky sneakers made out of recycled plastic bottles. 

But, I hope, someday, when I’ve grown and explored a little more, my purpose will become more clear and my desires will become greater than myself. And I’m sure I’ll find my fight somewhere between ginger shots and saving the world. 

Kate Casper (aka, Casper, Underdog or Jasmine) is from Northern Virginia, currently residing in Breen-Phillips Hall. She strives to be the best waste of your time. You can contact her at kcasper@nd.edu. 

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Winter blues

It’s that time of year in South Bend where campus freezes over and the permacloud chronically deprives us of sunlight. It’s all about perspective, really, because when the snow on the ground is still white, my morning coffee tastes just bitter enough, and my Spotify shuffles to the right track by The Velvet Underground and I’d waken up on time to put on four or more layers of clothes, I can almost romanticize the cold. Sometimes, at night, when it’s dark, I can even tell myself that South Quad is actually Narnia. But the truth is, most of the time, any 15-minute walk can seem like the last trek of your life when the wind is blowing in your face at infinite miles per hour and you’ve forgotten what your fingers are meant to feel like.

My first winter in the Midwest was unlike anything I’d ever experienced before. Its foreign shock permeated my mood, my motivation and my social battery. One night, I vividly dreamt of looking up at the sky and seeing the sun. It took weeks for me to meekly adapt to the weather, and I don’t know if it will ever get better. What I do know is that this time around, I’m prioritizing my efforts to minimize the season’s effects on my disposition. 

On the flight back to school, I read a copy of “The Little Prince” that I had found on sale at a used bookstore. Settling into my seat with a glass of complimentary wine and a children’s book got me a few glances from my neighbor, but I hoped that my Notre Dame sweatshirt would portray me as an academic nonetheless. Revisiting old favorites is a bizarre feeling. Most of these books are written by adults and the lessons they hope to convey, while they flew over my head in kindergarten, now offer a warm solace. 

“What makes the desert beautiful,” the little prince says in the book, “is that it hides a well somewhere.”

The seasonal blues are real, but there are perks to be found and coping traditions to be established. What I also found is that any story told in retrospect, whether it’s the time a friend slipped on the stairs of LaFun or when you walked back from formal with your heels sinking into the snow with every step, gains something of a flair when the setting is South Bend winter. If optimism fails, maybe the hilarity of our Snap memories could be the well in our desert. 

Cramping together in a tiny futon with the heater blasting, the kettle turned on for the pending cups of hot chocolate. Waking up to the tree by your window dressed in a gorgeous, fluffy white. Gearing up in pink gloves and a massive checkered scarf to class. The most fervent piece of advice I would give to any first-year encountering this kind of winter for the first time would be to find moments in your day to engage and revitalize. And to layer. 

“If you come at four in the afternoon, I’ll begin to be happy by three. But if you come at just any time, I’ll never know when I should prepare my heart — there must be rites.”

Our four seasons are a force of nature, quite literally the way the Earth shows us the passing of time as she sheds her leaves and offers us flowers. If succumbing to the beauty of Mother Nature still isn’t enough to come to peace with Notre Dame’s extraordinary winter, let the Fox in “The Little Prince” remind us that there indeed must be rites. Just like night and day complement each other in necessity.

Personally, my favorite season is summer — but how stunning the Golden Dome can be when it gleams through a layer of fresh snow. The appeal of blue skies and lazy tanning afternoons is that it is all fleeting. Just like the fox awaits his four o’clock, there’s always summer coming back around. I’ll be keeping that sensation in the pocket of my puffer jacket to reach into this winter. 

Reyna Lim is a sophomore double majoring in finance and English. She enjoys writing about her unsolicited opinions, assessing celebrity homes in Architectural Digest videos and collecting lip gloss. Reach out with coffee bean recommendations and ‘80s playlists at slim6@nd.edu.