When I am walking the streets of Georgetown alone I sometimes question how I possibly ended up at such a university. I am blinded by the light reflecting off the Mercedes and BMWs and cannot help but become sardonic. How is it possible that some people striving for recognition go out and spend extravagant amounts on clothes, cars and exclusive partying while others in this city struggle to feed their children? And I walk across campus or sit in class to overhear comments like, “If you haven’t gone to Cancun by age 22, you must be really deprived,” or, “I can’t believe she’s wearing a fake Tiffany bracelet!” I wonder how I got here and think to myself, “Wake up, Georgetown!”
I come from a place where flaunting money is disgraceful, where people judge one another on the basis of character, where giving to the community takes priority over new cars and new outfits. Granted, people care about clothes and discuss the new line at The GAP, but Kate Spade bags are not a status symbol and wearing discount clothing is still cool. Here, though, I wonder at the few of us left who refuse to give in to the apparent dress code of Abercrombie and Fitch, French Connection and Ralph Lauren. Why not just give up and allow the student body to become the completely homogeneous mass of wealthy prep graduates with manicured nails and professional dye-jobs?
This is not poor Rachel complaining about not having money. This is cool, completely-comfortable-with-her-life Rachel saying that she is tired of the stares she gets walking around campus because she does not fit the ideal. Oh … the shaved head is not because I’m “in a show,” although one prominent socialite asked just that with a grim and appalled look.
But back to the point at hand … I was walking on Prospect Street a few weeks ago when I was literally hit with another reason to have the utmost faith in Georgetown students. I was hit in the back of the head with an egg. Yes, a moving car full of college-aged kids hocked a raw egg at my head which broke on impact, leaving a small bump and gross- smelling, cold, gooey mess running down the back of my neck, in my hair and on my jacket. I had to double check my student ID to be sure that I am a 20-year-old student at one of the most prestigious universities in the country. I wonder how we can demand adult treatment and whine and complain over the drinking age when we still pull stunts that belong in the seventh grade.
Oh, if only my complaints stopped there. It’s hard to avoid pretentious jerks anywhere you go, but you’d think that, at a place full of supposed “elite thinkers,” you could find an open forum for discussion where views could be challenged and everyone could feel free to speak their mind. Not at good old Georgetown. Apparently, here we think that some people should shut up and anyone who thinks differently should be silenced. It seems ironic that I left a very sexist high school thinking I was getting away from misogyny by coming here. The University community’s response to the two organizations I have been involved with at Georgetown has proven more close-minded than four years of sexist math teachers and harassing comments.
Ripping down signs I can almost forgive. At least I can stand up against that?replacing “Take Back the Night” signs five times in one week and printing and hanging three or four times the number of signs that remained up for The Vagina Monologues. But when you anonymously put up false and misleading signs attempting to degrade my production, that’s where I draw the line on allowed criticism. I can stand the distribution of an ultra-conservative journal that defaces students (me, for example) by name. The Academy is a symbol of free speech, and at least it can be laughed at for its ridiculous, misinformed, irrational opinions about “Take Back the Night,” Health Education Services, the Women’s Center and the Women’s Studies Department. But free speech is not the same as harassment or fraudulent mockery. And besides being against the law and generally very immature, it also shows an ignorance and intolerance that I don’t think this campus wants to represent.
Isn’t there more to life than fancy clothes, childish stunts and cowardly insults? Apparently, we don’t think so here at Georgetown. You can’t get the full college experience without feeling pressure to front an identity of wealth, without harassing or completely disrespecting people, without intimidating and sabotaging people who have a different viewpoint or outlook. Wake up, Georgetown! This school will never be a prestigious school of higher learning, it won’t be appealing to the top high school students or anyone with an educated outlook or a desire for diversity and room to grow and think openly, until this bullshit stops.
I came to this University to further my education and view of the world, not to meet a rich man or to get a high-paying job. I came to live in a community of adults with integrity and compassion, not to become a victim of some frat-boy pranksters who think they are above respect. I came to speak my mind and hear others do the same, not to be silenced or a part of a bigoted community. Wake up, Georgetown!
Wake up, and stand up. It’s one thing to have money and buy nice clothes that you like. It’s quite another to mock or look down on those who don’t. It’s one thing to laugh at the childishness of pranks, and it’s totally another to act them out. It’s one thing to dislike or avoid organizations like “Take Back the Night” and The Vagina Monologues. It’s quite another to publicly deface or sabotage them. I’m not saying those who do are the majority. In fact, it is probably a minority of students on this campus that lack basic respect for others and poison our community with hate and hurtfulness. But until the majority stands up to them, telling them that this behavior is unacceptable, it’s going to continue. Maybe you’re not a casual dresser and don’t act condescendingly to others on the basis of what they wear. Maybe you’ve never been a part of immature jokes. Maybe you don’t tear down signs and put up false ones. But you probably don’t do anything to stop those who do. And you have silently given permission for these things to occur, because you haven’t said anything to the contrary.
That makes you part of the problem … until you wake up and actively decide to be part of the solution.