Park: Kava-No-More

Women of Dartmouth, it’s time we got a bit angry.

by Annika Park | 10/1/18 2:20am

I own a cap that was passed down to me by a sorority sister. Neatly sharpied on the inside of the brim, it says, “When you love an institution, you should consistently question its value for the sake of its own validity.” I was probably not allowed to keep this hat, but it somehow made its way with me to Washington D.C., a city that I moved to less than six months ago. With the the controversy surrounding Christine Blasey Ford’s allegations of sexual assault against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh happening right where I call home now, and for many other reasons, I have not been able to get much sleep — nor this quote out of my head.

Kavanaugh and I do not have much in common, except for the fact that both of us attended Ivy League colleges. I am a recent graduate of Dartmouth, where I studied government and education. I was a sister of Alpha Phi sorority and a member of the varsity men’s rowing team. I love my alma mater, like so many Dartmouth graduates do — but that love does not, and should not, prevent me from challenging its flawed institutions.

Watching the hearings from Thursday onwards was a tough time for every man and woman who feared history was repeating itself since the 1991 Anita Hill accusations against current Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. It was an even harder time for women who identified with Dr. Ford’s trauma.

Then came Kavanaugh’s portion of the hearing. Watching his defense, and a few Republican senators’ defenses on his behalf, made me realize the kind of man he was and the nature of the group he belongs to. He was one and the same with the kind of men I went to school with — the kind of men who will face no knocks in life simply because nobody ever told them no, or told them they were wrong or simply said, “Dude, that’s not cool,” when they wanted to put slogans as vulgar as “Renate Alumnius” so proudly on their yearbooks.

Americans should not divert the subject of the conversation away from the criminality of Brett Kavanaugh and Mark Judge’s actions in that house party 30-odd years ago, as that should remain the center of whether or not Judge Kavanaugh is confirmed to the Supreme Court. However, I cannot help but draw parallels from Kavanaugh’s band of brothers to the men I knew during my time at Dartmouth, and the culture of “boys will be boys” that will remain so at Dartmouth, lest the old traditions fail.

In a 2012 hardcover book “The Ivy League,” author Daniel Cappello gives each Ivy League college an adjective that aptly describes what the college is like. Naturally, he describes Dartmouth as “The Rugged Ivy” — an unsurprising designation given Dartmouth’s notoriety to the outside world. However, in the book — also unsurprisingly — the author doesn’t seem to mention how the inherently male qualities of the school insubordinate its female attendees. For instance, there were so many occasions where I felt had to live up to my fellow male classmates and the standards of what they thought Dartmouth woman was or should be that I never realized I was complicit in their continued abuse of power by being a bystander in their practice of privilege. I am certain that this feminine experience is not limited to just this institution. However, I strongly believe that Dartmouth women, more so than any other group of women in the Ivy League, have historically felt a greater need to live up to a standard that was, and may always be, inherently male.

Maybe that is the biggest effect Dartmouth had on me. For the longest time, I believed that anger was not the answer, and that as a woman, in order to get men to listen, I had to subvert from the “inside” — because men never want to listen to angry women. That is no longer the case. To all women, and especially young women, who have had the privilege of being part of a comfortable, self-selected gathering of elites, being angry is absolutely okay, and even necessary. Our privilege does not make us insiders, and we must stop fooling ourselves into thinking we are.

Does realizing this and calling for action make me a traitor to our little cult of silent complicity? Maybe. But if it means that women reading this will realize that remaining passive in a world where male privilege is the norm makes them an accomplice to their continued sense of invincibility, I’m fine with that.

And the responsibilities lie just as much with the “good men” in our lives. In my departing speech to my teammates of mostly male athletes, my most important point to them was to support their female teammates — not because they deserve special treatment as minorities, but because the value of being on a co-ed team was just as much about men learning how to work with women as it was about women learning how to work with men. While this seems obvious, I am thankful that I had the opportunity to voice this to them. I believe the majority of the men I knew during my time at Dartmouth to be good men — but this week has shed light on the value of constant questioning and holding one’s peers to the highest standard of equality. The value of an institution can only go up when its value is consistently questioned for the sake of its own validity just as it says on the inside of my hat. Speaking of said bequest, I have it packed away already to bring back the next time I return to campus — to pass it on to another Dartmouth woman who will need it more than I do.

Park is a member of the Class of 2018.

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