Published: Sunday, October 28, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
With one weekend down and one weekend to go, we currently stand in the middle of the Hallo-Weekends. Each night in preparation for the wild events to follow, there comes a time for decision: what to wear? Now, before you read any further, I ask those who are easily offended to put this paper down (or maybe flip to the Sports section) because I am going to be offensive.
Last week, in a blast email sent from the Women’s Resource Center, UGBC challenged the students of Boston College to “Dress With Respect.” Attached was a link to a Facebook page, which gave a Twitter handle and a link to the campaign “Take Back Halloween.” At first, I deleted the email—physically and mentally—and continued to plan my Catwoman costume. I figured it was just another feminist rant about how girls shouldn’t objectify themselves every Oct. 31. And honestly, I wasn’t going to listen. I am 19 and in college. Give me a break!
While I had put the email out of my mind, it was clear people around campus hadn’t. I kept hearing bits of conversations: there were snippets of support, hints of hesitation, and shreds of sarcasm. My curiosity got the best of me and before I knew it, I was on the “Take Back Halloween” website and emailing UGBC. Before I made any conclusion, I had to do my research.
The campaign calls for students to consider refraining from dressing in offensive costumes. Essentially, this means dressing as races or cultures. I understand why UGBC has this campaign. I see its objective to create a conversation about what is and what is not offensive, but let me be clear: it’s overdramatic.
I am a white, Anglo-Saxon Protestant: a WASP. I played squash and rowed crew at my private boarding school, and was born and raised in a small New England town that still celebrates the victory of the French and Indian war. I am proud of the WASP culture that embraces the American Dream and celebrates education and success (not all WASPs are rich a—holes). Now if someone were to dress as a prep, a filthy-rich old man, or any other distortion of my ancestry, do I have a right to be mad? Do I get a poster? My first instinct is “hell no, that’s ridiculous.” But if WASPs don’t get sensitivity toward their culture, why are we demanding other cultures do? Where do we draw the line? I understand there are lines that should not be crossed, but really—is a simple sombrero all that bad? Our society calls for sensitivity, but only certain amounts and to certain groups of people.
Now, this is not a call for equality in sensitivity. I do not think that the WASP culture needs a poster, and I will not be offended if I see over-the-top preps this weekend. What we need is a decrease in sensitivity, or at least a raised awareness about the possibility of becoming hypersensitive.
All right, I am about to get a little philosophical on you … I can’t help it, we go to BC. Montaigne (that French guy who wrote the collection of essays that, when compiled, weighs more than a brick), wrote a famous essay on the problems of customs. He says it is the customs of our society that “ensnare us” and hold us hostage. The limitations of customs in our society leave us unable to think or reevaluate for ourselves if what we believe is the capital-T Truth is indeed the capital-T Truth.
It is the custom of the United States, and often of BC, to be sensitive and politically correct in all situations. No one wants to risk saying something offensive. Looking back on the 2008 presidential campaigns, the majority of issues were based on race. Real issues were brushed over, or not even mentioned, because the U.S. and its population were incredibly hypersensitive. No one wanted to offend President Obama or his policies, for those who did were often called racists. Now certainly there were racists, but the fear of offending Obama led to a fear of asking the important questions. Obama is a tough cookie—he can take it!
I don’t want BC to surrender to a hypersensitive custom, though by the looks of it we may already have. It is once students become too afraid of offending people that they become afraid of asking the important questions. Our Jesuit nature begins to deteriorate if we don’t ask our neighbors why they believe what they believe, or act as they do. We can’t discover our own capital-T Truths if we are too afraid of offending someone in the process.
For anyone whom this column angers: good. That means you’re thinking. You will say I don’t know the hardships of your people or the significance behind this campaign, but before you get your troops ready to roll into battle, I bet you think you know my story. You’re assuming I am a rich WASP who hasn’t seen the struggles of making it in America, and thus can’t possibly understand the importance of this campaign. Now you are the one stereotyping.
I want my argument and challenge to BC to be clear. I am not saying that UGBC shouldn’t be conducting this campaign, but I am asking that we reevaluate it, break free of any customs, and ensure it is being conducted in a way that is not fostering hypersensitivity.
There is something very special about the culture of BC, and it revolves around our courage to ask the hard questions and search for the capital-T Truth. I ask BC to be aware of the hypersensitive customs of America and be careful not to fall down the slippery slope.
Editor's Note: The views expressed in this column are the author's alone.