April 13, 2011

Healthy Confrontation

As my semester at Duke slowly comes to an end, I realize how much my routine reflects that of the average Duke student: I have worked hard (kind of), played hard (REAL hard) and have, more often than not, taken what Chronicle writer Ryan Brown describes as the “something bigger than ourselves” mentality.
My semester at Duke, unlike my previous semesters at UNC, has forced me to face many unfortunate realities. One of these realities is the palpable sense of destructive gender norms that exist in the world (and the notion that feminism is a bad thing); another is the existence of individuals who are, dare I say it, conservative!
[I am not saying destructive gender norms and conservatives do not exist at UNC; rather, I am saying that they exist behind a liberal curtain and (as recent weeks have demonstrated) a safe and inclusive university fa├žade.]
At Duke, I have interacted with conservatives, with the “I’m not a feminist, but…” students, and with those that would fight till the end to maintain the existing gender culture at Duke. I have attended a handful of meetings at the Women’s Center and have had numerous conversations with individuals, both conservative and liberal and all in between, regarding feminism. Yet, like Brown, I prefer to push my headphones into my ear and pump up the volume rather than fighting complacency and, in turn, a destructive culture. I have these conversations, but then I go on with my business, thinking to myself, “Well, we talked and they still didn’t get what I had to say…oh, well!”

What I have loved most about Duke, however, is the opportunity to have interacted with those that align themselves on the opposite sides of an issue. What I love about my semester here is the fact that I think about these things and realize my “something bigger than ourselves” mentality. And most of all, I love that I have more opportunities to not be complacent; to continue to have conversations with people, but also take action—to attend events such as Be A Man [Thursday (April 14th) at 8:30pm in McClendon 5] and Fab Friday with these people who have different views than my own.

Confrontation is uncomfortable, but healthy confrontation can be life-changing. So I encourage myself and others to have conversations with individuals who normally wouldn’t agree with you on an issue (such as feminism), befriend these individuals and listen to their stories, and then bring them to some healthy confrontational events (such as Be A Man or Fab Friday). Whether they change their minds or not is not what is important; what is important is us not subscribing to the “bigger than ourselves” mentality and taking action AND making new friends.

If there is nothing else to bond over, you and your new friend can always bond over being Blue Devils, a community I am honored to be a part of during my college experience.

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