On Bowdoin Women (And Men)
**Editor’s note: This letter previously named the individual quoted by College Magazine, who has since requested anonymity from College Magazine. He claims that he was asked to articulate the prevailing stereotype, rather than a personal opinion–a distinction which was not properly executed by the College Magazine author.
Dear Anonymous Bowdoin Freshman,
I think you know what this is about, but I’ll reprint the selection from College Magazine’s Top 10 Colleges with The Hottest Guys here, for those people whose Newsfeeds aren’t full of it:
9. You may not have heard of it, but Bowdoin boys are more of something to see. Even with its chilly Brunswick, Maine weather and no Greek life, you may be surprised to find that 1/3 of the students are varsity athletes, said one Bowdoin freshman. It’s filled with preppy New England men from private boarding schools, so you’re in luck if you like the blue-blood, Sperry-wearing, yacht-sailing type. They also have one of the healthiest dining halls in the country. “Guys have to try extra hard here because there are way fewer attractive girls than guys. Hence, guys have to up their game to have a chance with the hottest girls,” he said.
I’m sorry to single you out like this, I’m sure you’re a really nice guy. This letter is more for me than it is for you–as you’ll see later, when I recount an episode from my Bowdoin career that nearly left my self-esteem in a place scarier than the bottom of dining’s compost pile after the lobster bake. First things first…
In the same week that Ashley Judd gained snaps all around for an editorial defending her “puffy” face from patriarchal criticism, it would be easy for me to pen a reaction from the pad/tampons aisle of the grocery store. However, my aim is not to draw a divide between standers and sitters, merely to point out how the attitude you assumed in your comments to College Magazine could be considered detrimental to the well-being of all sexes on the ‘Cac campus I call home.
The dynamic you set up is frightening: we live on a campus with a scarcity of resources. Demand for hot women is high, supply of hot women is short, thus, men must compete if they want their share. It’s basic economics (this much I did retain from Micro 101). Some of us are visual learners, so I’ll try and draw something that vaguely makes sense.
Below, the Hotness Availability Chart:
Now imagine a little star in the corner of that graph (where x and y meet, bazing!) that says “you are here.” That is kind of the message you were pushing, and I’ve got to say it’s pretty bleak.
The problem with the whole supply and demand thing, and the Hotness Availability Chart, is the assumption that all men want to have a chance with the hottest girls–that they want to participate in that competition for a superficial prize. Is there something in Bowdoin’s culture that encourages this primitive display of masculinity, and saddles men with pressure to choose from a select pool of women?
Anybody who has spent time observing the social dynamics of the campus will tell you that it isn’t just a matter of hot or not, objectively speaking. A hockey player may be more likely to hook up with a member of the women’s lacrosse team (just an example, no hate!) than the girl at the printing station he spends all day dreaming about, not because he personally finds the first girl more attractive, but because the two teams overlap more often in social settings.
If what Bowdoin men are doing is as simplistic as competing for hotties, it’s not a campus-wide competition—it’s limited to distinguishable social groups.
The crux of the matter is, that everyone is hot to someone. But that statement rests on subjectivity, not objectivity, and Bowdoin girls and guys alike have fled to the throes of objectivity in order to cope with the fact that they are fighting over the last bunch of banana’s in a neighborhood with five grocery stores. Am I making myself clear? We’ve convinced each other, our friends–and apparently you–that there are only a few hotties so that we can live in the same perpetual state of convenience.
Any underlying dissatisfaction you may have with the women at Bowdoin is not because they are more likely to spend their time in the library than in a tanning booth. It’s not because they aren’t as sweet as the sorority girls you met when you visited your friend’s state school. It’s because you attend a school that prioritizes convenience over sexual compatibility, and you’ve learned to train your sights on the girls that your individual social group has conditioned you to believe are attractive. Meanwhile, the range and unpredictability of what human beings find attractive falls far beyond the borders of where you eat in the dining hall.
*deep breath* And now, a story:
My sophomore year I was still in touch with someone I’d hooked up with a few times my freshmen year. The freshman-senior hook-up is about the least likely dynamic to provide eventual closure, but as we were keeping in touch I—the one who had predictably gotten attached and burned–took the opportunity to ask whether I could have done anything differently over the course of our ambiguous relationship.
His response? “You should seriously consider getting your teeth fixed.”
His comment literally knocked the wind out of me. I was shocked that someone had the balls to negatively address one of my deeper insecurities. Amazingly, he was still talking, “Don’t get me wrong, you’re a gorgeous girl…” but by then I had completely tuned him out. All I could think about was how many times I’d been inches from his face, and how repulsed he must have been by my orthodontia to bring it up on the spot so many months later.
I rushed my way through the rest of the conversation and to my bathroom mirror to inspect the situation. That my front teeth stick out is something I’d always been aware of, but for the next few weeks they were all I could see. I played back his Southern drawl making the remark over and over again–in the morning when I put on my make-up, at night when I took out my contacts.
Now I hardly have the pedigree of Georgia Jagger, or the talent of Anna Paquin, but I knew there were attractive women out there with less than perfect teeth. I had to make the conscious decision to take myself at face value, I had to be the friend to myself that this guy wasn’t willing to be. By the time summer rolled around, I finally put the opinion of one yacht owning, Sperry clad, prep school grad behind me and cut ties for good.
So my teeth had knocked me out of the running for “hottie?” So what, that was one opinion.
I remember a comment on the now defunct Bowdoin ACB page, which read something like, “Bowdoin women you should be ashamed of yourselves, you will never be pretty in the real world.” Well, we’re not ashamed–at least those of us that realize the nature of our “real world.”
You see, we go to an institution ranked among the top 10 in the country. We may participate in fun lists like the one in College Magazine, but we know at the end of the day we will be, and have chosen to be, judged by our intellect and willingness to engage meaningfully with others. That is our reality and state of mind, and will continue to be after we leave Bowdoin.
Everybody is hot to someone, Anonymous Bowdoin Freshman, so do all sexes a favor and quit “trying.”