By Rachele Byrd '18
To an “Open-Minded” Wellesley Student,
When I decided to come to Wellesley, it was because of a desire for an environment where women empowered other women, where we could thrive in our womanhood, and where I wouldn’t have to be self-conscious about myself and my passions. Like many other students, I wasn’t aware of how vast the sphere of womanhood could be, and until Wellesley, wasn’t aware of how little I knew of so many women’s issues.
Wellesley is a very political place, and most everyone is not as enlightened when they enter as when they exit. In my short time here (I’m a sophomore), I’ve learned so much about gender, sexuality, and how complex a person can be. I’ve learned about respecting people and their choices, had genuine conversations about the issues that people different from me face, and have learned how to live and interact with them on a daily basis. I stay in love with Wellesley because of the compassion, empathy, and tolerance that exudes from my siblings day to day.
However, due to this idea of Wellesley’s open acceptance, it is particularly jarring when you are not accepted. Everyone is, of course, entitled to their own opinion, whether or not the majority believes the same. Wellesley is commonly viewed as a liberal college; we are forward thinkers, practicing what we want to be seen in the world. We educate ourselves so that when we leave this bubble, we can educate others with the same compassion, empathy, and tolerance we have come to expect.
This doesn’t mean that Wellesley is immune to intolerance—a glance at the Yik Yak feed lets you know that there are plenty of issues that the average Wellesley student has with the place. In fact, you could even argue that a lot of Wellesley students aren’t as tolerant as they’d like us to believe, with some blatantly posting their intolerance in a space where the whole school can comment. Some believe that Wellesley is a place full of people who refuse to understand their points of view.
If there is anything I have learned at Wellesley, it’s that not everyone will agree with you and that is okay. Not everyone needs to think the same things.
But I have also learned the difference between genuinely wanting to change your behavior and playing the victim.
We all have the capacity to hold radical views, whether they be radically traditional, radically liberal, or just plain radical even for Wellesley’s standards. Sometimes those views, when posted on a public forum, can cause a serious outrage within the Wellesley community. When these things happen, the only thing your Wellesley sibs want you to do is LISTEN. Listen and try to understand that there are some things other people will have more experience with and knowledge about because they have lived through them and you have not. When they tell you that something you’ve said, or posted, or commented on is problematic or harmful, regardless of their tone, take their advice and check yourself.
The first time, we can forgive you. But it’s the third and the fourth time, the seventh and eighth that I start to have a problem. You are no longer just ignorant, nor do you get to scapegoat mental illness, traditional values, or misguidedness as a reason to refuse to listen to your sisters and siblings who are trying to help you. You no longer get to claim that you are “open-minded” when you have clearly shown over and over again that you will not listen to the people who have lived through things you have no authority on. You cannot open yourself to criticism in serious conversations and then justify your actions with excuses.
To continuously post racist, transphobic, and bigoted things on Wellesley forums—even after people have expressed both calmly and heatedly why these things are not okay makes you look racist, transphobic, and bigoted. I understand how it feels when a large number of people attack you because they disagree with your opinion. But, you have to understand that when you don’t listen and continue to make posts that you KNOW will be harmful to a specific population, people will start to care less and less about how “attacked” you feel.
If you do not want to learn and grow as an individual, you no longer need an environment that pushes you to do just that. You can have the freedom of your opinion without constantly disrespecting and offending people who have only tried to help educate you. If you choose to ignore all of that, then don’t expect these communal spaces to make room for your harmful words and microaggressions.
A Student Who Clearly Has Too Much Time on Her Hands
From October 2015 Issue