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OLAYEMI: Rutgers women must put aside animosity

Column: Life at RU

Recently, while in conversation with a few friends, one of the males in the room asked: “So, how do you ladies feel about the interactions and attitudes between women at Rutgers?” 

While this was a question that I never explicitly thought about, my response came confidently and without delay: “It is trash.”

As one would presume, I was expected to expand upon my somewhat harsh assertion, leading to the necessary dialogue that brought me here. 

As a woman on this campus, I can say that I am unimpressed by the unity and underlying hostility present in the female population. And, before you get defensive, I am not saying that all Rutgers women are mean or uninviting. 

But, as a population, we project characteristics that one may reasonably view as antagonistic or unsupportive of one another.  

When my friends asked me to elaborate, my mind brought me to these three questions: What is the female culture at Rutgers? Who are we to and for one another? Why? 

These were at the foundation of my thought process. In preparing a response for my friend, I thought of the inherent competition that defines aspects of our culture. 

Reflecting on my earlier years at Rutgers, I cannot help but notice the role competition has played in my interactions with women and how they interact with me. I refer to competition in many senses. 

There is social space competition. There is out-group isolation. There is the age-old competition for attention and favor from a desired partner (while many of us do not want to admit it in 2019, I argue that it is still a thing). All of these are actively presenting themselves in Rutgers’ female culture and interaction.

Women compete in social spaces, especially those who travel in groups. I have, on many occasions, been with my group of friends, largely in my earlier years at Rutgers, and witnessed an unspoken tension between ourselves and another group of girls. 

Personality will always play a role in situations such as these. But, I believe that in these instances, the desire to assert or preserve social significance in a particular space fuels our interactions with each other. 

We sometimes operate in a “there can only be one” mentality: one girl, one group, one squad, one team, whatever the case may be. Inserting two or more into the equation challenges the fickle nature of the surface-level, secondary social circles we often establish in college.

​One must not ignore the cliquey nature that is often characteristic of women as well. While I normally resent generalizations associated with my gender (or any other aspects of my identity for that matter), I have to acknowledge the truth in that cliques do exist, even in college, and with a clique comes the isolation of its out-group members. 

Much of the college experience is marked by the seamless establishment of one’s in-school support system. What often comes with that unity and companionship which is typical of cliques, is the impenetrability of the established in-group. 

Whether on purpose, female cliques adopt that impenetrable posture, and emphasize already implicit attitudes between themselves and those outside of their group.

​In exploring my position of female interaction at Rutgers, specifically in terms of the question of “Why?”, I thought about the obvious: Women harbor hostility fueled by the fact that we have been socialized by the expectations surrounding romantic relationships and interaction with desired partners. 

What I have noticed is that it is not necessarily “cute” to be the nice girl. As it pertains to the opposite sex, people often say that men like the chase. This rings true in that aloof and unavailable is frequently favored over what one would generally deem as nice. 

In the incubation chamber that is Rutgers University, where ideals and attitudes permeate the various subsects of our college student culture, these favored attitudes bleed into our interactions with one another. Aloof and unavailable becomes a resting posture as opposed to just a flirting tactic, and our fellow female peers often get the brunt of that attitude.

I must acknowledge that there are organizations on campus that facilitate sisterhood and fellowship among Rutgers women, but even they do not alleviate tensions that run deeper than just student culture. As far as I am concerned, we have not yet been able to overcome the intrinsic enmity toward one another, hindering our ability to make genuine and personal relationships and limiting our potential to establish an empowering and uplifting female culture at Rutgers.

As a woman at Rutgers, I can reflect on my last three years on campus and say that I am unimpressed by the unity among women on campus. Females have taken a back seat to the male species since the beginning of time. History proves this. 

Fortunately enough, this trend has been attacked and continues to shift positively for us fellow females. But this trend may be having a reverse effect on the unity among us. 

Instead of supporting each other and working as one, we are moving separately.  Competition has never been more intense. Who is the most independent? Who is making the bigger and better moves? 

This fight for social significance hinders our ability to form genuine bonds, on a personal level.

Yvonne Olayemi is a School of Arts and Sciences senior majoring  in biological sciences. Her column, “Life At RU,” runs on alternate  Wednesdays. 


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