In last week’s issue, we published “The pretty game: objectification, humiliation and the liberal arts,” an article written by an anonymous female first year. The article ran as an off-week installment in the biweekly Features column “The Bears and the Bees,” but was written by a guest contributor. As of press time, the article had received 69 comments and garnered over 6,800 page views. The writer’s words have started a substantial dialogue on campus; on Wednesday, approximately 45 female students attended an informal discussion facilitated by the Women’s Resource Center which addressed the content of the piece.
This article was unorthodox for the Orient. We only publish anonymous contributions when we have verified the author’s identity and when the content cannot otherwise be obtained. We encouraged the author to include her name, but decided that her words held enough significance for the Bowdoin community to merit anonymous publication. Of course, there are also benefits to withholding names. Granting anonymity can help readers focus on an article’s content and the issues it raises rather than on the identity of its writer. In this case, the author also sought the advice of leaders in Peer Health for guidance in narrating her experiences. And the article was just that—one person’s story. Both online comments and campus conversations suggest that her sentiments resonate with a wider population of students, and not just women. People of all genders face social alienation and self-consciousness about their bodies.
One misses the point of the article if the terminology of “the pretty game” is the only takeaway. By featuring this phrase in the headline, we highlighted one facet of the article’s analysis of Bowdoin’s social scene. The focus, however, should not be on the prepackaged term but on the greater forces at work that contribute to its reality. Students have responded to the article’s discussion of body image issues that lead to eating disorders, social pressure to go out, and the sense of failure some feel when going home alone after a party. We also feel it is limiting to read the article as just a condemnation of off-campus houses and their residents; the author implicates a culture that pervades Bowdoin and beyond.
The article has provoked a broad range of impassioned reactions on campus. While some applaud and identify with its astute observations, others criticize it for relying on perceived generalizations or thinly-veiled accusations. We do not know where these conversations will go, but we think they are productive nonetheless.