On October 8, the Instagram account @nescacbarstool posted for the first time. The account’s debut was a video proclaiming that in the NESCAC, “we work hard but we play harder.” The clip is a montage of partying crowds at various schools and concludes with a sped-up video of a student vomiting into a trash can, red solo cup in hand. Subsequent posts feature videos of students streaking the quad at Wesleyan, someone slapping a woman’s glitter-covered backside at Williams—in slow motion—and a student at Middlebury shotgunning a beer before promptly turning around to have a person behind the camera shoot a dart into his back.
@nescacbarstool thrives on the audience’s acceptance of its posts as displays of benign debauchery. The events, which we witness from the removed comfort of our smartphone screens, are intended to glorify the “savagery” of their predominantly male participants. With thousands of views, likes and followers, @nescacbarstool appears to succeed in spreading the word that the bookish coeds of the NESCAC can party just as hard as their state school counterparts.
Bowdoin students are well represented on the account, as there are multiple videos of Bowdoin students engaging in all kinds of drunken antics. Multiple videos show students smashing beer cans on their heads in order to open them, and there is even a clip of a student drinking beer by funneling it through a gory fish head. Though these videos are seemingly harmless, the underlying ethos of the account is the glorification of male aggression fueled by excessive drinking.
Our student body and administration are outwardly dedicated to gender equality. Actions like this week’s Take Back the Night event and administrative efforts at providing recourse to victims of sexual violence are examples in which the school has taken a strong stand against the patriarchy. But we would be remiss to ignore the toxic masculinity that pervades Bowdoin’s social scene into the present day. The integration of women into the student body, as well as the abolition of the fraternity system, are both seen as watershed moments of progress in Bowdoin’s history. These historical moments, however, are more symbolic than emblematic of fundamental changes to campus culture.
At its most benign, Bowdoin’s male-centric social scene still gives way for shenanigans not wholly unlike those that occurred half a century ago. @nescacbarstool’s posts provide ample evidence to support this point. At its most insidious, Bowdoin’s social scene perpetuates the continued objectification of women. Rather than being bused from neighboring colleges on the weekend, as they were before the days of coeducation, women on this campus are instead faced with constant but often subtle reminders of their inferiority. Popular social media accounts like @nescacbarstool and a similar account, @nescacsmokeshows, feature posts about attractive women from different NESCAC schools. And instances of sexual harassment and assault have become so prevalent and normalized that the baseline expectation is that every woman at Bowdoin has a “story.”
@nescacbarstool and all its troubling content can serve as an important jumping-off point for discussion about the negative effects of hypermasculinity at Bowdoin. On October 19, The New York Times posted a video compiling the multiple instances in which Harvey Weinstein’s transgressions towards women were jokingly referenced in pop culture. The video begs the viewer to wonder what would have happened if Weinstein had been exposed and reprimanded sooner. It also encourages viewers to become more observant consumers of culture and asks them to be more skeptical of what is presented to them as normal or innocuous. Drawing from these lessons, we should heed @nescacbarstool’s public warnings of an unhealthy campus culture, rather than laugh at this behavior and grant it validation online.