It is easy for a minority student to hate Bowdoin. From the classroom, to College Houses, to student clubs, almost everything is perceived through the perspective of a “traditional-student” population. I was tired of it, so I decided to start writing about my experiences from a different cultural lens. Of course, I understood that my audience was predominately white and that their perspectives could be contrary to mine. There’s a reason why I named my column “Polar Views.” I wanted to provoke thought and reflection, but it came with some resistance.
For the past two weeks, I have endured the uproar from female students in response to my previous article that pertained to hookup culture, specifically the phenomenon of the “fuckboy.” Some of my peers agreed with my opinions but refrained from openly agreeing with my piece because they were cautious about voicing these opinions—and justifiably so. When I voiced an opinion that may or may not have been the dominant one, I was attacked by those who want everybody to look at the world through their specific lenses.
I can’t count the number of glares I’ve recently received from my female peers on campus, but this experience was not a problem for me. The issue was that no one tried to educate me on my supposed wrongdoing. Unlike magazine writers from far away, I am a student writer who is easily accessible on Bowdoin’s campus. Some members of the Bowdoin community approached me to express their appreciation for my piece, but no one approached me who disagreed with it. Since there were students who reacted negatively to my article, I would have appreciated a conversation with them as a teaching moment for both sides. I touched on several topics in my piece, but my friends overheard that the cause of outrage was primarily my anecdote about a friend accusing me of benevolent sexism for opening a door for her. The comments section of my piece was riddled with accusations that I was not only victim-blaming women, but that I was misogynistic.
So I spoke to the women in my life, across various age groups, and they didn’t have the same negative reaction. These are women who appreciate men who treat them like they are special people. Women are special; my mother is special. I spoke with my mother a few days after the uproar from my female peers. My mother, hearing the remorseful tone in my voice on the phone, told me, “Please son, don’t stop opening doors. It’s no longer hip to be a gentleman—I get it—but trust me when I say there are women who do appreciate it.” It was at that moment when I fully realized that I needed to accept my mother’s advice and embrace my culture.
My mother was worried because she raised me to be respectful and kind towards others—women, men, teachers and especially elders. I already compromise part of my culture when I have to address elders on campus, some old enough to be my mother or grandmother, by their first name rather than with an honorific. When she heard that my peers were accusing me of being a misogynist for opening doors, she was utterly appalled. Respect is embedded in my black communal background, my rich Yoruba culture. Perhaps we as Bowdoin students could all learn to respect the cultures of others who are different from us. It is interesting to note that most of the people who were so offended by my piece are not from my culture or background.
If having the door held open is so painful for you, then respectfully, I will specifically not open doors for you. I never learned in childhood that opening doors for women stemmed from a preconceived opinion that they are weak or helpless. Opening doors is an act of kindness and respect in my household and my community. I write as a black man with a Nigerian immigrant family. I respect your views and your culture, so please respect mine.