Tag Archives: Smith

Smithies Respond to Offensive Letter with Righteous Rage

A few days ago, a fellow alumna of my alma mater sent a rather puzzling letter to the school’s newspaper in which she proclaimed that the increase in diversity at Smith in recent years is sending the college down the tubes and attracting subpar* applicants, and in which she stated, among other things, that “the days of white, wealthy, upper-class students from prep schools in cashmere coats and pearls who marry Amherst men are over. This is unfortunate.”

That excerpt was possibly the least offensive statement in the entire letter. I could comment at length on the classism, racism, and homophobia of the letter as a whole, or the fact that it reflects a mindset that stagnated in the 1950s, but that’s already been done. (You can read the letter in its entirety–plus commentary–on Jezebel.)

The Smith community reacted to this bomb, predictably, with righteous rage.  Tell Smith women that it’s a problem we’re not wearing pearls and sweater sets and dating Amherst men? Tell any Smithie that her background makes her a charity case? You’d better run for cover.

Within a few hours of the letter hitting the Sophian,  some enterprising Smithies started the “Pearls and Cashmere” project, in which Smithies past and present were invited to respond with their stories of where they came from,  how they got to Smith, and what they’ve accomplished since graduating, with photos to illustrate the glorious diversity of the student body. Several ladies posted their best photos of themselves in pearls and cashmere–some including a classy middle-finger salute for the woman who dared to suggest that they didn’t merit their education if they weren’t pursuing their MRS.

My own response and photo (no pearls or cashmere or rude gestures required) is at the end of this post.

Antagonizing Smithies is a bit like antagonizing a pack of hyperintelligent and slightly rabid she-wolves: you will get the most well-articulated smackdown in history. But we’re above bombarding you personally with hate mail–we’ll put our responses online, where they don’t clutter your inbox, and they don’t risk going unseen. We’ll use your intolerance to affirm pride in our own individual identities, and in our collective identity as Smithies.  And we’ll let the world know how wrong you are in judging us based on your own narrow view of what women’s education is supposed to be.

Smith breeds Sisterhood. Siblinghood. We’re-all-in-this-togetherhood. The outpouring has been truly incredible. Reading the entries on Pearls and Cashmere has made me even more amazed at the variety of  people who go to Smith, and the amazing things we do when we go into the world. Seeing the way Smithies rally to affirm the glory of their multi-ethnic, multi-racial, economically diverse, LGBTQ and ally selves, I have never been prouder to have called Smith my home.

 

 

Self-Portrait at Habu Temple in Luxor

 

Laura Carroll, class of 2006. French major, Medieval Studies minor, with an unofficial minor in Philosophy as well. I graduated 5th in my high school class, scored a perfect 800 on the verbal section of my SAT, and received a Smith Book Award, a STRIDE scholarship, and a Blumberg fellowship, all merit-based. I could have gone to college pretty much anywhere I damn well pleased, and I chose Smith solely because I knew that I would get an excellent education. Once there, I discovered that when you put two thousand brilliant women from diverse backgrounds in the same place and encourage them to learn and explore together, you create a phenomenal community that breeds intellectual creativity. At Smith, I was able to take classes in a mind-boggling array of disciplines, study abroad in Paris, sing with the Glee Club, and fence sabre. I made friends that are still with me to this day.
I’m currently working on my MA in Sustainable International Development at Brandeis, and I’m on practicum in Egypt (this photo was taken at Habu Temple in Luxor). I’ve lived in Morocco and Russia. I’m working on a book-length travel narrative and multiple short stories. I practice aerial arts and dance in my free time. I have a fabulous partner, whom I met at Smith. I challenge conventions about the things that are “acceptable” to do with my life—as have generations of Smithies before me.

Attending Smith was one of the best decisions I ever made.

 

 

 

 

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*Subpar, in this instance, meaning anyone who isn’t an upper-class, white, heterosexual, cisgendered female.

 

Aerial Shenanigans at Smith

Despite my last post about Reunion feeling slightly strange to me because only a portion of my community was there, the fact is that I had a blast with the friends that I did see. We caught up, we bought drinks, we ate delicious food, we wandered around campus and celebrated old memories and made new ones. Most of these new memories involved good conversations and having good food and wine and revisiting old haunts.

And then there was this one.

My friend Echo is an aerialist, and she majored in Engineering at Smith, back when the then-new department was housed in a temporary building affectionately dubbed the “Green Monster” for being an eyesore in an otherwise beautiful brick-and-ivy campus. Now that the very new and shiny engineering and science building is up and running, Echo felt that she had to pay tribute/play a prank in the best way she knows how: by hanging from the ceiling.

Now, Echo has been a friend for a long time now, and I know that she is generally quite paranoid about safety. I also know that she is incredibly stubborn, and that any attempts to dissuade her that might be made by well-meaning friends would almost certainly backfire. So I knew it was my duty as a friend and fellow aerialist to come with her and make sure that she didn’t break her neck while attaching her silks to the ceiling.

Also, I admit it. I wanted to hang from the ceiling too.

Along the way, we found another Smithie aerialist and her girlfriend, who wanted to participate in the insanity. But because there was only enough equipment for one person at a time, and Echo was the only one who knew anything about rigging, she was the one to go climb on the beams.

So. This was the space we were working with.

 

The very tall atrium in which we were planning to hang silks.

 

 

 

We went in, wielding the kind of equipment normally associated with mountain climbing: a harness, carabiners, ropes, etc.  And Echo began to climb.

 

Echo sorts the span sets while hooked onto a beam.

 

She got to the main pillar…

 

Can I really climb this thing?

 

And discovered that she couldn’t actually get the span sets over the main beam.

 

If I only had a few more tools...

So. We decided to simplify our plan and hang from one of the lower beams, and Echo began the slow process of shimmying back along the beams she’d climbed on previously in order to get back to the balcony where the rest of us were standing. As we traipsed downstairs, we were intercepted by a Public Safety officer.

A report of people climbing on the beams? Surely not!

But we confessed to trying to hang fabric from the ceiling (without mentioning that we were planning to then climb, contort, and otherwise do tricks on said fabric), and told him that we had special insurance (which was entirely true). Unsurprisingly, he still said we needed to leave. Damn.

So, no actual photos of doing aerial dance or acrobatics. But we didn’t die, and we didn’t get arrested, and we now have a story to tell…

 

 

College Revisited, Five Years Later

This weekend, I went to my 5-year reunion. For four amazing years of my life, I went to Smith College, a women’s college where I met some of the best friends I’ve ever had, some of the most inspiring professors I’ve ever found, and the most amazing partner I could have asked for. Since graduating, I’ve been back several times, to visit friends  who were still students, to attend their graduations, to attend my own unofficial 2-year reunion for a much-needed dose of girl power in the midst of a year in Morocco. All of those visits have been amazing. But none have been quite like this.

This time, my 5-year reunion, was beautiful and bittersweet. I saw many wonderful friends, some of whom I hadn’t seen since graduation, some of whom I’d seen regularly as long as we were in the same states. I was struck, though, by two things. First, the fact that many of my close friends from Smith were not from my graduation year, and consequently were not in attendance. Somehow, in my mind, I had envisioned that absolutely everyone I cared about from my time at Smith would be there, people who were seniors my first year and people who were first years my senior year, all rolled into one. Professors who have been retired for years would be there too. And coming back, to find that that was not the case, made the weekend feel incomplete. As though the community that I created for myself during my time at Smith was only half-present, the other half inexplicably gone.

I also realized that for the first time, I no longer know anyone at Smith other than the faculty. All of my friends have graduated now, even the youngest of them, and all the current students are strangers to me. It was strange to find that in this place, where I have felt the greatest sense of belonging, I no longer truly have a place except in memory. Moments that once seemed to extend into forever are now laid down in lavender, to be preserved and taken out as keepsakes. Everything on campus seemed smaller, less imposing than my memory had painted. Or maybe I’ve just grown.