Offended By Stereotypes Of Stern Women


My friends and I verily enjoyed reading Michael Snow’s Shmoozefeed blog, “A Serious Case of PDSGD (Post Day School Guilt Disorder”).

We especially appreciated the vivid descriptions of the “typical Stern girl,” with the requisite denim-skirt reference and aspirations towards a family-friendly career. As we Stern students and graduates read further, understanding that, in fact, the author did not mean to poke fun at an all-too-easy stereotype, but rather intended to point out how “enriching” the duality of secular and religious worlds are — well, then we laughed aloud. We were unsure which was more amusing: the depiction of the ever-naïve Stern Girl, or the assumption that Yeshiva University is far removed from the tensions of Torah versus Madda and Derech Eretz [Knowledge and Proper Manners].

While Yeshiva University students may be blessed with academic calendars that do not create religious conflicts, it would be unfair to imply that we do not question and explore our religious identity in the face of modernity. Here, it’s not so much about examining the conflicts of Torah and Madda, but rather about celebrating their oneness.

The only paternalism I’ve experienced in my three years at Stern College for Women was that which was imposed upon me from outside. Our voices and individuality are hushed only by those who paint us as finishing-school ladies of a past century and who conveniently ignore the strong idealists, doers and thinkers graduating from Stern every year.

It is indeed commendable that the observant student on the secular campus appreciates his or her struggles as formative. But we ask, respectfully, that this not be done at our expense — that our voices not be dismissed as homogeneous, nor our experiences as cloistered. Let that same esteem for those wonderfully collegiate ideas — “diversity” and “complexity” — hold true for your own as well.