Debunking the Dartmouth Man
By Sara Kassir, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Friday, May 11, 2012
They say that behind every stereotype is some form of truth. Maybe I have too much faith in my male peers, but for their sake, I sincerely hope this isn’t true.
If you ask any Dartmouth student to describe their classmates in general, they’ll probably throw around complimentary adjectives such as “intelligent,” “passionate” and “ambitious.” Yet as soon as you ask for descriptions of the typical Dartmouth man, the image that comes to mind isn’t entirely positive. Sure, the stereotypical Dartmouth guy is probably successful, smart and well-dressed — but according to this archetype, he’s also elitist, arrogant and chauvinistic.
When asked what traits are associated with being a “Dartmouth man,” Jayant Subrahmanyam ’15 mentioned qualities such as “hard drinking and generally disrespectful toward women,” as well as “usually intelligent and ambitious, but also corporate and money-oriented.”
Other common descriptions include “white, preppy, athletic and fratty,” according to Dip Fasawe ’14.
Perhaps on the more offensive end of the spectrum, Sterling Beard ’12 said he has also heard “the Dartmouth man” stereotyped as someone who “does drugs, sexually assaults women” and “is WASP-y.”
It seems that regardless of their year or place on campus, the real men of Dartmouth all share a common sense of how they are perceived. They hold, however, different opinions on whether or not they believe the stereotypes are valid.
“I don’t know a single person that fits all of [the stereotypes],” Sahil Seekond ’15 said. “As a whole, I could see how some of them could be embodied by the Dartmouth man in general. We do have plenty of hard drinking, athletic guys on campus.”
Beard, however, recognized that “a very small percentage of the guys I know at Dartmouth fit that stereotype.”
“Most of the guys I know don’t, but that might just be because I don’t go out and I don’t hang around in basements,” he said.
Beyond not feeling that they can personally identify with this archetype, many male students also said they found the stereotypes personally offensive. In particular, traits such selfishness and materialism seemed to be particularly bothersome.
“I think the whole stereotype of money-oriented and focused only on wealth is personally offensive,” Subrahmanyam said. “I know a lot of people who are focused on things other than just getting an awesome job and using Dartmouth as more than a means to an end.”
For other male students, the accusations of Dartmouth men being disrespectful toward women also struck a cord.
“I personally treat women really well,” Henry Stewart ’12 said. “I went on a date, we had wine at the river and the sun was setting. That’s pretty romantic, right?”
Fasawe also said there exists a double standard regarding men sexually objectifying women on campus.
“I don’t think it’s all one way,” Fasawe said. “You see girls saying, ‘Damn, I really want to hook up with that guy tonight,’ too. People like to make it seem like guys here treat girls badly and girls don’t like it, but girls act like the more disinterested a guy is, the more interested they are.”
Beard said that there is a discrepancy between how women on campus claim to want to be treated and the type of behavior they tolerate.
“It takes two to tango,” he said. “I think that if girls acted right, guys would act right.”
Stewart also suggested that changes in the social fabric of campus would follow if women refused to put up with the aspects of Dartmouth culture of which they don’t approve.
“If women said, ‘We’re not going to hang out in dirty basements,’ the basements would get cleaned,” he said.
The consensus among the men of Dartmouth seems to be that there is a glaring inconsistency between the perception and reality of who they are. But when asked to come up with a more accurate description that better identifies themselves and their peers, the task is not so easy.
“I think the closest thing that describes a Dartmouth man is someone who is well-rounded,” Seekond said. “Guys who like to have fun but still know what they want to achieve.”
Stewart, on the other hand, said he finds the entire idea of “the Dartmouth man” impossible to define.
“It’s silly to try because we’re so diverse,” he said. “I try not to get trapped in the typical mindset of, ‘I’m at Dartmouth, so this is how I should be.’”
Abde Sow ’15 agreed, saying that efforts to come up with a mold of the Dartmouth man are the source of the often unfair typecasting.
“I think the idea of wanting to define the ‘Dartmouth man’ makes it impossible to avoid the stereotypes,” he said. “If you try to put stereotypes aside, you’re speaking about individuals. People value different things. You can’t define that, so you end up resorting to stereotypes.”
So if it’s so hard to describe the mold that every male student here supposedly fits, maybe we shouldn’t be so insistent that one exists. Considering the simple fact that over 2,000 men attend Dartmouth, it’s pretty unlikely that anyone could ever come up with a single unifying concept that applies to them all. Exceptions exist on this campus for every possible trait, even the seemingly given ones like intelligence and ownership of Sperry’s.
The real question is which one of those surprises you more?