Rush: Of the Standard of Woman 

By Nicole Schwartz

Channelling my thoughts as I prepare for my first rush event: you are a fun-loving, down-to-earth, crazy, but the perfect amount of crazy, kind of person. Don’t come on too strong. Don’t be too quiet. Don’t talk too much. Don’t talk too little. Be chill. But funny…actually…witty. Don’t be too dorky, too deep, too superficial. Don’t say the wrong thing. Be yourself!


Everyone has a rush story. And they are all valid.This piece is not about all of the stories that we all know: the stories of people sitting around ranking people, discussing the one thing someone said or did incorrectly, emphasizing the reasons another person must not be accepted, or the stories of certain people getting accepted over others for surface-level reasons. The reality is, the gossip emerges once a year, comes and goes, and rush continues year after year.


Nevertheless, we are probably all sick of talking about why rush sucks, especially now that everything has quieted down. It’s over now! It can leave our conscience.

Finally. The break-downs have begun to dissipate, the justifications of why we did not rush, why we dropped rush, or why we picked the group we did, no longer holds such a central place in our conversations, and everyone is settling into their “places” and with their found people at Duke. Or that is what seems to be true.


What we may not realize is that, once again, we have reinforced a standard of behavior. We have left an imprint in the minds, bodies, and spirits of every individual on this campus, an imprint of what did I say or do wrong, an imprint of questioning enoughness, an imprint of judgement, an imprint of comparison, and an imprint of accentuating identity labels and their inevitable impact.


For my literature class, I read a work by Hume called “Of the Standard of Taste,” in which Hume tries to outline a plausible, objective standard of beauty. I’m sure we can all at least slightly discern the problematic nature of this.. Hume recognizes this  by pointing to the subjective nature of this world: we all have different backgrounds, different perspectives, different cultures, and different sentiment. How could we all possibly agree on what is objectively beautiful? His answer to this is that it is possible, but extremely rare, for someone to arrive at what is objectively beautiful if

they have a delicate and refined taste for judging beauty.


The subjective and unknown criteria that committees and groups use is similar to the arbitrariness involved in attempting to standardize and force judgement on something like beauty. Herein lies the question: why would we institutionally enforce an objective judgement of beauty, an objective judgement of anything? The key word here is “enforce.”

We have immersed ourselves in a process that places an objective standard that one feels they must uphold. And we barely even know what that standard is. In a community of people of vast differences in every regard, we have closed ourselves off, we have suppressed to varying degrees our true selves, we have labeled, we have limited, we have given ourselves to obligation, we have questioned our place, and we have judged. We have judged ourselves, others, our relation to others; we have judged judgement itself.


What we may not realize is that rush may be over, but the imprint it leaves remains in

our consciousness. We have reinforced a standard of behavior. An extremely rare occurring standard, an objectively perfect standard as widely respected philosopher Hume puts it. Nevertheless a standard we feel we must uphold.


I am confused why difference is not in the societal definition of perfection. I am confused as to why we would want one another to feel limited, to feel like we are competing with one another, to feel like we are not enough. I am confused as to why we women are so hard on ourselves, why we perpetuate shame in our subconscious, why we have such a difficult time embracing ourselves and embracing each other. Where on the historical timeline, did we think it was a good idea to talk about people as if they do not have a story, as if they do not have just as much of a presence on this earth as everyone else. We have an opportunity to set each other free of an unrealistic and, honestly, boring standard.


So, here’s to stating an unabashedly cliche truth: come on how you want to come on,

talk as much or as little as you want, be wild or don’t be wild…or both. And speak your body and your mind the way that makes you feel free.