Minus the City: Yes Means Yes

Kate Hinsche, Commentary Editor

I shouldn’t be eating this mac n’ cheese, but here I am yet again. I’m in week three of six of Yes Means Yes, and every week I head to my session telling myself I won’t cave, I won’t eat the mac, I won’t eat the chocolate chip cookies. I love pretending I have the kind of willpower to resist Eatery chocolate chip cookies. And maybe I do, in certain settings, but sitting in the Coop Conference Room talking about desire, it’s impossible to ignore the full platter of delicious on a table in the corner of the room. 

It’s an interesting environment to be in. Everyone wants to be there, and there’s an overtone of acceptance, with an undertone of tension. We’re talking about things that need attention, but they’re messy things that don’t have easy solutions. For the most part, people show up to Yes Means Yes because they recognize there’s a problem at Colgate, and they want to understand their place in it. Yes Means Yes is a big step in understanding Colgate through a myriad of perspectives, rather than just your own. It’s an exercise in empathy and self-reflection. Many Colgate students have allowed those capacities to atrophy in the pursuit of survival here. It’s not an absurd thing to do, to run around this little hill and live life in the cycle of the bubble. We don’t like to think we live cyclically, at least I know I don’t. But when I think about my life at Colgate, I can take any day of the week and tell you approximately how I’ll spend it. I get breakfast, do work, see friends, and go out; it’s easily predictable. My gut reaction is to reject my participation in the cycle, but, to be honest, it’s really nice. You don’t even have to think about it. It’s so easy. It’s tiring in its own way, though, and no one is immune to its side effects. 

College is a time for self-discovery and self-improvement, intermixed with dabbling in debauchery and delinquency. Here, you hone your view of self, society and world. You understand that self, society and world are imperfect things. You wish you could fix them and hope that one day they will be. Changing things like society and the world are massive, almost incomprehensible, tasks to take on individually. Fixing those problems, or at least trying to, leaves you feeling small and insignificant. I’m talking about big problems – sexism, racism, homophobia, etc. If I could destroy the patriarchy and have time to make it to my 9:20 class the next day, I would have done it a long time ago. 

The -isms are too big of an undertaking for someone who isn’t a full-time social justice warrior, and that’s okay. You can’t change society or world quite yet, but you can change self. Yes Means Yes is a great place to start. It should be required for graduation, but that’s a ways away from happening. The best I can do is to write this silly 500-800 word article and plead with you to take it. Learn about the -isms in the context of Colgate and your sex life here, and the experiences of your peers. Acknowledge how your own actions impact people and challenge yourself to change, to do the best that you can, as much as you can. The collective action of individuals is how the world changes. It can feel insignificant and personal, but showing up to a small student-run seminar is so much more. Also, bring some tupperware and cop mac n’ cheese for later because it’s hard work changing the world.

Contact Kate Hinsche at [email protected]