It was literally impossible to escape my senior year Spanish 4 class without hearing my free-spirited, kale-loving, and almost frighteningly optimistic teacher, Don Jaime, say “¡Vive sin fronteras!” Back then, I never gave much thought to the phrase, which means “Live Without Borders!”. Its message always seemed nice, but was vague and tough to relate to. By senior year, I was already comfortable with my environment and peers, so I struggled to recognize these supposed metaphorical borders present in my everyday life that divided everyone. It was just too little and too late; I was already checked out and on cruise control, ready for the next chapter in my life.
My move from high school to college was massive – I was transitioning into a university that was a full 2.4 miles away from my high school, along with thirty-two others from Bellarmine College Prep who also chose to attend Santa Clara. It’s so common that some have even called it the “Proverbial Eight-Year Bellarmine Experience”. Such a seemingly small change shouldn’t have really changed the way I think, right?
To my surprise, year five of my Jesuit, liberal arts education actually has had a massive impact on my worldview and how I recognize the “fronteras”, or borders, that exist in the Santa Clara bubble and beyond. The metaphorical borders that divide men and women in the food world have triggered widespread conformity and self-consciousness while psychological borders have left those who are different feeling isolated and possibly even violent.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from my Critical Thinking and Writing class, it’s that Americans – and especially college students – are still really uncomfortable with those who are different. Guys are ridiculed for eating salads; girls are judged for eating burgers. Fear of those with psychological disorders fuels the news fire that floods us with word of school shootings and violent crimes on a regular basis. Santa Clara University is supposedly one of the most politically correct universities in one of the most politically correct and diverse states in the nation, yet somehow many Santa Clara students seriously struggle with accepting those who are different, both in and outside of school.
As some SCU students continue to throw around sexist and homophobic words on a regular basis while laughing off judgmental comments and criticisms, the student body continues to stereotype and develop a fear of those who are different every day. Specifically, both men and women are applying outdated and skewed views of masculinity and femininity to specific foods. Brian Wansink, director of Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab, explains that men and women usually eat foods that they associate with qualities that they want to see in themselves (Shah). Eva Wiseman, writer of “The Truth about Men, Women, and Food”, puts it very aptly when she says that men don’t eat steak because they’re men; they eat steak to show that they are men (Wiseman). In other words, men are so deeply afraid of being seen as different or feminine that they conform by strictly monitoring their eating behaviors to prove their masculinity.
And it’s even worse for women — According to “Taking Food Public: Redefining Foodways in a Changing World”, women’s partners, families, and friends generally reinforce the media’s message and are a harmful, judgmental, and criticizing force when it comes to food, because they strongly discourage each other from deviating from the stereotypical eating norms of women. (Williams-Forson, Counihan). In a survey of twenty-one SCU students, nine out of twelve women reported having felt judged or self-conscious for eating what many see as “guy foods”, like burgers, steak, or pizza. Gender-based food stereotyping is driving a massive border between men and women who want to deviate from the norm and eat what they want.
The same mindset is the source of our extreme fear of those who have psychological problems which creates borders between “normal” students and those who are isolated for their differences. This can be seen through the undeniably strong presence of social isolation and anxiety in the most infamous mass murderers. The UCSB shooter was viciously bullied his entire life and never had a close group of friends that accepted him (Nagourney). The Columbine shooters were depressed and basically could only get the attention of others if they lit something on fire or blew it up (Pendergast). The Aurora murderer diagnosed himself in his journal with thirteen illnesses including schizophrenia and “borderline, narcissistic, anxious, avoidant and obsessive compulsive personality disorder” (Blidner). Severe isolationism triggered a deep seeded anger in all of these killers that increasingly drove them towards mass violence until they felt like it is was their only escape.
Am I saying that every student that feels left out or doesn’t fit in as well as the next kid is going to become a mass shooter? No, of course not. We do, however, have an obligation to try to break down the borders in our life that separate us from our peers and isolate others. While there haven’t been any major school shootings in the Santa Clara area, I still wonder why one student stabbed his roommate this year, and ask myself what could’ve been done to prevent something like that from happening. If someone reached out to the assailant, or if he didn’t feel so isolated, would he have gone through with it?
Santa Clara and colleges around the nation, there are still students that sit alone in their rooms because they’re not accepted by their peers. Guys still half-jokingly criticize each other for eating salads and other healthy foods, and girls still judge each other for eating unhealthy and “masculine” foods like burgers and pizza. These fronteras are just a few of the many that separate us in an increasingly diverse yet divided world.
Nobody is perfect, but small lifestyle changes made on a large do can add up. If college students and others make an effort to recognize fronteras and break them down through small actions on a regular basis, maybe one more kid will have the courage to go outside of his comfort zone to make friends; maybe there will be one less school shooting next year; maybe fear of that which is different will control us just a little bit less than it currently does. Even though it took a while for Don Jaime’s advice to really make sense to me, I think Santa Clara helped me finally understand why he always told us to “¡Vive sin fronteras!”
Blidner, Rachelle, and Corky Siemaszko. “Notebook Shows Aurora Shooter’s‘broken’ Mind.” NY Daily News. New York Daily News, 28 May 2015. Web. 01 June 2015.
Nagourney, Adam, Michael Cieply, Alan Feuer, and Ian Lovett. “Before Brief, Deadly Spree, Trouble Since Age 8.” The New York Times. The New York Times, 01 June 2014. Web. 02 June 2015.
Pendergast, Alan. “Hiding in Plain Sight.” Westword.com. Westword, 13 Apr. 2006. Web. 01 June 2015.
Shah, Riddhi. “Men Eat Meat, Women Eat Chocolate: How Food Gets Gendered.” Salon.com. Salon Media Group, 1 July 2010. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. .
Williams-Forson, Psyche, and Carole Counihan, eds. “TAKING FOOD PUBLIC: Redefining Foodways in a Changing World.” TAKING FOOD PUBLIC: Redefining Foodways in a Changing World (2013): 23-29. Google Books. Political Science, 13 Sept. 2013. Web. 19 Nov. 2014. .
Wiseman, Eva. “The Truth about Men, Women and Food.” TheGuardian.com. The Observer, 16 Oct. 2010. Web. 18 Nov. 2014.