Your Body May Not Make You a Woman, But the Duck Pond Run Makes You a Mawrtyr

“Your body makes you a woman, your mind makes you a scholar, but the duck pond run makes you a Mawrtyr.”

I think every Bryn Mawr student knows that saying; it’s especially prevalent around Hell Week. As much as I love the “the duck pond run makes you a Mawrtyr” sentiment (and I really, truly do), I’m not such a fan of the first part. Even before I identified as trans, I felt something a little off about the beginning.

So, let’s start with the beginning. Contrary to popular belief, your body does not actually determine your gender (i.e. there’s a distinction between sex and gender). I know it may seem like I’m making too big a deal of it (because so much of what I do has to do with gender), but it’s more than just a nitpicky, theoretical detail.

Even though Bryn Mawr is one of the Seven Sisters and still a women’s college, not all students at Bryn Mawr identify as women. Not all frosh necessarily want to be identified as women. I think it’d be incredibly unfortunate if even one of the people being helled were made uncomfortable, or made to feel even the least bit unwelcome, over something as unnecessary as that line. It’s not the important part of the saying, but it could be troublesome; I say that the potential troubles outweigh the balance and rhythm of the saying.

Next line: “your mind makes you a scholar.” It’s not as big a deal (really, more me being hung up on semantics), but being a scholar is about more than just your mind — it’s about the learning, what the mind does. Perhaps something like “your education makes you a scholar” would be better (especially since the bond, in this case, is being together at Bryn Mawr). However, that has a lot of unpleasant classist connotations (for example, that one can only be a scholar if one has the money, or at least the privilege, to obtain a certain level of education). I’m thinking that I’m going to settle for “your studies make you a scholar” if the line is important.

And lastly, “the duck pond run makes you a Mawrtyr.” I love it. It’s not perfect, but I’m okay with that. To me, Mawrtyrs are those who love Bryn Mawr and Bryn Mawr’s Traditions. The duck pond run is one of Bryn Mawr’s most important, most beloved traditions. It’s not necessary to belong at Bryn Mawr (I’m really trying to not dismiss or devalue people who are at Bryn Mawr for reasons other than the Traditions, like the stellar academics), but it’s definitely a big part of being a Mawrtyr.

The duck pond run is, truly, the defining moment in becoming a Mawrtyr. Before it, some crucial experience is missing. After the duck pond run, it’s as though something essential has been gained that you hadn’t even realized was lacking. To me, the duck pond run is an inherent part of being a Mawrtyr, and being a Mawrtyr is like coming home. It means belonging to a community of incredibly vibrant, intelligent, passionate, quirky people — people with whom I have shared experiences, shared history, and shared knowledge. Being a Mawrtyr is for life, not just for the few short years of college. Being a Mawrtyr is something that can’t be explained; it can only be experienced.

The duck pond run makes you a Mawrtyr.

5 responses to “Your Body May Not Make You a Woman, But the Duck Pond Run Makes You a Mawrtyr

  1. All I can say is, “Amen.” Blessed be the bonds of Mawrtyr-dom, for they connect you to so many amazing people in such a unique and wonderful way.

  2. would you have less of a problem with it if it said ‘your body makes you a female?’ because you can’t deny that your body does determine your sex. right?

    • . . . . I would have less of a “well, that’s obviously wrong, c’mon now, people” problem with it. Because at least it would be more in keeping with a really basic sex/gender distinction. But I still think it’s problematic.

      What a person’s sex is determined to be at birth is decided by a person’s body (specifically, external genitalia). However, as Julie A. Greenberg points out in “The Roads Less Traveled: The Problem with Binary Sex Categories” (from Transgender Rights), “Recent studies indicated that approximately 2 percent of the world’s population may be intersex and have either ambiguous or noncongruent sex features.” For many of those people, a doctor decided their sex at, or shortly after, their birth; that decision was based on their bodies, but the doctor made the ultimate determination, not their bodies.

      Beyond that, I guess I just don’t see the need for the emphasis on “you’re female; you’re a woman.” I know that Bryn Mawr is a women’s college. However, Bryn Mawr’s policy is that they support their students once they’re there, right? (You worked in Admissions, after all.) Why emphasize the female/woman stuff if the important part is being at Bryn Mawr and being a Mawrtyr?

      I know a number of people, myself included, whose bodies technically, legally, determine them as female. However, that’s not how they identify themselves. I think it’s really disempowering to be told that one’s self-identification doesn’t matter. I guess, in a way, part of what it comes down to is that I don’t really why it’s so important to label people as “male” or “female,” especially if it’s against their wishes.

      In summary, if someone gave me something today that said “Your body makes you a female,” I would cringe and feel uncomfortable. I do not deny that my body determines my sex, as it is legally determined. I do, however, deny that my body is the most important factor in how I identify myself, and ultimately, I think that’s what is really important.

      PS. I don’t mean this as any kind of attack; I know you meant well. And now I have my a topic for a new blog post. 🙂

  3. Pingback: I Miss Hell Week at Bryn Mawr | Beyond Bryn Mawr

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s