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Progressive Final Club Member Asks: "Why Can't We Punch Women?"

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It can neither be confirmed nor denied that this is the club in question.

The following was sent to us by a member of one of Harvard’s all-male social organizations referred to as “final clubs.” He wishes to remain anonymous.


As I begin another year here at Harvard, I find myself once again considering the outmoded gender norms of our still-insular society, particularly among the final club crowd. As the semester kicks into gear and the leaves begin to change, a question I’ve thought about for quite a while now is beginning to irk me anew: Why can’t we punch women?

The customs behind punching have remained so unyielding for so long that they’ve become entirely ingrained in our culture. But on the most fundamental level, they reflect a worldview that is appalling.

I already spend a good deal of my time interacting with women. They even come to our parties. Sometimes I’ll be chatting it up with a female guest and she’ll say something that makes me seriously consider punching her. But too many of my friends always try to talk me out of it, appealing to some grand notion of tradition I don’t even think most of them are entirely on board with. And as much as I appreciate female final clubs, I can’t help but feel left out when I see them punching the young women of Harvard. None of the members of my organization would even think about doing the same.

The more I think about it, the more frustrated I become. This year I want to just do it, just punch a woman and show these backwards clubs how good it feels. When it comes down to it, though, the social forces conspiring against me are simply too strong. I could be the one to change the tide, but in the short-term, I’d be a pariah. I’d have besmirched these supposedly precious ideals and the ties of friendship I’ve fostered with so many people here on campus will shatter so they can save face

Perhaps all that's really holding me back is cowardice. Ultimately, is someone who would shun you just for punching a woman truly your friend? I fear I’ll keep wrangling with these questions until I graduate, and even long after. I can take solace, though, in imagining what Harvard will look like in a decade or two, after some brave soul has done what I lack the wherewithal to accomplish myself. I see a time when it has become acceptable to punch male and female students in equal numbers without so much as a raised eyebrow, and I have to smile. Because if there’s one thing I know beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s that I’ve met plenty of women who deserve it.

© 2014