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Posts Tagged ‘tradition’

One thing that always ticks me off is Vassar’s constant love of traditions that should have kicked the bucket 100 years ago. Some of Vassar’s traditions I love, others not so much, which brings me to today’s topic of discussion… THE DAISY CHAIN.

But what is the daisy chain you ask! I did a little research and according to the Vassar College Encyclopedia,

Every year, a group of sophomore women, chosen for their leadership skills, class spirit, and eagerness to volunteer their time, are chosen by a committee of the senior class council to carry a 150-foot chain of daisies and laurel, the Daisy Chain, at Commencement

Harmless enough, right? Well let’s see how do I become a member of this daisy chain?

Historically, “daisies” were chosen for both their “contribution to college life and their attractiveness,” making the early chains a kind of beauty contest, which apparently caused those not chosen much unhappiness.

Gee whiz, I wonder why, dear encyclopedia. Perhaps it’s because standards of beauty are rather subjective, unfair, and completely unrelated to the wonderful world of learning. But dislike for the daisy chain is nothing new. It caused such an uproar in 1912, that the New York Times did a piece discussing how the tradition, which dated back to the late 1800s would be stopped due to the “girls” all becoming extremely “envious” of one another, but apparently nothing happened and the tradition continued. But whatever, who wants to be in the daisy chain, anyhow right? I mean it doesn’t really mean anything does it?

The daisy chain became famous as a symbol of feminine beauty, mystique and even fertility, and also of the elite status imputed to a “Vassar girl”: if being a Vassar student was to be amongst the cream of the crop, then to be a “daisy” was to be la crème de la crème.

Yuck. Please tell me this tradition has gone away! Or at least radically changed, right? Well let’s look at some pictures:

In looking at these photos I have to wonder what has changed. Now I’m no expert, but I’ve yet to see a girl in one of these virginal white dresses that can’t be seen as traditionally pretty. Perhaps, I’m wrong here but in my research and from my memory I’ve yet to see a plus size girl out there. And what if you’re male and wish to be apart of the daisy chain, and wear a white dress? Sorry, you have to  wear “blue blazers, white pants, and purple daisy-print ties,” (because that’s super masculine) and get to “hand out programs and help guide relatives and other Commencement guests to their seats”. Notice the men don’t go parading down the aisles. I wonder why not.

And what does a “daisy” do besides carry a ridiculously long chain of daisies at graduation? Well they do many important things and activities I’m told, though it’s hard to find out exactly what. It’s something of a secret sorority. I do know however that they produce Mr. Vassar, a male beauty pageant. How fabulous, I can see so much has changed since those late 1800s, for instance, the dresses are now sleeveless, and they hire someone to make the chain, and now instead of only being objectified themselves, they help others to objectify men too.

And then of course let’s not forget the fact that the Daisy Chain has historically been (and dare I say it continues to be) racist? How many daisies of color are there, exactly? There is a separate group, the African Violets, who organize activities for seniors of color. The group which started in 1991 has only been permitted to walk behind the Daisy Chain at graduation as of 2005. Seriously? I wanted to find out more about African Violets, but of course, there is no entry for African Violets on the Vassar College Encyclopedia, apparently they are not one of Vassar’s celebrated traditions.

I’ve been told that the beauty standards have been dropped from the application process, officially anyway. And that one is able to apply to the Daisy Chain or the African Violets regardless of race or ethnicity. However, is it really such a wonderful tradition to uphold? Why bother keeping it? I like daisies as much as the next person. But why celebrate this exclusivity and historical sexism and racism? And one can’t deny the fact that it’s plain ridiculous in this day and age, to say okay, boys dress like this, and girls dress like this. Girls parade with flowers, and boys guide the way. Nice.

And here I thought I went to a seven sister school to feel liberated and to learn, not to be objectified like a flower and duke it out among my fellow “sisters” based on who was prettier, whiter, and more fertile.

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