Shirttails serves as one of the most unifying Hendrix experiences. We all love to cheer on our residence halls, especially when we see the signature moves. But coupled with the signature Raney romp, Veasey crawl, Hardin hard-on, and crowd-favorite Martin push-up is the hyper-sexualization of freshman.
While we emphasize that Shirttails should be a peer-pressure-free environment, we as a Hendrix community inundate the freshman class with hyper-sexualized messages that have become normalized for us upperclassmen. Hendrix’s seemingly sex-positive culture becomes a part of everyday life for those of us that have become familiar with the campus and community. During the first week of classes, many freshmen are still unfamiliar with these nuances of Hendrix culture and are made “uncomfortable with the sexual nature of the signature moves” and the notion of “sex eyes,” according to freshman Aubrey French.
For many, the transition to college serves as the first instance of independence and the chance to truly express oneself. But it goes without saying that peers have a large influence on that transition period. When we continually ask freshmen if they are participating in Shirttails and talk about it as if it is an expected right of passage, we communicate to them that there is the prerequisite to sexualize yourself in front of your peers before entering into the Hendrix Community.
With college serving to be the first dose of sexual liberation that freshman experience, we must ensure that we cultivate a positive environment that maintains individual autonomy when it comes to sexual expression. Although Shirttails can serve as an anxiety-inducing experience for some, it can also serve to be a truly freeing experience for others. It is our job as the Hendrix community to make sure new students feel supported and encouraged to do whatever they feel comfortable with.
Although some students may be apprehensive at the prospect of performing in front of their peers, others see it as one of the most positive experiences of their freshman year. Freshman Lawson Points found that the Shirttails experience made him feel closer to the student body: “I knew everyone before me had done it, so it made me feel a part of the community.” Additionally, Shirttails serves to maintain the pillars of Hendrix culture, such as Martin and Veasey. With signature dance moves and the addition of a Martin/Veasey alum dance, “it helps keep tradition alive and that’s really important to me, especially this year,” Veasey president/alum Lauren Berry states.
While Shirttails is one of the best experiences of every school year and serves to unite students in a way unique to the Hendrix community, it is important that we maintain a sense of mindfulness in the pressure we place on freshmen to present themselves in a specific sexualized manor. In the wake of student involvement in the #MeToo movement and push for greater Title IX resources on campus, allowing freshman to be as sexual or reserved as they desire becomes more and more important in creating the all-encompassing, sex-positive campus we seek. Whether participating for the first time or cheering everyone on, Shirttails serves to be one of the most anticipated events of the year, and we as a student body should work together to maintain that sense of community for all students.