Not Going to the Seforim Sale

Uniquely Different or Unsurprisingly Conformist?

By Rachel Delia Benaim
On March 6, 2012

            Are you or a friend suffering from SSW (Seforim Sale Withdrawal)?

            Well suffer NO MORE! 

            I have the medicine that can help you.

                                    (sstud, February 26, by David Bodner)

 Thanks, David Bodner, but I'll take my chances. I am currently a lower senior in SCW and I have yet to attend the Seforim Sale.


Me too.

I attend nearly every major Stern/YU event, and yet for some reason, I just can't stomach the Seforim Sale. Perhaps it is because I don't want to feed into the classic "gag- me" stereotypes: looking for my bashert, gravitating towards a social scene, or actually wanting to buy seforim.

Is the sheer desire to not feed into classic YU stereotypes a strong enough motivation for avoiding Belfer like the plague during the entire month of February? Maybe not. Especially because I feed into many other SCW stereotypes. I have brown hair. I wear Ugg boots. I buy 14 water bottles a day in the caf. I own a North Face. I come to class every morning with my Pomegranate Chobani and Guy and Gallard coffee in hand. I wear my Hedaya ring every day. (No Hedaya necklace, though...)

I guess maybe I'm avoiding the Seforim Sale to be different. That rationale can't be it either – if I were to avoid the Sale to specifically to be different, I would, in effect, be just like everyone else who avoids the sale to not feed into stereotypes and be different. I guess that makes me just like everyone else, doesn't it?

Aha, no. I will venture to say that my version of nonconformity is, in essence, the only type of legitimate nonconformity – precisely because I am so involved in other aspects of the school. Those who aren't involved on campus and "want to be different" or "make a statement" by not going to the Seforim Sale feed into the conformist outsider stereotype, whereas those who are involved, and do feed into other Stern stereotypes are, in this case, uniquely nonconformist.

Allow me to explain: I believe that the whole concept of conformity comes down to one question – is it better to be a conformist outsider or a breakaway insider?

To me, my resistance is reminiscent of the dynamic in the 1999 classic (yes, it's a classic) 10 Things I Hate About You. According to an academic paper written by Danna Shapiro, a media studies and communications major at NYU Steinhardt, the film suggests that to survive in the world as an individual, you must be either a breakaway insider, or a conformist outsider.

10 Things' obvious female heroine, Kat, is presented as the film's role model despite (or perhaps because of?) her rejection of mainstream ideals and seemingly blatant non-conformism. Upon further consideration, there are major flaws in this line of thought. In the beginning, Kat's character plays into quite the opposite role—she becomes a conformist outsider – by becoming the character who conforms to a typical "rebel" role, thus making her a less-than-ideal role model.

However, as the film progresses she ends up going to the prom of her own volition – not because anyone else "expects her to," and she ends up fulfilling the whole boy-meets-girl stereotype in a completely nonconformist way, different than anyone else. Thus, Kat actually begins as a conformist outsider but then becomes uniquely nonconformist. Kat is the unique nonconformist after all, and that's when things really come together for her – when she acknowledges she does conform to some stereotypes and stops trying so hard to be so different.

Back to the Seforim Sale: many girls who complain and davka don't go to the Seforim Sale for whatever "nonconformist" reasons are really just feeding into the rebel-Stern girl stereotype.

So, maybe I don't have strong reasons to go or not, but let me pose the following question: why do you,yes you, Stern Girl, go to the Seforim Sale. To meet your bashert? (if you answered yes to that one, chazak u'baruch that you can admit it and I hope it works for you…) To see what its all about – doesn't that just add fuel to the stereotypical fire? To buy Seforim? Let's face it, the seforim aren't even particularly inexpensive…

So, again, I pose the question, why bother?

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