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The Isis Exposes Itself

Where do you belong if you’re ‘sweet,’ ‘cute,’ and ‘super fun?’

By Travis R. Kavulla

The Isis Club’s punch book became public knowledge late Wednesday night after it was discovered that the Isis’ e-mail list was not password protected.

Just one of many archived e-mails that were recovered from the all-women final club, the punch book lists the potential members (or “punches”) whose first names begin with the letters A through Kr; each entry is followed by a compendium of anonymous comments made by club members.

Final clubs are targets for those who are envious of not belonging or for those seldom few who harbor objections to elitism on moral principles. From this envy and disdain, stereotypes have emanated widely. But, at least for Isis, some of the worst stereotypes of Harvard’s private social organizations seem to be proved true—the punch book is an extravaganza of vapidity, cattiness, self-praise, and insecurity.

Let’s begin with the most amusing offenses, those of poor diction, which run rampant throughout the punch book.

“Super”—as in “I’m not super impressed” or “She is super personable” — is liberally employed.

The term “literally” is also used, à la middle school, on occasions where something is not at all literal, such as “she is literally crazy” or “she literally LOVES everyone.”

And before reading the Isis punch book, I assumed that the superfluous add-ons “like” and “totally” were confined to spoken English. How wrong I was...One member vents, “She also totally asked me to get breakfast with her at 7:30 am on a Friday. I don’t know—just like, why would you ask anyone that?”

It suffices to say that the biggest word used in the punch book is the curious term “dimensionality.”

Also included are little hints as to what Isis members do with their time.

After “putting up with a second rather annoying punch,” one member-to-be “stuck around and we had a great convo, even went (successful) shoe shopping together!”

Or, “we ended up sitting and laughing for like an hour and a half. Then my blockmates came down and we all just kept chilling.”

Or even, as in the case of a member who “didn’t feel an instant connection” with one punch: “And since Isis isn’t *necessarily* about all of us being best friends all the time...I would vote to have [name redacted] in because I bet she’s a blast to hang out with in the kind of settings we often find ourselves in as a club.”

And what kind of situations might those be? “I’m interested to see how she does in a more ‘party’ (read: boozefest) setting.” (That’s not my parenthetical statement, by the way).

Undeterred by the “flava” of Isis, there are nonetheless some who seek membership in this haven of inebriated ditzes. For those, a harsh calculus awaits.

“Really cute but a little concerned that she was trying too hard,” is one member’s summation of a punch.

In the same vein: “I got the sense that she was trying really hard. Maybe too hard.”

And rounding out the trifecta: “We need to cut her, omigod now. Tried way way way too hard. Outgoing but not in a good way.”

Occasionally, there’s an attempt at being a bit more concrete: “I have concluded that she is boring and has almost a self-serving attitude.”

Another member chimes in, “My impression is that if she wasn’t pretty, she wouldn’t get so much attention.”

And then there’s the punch who is ironically condemned for “fake smiling.” Heavens forfend that anyone should think members of the Isis were faking it in any way.

Some punches are dismissed simply: “Give her the axe” or “She’s so CUT it’s not even funny.”

Other dismissals are counterintuitive. “I think she could go on to the next event, but definitely won’t make it into the club.” Or, “CUT She was nice and talkative. Can’t really see her going all the way.”

Those who envy to enter the final club fray should take heart. If the banal jabbering of the Isis’ members is any indication of the whole, then the organizations’ purported exclusivity is an imagined concept.

Even the endorsements are sickening: “She’s just a cool fun girl, not unlike the rest of us.”

What do punches have to look forward to? Shopping, boozefests, and conversations dominated by churlish giggling are the answers gestured to by the punch book.

The document lays bare what many have suspected for so long, that the decisions to include or exclude are marked by social conceit.

The creative accomplishments of one punch makes her “the NEXT BIG THING and it would be a coup to have her in the club” although she’s also “a little awkward. I thought so after the first event but was also suayed [swayed] by her air of sophistication and fashion sense.” Regarding another punch, a member declares, “I really want her wardrobe and handbag collection.”

One cannot help but feel bad for the Isis. That they, unlike their all-male counterparts, do not own a multi-million dollar mansion makes it necessary to unwisely keep an electronic punch book.

All the same, it’s hard to put to words just how insipid the Isis’ punch book really is. Once, to note that a club was exclusive was to say that it had dignity, that its members were endowed with social grace, an intangible but real quality.

Today, instead of rewarding social grace—which the punch book unquestionably lacks—it might be suggested that the Isis is something of an anti-meritocracy.

It’s been said that the Isis is merely an exceptionally poor specimen of an elite, punch-based organization. We’ll never know, but let’s hope that scrawled in other, more prestigious clubs’ punch books is not more of the same mindless criteria, not a self-indictment like the Isis’ giddy prose has provided.



Travis Kavulla ’06-’07 is a history concentrator affiliated with Mather House. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

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