The Claremont Colleges exploded today thanks to an article posted to Claremont McKenna’s Forum written by a clueless female first year called "Don’t Like The Gender Gap? Don’t Encourage It". Essentially, it was a (poorly executed) critique of a two-month-old article about the gender gap and how women’s colleges work to fight it written by a Scripps College sophomore and published by the Huffington Post. More about what the Forum article said later. If you don’t attend the Claremont Colleges, you’re probably thinking you should stop reading this, but the issues and sexism presented in this article are universal. Allow me to quote it and get you in the rampaging mood:
The women at CMC learn, grow, and succeed in a realistic environment where we compete with talented men for elite positions. We don’t become leaders by thriving in an atmosphere that artificially eradicates sexism.
During my college search, I chose not to apply to women’s colleges. This was not because I would have felt uncomfortable at a “lesbian college” or sexually stifled by an absence of men—taunts that Pfeiffer faced when choosing Scripps—but because what I looked for in my college experience was a challenge. I wanted to enter a school that would push me to be stronger and bolder, not indulge my weaknesses by protecting me from “injustice” in an inaccurately idyllic setting.
You don’t familiarize yourself with a problem by ignoring it. You learn it by living it. We can educate ourselves about gender inequality by taking women’s studies classes…there is no substitute for actually battling and overcoming gender-based obstacles. And those obstacles simply don’t exist within a women’s college.
I don’t believe that the way to close the gender gap is to hide out in a college full of other women, collectively agonizing over society’s sexist underpinnings and rallying around the energizing but vague bastion of the feminist cause
Women cannot learn about the “female struggle” by rejecting the environment from which these struggles are born.
The real world is nothing like the shelter of a women’s college, and I don’t care to indulge the fantasy that it is.
So, to wrap it up: women who attend women’s colleges are weak cowards trying to hide from the “real world” and the scary men within it, and women who attend co-ed schools are realistic, fearless, and better prepared for society. The first time I read this I was so angry I nearly cried, and I don’t even like my school that much. But this isn’t about Scripps or Claremont. It’s about women and what women’s colleges do for us. (And if you attend a co-ed school, you’re not a lesser person! But you’re not a better one either.)
The comments on this article are a goldmine of Scripps students and alumni politely critiquing the article, sexist bros deriding women and calling Hillary Clinton a shrew, and your usual rude comments. There’s nothing wrong with being kind, but this article doesn’t respect me as a woman or my choice to attend a women’s college, so I don’t find it necessary to treat the writer or her prejudiced ideas with respect. So let me begin.
I didn’t choose a women’s college to hide from men. Actually, most people at Scripps would probably say they chose it in spite of its nature as a women’s college. A lot of students had no intention of applying to isolated schools like Smith or Mount Holyoke, but the co-ed schools literally across the street in Claremont comforted them. Scripps students have the luxury of making their experience as isolated or as widely cast as they choose, and we take advantage of it. And honestly? How can you hide from men when they’re in your classes? In your dining halls? In your five-college clubs? There isn’t some electric fence around Scripps that keeps them out.
And another thing: Not everyone who attends women’s colleges identifies as a woman. The writer is a first year, so shame on me for expecting them to be sensitive, but there are these things called trans*/genderqueer communities, and they exist on women’s college campuses.
Being at a women’s college doesn’t magically erase sexism from our lives, and the idea that we don’t “struggle” like “real” women at co-ed colleges is really fucking insulting. Oh, I wish I didn’t experience sexism. I encounter it when I go on the internet and see kids on imgur make jokes about keeping women in the kitchen. I encounter it when I watch the Super Bowl and see the multitude of sexist and objectifying commercials. I encounter it when my college consortium votes to bring Taylor Swift to campus and celebrates her like a goddamn hero. I encounter it when my ex-boyfriend tells me I’m being too “sensitive” and “overthinking” things. The fact that the writer dares to say that women’s college students don’t experience sexism shows how little she knows about how it—and the patriarchy—work.
And then there’s the sentence where she says that women can’t learn about the female struggle by rejecting the “environment from which these struggles are born”. I love that this article talks about women’s studies classes as a way of educating ourselves and yet this sentence makes it oh so clear the writer has never taken one. What was it Audre Lorde said? That we can’t use the master’s tools to dismantle the master’s house? I don’t think this logic applies in every situation, but it can here. Hillary Clinton, whom this article so lovingly praised, went to a women’s college. There are multiple studies that show that women’s college graduates are more likely to become successful politicians or businesswomen. This article says that women’s college students coddle ourselves by being in an all-women environment, but where else can you find businesses, clubs, and student councils that are run by nearly 100% women? Where do you think women like Clinton, Gabrielle Giffords, etc. got the idea that they didn’t have to settle for the glass ceiling?
The writer says that our campus is unrealistic, and we shouldn’t delude ourselves with this fantasy world. I say, why the fuck shouldn’t we? Why shouldn’t we get four years where, even if not every student is a solid feminist, we see ourselves reflected in positions of power all across campus, and rise to take those positions of power as juniors or seniors? What is so fucking wrong about trying to create a world that is the opposite of the patriarchy in every way, so that we can truly see what equality looks like? You can’t be what you can’t see. Women’s colleges show us what society could be, so that we can dismantle the system and make it our own.
Don’t tell me I’m inferior, that I’m ignorant, that I’m naive or delusional or “socially handicapped” because I attend a women’s college. Take a women’s studies class and shut the fuck up.
(Oh, and to the male commenters saying that Scripps students should make them feel welcome? Do you make an effort to make me feel welcome when I eat at your dining hall, or attend your parties, or go to your classes? No? Then don’t expect special treatment from me.)