On the importance of attending a women’s college, 40 years ago, by an alumna: “At a certain age, it’s appropriate to stop thinking of boys as playmates and start relating to them as potential boyfriends and husbands. It’s easier to make the transition if you’re not in each other’s hair all the time.”
In a four-part blog post series, Mama PhD reminisces about her experience at a mostly women’s college in the 1970s. She reflects on the pros and cons of studying in an all-female environment at that time.
- Safety – Walking around a dorm where there are no men and around a campus where there are few men reduces fear of rape, violence, and sexual harassment.
- A relaxed attitude towards appearance and debate – In an all-female environment, there’s little concern for spending an excess of time on primping and preening. Roll out of bed, brush your teeth (if you have time), and run to class. Likewise, women in such an environment are more likely to speak their minds and not worry about men dismissing their ideas or about heated debates turning violent.
- Respect as women and for past women – Mama PhD notes that the male and female professors in a women’s college tend to be more respectful “of women’s contributions to the larger world.” She explains how many years later she realized that graduates from co-ed institutions gave less credence to the value great women authors like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, and Virginia Woolf.
- The opportunity to take on traditionally male roles – At a co-ed college in the ‘70s, women were expected to take care of costume design while the men got down and dirty with set construction. At a women’s college that same decade, however, women naturally did what was necessary for the stage, regardless of whether that job was a “male” or “female” task.
- Encouragement, growth, and self-expression – In a place bursting with strong, independent women who are all bolstering each other’s goals and ambitions, the feeling of sorority and personal assurance can blossom. No deferring to men and no insecurity due to having strictly “female” ideas. Mama PhD writes, “[T]hose of us who had believed, consciously or not, that men were smarter, more capable, and/or more interesting than women were forced to reexamine those beliefs and, in the end, trash them.”
- Prestige – In the 1970s women’s colleges did not receive the same acclaim (not to mention funding) as their brother schools.
- Harassment – Mama PhD puts it best, “To a certain type of male, ‘women’s college’ is synonymous with ‘hunting ground.’ These men imagine that women who choose to attend such an institution are desperate for male attention.” She notes that date rape was not uncommon, and that men simply didn’t understand how women could enjoy the lack of male presence.
- Female disregard for men – Mama PhD describes the value that arose from strong female friendships made at her mostly female college, but admits that in those bonds, a disregard for men became apparent. Men became marginalized, the “other,” “good for dates and sex if you happened to be heterosexual, but not necessarily people with whom to relate honestly and with trust.” There was so much appreciation and passion that went into forming strong friendships with other women, that the importance of value of men in a woman’s life (of which there should also be much) was decidedly absent.
The social, romantic, and educational goings-on that take place during the four formative college years have a lasting effect on one’s future. In her final post on the subject, Mama PhD discusses the lasting advantages and drawbacks from her women’s college experience that shaped her future. Among the advantages are the value of female friendships and the value placed on women in the workplace. These are obvious; spend four years in an intense, growth-oriented, learning environment, and you’re bound to come out with eternal friendships and an undying respect for the endeavors and aspirations of your cohorts.
On the negative side, Mama PhD admits that the experience marked her for a future of “weird” relationships with men.