Since a good work friend has a daughter in the junior class at Randolph-Macon Woman's College, I have been following, blow by blow, the decision of the trustees to admit men, and the students' reaction. Students objecting to the change have expressed themselves through letters, demonstrations, protest t-shirts, a hunger strike, and by trying to sue. (After all, at least some of the first-years must have selected RMWC because it is a women's college.)
My first reaction, I suppose, was realistic resignation: Yeah, I could see that happening to another of the smaller women's colleges. After all, it is a girls-gone-wild era. I recall an interview show (Oprah, I think) featuring Boomer and X'er women shaking their heads at the giant step back such behavior represents for equality and feminism, while the under 25 set argued that their focus on pleasing men makes them liberated. These young women, I know, don't want to go to school without men, and they represent income for colleges and universities of all types. It's hopeless, I figured.
This weekend, I read about a two-year men's college, Deep Springs, in Dana Goodyear's "The Searchers" (9/4 New Yorker), and it refocused me on the positive outcomes of single-sex education. One of the things we often extol in women's colleges is the chance for women to fill all the roles: not just secretary, but also president. The editor of the paper, the star athlete, the best grades, every D.J. -- all women. Given that, it's odd I hadn't considered the reverse: what's it like when men fill all the roles? Of course, Deep Springs College has unique expectations, and since it does, men do "manly" chores on the school's ranch, and also "womanish" chores like milking, cooking, and cleaning. The wife of an alumnus noted that the students were also freer to take on "female" behaviors "like being a good friend and listening and crying" and that this "remove[d] some of the gendering from those things." Hey, that sounds like a good thing for our world. Maybe RMWC's trustees need to think about serving men only.
- "dozens of women's colleges ... are stronger than ever" -- comments by the chair of the Women's College Coalition, summer 2006
- a review of an apparently thin but charming book on college and women in the New York Times
- Quotation I found pinned on my bulletin board from a not-too-old Alumnae Quarterly, from former MHC President, Liz Kennan '60: "'After the Ivy League and other colls. went coed in the '70s, there was an expectation that the world of equality had come, that there would have be a level playing field for men and women in educ. But in fact, the stereotypes have not been broken. The millennium has not come for women's educ. in a coeducational setting.'"