Tenured Radical has published her third and final post on women and single-sex education, “What is Our Work? Towards a Feminist Future in Education.” There’s lots to think about and debate, but I’ll just highlight this paragraph towards the end of her piece:
Equality is never a finished project. As women’s aspirations and achievements change, so do their needs. While a women’s college privileges a feminism that puts women at the center, we must remember the other piece of the gender equality equation that feminism attends to: providing spaces where men who care deeply about the advancement of women in science, or any other field, can come to recruit the best minds, to partner with them, to mentor them, and to learn from them. Gender equality is a project, and it is, as Mary Maples Dunn said to me, an unfinished one. But to believe and invest in a project like feminist education is to demonstrate optimism about gender equality by investing in the institutions that will create it. Gender equality is, in the most optimistic scenario, a feminist task that may remain unfinished as long as women continues to re-imagine and re-invent themselves to meet the challenges of their own generation.
A number of readers left comments over at TR’s place and here over the past few days describing many different journeys to feminism and to women’s colleges, which I found very interesting. I was perhaps a little different from many of you, in that I was a committed feminist from early childhood through my teenage years. I went to a women’s college not so much to engage with feminist politics as to find a space in which I wasn’t the token feminist in the room, as I was (or felt like I was) all through my school years. I wanted to study history and literature, and NOT be the only student asking where the women are, or at least not be thought some kind of ideological freak because I asked feminist questions and expected reasonable answers. Interestingly, I never wrote any research papers on women’s history there–in part, because I didn’t feel obligated to. I was free to pursue my interests wherever they led, and they never led me back to women’s history until graduate school.
I was tired of fighting, and just wanted to read, write, and learn like a normal college student for four years, and I got that at Bryn Mawr.