This could be a very short post, with my answer being because they p!$$ off and disturb so many people! But I’ll take the time to explain, for those of you who are curious. As some of you recall, I linked to Tenured Radical’s series last week on the role of women’s colleges in women’s education, and jumped into the fray of the comments threads as well. Knitting Clio has posted some further thoughts on this subject too–I objected to her raising the issue of class privilege rather than addressing the questions TR had asked, but she insists that we need to talk about the role of feminist education in co-educational institutions too.
This particularly heated comment thread–44 comments so far!–concludes with Dr. Cleveland writing, “This has been an amazing thread. I’ll admit that I needed my eyes opened to how much resistance there is to the mission of women’s colleges. It’s shocking to witness. But it also makes a very strong case for why women’s colleges are still very, very necessary. If TR hadn’t persuaded me, the hostility of some of the commenters toward women’s education would have.” I’ve been thinking about this all week long, and would like to share my personal experiences of my attendance as an undergraduate and brief affiliation as a faculty member with women’s colleges.
When I enrolled in a women’s college 24 years ago, I wasn’t expecting that it would be all that different from any other small, liberal-arts college. But I was wrong–not so much in the way that it functioned or educated me, but in the way that other people reacted to the existence of women’s colleges and to the fact that I attended one. I came to understand that my college represented something deeply threatening to other people, most of whom were men.
As a freshman, I had a boyfriend from back home who had strange fantasies about what a women’s college meant for the everyday lives of students. He’d say things like, “You’re all women in the dorm, why don’t you all just walk around naked all of the time? Why do you need bathrobes?” “Do you just sit in your dorm rooms topless? Do you touch each other, and give each other hugs and kisses?” Continue Reading »