Are Women’s Colleges a Relic of the Past?

02Jun09

A recent op-ed from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, a local paper in Northampton, Mass., states that women’s colleges have no reason to exist anymore:

True, 150 years ago when women were excluded from male academies, colleges and universities, affirmative action was needed to create these special schools. We owe a debt of gratitude to women’s colleges for taking an early stand to fight discrimination, raise awareness of gender issues, and crack the glass ceiling in government, business and even academia itself.

But today, schools like Smith and Mount Holyoke, Wellesley and Mills, are hypocritical in their fight against gender discrimination since they are among the few remaining U.S. institutions allowed to exploit a federal loophole that permits them to segregate their own admissions on the basis of sex…

[There is no] empirical evidence that today’s young women do better in the classroom when set apart from more aggressive and assertive males. This might have been true in the past but it’s not true now, according to Wendy Kaimer, a women’s issues expert. Today’s women are thriving at coed colleges and in their careers.

You can read the whole article online (if you pay), or in full for free at the Smith Alum.net forums. Mildly put, the whole thing’s pretty outrageous. Both of us (Sarah and Amanda) are relatively recent alums, and I (Sarah) think I speak for both of us on this: Even 150 years after Seneca Falls, women’s colleges are very, very relevant.

Reading this, I thought, “Well, the author’s a man, what does he know about it!” I mean, he’s been living in the land of male privilege. Without some serious self-awareness, how could he know the benefits of a Smith education? But who’s this Wendy character? Why doesn’t she get it?

This is where it gets awkward: There’s no Wendy Kaimer, as far as Google and Amazon can say. However, there is a Wendy Kaminer. And she’s a Smith College alumna, class of ’71. So which is it: A noted “expert” that never wrote a book or article? Or a Smith College graduate whose words are being used against her alma mater?

Wendy? You out there? Anywhere?

While we wait on Wendy (apologies about the alliteration… again), what did you enjoy most about attending a women’s college?

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3 Responses to “Are Women’s Colleges a Relic of the Past?”

  1. 1 Chloe '07

    The op-ed poses an interesting question, but unfortunately does it in an extremely whiny way. No one who didn’t already agree with Mr. Pohl would be swayed by his weak argument, which makes him an easy target. The Gazette just published his rant to sell some papers, which I’m sure worked beautifully.

    The poor quality of his argument makes it easy to refute, but I wonder, why can’t someone ask if women’s colleges are outdated? I don’t think it’s a stupid question to bring up every once in awhile, because women have come a long way in society and positive strides continue to be made. The real problem arises if all you can say in response to the question is, “Whatever, he doesn’t GET IT because he’s a man.” If that’s all you’ve got, then Mr. Pohl is right. You are sexist and Smith is outdated.

    The way I see it, real feminism is about gender equality, not total female domination, which often gets confused at places like Smith. Real feminists don’t want men to die or suffer or receive anything but equal treatment. Sure, we’re still far from gender equality, (which you’ve pointed out in your link to male privilege) but a lot of those inequalities have nothing to do with gender and a lot more to do with inequalities in class, ethnicity, education, etc.

    Go ahead and take offensive to the op-ed… just be sure you have a good response to back up you’re disgust.

  2. I think that it’s ok to ask if women’s colleges are outdated, but when a man questions it without questioning and examining his own male privilege, I’m fine tossing the whole argument out the window. I think it took me a long time to understand why women’s colleges are important– it really only made sense after Smith –and I get riled up when someone casually disparages them without looking beyond the typical issue of sex-discrimination.


  1. 1 Wendy Kaminer : News, pictures, videos, biography

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