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Women's Colleges that Exclude Women, Feminist Colleges, Queer Colleges

Amophrast's picture

Who goes to Bryn Mawr College? Who is at the table?

Five types of students: undergraduate, graduate, McBrides, post-bacs (post-baccalaureate), summer students

Undergraduate has the most restrictions:

  • Female-bodied
  • Students who can afford $52,000+ tuition or benefit from financial aid
  • Fluent in English
  • Can perform well on standardized testing
  • Have a strong basis in academics and/or extra-curriculars
  • Perform well in writing

As a result (from 1st-year students:

  • Geography:
    • 14% In-state students
    • 86% Out-of-state students
      • 18% Non-Resident Alien
  • Schooling:
    • 64% in top 10th of graduating class
    • 92% in top quarter of graduating class
    • 99% in top half of graduating class

Who isn't at the table?

  • Male-bodied individuals (MtF, male-bodied genderqueers, etc.)
    • Exceptions theoretically exist for individuals who have gone through [enough] hormones, surgery, lifestyle changes, etc. to be considered to be "legally" living as a female
      • Note: legally generally means by documents, and this can vary by state or country. In most cases it requires surgery, which not all individuals want. See here for more details.
  • Intersexed individuals living as men
  • Men
  • Undocumented immigrants (except in phenomenal cases--however, these individuals are still the exceptions)
  • 52% of applicants [are rejected] (according to statistics
  • Those who do not receive enough financial aid (subjective) and cannot afford it (or the plane ticket, or the storage, or the books, etc.)

Bryn Mawr College, statistically speaking, is a women's college that excludes women. To me, what this says is that BMC is not a sanctuary for women seeking higher education, but the same as any other college: a business. As a result, BMC only admits certain kinds of women. Additionally, if BMC starts admitting certain kinds of students, the structure of the whole organization could change. With the admission of a single male-bodied transwoman, BMC would lose its legal status as a women's college (see comments about Title IX here). It would officially become co-ed and have to start following procedures that other co-ed colleges do, particularly under Title IX. (See also this article (PDF))

But as many trans* (definition) students have said, there isn't (yet) a "transgender" college. For some, Bryn Mawr's generally accepting administration and student body may be the next best thing. Though I don't have statistics to quote for this, I would generally assume that trans* students are generally more accepted at Bryn Mawr than at other colleges and universities (including instances of violence, harassment, discrimination, etc).

So the question I posit is this: Would Bryn Mawr be a more inclusive place for women if it wasn't labelled as a "women's college," but something like a "feminist college"?

Of course, this is assuming a lot of things, including that becoming more specialized/exclusive is a way of producing inclusivity. How would you screen for this, or select for it? It also acknowledges that this population might include male-bodied men (cis-gendered).

What about a queer college to encompass trans* students? There are already smaller programs in the US such as summer camps and after-school programs or clubs targeted to queer youth (example).

I am not suggesting that Bryn Mawr should change. There are a lot of reasons why I don't think this change would be likely or feasible. However, it is something to think about. Regardless, this would seemingly only eliminate one of the divides: sex/gender. Would it be able to eliminate divides such as class, or those with learning disabilities?

I am not sure if it's possible to have a college that would create a "safe space" for women by overcoming some of these divides and yet still have the same credibility as other colleges.


S. Yaeger's picture

I'm so excited to see this

I'm so excited to see this conversation carrying over into this class!  I'm definitely in line with aybala50 in thinking that the college needs to change, but also feeling a little lost as to how it should change, and when, and for whom.  I'd  like to see the inclusion of trans women here, as the college, though not a perfect, violence free sanctuary, is a much safer place to be trans than many coed schools can be.  However, I recognize that there are realistic limits to what can and will be changed on many levels.  Perhaps, our focus should be on challenging the legallity of gender assignments, or at least how gender changes are made on a legal level.    I also like the idea of a queer college, and there are high schools that offer santuary to queer kids (I am using queer here to encompass all identities that are not strictly cis/straight), Harvey Milk H.S. in New York comes to mind.  I would just like to see concurent changes being made on the national scale as well.

aybala50's picture

We Need To Change

Amorphast, this is a very good overview of how Bryn Mawr is and it's practices of admissions. After pointing out so many problems with the college and it's admissions policy, you end your post with "I'm not suggesting that Bryn Mawr should change". I would argue the opposite, I think you have made an amazing case for why Bryn Mawr should and needs to change. We are exclusive in so many ways and are not a women's college. I am not at a point where I can say I know what needs to change or how to change it, but I know that there needs to be change.