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Why We Need Women's College.

sekang's picture

Hi all :)

I was thinking about the question asked during the class today. "Would Virginia Woolf encourage you to go to Bryn Mawr?"

My answer is no. I think she will not because of various reasons that I will not list here but save them for class discussion later.

Anyways, to see what other people think of women's colleges, I put "why women's college?" on the search bar and read some articles about it.

This is an article written by the president of Mount Holyoke College in 2007. She mentions Virginia Woolf (for a sentence) and the article is about women's colleges. So I thought it was pretty relevant to us!

Good night!


melal's picture

People have different

People have different opinions about the necessity of women’s colleges. Some people claim that one of the advantages of women’s colleges is that they provide women with more opportunities and larger space to play their roles and make their contributions. Honestly, I don’t like this argument. Men and women are both important components of the world. Back to reality, women still need to compete with men in various domains. If education means to help them be more prepared and mature when they enter society, women’s colleges don’t have many advantages compared to co-ed institutions. I personally believe that the essence of women’s colleges is not eliminate differences between and women, or segregate women from men as asylums, but help women know what they can to the world as women through self-discovery.

sekang's picture

Why Virginia Woolf won't encourage us to go to BMC

Pejordan, yes I agree with what you said. I think since we didn't have a class discussion about if Virginia Woolf will or will not encourage us to go to BMC, I will state my reasons here.

My answer is no, she will not encourage.

1. Some of the faculty memebers are men. As Virginia Woolf states towards the end of the "letter," psychology plays a bigger role than the social pressure about the difference between men and women. That means, male professors teaching at BMC will not change their perspective due to the social environment (women's college). They will maintain their "maleness" aka tendency to start a war. So, it is possible that the male professors unintentionally teach us some stuff that will encourage to start a war.

2. Bryn Mawr encourages us to get involved in sports. I don't remember Viriginia Woolf saying anything about sports, but we know that sports definitely make us competitive.
3.We have SGA (Self-Governance Assocation). It has the characteristics that Virginia Woolf states as men's characteristics, such as controlling.

4. BMC offers good preparation courses and advisors for pre-med students. So, BMC helps studnets to go into the medicine field, which I think is pretty intense and competitive.

However, I do think education at bryn mawr does not make me jealous. All my classmates have been really willing to help me. They are very supportive. Students at bmc enjoy forming study groups. Also with the strong honor code, we don't talk about grades.

But there are already 4 reasons why virginia woold won't like bryn mawr. So, no she will not encourage us to come here.


epeck's picture

Do we want to join men?

I've been off-campus this weekend, and naturally lots of people have asked me how Bryn Mawr is, and what it's like to be in an all-women's environment.  Someone asked me what one of the things I've learned at Bryn Mawr is, and I responded by talking about how I now feel very confident in expressing my opinions, even in intimidating situations.  I talked about how I would feel comfortable, for example, expressing my opinion in a conference situation surrounded by men - the basic point was that I felt deserving of a space at a table occupied primarily by men.  When I read some of the recent posts about women's education and though back to our question of whether Virginia Woolf would have approved of a Bryn Mawr education, I realized how modern my definition of feminism is and how different from Virginia Woolf's it may be.  I have always believed in equality of sex and gender, but I'm begining to wonder if this is correct or possible, and if it's even a good idea.  Woolf focuses on the differences between genders, yet I automatically defined feminism and the positive ideas I've taken from my Bryn Mawr education with a focus on equality in all situations.  I think that this is a question I will struggle with all semester, and may not get an answer to.    I feel very strongly that women CAN be in any type of situation a man can be in, but the question is - should they?  Or should women maintain their "differentness" as Woolf discussed in Three Guineas?  

hwink's picture

I'm just gonna shamelessly plug this book, don't mind me.

Delusions of Gender by Cordelia Fine is an absolutely fabulous book that I happened to read during the period of time when I was doing overnight stays at colleges spring of last year. I distinctly remember reading it while lying in a sleeping bag on the floor of a Mount Holyoke dorm room. Perhaps it is for that reason that I most clearly remember the passages in the book relevant to the experience of a women's college. Thanks to Google Books, you can take a peek here!

It's all pretty interesting, I think, but one particularly relevant bit happens on page six. Fine talks about the difference between explicitly held beliefs and implicity held beliefs. Then, she talks about the results of a study testing for implicitly held beliefs about women and leadership in women who attended a co-ed college vs. a women's college. What they found was that although what both groups implicitly believed was about equal at the beginning of their first year, by their sophomore year women who attended single sex institutions were more readily able to pair women and leadership roles than their co-ed counterparts. 

What this shows is that women's colleges actually make a pretty big difference in women's attitudes about women. I chose Bryn Mawr for this very reason-- just like what my group said about Virginia Woolf's call to cremate the word "feminism", I believe that feminism and women's colleges both are still doing work. Important work. I am proud to attend a women's college, and I do believe that we still need them. 

Oh, and really. Delusions of Gender is a brilliant book. I can't recommend it highly enough.

pejordan's picture

Becoming Active Agents in Our World

Sekang, the article that you posted summed up for me the reason why I chose Bryn Mawr over the other (co-ed) schools I was considering. At one point, Joanne Creighton says "women's colleges are not about separating women from the world but about encouraging them to be active agents within it." In my opinion, single-sex schools are valuable not because they teach women that men are evil, but because they empower women and show them that they can be successful. The article also makes the point that women's colleges can offer education to those who wouldn't normally have access to it; the Posse scholarship at Bryn Mawr, as well as the rest of the financial aid packages they offer, is a great example of this.

Contrary to the points Virginia Woolf makes, that colleges like Bryn Mawr only perpetuate a competitive atmosphere that leads to war, I haven't felt that at Bryn Mawr. Obviously it's difficult to get accepted, but I don't think students here compete with each other. On the contrary, I think students here help each other to learn. I've been in study groups made up of just students, with no mediation by TAs or professors; we don't discuss grades, but help each other to understand. It is not a competitive environment, but a nurturing and encouraging one that gives its students the confidence and support they need to succeed in a less supportive world.

pejordan's picture

Side note

Pretty self-explanatory, I thought it was funny :)

meowwalex's picture

Hey! I was also googling

Hey! I was also googling articles that could be for or against the woman's college. :-)
I know this isn't exactly a prime source, but I thought the questions it raised were interesting.

While Meryl Streep talks about how her education at Vassar awoke her brain because she no longer needed to compete for boys, it started a conversation about the idea "that single-sex colleges are important because they allow women to flourish academically in a bastion away from the distractions of men". It is kind of funny because I did not focus too much on the fact that Bryn Mawr was co-ed when I chose to go here, though more and more I am always asked about what made me choose a college that isn't co-ed and if it provides a different kind of college experience. I am not sure what I think about that, but I know that Streep has definitely set up a good discussion when she made the comment that she did about her education at Vassar.