All-women's colleges receive a lot of hate, and there are many negative stereotypes out there. I wish I could say that I was never one of the people who bought into it, but I'd be lying. I equated all-women's institutions to a water tank full of piranhas. But junior year, when I went on an extensive college hunt, my mom persuaded me to not count out all-women's colleges. She said to me, "if you visit one and don't like it, I'll never bring it up again." So I added Barnard to the list, and when I visited, I immediately fell in love with the place. In expanding my horizons, I realized that I can't judge something through word of mouth. I applied ED to Barnard in October of my senior year and never looked back.
Now in my second semester at Barnard, I am so happy, and I don't regret my choice at all. However, I have personally experienced the stigma that has plagued all-women's colleges for years. It is something that really bothers me, because now I know that all-women's colleges are not the monsters that they're made out to be—they're actually safe places for women to learn and grow. After commiserating with other girls at the Seven Sisters and other all-women’s colleges, I have made a list of the things that we are sick and tired of being told and/or asked:
1. “Oh, you go to a women’s college? The girls there are so bossy!”
This is insulting on so many levels. Don’t imply that I am bossy simply because I value my education. At co-ed institutions, women are constantly belittled and not given the same opportunities as men. Also, women are more afraid to speak their minds in a co-ed classroom, and at Barnard, I have learned to voice my opinion whenever I feel like it. That does not make me, or anyone else that goes there, bossy. Would you ever call a man bossy for wanting to achieve their dreams? No? I didn’t think so.
2. “I didn’t know that you’re a lesbian!” Or, “Watch out for the lesbians on campus!”
I will never understand why people feel the need to say things like that. There is so much wrong with those statements that it would be impossible to list them all, but I'm going to go with the fact that you are implying that there is something wrong with being a lesbian. I'll say it real slow so that you understand: there is nothing wrong with not being heterosexual. Even though this doesn't happen to be the case for me, I have many friends who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and other identities, and I fully support them. They should be able to be who they truly are, and not be suppressed by ignorant people like you. It's 2016; everyone is free to love who they want!
3. "All-women's colleges serve to extend the petty behavior and social hierarchy that occurs in middle and high school."
This is the stereotype that I personally bought into. I used to fear all-girls' schools, believing them to be an environment where I would never be safe. In high school, I tended to be friends with guys and avoided friendships with girls, with only one exception. This reaction was definitely a defense mechanism, but that doesn't make me any less responsible in adding to the stereotypes and assumptions surrounding bullying and all-women's institutions. During my time at Barnard, I have met so many nice and supportive girls who have big dreams and are confident in themselves, without feeling the need to tear each other down.
You may be wondering if there is such a thing as "popular" in college. Yes; there are always going to be those girls who are extroverted and involved with many student organizations. But are they "popular" in the traditional sense, as in, are they mean? No, most of them aren't, and the ones who are tend to be ignored, because nobody buys into the fact that they are special anymore. If you are in high school and reading this, you might be having a hard time believing me, and that's okay. My older friends and parents told me time and time again that college would be different, and I didn't see it until I actually experienced it for myself.
4. “You go to an all-women’s college, which means that you are sexist!”
Since I have nothing nice to say to that, I'll reference a point that Barnard's president, Deborah Spar made at Convocation. All-women’s colleges are necessary because women do not get the same opportunities as men at co-ed institutions, and as long as this disparity exists, women's colleges will stand the test of time. Schools like Barnard offer women the opportunity to become just as, if not more successful than their male peers, because we don’t have to compete with men for the school’s resources. So by attending an all-women’s college, we are pushing for equality of the sexes.
5. “You go to an all-women’s college, therefore you want to repeal the 19th Amendment.”
I kid you not, someone has actually made this argument. Let me make one thing clear: just because I go to an all-women’s colleges does not mean that I believe women shouldn’t have the right to vote; that’s twisted logic. I know I speak for the vast majority of women who go to all-women’s colleges that I am a proud feminist, and I exercise my right to vote every year.
6. “Isn't an all-women’s college like a convent?”
No, it is obviously not. Please don’t imply that I am being locked away from men; that's just insulting. Also, you happen to be wrong about all-women's colleges being completely single-sex: some of them (including Barnard) have ties with co-ed schools, allowing students at both institutions to cross-enroll. So thanks for your fake concern, but I am doing just fine here (correction: I love my school).
7. “I’m sure you’ve participated in a militant feminist protest of some sort.”
This is such an idiotic statement. Obviously, the vast majority of us are feminists, or at least in favor of women’s rights, but that does not mean we are crazy, violent psychos. We do not go around burning buildings and beating people up. Some of us don’t even go to peaceful protests and marches; there are other ways of voicing our opinions about feminism or other hot topics.
8. “Girls at women’s colleges develop real chips on their shoulders and are man-haters.”
This is an irritating and insulting assumption. Just because we are more aware of the disadvantages and dangers that we face does not mean that we are damaged. We simply seek to receive the same education that men have been guaranteed for generations. So, let me repeat: women are not damaged! And no, we do not hate men; some of my closest friends are guys. It's not their fault that there is a gender disparity between the sexes. With that said, if a man exhibits misogynistic behavior, the vast majority of us aren't going to like or respect you.
Lead Image Credit: Beth Abbott