Monthly Archives: February 2013

Women’s Colleges, the Real World, and a Failed Comparison

Shannon Miller, a first-year student at Claremont McKenna College, posted a controversial piece on the CMC Forum yesterday entitled “Don’t Like the Gender Gap? Don’t Encourage It.” She was responding to a Huffington Post op-ed by a Scripps College student who argued that women’s colleges empower young females. Miller claims that they are the opposite; unrealistic safe havens that do more harm than good.

As of 11:00 PM, there are over 250 comments on the article. Forbes online published a Scripps’ student’s reaction. Why did Miller’s op-ed provoke this response?

The article is a ruse. Shannon Miller’s piece is not about the failures of women’s colleges; it’s about crudely stereotyping Scripps and lauding Claremont McKenna.

“I argue that CMC has better equipped me and other female students to tackle the gender gap than most women’s colleges would have,” writes Miller. “I chose not to apply to women’s colleges…I wanted to enter a school that would push me to be stronger and bolder, not indulge my weaknesses by protecting me from “injustice” in an inaccurately idyllic setting.”

Miller blindly claims that students who go to coeducational colleges come out strong and bold, while those who go to women’s colleges, specifically Scripps, emerge weak, misguided and unprepared for life after college.

“The real world is nothing like the shelter of a women’s college, and I don’t care to indulge the fantasy that it is,” writes Miller, in closing.

No college, including CMC, is like the real world. All of our nation’s top liberal arts institutions shelter their students, especially those in Claremont. Each of the colleges maintains a “bias related incident” policy and speech codes to ensure that no one feels offended; every school offers top-rated dining halls and some even offer maid service. Liberal arts colleges—and most American universities – unequivocally fail at representing the real world. 

Moreover, Scripps is not representative of most women’s institutions. The College has its own campus, but it’s part of a coeducational consortium. Scripps shares social life and academics with the others. That’s right; there are men in the classroom with the female students! Why did Miller use an effectively coed women’s college to make her point? Miller and every other Claremont student will cross paths with Scripps’ students in classes, dining halls, and parties. Scripps is anything but isolated.

What was the intention behind the piece? If it was really to prove that women’s colleges are disadvantaging female students, Miller’s effort failed spectacularly. She only proved that it’s easy to stir controversy with baseless judgments and one-sided comparisons. 

How far we’ve come…

This came from my Politics of Journalism class at Claremont McKenna. I thought it was too ridiculous (and somewhat horrifying) not to pass on.

Even with all of the issues we experience today, it’s remarkable that this was once considered appropriate advertising. We have lots of grounds to go when it comes to rooting out sexism, but this is a good reminder that we’re at least on our way. With all of the retro revisionism occurring at the moment, this seems pretty timely.

(H/T to Professor Pitney’s GOV115 Class Blog. Expect more from here!)

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