Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls
In the gender discussion (okay, “war” in you must) of 2012 I have not always been perceived to be a friend to the feminists. I know, I know. Feminist is a big tent and it wasn’t ALL of them that I alienated with my discussion of why being a dude is okay. But even as a not-always-friend-of-some-feminist this story has really got my blood boiling.
You see I went on a college tour with my daughter last spring. It was a great bonding experience. We hit a dozen schools. While I loved being with her, all the colleges began to look alike. She even came up with a secret way to evaluate the quality of a school’s school spirit (“Look at the bathroom in the student center, Dad. Is it clean? Is it nice? Is there vulgar graffiti?”).
But one school stood out from the rest, at least in my mind.
“Why wouldn’t you want to send your daughter to an institution whose sole purpose is to insure the success of women?” the tour guide asked, looking my way. “Three percent of women graduating from high school go to women’s colleges, and yet 30 percent of congresswomen went to women’s colleges and 20 percent of the female CEOs. There’s a reason that is the case and that’s why we are still here.”
The pretty, confident, and articulate young woman had smacked me directly between the eyes of my teenage ignorance. Perhaps women’s colleges don’t exist solely for the benefit of their male guests, I thought for the first time.
The information session started like all the others: a room full of nervous parents and bored-looking kids, all trying to hide their abject fear. A woman with wet hair and an iced coffee sat down at the front of the room. She explained that she had been up all night with her 17-month-old baby and might be a bit off her game.
For the next hour I sat transfixed. These sessions are generally so repetitive that I close my eyes to try to use the time productively by meditating. Except at Barnard. What I heard was an hour-long explanation and first-person demonstration of what the tour guide had said in a couple of sentences: Why Barnard had the resources of an Ivy League school but the feeling of a small liberal arts college; how there are plenty of men to interact with in sports or social clubs, but that the school had remained all women on purpose; how for the right young woman Barnard would provide a unique education and inspiration that a coed facility could not.
In the end my daughter chose a different college but my view of women’s colleges, and Barnard in particular, had been forever changed. The piece I wrote about the school got some attention so quite a few Barnard alums contacted me. One even let me know on Saturday how proud she was that the President would be speaking at their commencement right after it was announced.
Then tonight I got an SOS email from my niece, a junior at Columbia who is studying in Italy this semester. “Love my school but this is out of hand…”
An all-out brawl has broken out between Columbia, where the President went to school, and Barnard in which Columbia students, mostly men from what I can tell, have called into question Barnard’s academic standards, the status of all-women’s colleges, and the President’s symbolic choice to speak to a female student body rather than his own.
I hope the discourse in this country—and on my own campus—soon transcends the name-calling, woman-bashing, slut-shaming, and gender-stereotyping that has devolved our collective sense of compassion and justice. I hope that no institution is ever defaced as a product of subconscious misogyny. And I hope that as a society we’re able to allow our President to stand behind women.
This isn’t a tough call. Really, guys? Really?
I’m all for standing up for men’s rights, for making sure that in the name of feminism we don’t walk all over the guys in this country. I am even willing to talk about how being a dude is under-appreciated (and sacrificing my body on that one given the bullet holes I took for you bastards). But saying that somehow the President speaking at Barnard is wrong, or unfair, or somehow reflects negatively on the women’s education or the institutions academic standards?
That’s just crap. As a good man to a good man, I gotta say if we are ever going to get anywhere we have to stop this nonsense.
To the men (and women, since I am quite sure there some dirty hands amongst the females throwing spears across Broadway) of Columbia I say: ceasefire! Lay down your weapons!
Celebrate the majesty of a great and unique institution of higher learning which is part of the greater Columbia University. Don’t prove that Ivy League men are the worst species of mouth breathers ever to walk the earth. For god sakes man, these are the women that you would most like to date (from what little I know of the social scene on campus). Respect and love will follow.
Kidding aside, this is wrong and needs to stop.
And Barack…I wasn’t with you on doubling down in Afghanistan. But on this one you showed me some real sack my friend. Way to go.