“Too many women”

Morning Edition reported this morning that the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is investigating quiet gender discrimination in private college admissions — recently, male admits have outpaced female admits.

The Chronicle of Higher Ed noted last month that it may also be a growing problem at state schools, which would put them in violation of Title IX.

Both stories note that the concern is that campuses are becoming “too female.” To wit:

Privately at least, some college administrators argue that they must discriminate against women or the gender balance at their institutions will become so off-kilter that many of the women they want won’t be willing to attend.

(Chronicle of Higher Ed, emphasis mine)

Discriminating against women applicants, to be clear, is rejecting highly qualified female candidates in favor of less qualified male candidates, and the only reason for it is to preserve a subjective “gender balance.” Said gender balance is ill-defined, and neither report mentions how (or whether) a more balanced ratio of women to men has any effect whatsoever on the quality of the education for students (ever wonder why only two of the original Seven Sisters have found it necessary to go co-ed?).

That’s why most of us go to college, right? To further our education and get better, more interesting, and higher-paying jobs. That’s why I went, in addition to being a nerd, and that’s why I continue to go. Pursuing knowledge is kind of my thing.

But perhaps there are administrators who still believe that women only want to go to college to get a husband. I mean, where else will we meet eligible future doctors, lawyers, and congressmen if not in the dorms?

Let’s back up a minute.

Women, on the whole, were excluded from the nation’s most established and esteemed colleges well into the 20th century, even though colleges like Oberlin were coeducational from the start (1833) and taxpayer-funded state universities, beginning in 1862 (thank you, President Lincoln and Vermont congressman Justin Smith Morrill) did more to equalize higher education than, IMHO, anything else would until Title IX.

Women-only colleges started in the 19th century because they were necessary. They were successful then and remain successful now because (and this is the key) women are smart. Also driven. Sure, there was still the expectation that women would get married and have babies during or after college, but the Seven Sisters, more than any other institutions, created an atmosphere of academic inquiry and debate and gave women the freedom to develop their minds in ways that had been curtailed by society.

And they passed that freedom on to their daughters.

By 1900, though, women in co-ed colleges faced a “feminization” backlash much like I’m hearing and reading about now. Schools, flush with cash from women dying to pay for education such as their mothers could only dream about, capped women’s enrollment and rolled back coeducational policies, trying to win male students back from all-male universities (Rosenberg).

They asked, as today’s feminists put it, “What about TEH MENZ?!”

(Ooh! Apropos of this issue on a more global level, go read this excellent post on why “we’re equal” does not mean “we’re the same.”)

Simply by opening up higher education to women, universities found that women were equal to the task, and eager for it. What they still seem unable to accept is that women may be more equal to and eager for it than men. Given the opportunity (with or without the often maligned grants from the Obama Administration), women will earn 58% of undergraduate degrees and 60% of master’s degrees.

What does that mean for “Teh Menz”?

Nothing. Not one damn thing.

Title IX, however belatedly, leveled the playing field for higher education. Girls joined the game, and they’re winning. They aren’t (systematically) given a handicap to bump up their grades or special powers to dominate in the classroom — they show up, do the work, and make the most of what they know their mothers and grandmothers had to fight to achieve. Changing the rules now just because men are “losing” is disingenuous at best, reactionary and dangerous at worst, and promoting it leads to articles like this.

Not to put too fine a point on it, but “because they’re too good at it” seems like stupid, backwards reason to prevent anyone from doing anything, don’t you think? I mean, successful axe murderers and cult leaders notwithstanding.

Women and men, on their merits, stand an equal chance of being good at pretty much anything, and the feelings of emasculation that threatened men voice (quasi-anonymously) on news articles and blogs are based on a societal construct, not a universal truth. These guys are used to being viewed a certain way, privileged from birth for something that required no effort.

Earning more degrees than women will take some effort, indeed.

On behalf of my fellow female alumnae and women earning graduate degrees (while we work) (and/or raise children), I say bring it. Stand on your merits and challenge me to be better and learn more, in life and in school, and we’ll be a better country for it.

Block my daughter, my niece, or the little girl down the hall from furthering her education because you’re afraid she’ll do better than you (or somehow turn you into a girl), and you do so at your peril. I refuse to give up the opportunities generations of women fought to obtain just to slap a band-aid on what amounts to a bruised ego.

Women said, “We are equal.”

Men said, “Fine. Prove it.”

Women did. Over and over again. And now men want help being more equal without merit? Systematic assistance in regaining the original privilege?

I think not.

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