As a child growing up, my parents constantly encouraged me, telling me that I could be anything I wanted to be and to be proud of my accomplishments. Maybe this is why I wasn't afraid of attending Scripps College, a women's college. I wasn't perturbed by comments like "Is that a lesbian college?" or "Ew, you'll never see boys!" or "Why would you go to a women's college?" I knew most of my peers thought I was crazy, but I didn't care. I didn't feel like the defining character of my school should be the lack of men, but rather the richness of the community we do have and the possibilities this kind of environment offers.
After our recent election, we celebrated the record amount of women elected to our U.S. Senate: 20. A real win for women, right? Forgive me for not celebrating, but we are far from living in a post-feminist era. Having said this, I need to be honest about the fact that I didn't consider myself a feminist, until about the middle of my freshman year. I envisioned feminists as feminazis -- bra burning angry women, who smell bad. Of course, this isn't true of most feminists, but before coming to Scripps, I wasn't aware of many important issues impacting women. I thought that for women, the civil rights days were over, and I was ready to move on to bigger issues, like my messy dorm room.
So, what changed?
I don't like the stereotypes cultivated at the other Claremont Colleges with one being that Scripps students need to have boys around them. I dislike cutsie names I hear around the Claremont Colleges like "Scrippsie" -- a term for a student at Scripps College. I find the term patronizing to me and other students. Worse still, some label us as sluts calling us "Scrippers." These terms feel as if others don't take students at a women's college seriously. The problem is that people who use these labels don't understand the relevance of an education at a women's college. If "slut" has come to mean an intelligent woman who is able to make mature, responsible decisions and stand up for her rights, something is seriously wrong.
Why is Scripps, or any women's college, still relevant? I will never again be surrounded by such a large community of independent and intelligent women who are so motivated to make a difference. I think Scripps has inspired its students to recognize the abilities they have, and further develop them with more confidence, becoming passionate leaders in their fields. I am currently president of two clubs on campus, which I both founded. I also helped to organize a food for thought speaker series for my food politics class and hope to plan more sustainability events on campus in the future.
Before coming to Scripps, I never envisioned that I would take on such leadership roles. Maybe I could have done the same at a co-ed campus, but I'm not so sure. It may not be widely known, but women's colleges have been known to instill a sense of leadership in their students. Graduates of women's colleges comprise of more than 20 percent of women in Congress and are 30 percent of a Businessweek list of rising women in corporate America.
Our nation still has much progress to make to close the gender gap in Congress, as well as in other professions. I believe women's colleges have the potential to create a community of empowered women that can take on larger responsibilities and leadership roles post graduation. Personally, I believe that because I am surrounded by strong, female role models I am inspired to become a leader myself, in order to make a positive difference.
I encourage you to reevaluate your preconceived ideas about a women's college. After all, we will truly have something to celebrate when the male-female ratio in Congress reaches 50-50. Studies have shown that women are more likely to compromise and try to get a consensus, something we need, especially considering the fiscal cliff. More women in Congress also means more discussion about issues such as education, clean air, women's health, and equal pay, according to U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer. "Believe me, the agenda has changed along with the gender change because they can't be ignored," Boxer is recently quoted as saying. Moreover, according to Women in the World Foundation, studies have shown that "when women's representation in legislatures reaches 30 percent, policies and national budgets become much more equitable."
Don't like the gender gap? Women's colleges might just be the answer.