Fundamentally, the issue of Mills becoming more co-ed is not
about men. It’s about women, and our socio-educational
opportunities. As men are accustomed to occupying the center of
attention, and women are socialized to concede it, this debate has
been framed in terms of whether men are “oppressed”, are subjects
of “reverse sexism” or whether we are fostering dissension among
the “Mills community.”
The sense of entitlement from some male graduate students, while
unsurprising, is nonetheless appalling. No “right” exists for male
graduate students to be increasing in number on campus, and
especially to be placed in undergraduate classes.
In fact, it is the right of women to a private, all-female
undergraduate education that is being infringed upon with male
graduate students in our classes. We ought to be concerned with
this backdoor influx of men.
As (male) sociology professor Bruce Williams teaches, power
differential is a critical component of the ability to discriminate
against others. Women at Mills, as we exist within the context of
this world, cannot discriminate against men.
Individually, women can behave in anti-male ways, but this does
not amount to social, political, and economic oppression of men in
society. Although women rightfully hold leadership positions at
Mills, men, as we all know, overwhelmingly dominate power
structures in every realm of society. Notions of so-called “reverse
sexism” or “reverse racism” are invalid, emotive concepts.
Men may feel uncomfortable, threatened, or indignant about not
being the center of attention at all times. This debate is not
about men, it’s about women, and our clear desire to attend a
school without the encroaching presence of male students.
The fact that we attend Mills and desire an academic environment
without male peers proves that there is a need to preserve the
woman-oriented focus of the College. Empirically, we know that
girls and women thrive in female-only school settings. Women are
often silenced by male voices in co-ed classrooms, regardless of
whether some women have internalized the sexism or ignore its
persistence. Beyond this data, though, is the unquantifiable value
of a Mills undergraduate education.
This includes the development and nurturing of women’s ideas and
scholarship, irrespective of male students. It is about women of
varied ages and backgrounds and what we offer to each other. It is
about what we learn from our female and male professors who are
committed to educating women.
While I recognize that the administration is making decisions to
promote graduate school programs at the expense of undergraduate
classes, students and alums must not simply allow Mills to become a
co-ed graduate school. This is what appears to be happening, and
since there will be no new women’s colleges in this country, we owe
it to the generations of women after us to have the option of Mills
as a college for women.
The concerns of male graduate students pale in comparison to the
challenges women and other non-male identified people encounter
throughout society, not only sexism but compounding racism,
homophobia, and other institutionalized forms of oppression.
Mills needs to address the pressing issue of how to maintain the
undergraduate focus of the College in the current economic climate.
The best solution cannot be the admission of more and more men.
Women coming to Mills should reasonably expect an environment
by, for and about women.
Male graduate students choosing to come to Mills should be
humbled by the tradition of the College and what women continue to
achieve despite historical odds against us. Additionally, men
should expect that their wants may not be primary, for once.
We must continue asserting our needs over and above the
clamoring of angry men and placating women.
Shayna Gelender, Senior