As a female, I have experienced my fair share of misogyny. From a young age I have been advised to live my life a certain way, whether that be how I talk, act, or dress, and whenever I questioned this advice, the answer always had something to do with how men would perceive me.
Throughout elementary, middle and high school, there was always a dress code enforced. A dress code that had many more stipulations for females than males. From an early age, we as women have been limited in how we express ourselves down to how we dress, the most basic form of expression there is.
Now in college, I had hoped that the playing field would become more equal. No more dress codes, everyone is paying for the same amount of education, etc. Yet still, I notice slight details that don’t completely sit right with me.
In a classroom setting, professors will generally have a couple of students that stand out to them throughout the semester. These students are participative and get called on to answer questions regularly. This is normal. What I have found though, is that it is also common for professors to pay more attention to and answer more to the male students in a classroom setting. If males are being paid more attention to in every faucet of life and females are expected to act a certain way due to this, when are females supposed to truly learn how to leave their mark on the world?
This brings me to the question: do institutions of higher education prepare females for success?
According to pretty much everyone, college is where you find your so-called thing in life. You figure out what you want to do, how you enjoy spending your free time, what types of people you want to surround yourself with. So far throughout my college career I have found this to be true, but I also find myself asking myself the same question I did years ago: am I doing all of this because the male gaze told me I should?
Exploring this further, I decided to discuss the topic with my mother. She is a business owner and had a much different college experience than I. Throughout her college career, she attended two all women’s colleges and one co-ed university. She first went to an all women’s junior college before transferring to a co-ed school. After only a semester at the co-ed institution, she transferred to a different all women’s college.
She chose to leave the co-ed school because of the very issue that I am discussing, yet she had an experience to compare it to. My mother stated that the main difference between the two atmospheres was not having to fight for attention in the classroom when at the all-women’s colleges. She noticed a difference in treatment levels and that men’s questions were even answered to a better ability no matter the difficulty of the question asked.
Now, she did graduate from college in 1989, but not much has changed, if I’m still noticing the same things over twenty years later.
Having spent a majority of her college career at all women’s colleges, she believes that they set her up to succeed in the business world. Comparing her time at the two different types of establishments, my mother also believes that she would not be where she is today if she had spent all of her time at a co-ed university. One thing that she said really stuck with me:
“As a woman, you walk out of a women’s college feeling confident, and you are empowered by society.”
I am starting my fourth year of college, and while I am happy with my life and my achievements, I wouldn’t say that I feel empowered by society.
As I compare my collegiate experience with that of my mother’s, I have come to a couple of realizations. First, the majority of people attend co-ed colleges. Due to this, females like myself have to wade through the ever-present misogyny and find our confidence within ourselves. Second, because men seem to be favored to an extent in most realms of life, women need to fight for their spot. Instead of accepting the fact that a professor will probably call on the men in class, be the female that always raises her hand. Constantly remind people that you are present and your gender does not determine your capabilities.
I believe that anyone can succeed in life and colleges do not necessarily prevent women from being prepared for the world, but I also believe that females are not automatically set up with the mindset that they can be successful. Due to this, we have to instill the confidence and mindset in ourselves.