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Women's colleges give every woman equal ground to grow

In a 2003 “Simpsons” episode, the Seven Sisters, a group of Northeastern women’s colleges, are anthropomorphized to by: VERN UYETAKE - Elise Brownrepresent their stereotypes: Vassar doesn’t shave her armpits, Smith is a jock and Wellesley ... well, she marries Harvard men.

Now that I’m leaving high school and moving on to a women’s college, I am often asked why that was my choice. Sometimes, the best answer is that Wellesley just feels “right,” but for bigger reasons, I hope more Lions will consider women’s colleges in their search for a school.

It’s unfortunate we live in a world where women’s colleges are necessary. However, it’s wonderful that the women’s colleges we need exist. In fact, thanks to these gender-specific schools, true gender equality can happen sooner.

For centuries, society has labored under a gender dichotomy that favors the man over the woman. Not until the last century did women have a seat at the political table; a woman in the workplace was not normal until my mom was young. Countless sacrifices have been made over the years to allow our sex to make greater strides.

But women still struggle. Even after the Lilly Ledbetter Act, women make, on average, 77 cents for each dollar made by men. Issues of women’s health are political debates, not private decisions. And in day-to-day life, women are still primarily considered objects of desire.

On the extraordinary Twitter account @EverydaySexism, countless stories of this are shared. Women from all walks of life are hit on, harassed, taken less seriously by people ranging from doctors to co-workers to advertisers to complete strangers. With all the progress women have made, there is still much prejudice to overcome.

Even in an average classroom, a woman’s perspective is “othered” and seen as homogenous. Last year, the New York Times interviewed Debora Spar, president of Barnard College, who said, “Even in the best universities in the U.S. ... (women) oftentimes feel that when they put their hand up they are giving the women’s point of view ... and that’s a burden. Whereas if you are in a Barnard class, you put your hand up and you are just being Deborah or Joanne.”

This is why women’s colleges are so crucial. In an environment where every student is her own mind beyond her gender, a woman can truly thrive. She doesn’t need to deal with day-to-day gender conflicts, the cultural impulse to put a man in charge. She doesn’t need to prove herself despite her being the “second sex.” She can prove herself as her own individual. Consequently, she can gain all the leadership skills she needs to excel in the working world and be taken just as seriously as her male colleagues — because she knows exactly how to combat the everyday sexism we face.

Ultimately, though, I chose Wellesley because it is devoted to making sure that bright, active, unique women have the resources to do their absolute best and achieve their highest ambitions. That’s what it all came down to when I applied.

A women’s college is certainly not every student’s cup of tea, and they are certainly not the only way women can realize their goals. But one is going to be my home, just as it was Hillary Clinton’s, Cokie Roberts’ and Nora Ephron’s home. I am thrilled to know that there, I will learn how to succeed — not despite my gender, but in the name of my gender’s equality.

Elise Brown is a senior at West Linn High School.




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