One for the feminists

Some consider single-sex colleges an antediluvian concept. Jeremy Paxman recently suggested this to the University Challenge team from my all-women college at Cambridge.

Regardless of what others less fortunate think, one of the perks of being at an all-women college in Cambridge is that my Facebook wall and in-box are brimming with fascinating and fabulous gems.

Such as this one, which came with the – admittedly parsed – heading Feminists Have Better Sex.

33 thoughts on “One for the feminists

  1. Madhuri: Click on that link! You will find that men with feminist partners report better relationships as do women with feminist partners, than I suppose those with antediluvian ideas about women’s place. šŸ™‚

  2. Madhuri: Click on that link! You will find that men with feminist partners report better relationships as do women with feminist partners, than I suppose those with antediluvian ideas about women’s place. šŸ™‚

  3. You were in an all-women college! But why should Cambridge have something like that? I am afraid I too am in the category which consider all-women colleges as ‘antediluvian.’ Guess I am missing something here…

  4. You were in an all-women college! But why should Cambridge have something like that? I am afraid I too am in the category which consider all-women colleges as ‘antediluvian.’ Guess I am missing something here…

  5. Nita: Thanks. Long answer alert!

    I still am at my all-women college at Cambridge. šŸ™‚ Not graduated yet. Will remain a member of the MCR even when I finish.

    Why? I did not choose it.

    Cambridge has 31 colleges. Under-graduate students apply to specific colleges but the most graduate students can do is mention a few colleges of their choice on their form. If those colleges do not want those students, or if the colleges are full – which happened in my MPhil year as our application deadlines were way later than other courses’ – then the students get pooled and given to colleges that have space. People do change colleges; many people from my college have gone on to other colleges. Most graduate students use college as home and a social network, that is it. Their academic life is in their departments, unlike undergraduate students who get 1-on-1 instruction from their Directors of Studies in their colleges every day.

    And yes, it probably surprises you – because the tone of the post implied otherwise – but I think it is antediluvian too. I am firmly against affirmative action of any kind. I am however in favour of equal opportunity but as your post of today shows it is never an easy balance.

    As for why ‘Cambridge should have something like that’, that is a more tricky one.

    I shall leave it to you to work out with some interesting milestones from Cambridge history.

    1881: Women gain the right to take the Tripos examinations, and are offered University certificates if they pass.

    1887: Agnata Frances Ramsay of Girton College heads the list in the Classical Tripos.

    1890: Philippa Fawcett of Newnham College heads the list in the Mathematical Tripos.

    1897: Graces proposing to give women the titles of degrees are defeated.

    Still with me?

    1921: Women are given the titles of degrees but no associated privileges (ie. no participation in University government). Women undergraduates are given the right to attend University lectures.

    1948: (21 October) – Her Majesty The Queen (now The Queen Mother) becomes the first woman to receive a degree in the Senate-House. Other women follow in November.

    1956: Women and men take their examinations in the same room for the first time.

    1965: The University repeals its statute prohibiting mixed colleges. Graduate Colleges, Darwin, Clare Hall and Wolfson, are the first to act on this freedom. Lucy Cavendish, a college for mature women (21 years+) is founded.

    1972: Churchill, Clare and King’s Colleges (STILL WITH ME? King’s has been around since 1441, clearly still in 1441!See note below*) admit their first mixed undergraduate intake.

    1975: Rosemary Murray, President of New Hall, becomes the first woman Vice-Chancellor.

    1987: The University formally adopts an equal opportunities policy. (STILL WITH ME?)

    For all the positive progress in society, women remained second class for way longer in the UK, as you can see.

    As for my experience while at the college:

    I came from a dominantly male industry. In fact, in 1997, I had published an article in Cosmopolitan magazine in India on my experiences as the only woman in an all-male office. My friends were mostly men.

    Until I came to my college in Cambridge – kicking and screaming, may I add – I had never even encountered so many women in one place! I spent more time with my classmates than I did in college. Come MPhil thesis time, that was not an option so that is when I first met some of the women in the college. The oldest was 65 and she had company in her age group. Many were married; many had children and kept their lives in parallel and some came to study overnight in their own rooms in college (Virginia Woolf attended St John’s and I am always reminded of her essay “A Room of Her Own”..). The environment in the college is very relaxed and friendly unlike some other Cambridge colleges where the porters think they are the Masters! And come Friday, there are no Y-frontiersmen in the corridors throwing up all over the place. People’s spouses and children visit often and my college set up the first baby sitting group which is used by colleges around Cambridge, even the mixed ones.

    So antediluvian as it may be, I saw at close quarters how many women way into their 40s, 50s and 60s have recovered their confidence and made new lives at my college. Not all women are blessed with husbands who have no issues with feminism (the link in the post above refers to men with feminist wives..). For those people, it has been an equal opportunity thing rather than an affirmative action thing..

    Here is a link from 1997-98 about women in Cambridge.

    Here is a link from 1885 about women’s colleges which you will find amusing (PDF)

    By the way, Radcliffe is an all-women academic institution too, although not a traditional college in the sense of the word. LSR and Miranda House too, no? šŸ™‚

    * I have worked with a Professor who in the 1970s sued King’s College for discrimination when she applied for a Fellow’s role. They had told her she stood no chance and did she not understand that women did not become Cambridge Fellows? She fought on. They told her if she understood what the worst the case could do. She said: What? That I will lose? They said: No, you will win! She is now a CBE and a fantastic, energetic woman in her 60s who is very influential in UK and European policy circles. A jolly good girl down to the boot too, and a grandmother!

  6. Nita: Thanks. Long answer alert!

    I still am at my all-women college at Cambridge. šŸ™‚ Not graduated yet. Will remain a member of the MCR even when I finish.

    Why? I did not choose it.

    Cambridge has 31 colleges. Under-graduate students apply to specific colleges but the most graduate students can do is mention a few colleges of their choice on their form. If those colleges do not want those students, or if the colleges are full – which happened in my MPhil year as our application deadlines were way later than other courses’ – then the students get pooled and given to colleges that have space. People do change colleges; many people from my college have gone on to other colleges. Most graduate students use college as home and a social network, that is it. Their academic life is in their departments, unlike undergraduate students who get 1-on-1 instruction from their Directors of Studies in their colleges every day.

    And yes, it probably surprises you – because the tone of the post implied otherwise – but I think it is antediluvian too. I am firmly against affirmative action of any kind. I am however in favour of equal opportunity but as your post of today shows it is never an easy balance.

    As for why ‘Cambridge should have something like that’, that is a more tricky one.

    I shall leave it to you to work out with some interesting milestones from Cambridge history.

    1881: Women gain the right to take the Tripos examinations, and are offered University certificates if they pass.

    1887: Agnata Frances Ramsay of Girton College heads the list in the Classical Tripos.

    1890: Philippa Fawcett of Newnham College heads the list in the Mathematical Tripos.

    1897: Graces proposing to give women the titles of degrees are defeated.

    Still with me?

    1921: Women are given the titles of degrees but no associated privileges (ie. no participation in University government). Women undergraduates are given the right to attend University lectures.

    1948: (21 October) – Her Majesty The Queen (now The Queen Mother) becomes the first woman to receive a degree in the Senate-House. Other women follow in November.

    1956: Women and men take their examinations in the same room for the first time.

    1965: The University repeals its statute prohibiting mixed colleges. Graduate Colleges, Darwin, Clare Hall and Wolfson, are the first to act on this freedom. Lucy Cavendish, a college for mature women (21 years+) is founded.

    1972: Churchill, Clare and King’s Colleges (STILL WITH ME? King’s has been around since 1441, clearly still in 1441!See note below*) admit their first mixed undergraduate intake.

    1975: Rosemary Murray, President of New Hall, becomes the first woman Vice-Chancellor.

    1987: The University formally adopts an equal opportunities policy. (STILL WITH ME?)

    For all the positive progress in society, women remained second class for way longer in the UK, as you can see.

    As for my experience while at the college:

    I came from a dominantly male industry. In fact, in 1997, I had published an article in Cosmopolitan magazine in India on my experiences as the only woman in an all-male office. My friends were mostly men.

    Until I came to my college in Cambridge – kicking and screaming, may I add – I had never even encountered so many women in one place! I spent more time with my classmates than I did in college. Come MPhil thesis time, that was not an option so that is when I first met some of the women in the college. The oldest was 65 and she had company in her age group. Many were married; many had children and kept their lives in parallel and some came to study overnight in their own rooms in college (Virginia Woolf attended St John’s and I am always reminded of her essay “A Room of Her Own”..). The environment in the college is very relaxed and friendly unlike some other Cambridge colleges where the porters think they are the Masters! And come Friday, there are no Y-frontiersmen in the corridors throwing up all over the place. People’s spouses and children visit often and my college set up the first baby sitting group which is used by colleges around Cambridge, even the mixed ones.

    So antediluvian as it may be, I saw at close quarters how many women way into their 40s, 50s and 60s have recovered their confidence and made new lives at my college. Not all women are blessed with husbands who have no issues with feminism (the link in the post above refers to men with feminist wives..). For those people, it has been an equal opportunity thing rather than an affirmative action thing..

    Here is a link from 1997-98 about women in Cambridge.

    Here is a link from 1885 about women’s colleges which you will find amusing (PDF)

    By the way, Radcliffe is an all-women academic institution too, although not a traditional college in the sense of the word. LSR and Miranda House too, no? šŸ™‚

    * I have worked with a Professor who in the 1970s sued King’s College for discrimination when she applied for a Fellow’s role. They had told her she stood no chance and did she not understand that women did not become Cambridge Fellows? She fought on. They told her if she understood what the worst the case could do. She said: What? That I will lose? They said: No, you will win! She is now a CBE and a fantastic, energetic woman in her 60s who is very influential in UK and European policy circles. A jolly good girl down to the boot too, and a grandmother!

  7. @ Rambler: Er, what?

    For an explanation of the post, follow the link.

    For an explanation of “Facebook wall and in-box are brimming with fascinating and fabulous gems”, well, get with it and sign up to Facebook to see what it is all about (I am surprised you don’t already know!).

    Thanks. šŸ™‚

  8. @ Rambler: Er, what?

    For an explanation of the post, follow the link.

    For an explanation of “Facebook wall and in-box are brimming with fascinating and fabulous gems”, well, get with it and sign up to Facebook to see what it is all about (I am surprised you don’t already know!).

    Thanks. šŸ™‚

  9. Rambodoc:

    The French word for both story and history is ‘histoire’.

    So this story, with the history of women in Cambridge, was a long answer to Nita’s note. šŸ™‚

    Thanks.

  10. All right! I will be TBR for the time being. Can you please delete comments 10 till the above. As I said, I think it all started after this. Let me know once this gets fixed. Not being able to use my name is a bit awkward.

    Sorry for the flurry of comments everyone but comments that have my name in them seem to be ending up in Shefaly’s /dev/null .

  11. All right! I will be TBR for the time being. Can you please delete comments 10 till the above. As I said, I think it all started after this. Let me know once this gets fixed. Not being able to use my name is a bit awkward.

    Sorry for the flurry of comments everyone but comments that have my name in them seem to be ending up in Shefaly’s /dev/null .

  12. Amit: Thanks. That is true, but I did not have time to locate that reference. Boys do better in co-ed I think.

    I was always in co-ed so this was a novel experience for me too.

  13. Harini: .. as reported by their husbands. So not all women _need_ to be subservient. I think feminists need to be more pro-women than anti-men. Alas somewhere some do lose the plot… šŸ™‚

What do YOU think?

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.