Women’s Largest Barrier to a Quality Education? The Men in Their Classroom.

Savannah Brooks ’26

Managing Editor

For young adults born in the early 2000s, it can sometimes seem as if we live in a world separate from the time before coeducation. We have all grown up going to school together (those of you who went to a private Catholic school can just pretend to relate) and we have even seen a woman win the Democratic nomination for president. Cool, right? Sexism is totally solved, especially on a liberal campus like this one!

I will be the first to admit that we have made a lot of progress since 1948. Women make up over half of Trinity’s student body and have much better career prospects than ever. We have spaces made for us on campus and numerous female faculty and staff here to help. However, for the women in male-dominated classes and majors, the progress may not be so palpable.

As a history major, it is extraordinarily common for me to be one of three, maybe five women in a class of 20 people with a male professor. Even when I find myself in a class that is perfectly balanced between the genders, I still notice that the discussions are almost always male-dominated. Multiple times in these classes (even those focused on gender history) I have been taken aback by my male classmates repeating a point I had just made in almost the exact same words and being praised for their intelligence. Time and time again, I have seen my female classmates fall more and more into the background over the course of the semester as their male compatriots scarf up the conversation time like ravenous vultures.

The problem is not limited to my fellow young adults on this campus. When women make up 50% of the population, it is ridiculous for women’s history to be shoved aside to one week of the syllabus (a week that usually only teaches about wealthy white women; looking at you, Catherine de Medici and Margaret Thatcher) or simply not included at all. Professors do themselves and their students a disservice when they create such a glaring omission in their curriculum. From antiquity to today, women have had to scream to get their stories told in the history books. How are the women on this campus supposed to thrive if they do not see themselves reflected in historical periods even as recent as 40 years ago? Sure, you will see participation bloom from the 20 men in class who are uber-passionate about male glory and fantastic battles, but if you do not see the five women who slowly stop raising their hands, how can you succeed as an educator?

It is not just the history major that has this problem, of course. Women in all majors must endure the chauvinistic dominance of the Trinity man, and it greatly hurts their education. How are female students expected to participate in a classroom that does not hear them or understand them? To male students, I encourage you to take a moment in your classes this week. Are you taking up too much space? To female students, I hope you will raise your hand one more time than the male student sitting next to you and verbalize your opposition to any sexist remarks. To our professors, your female students need you to hear them — especially when they are not speaking.

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  1. 1
    B. Rasmussen

    I sincerely hope this was written for the satire section of this paper. This entire article lacks social awareness of the vast steps institutions such as Trinity College have taken in the education of women. This entire piece reads as a nagging rant without any facts to back up this baseless opinion. Why not recognize the leaps women have taken with the full support of many men rather than continuing to try to emasculate. Women across the world still don’t have access to education, yet you lament not getting enough attention in class. As a woman who attended college and law school at night while working full time and caring for my infant daughter, I resent your whining. I had no issue making my voice heard above any men or women in my law school classes. It’s not gender you are complaining about its strength of voice. Find yours.

  2. 2
    Liz DePriest, Ph.D.

    I hesitate to even dignify this response with a reply, and yet, I must. Anyone who has studied the history of the feminist movement (as Brooks and I have) knows that all of the advancements women have enjoyed are the direct result of women who refused to settle for what others consider “good enough”– and the people willing to listen to them. You cannot seriously claim this column “lacks social awareness of the vast steps institutions such as Trinity College have taken in the education of women” when the entire second paragraph acknowledges these improvements. It’s very clear to any careful reader that she begins with this acknowledgement in order to argue that MORE progress is needed, not to dismiss the progress that has already been made.
    “Women across the world” who “still don’t have access to education” benefit when women like Brooks demand better of our world’s most elite institutions, including Trinity. If we cannot demand gender parity for students who enjoy the privilege of a prestigious secondary education, how can we expect to ensure that women and girls around the world will have access to anything resembling educational equality?
    For the sake of your daughter, I hope that other women between your age and hers will continue to demand better for themselves, as Brooks does here. I carried, delivered, and raised two daughters while working through my Ph.D. in English. While doing so, I experienced casual but impactful gender discrimination like that which Brooks describes here, as well as more institutionally sanctioned discrimination, like lack of access to scholarship funds. And yet, I was able to complete my degree with distinction, thanks in large part to the changes demanded by the women who studied in my program before me. These included paid leave and access to fellowship funding which was not dependent on my time to degree clock.
    Ironically, you end your comment– which attempts to silence and shame a woman speaking out against discrimination– to “find her voice.” She has found hers, and she is using it. I would encourage you to do some self examination about why you find that so threatening.

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