Feminism at CMC: Assimilation or Activism?
At first glance, I misinterpreted the title of the recent Forum article, “Don’t Like the Gender Gap? Don’t Encourage It.” I was under the impression that the piece would draw attention to the opinion that the boys’ club culture that CMC subscribes to perpetuates the gender gap. Obviously, I was mistaken.
In my opinion, CMC’s masculine culture facilitates appeasement and adaptation to a male-dominated society and workplace, while Scripps more effectively promotes activism through female empowerment. At CMC, we are constantly reminded that our acronym once stood for Claremont MEN’S College. A beirut table featuring a freshly painted “Men’s” College logo is currently floating around North Quad. However, many if not most colleges were initially established as same sex institutions. So why is this still an especially large part of CMC’s identity?
I attribute this bro culture to our focus of academic study. Economics and Government are some of the more common majors at our school, and they are fields in which males still make up a significant majority. This is reflected in the fact that our school is still 55% male and 44% female. While I strongly disagree with the notion that one gender is better suited than the other for any particular course of study, this train of thought still dominates society. I believe that girls at CMC studying subjects commonly associated with men are more likely to work within the system of inequality (as Miller put it), in order to be successful, rather than fight for equality.
This notion is seen not only at CMC, but after students graduate, as well. Many of our alumni go on to pursue fast-paced careers in fields such as investment banking and private equity. While finance is a highly competitive and respected field, it is still relatively behind the curve in terms of gender equality in the workplace — in terms of both numbers and culture. A prime example of this was depicted in the Atlantic article, “What It Was Like to Be a Woman at Goldman Sachs.” The author of the article, who remains anonymous, refers repeatedly to one particular female coworker who tried to adapt to the frat-like culture at Goldman in order to succeed. There were visits to strip clubs and golf retreats where heavy drinking was not only encouraged, but expected. Despite the woman’s hard work, dedication, and status as team player, she was consistently passed over for partner. Her career plateaued, and she eventually left Goldman.
In her piece, Miller wrote that CMC gives “women the opportunity to work directly alongside men in prototypical boys’ clubs.” I fear that CMC’s boys’ club culture trains CMC women to adapt to the gender gap in a negative way, much like the woman in the Goldman article. We have to ask ourselves if CMC’s boys’ club elements actually prepare women to take on the challenges of the real world. If we are learning to work within a system of inequality, how are we learning to be leaders? None of our female alumni have gone on to become a CEO or politician, and the Notable Alumni section of our Wikipedia page is all men. In my opinion, CMC needs to do a better job at fostering an equally visible counterpart to its masculine culture. One way in which CMC could promote awareness of these issues would be with the creation of a Gender Studies GE option; perhaps the course could count as one of the Humanities requirements, much like Religious Studies does.
There is room for both types of feminists; those who want to adapt to a male world, and those who want to deconstruct it. Although the notion of feminism itself is often vague and fluid, I think that most people would agree that it rests on principles of equality, choice, and mutual respect. Regardless of your college—CMC or Scripps—I hope we can all agree with that. I simply want to live in a world in which gender equality in the workplace is the norm—not one in which women must learn to adapt to inequality.