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“You are going to turn into a feminazi or a tomboy!” There are many myths related to studying in an all-girls college. My experiences in one such institution have helped me debunk all these myths.
I walked through a big black gate into the brick-red building of my new college — the most prestigious humanities college in the entire country. This moment should have filled me with immense pride, but years of patriarchal conditioning had blinded me to the extent that I could focus only on one thing. I was scared, fearful of the fact that I was going to attend an all-girls institution! I shuddered at the thought. When I had announced my admission to my family, they beamed with happiness, but as the celebrations settled down, murmurs of concern gradually began surfacing.
“Girls from all-girls colleges are very arrogant”, “How will you survive without boys?”, “You’re going to turn into a feminazi and a tomboy” were only a few of the sexist remarks I received from various relatives. My friends, they laughed at me as if I was settling for something less. I fondly looked upon my 12 years of co-education, and the first day in an all-girls college already made me feel as if I had crossed over to the “evil-other-side.”
Fast forward to a few months later when my friends and I were dancing together in the rain, and whilst we jumped and laughed, it dawned upon me that all my ideas about all-girls colleges couldn’t be further away from the truth. In an all-girls college, I had found my true self, my own voice and I had never been happier. In contrast to all that I had envisioned, I was surrounded by love and care, empathy and understanding, such as I had never experienced before in my co-ed school. I realized that I had suffered at the hands of yet another misogynist myth that was a narrative created to constantly reinstate the power of men in society. The idea that all-girls institutions are somehow harmful belittles the power of sisterhood and promotes the idea that spaces without men are insufficient.
Competing for the attention of boys (as terrible as that sounds) is something that has become so normalized that this competition begins as early as age 10. Stop and think for a while, how many times have you measured your value based on the amount of attention men gave you? Accept it, we have all been conditioned into fighting with each other on the basis of performance, looks, behaviour and even the way we dress! We too have internalized misogyny to the extent that we step over one another as if only one of us could be as ‘great’ as men. Attending an all-girls institution was an eye-opener to the subtle ways that we women become double-agents of patriarchy. I became conscious of my actions, my thoughts and I strictly watched my tongue. I checked myself when I would utter a sexist statement, read a wife-bashing “joke”, or saw myself through the male-gaze.
My all-girls college exposed me to different types of girls, I realized that girls didn’t have to be soft, gentle and docile. In fact, they didn’t even need to fit into the binaries of ‘Mary’ and ‘Madonna’ like the society had led me to believe; characteristics of women were as diverse as the colours of the rainbow. I met women who were extremely ambitious, women who had broad shoulders and inspired everyone as they aced their sport. I met women who were loud, laughed even louder, wore shorts even though their legs were covered with hair, and were everything but ‘perfect’. At the same time, these women were sensitive, guided by intuition, and could dress to the nines when needed. I was surrounded by independent women who were strong as well as defined by their femininity. They were unapologetic for not fitting into society’s expectations and created a space for their own. It took me a lot of effort to unlearn the fact that I was supposed to be a certain way in order to be accepted and appreciated, I now know that I am worthy just as I am and can live life on my own terms.
So to everyone who has an inexplicable fear of all-women spaces, please know that the generalisations you hear have been created to oppress women even further. For most, they would rather a woman who is resilient than one who raises hell for equality. So just to clear any doubt — no, girls from all-girls colleges are not arrogant, they simply speak their minds in order to fight against your oppressive ways; they survive quite perfectly without boys around because all-women spaces are equally enriching; the feminism that is mistakenly equated to Nazism, actually empowers us to continue fighting for equality.
In an environment that favours men over women and does everything to convince that we are ‘lesser’ and ‘weaker’, an all-girls institution almost feels like a much-needed rehab from patriarchy.
Image via Unsplash
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A graduate in English Honours from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, Saumia is a
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