Saturday, October 07, 2006

Better Dead than Coed

Slogan on tee shirt worn by a Randolph-Macon student

I arrived in a midst of a war at Randolph-Macon Women’s College!

The Board of Trustees just voted to end 115 years of single sex education and, for financial reasons, admit men. The student and alumnae protest has been wide and swift---occupation of the administration building, silent protests, a hunger strike and a flurry of articles and letters to the campus newspaper “The Sundial”. There is a definite culture that women’s colleges have nurtured, a culture that many fear will end when men are admitted. National studies have shown that women perform better, have more rewarding, career-building experiences and attain higher career goals after attending women’s colleges. Both young men and young women tend to give more negative non-verbal feedback to women practicing assertive leadership behavior in co-ed settings compared to men demonstrating the exact same behavior.

Alumnae describe their experience at Randolph-Macon as “the life-transforming experience that I, like countless other women, [have] had.”
And, “We love the men in our lives but this bonding with our sisters, the love and togetherness which, after four years matriculation here, gives us the unique world view to call these women from all over the world ‘our sisters’, is indeed a special opportunity and experience.”

Being the youngest of 4 sisters, all of who went to women’s colleges, I understand this culture very well. I was glad that in the “State of Fear” the real heroes in the film are women, the human rights activists---embodied in the character of Sofía Macher---who opposed violence in any form either by Shining Path or the Peruvian state. Beatriz Alba Hart, the Lima lawyer who began her political career as a Fujimorista Congresswoman but had an epiphany during the Truth Commission hearings and became a human rights proponent. These women in the film gave the Randolph-Macon students and me a point of connection to talk about during the Q&A after the film. I never really set out to make a film about women. I just find them to be just as interesting as men.

After the screening I realized that there’s a reason the Randolph-Macon Women’s College sports teams call themselves THE WILDCATS. It’s going to take some special men to be the first to matriculate here.