Nearly a week ago, Ruth Padawer for The New York Times wrote an article titled, “When Women Become Men at Wellesley,” highlighting the current controversy over accepting, both physically and emotionally, transgendered males into the all-female university. Right now, about twenty-four Wellesley students identify either as male or as genderqueer, meaning they may not classify themselves as male or female. Earlier this year in the spring, a transgendered male named Timothy ran for a student government position. This met a lot of backlash; students created Facebook groups that rallied to evict him from the ballot— a ‘Campaign to Abstain’. This stemmed from the belief that men shouldn’t hold leadership positions at a women’s university.
This argument is two-fold. On the one hand, trans students can argue that gender-focused universities epitomize the desire to breakdown traditional gender classifications, but on the other hand, Wellesley is founded on female empowerment, so a lot of the students believe females should fill these leadership roles. However, whether you agree with it or not, by infiltrating their current student body with transgender and genderqueer individuals, it cannot be denied that Wellesley is successfully shifting the paradigm for students of all orientations— something that needs to be applauded.
Wellesley is becoming a safe haven, a community where students find their place. This NYT article narrates a few different stories where individuals began their schooling at Wellesley as women, but later discovered that they were meant to be men. One example that demonstrates this is the story of Jesse Austin, who said that he “‘figured if I was any kind of woman, I’d find it there. I knew Wellesley would have strong women. They produce a ton of strong women, strong in all sorts of ways.’”
In admitting more than just females to their university, Wellesley is shifting the paradigm on what acceptance means, helping to abolish exclusion. A great phrase taken from the Times’ article, stated that “as a marginalized group fighting for respect and clout, how could women justify marginalizing others?” It seems so utterly obvious that women, who are currently fighting for equality, should hold the same standards for themselves (let’s take a look at the ‘Golden Rule’: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you). This idea of acceptance is an important one, especially following Emma Watson’s revolutionary HeForShe UN speech, in which she asked both men and women to take a stance against gender discrimination together.
Shifting the paradigm is all about paving the way for an enlightening breakthrough after what may have seemed like a major breakdown. As I just stated, several transgendered men were a bit unsure about who they were, or where their place was (as defined by gender roles), until they came to Wellesley. They were experiencing breakdowns over their identity, but when they were accepted to Wellesley— that was their breakthrough. They discovered themselves, and knew who they were meant to be. That is powerful, and Wellesley is to thank for that. Wellesley is helping turn these individuals’ weaknesses into strength.
If the world starts to become more united solely as human beings, rather than based on outdated gender conventions, we will all be more empowered. Empowered to be ourselves, to accept ourselves for who we are. While Wellesley should remain true to its feminist roots and foundation, welcoming all different types of individuals is fostering a loving, communal environment, one that we admire here at Empowered By You because of this idea of supporting each other. How do you feel about what Wellesley and other female universities are doing? Post your comments below.
[follow this link to read the full article: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/magazine/when-women-become-men-at-wellesley-college.html?_r=0]