Conventionally, studying in a women’s college is metaphorically related to the ‘purdah system’ within the ‘empire’ of Patriarchy. It has often been named as ‘escape from male dominance’, ‘apolitical, or excuse from active and real politics.’ The existence of a ‘women’s college’ has been criticized as an accomplice of patriarchy that restricts women in “Rooms of their own.” However, the fecundity of that closed room is evident in the independence and self-development of women in her own space, language and ideologies (free from patriarchal surveillance).
Being a part of a women’s institution, I can empathetically document its affective dimension in framing who I am today. The first and the foremost lesson I learnt was the importance of my voice as a woman in the society of intersectional politics. As a part of a women’s college, I have learnt the importance of Feminism to identify and combat the patriarchy in everyday life that was invisible and involuntarily ignored. It became a magnifying glass to look at the idea of ‘gender equality’ from a woman’s perspective.
This microscopic view of ‘gender equality’ brings me to the next important learning from a women’s college, that is, the idea of women solidarity and shared experience. It is known that the idea of gender equality has inherent hypocrisy and compliance with patriarchy. It often holds the ‘man’ as the ideal human to which a woman should be treated equally. The importance of sisterhood and connection with intellectual and powerful women removes the gendered idea of the ideal human. A women’s college allows smooth transfusion of ideas and experience among different women, establishing an alternative of an ‘ideal woman.’
A women’s college allows a free flow of ideas without the inherent hesitations in the presence of a male figure. It is this frozen mass of ‘inherent hesitation’ that I could meltdown, and speak whatever I want. The talks about menstruation, sex, rape and other ‘hushed’ topics became important discourse which needs discussion and actions. This favourable environment of openness makes a women’s college different from co-ed colleges where not everyone can be outspoken owing to the inherent restrictions in a ‘mixed crowd.’
Even though there are some co-ed colleges which do not show any signs of hesitations in self-expression, women’s college with its familiar surrounding acts as an ice-breaker. There are many women who belong to houses where a separate women’s space is still present. It is difficult, at least for them, to express themselves in a mixed crowd directly. Perhaps, women’s college can be a practice ground for such women, where they can learn to speak and identify themselves and be more confident later.
It is not true that women’s college is opaque to ides of the other gender, or has a singular perspective. Like any other co-ed colleges, there are people with different perspectives and are not debarred from expression. The male professors in women’s college are a good example to break this conception of ‘singular perspective’, as far as gender is concerned. This possibility of peaceful coexistence between the two genders and the prospective idea of gender equality that should be achieved is learning from a women’s college.
Another major misconception about a women’s college is the thought that every woman in a women’s college is either lesbian or bisexual. First of all, even if this is true, why has it become a reason for not joining a women’s college? It only reflects the inherent homophobia in the society and minds of people. A woman’s sexuality is not decided by outside factors and is biological. Similarly, it is also not true that all women in a women’s college are lesbians. Nowhere does the college or its crowd influence the sexuality of a person. Besides, conceptualizing and criticizing women in terms of sexuality again objectifies a woman in the male gaze. College is an institution of knowledge, education and experience, why should be measured on the parameters of sexuality at all?
With these politically strong ideas and ability to express my own voice, women’s college made me personally a politically active person, with opinions and choices, simultaneously refuting the patriarchal idea of women’s college’ as an ‘apolitical institution.’ Being a part of the women’s college, I could frame a new idea of equality in the offing: equality that is not gendered but is a statistics of knowledge and experience of different people.