To Integrate, or Not to Integrate?

When Gina Barreca arrived on the Dartmouth College campus in the fall of 1974, banners reading, “Better Dead Than Coed” in the Fraternity Row greeted her. Within her first few days, she witnessed male students rating the new female students with signs reading 1 to 10 (Barreca 10) . Before she even arrived on campus, her high school boyfriend suggested she apply to recently coeducational Darmouth as a joke. She stunned him by actually doing so (66). The young “coed” faced both decreased and increased expectations for being a woman at a school that started admitting small increments of women in 1972. In some ways, the male students and administration expected the female students to be lesser: to be less intelligent, to be less driven, to be less capable. In other ways, Barreca and her fellow classmates had to prove that they could be tough enough to hang with the boys. She found that just as women are scrutinized far harsher than men everywhere else, a coed on the Dartmouth campus was “graded not only by…[her] professors, but also by the boys on Fraternity Row” (5). The coming years for women entering the male educational sphere would prove to be incredibly difficult.

As Americans watched their society set alight by New Left Movements, no aspect of the United States was safe. All male Ivy League schools, once a safe haven for elite white men to enjoy their privilege, became the next targets. The question of whether campuses, both male and female, should become coeducational was incredibly complicated. The males on campuses like Dartmouth and Yale saw integration and Title IX as a way for feminists to push their agendas into the education system. They accused women of wanting to be lesbians, and associated lesbianism with the desire to become female (6). On a shallower level, men argued women to be lesser creatures unworthy of an Ivy League education. One may argue that underneath their sexist claims, they simply wanted a place where they would be able to enjoy the white, rich male patriarchy, no matter what else was happening in America.

The debate over single-sex versus coeducational institutions conflict feminist groups also. Some women sought complete equality between the sexes, therefore coeducational institutions would serve that goal. Other women believed in empowerment and freedom, which could only occur in autonomous female colleges. The 1970s and beyond witnessed dozens of schools either cling to their autonomous spaces, or finally let go. Today only four all-male colleges exist, and approximately fifty all-female colleges exist, suggesting that both sides of feminists value both a single-sex education focused on women, and the opportunity for a coeducational education (Miller-Bernal 394).

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