Friday, February 26, 2010

Gender Imbalance on College Campuses

In a recent New York Times article, Alex Williams focuses on the gender imbalance on college campuses around the country and the "struggle" it causes for heterosexual college women looking to date. While it applauds the fact that more and more women are in college to get an education (rather than an MRS degree), its main focus is on the trouble women have finding and attracting boyfriend material.

While the article devotes some attention to commentary by professionals in the areas of sociology and psychology, it relies heavily on anecdotal information provided by the personal experiences of women on large college campuses:

“Jayne Dallas, a senior studying advertising who was seated across the table, grumbled that the population of male undergraduates was even smaller when you looked at it as a dating pool. “Out of that 40 percent, there are maybe 20 percent that we would consider, and out of those 20, 10 have girlfriends, so all the girls are fighting over that other 10 percent,” she said.


“A lot of my friends will meet someone and go home for the night and just hope for the best the next morning,” Ms. Lynch said. “They’ll text them and say: ‘I had a great time. Want to hang out next week?’ And they don’t respond.” Even worse, “Girls feel pressured to do more than they’re comfortable with, to lock it down,” Ms. Lynch said.”

When you remove the specific context of this article, you may notice that any of these statements could be uttered by almost any woman in any type of institution (not simply education-related) in America. One has to question whether the "struggles" of these women are truly any different than those faced by their sisters and mothers, let alone whether these struggles are caused by a gender imbalance of roughly 57% women 42% men.

Furthermore, the article points to college men's ability to "play the field" as a result of this gender imbalance:

“‘On college campuses where there are far more women than men, men have all the power to control the intensity of sexual and romantic relationships,” Kathleen A. Bogle, a sociologist at La Salle University in Philadelphia, wrote in an e-mail message...“Women do not want to get left out in the cold, so they are competing for men on men’s terms,” she wrote.”

Seriously?! WAKE UP. For as long as we have lived in a sexist, patriarchal society, heterosexual women have always competed for men on men's terms. And as long as we live in a sexist, patriarchal society, heterosexual women will always compete for men on men's terms. To suggest that a gender imbalance on college campuses is what causes women to allow men to "control the intensity of sexual and romantic relationships" is ludicrous. Some might even argue that suggesting a gender imbalance on college campuses today gives men more power over women in romantic relationships is tantamount to suggesting a gender imbalance in the past (favoring men) gave women more power in romantic relationships.

Let's be honest, here: while probably not helped by gender ratios on college campuses today, as long as we live in a society where men are socially dominant, the opportunity for a heterosexual woman to "play the field" as college men do in order to choose a mate will always be considered socially unacceptable. Gender ratios may change, but until we face the root of the problem, heterosexual women aren't going to find dating any easier.

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