Salient: Victoria University Students' Newspaper. Vol. 24, No. 11. 1961
Boy Meets Ghoul
Boy Meets Ghoul
There is a lot of bosh talked about the equality of the sexes and the emancipation of women. We are not emancipated. We have votes, perhaps soon some equal pay for equal work. But what of the essence of emancipation? The battle for that has hardly begun. It is emancipation from men's general conceptions about women. Not all women, even the intelligent ones, are concerned about the situation. Either they accept and enjoy it, or they reject it altogether and become confirmed old maids.
The situation K that at University, of all places, it seems impossible for a man and woman to have a platonic friendship. Men in this University behave in one way to other men, and in an entirely different way towards women. Please don't say, "It's natural- it's nature-why are you complaining-sour grapes, etc."
What I am talking about is not natural. It is engendered by our system of education, which segregates the sexes at a dangerous age. Just when they begin to notice one another, they are shepherded into separate institutions, where each sex intensifies its idiosyncrasies. That sounds rather a mouthful, but it means simply that the girls, together, become more self-conscious, hysterical and unreliable, the boys more than ever inclined to worship sheer physical prowess and physique, and have nothing to balance the idea that it is manly to use filthy language, smoke furtively and drink till you're sick. The worst thing is, that when the boys and girls meet, especially if they have no sisters and brothers respectively, they are self-conscious and awkward, and yet, miraculously, get a favorably distorted and terribly romanticised impression of one another. I know that many co-educational schools have a bad reputation. They have also the bad material to work with-or at least, very little good to leaven it. Privileged children go to private schools, nearly always single-sex and intelligent children generally have professional parents, living in older towns, with older and therefore single-sex schools.
Co-education isn't given a fair chance.
Most products of single-sex schools loyally support them. They have been imbued with these so- called manly or feminine ideals, and regard them as absolute values, and institutions supporting them, including our university colleges, as thoroughly desirable. Some girls, not born with charm, actually do have to "turn it on" and thus find it exhausting to be continually in male company. These view co-education with horror. They seem quite optimistic about marriage, however. But back to education. The system's defects are apparent. We come to regard the other sex as having an entirely different, instead of mainly biologically different function in life. A non-platonic relationship between a man and a woman i.s generally a delightful thing. But in the absence of this, need there be no relationship? Or as little as there is? Especially at a university. 4rtd above all, at this one, which ror New Zealand, has a very high percentage of full-time students. At a university, men and "Women should be used to mingling and discussing around their subjects, for it is an essential part of university education. Most men will talk of matters intellectual to women who are simply charming or good looking. Possibly because they are so very afraid of an intelligent woman seeing through them. Possibly because they have this exasperating idea that a woman has a chiefly decorative use, functional only on social occasions (to prove that at least one woman finds him bearable), in the home (to make it bearable), and . . .
In those of our colleges whose members are chiefly from private, or at any rate, single-sex schools, and who chiefly pursue courses where women are not welcome, this view prevails. These colleges have a large influence in the university. So those females not pursuing a course very suited to the college idea of What a Woman Should Be, draw in their intellectual horns. They avoid talking intelligently and belonging to intellectual societies. They do not begin to benefit from university life. They divide their lime between frantic concentrated swot, and the gay social whirl. This, of course, fits in admirably with the medical and dental students, whose work largely is swot. Few of these have other intellectual interests, and those who have, I notice, largely avoid sharing them with women. An intelligent woman may become interested in one of these more intellectual beings, hoping for a platonic friendship, and retire too late, baffled, humiliated and unhappy. And why? Because women are at university to catch a husband and provide some sport in the process. Any female advance is non-platonic and is to be treated as such to the very limit of what the said female will allow. Should the said female allow casual and harmless love-making, she is to be everlastingly despised for it, though the same thing be admired in a male.
This view is fashionable. It is The Correct Thing, like tweed sports and grey flannels. Not to hold this view is not to be one of the wonderful ineffable class of B.C.D. (bitter, cynical and disillusioned). It is to be too, too frightfully naive, in fact, quite fresh.
This is ridiculous. It is mid- Victorian. What the devil is such a situation doing in a university? Among the country's "intellectual elite." It is preposterous. But it is there. And where it is, the emancipation of women is not.
E. Pankhurst, "Critic."