Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 1. Monday, February 25, 1963
Women And University
Women And University
Women. That is what girls become at University. Exactly what type of woman a girl becomes at University depends on her personal attitude. But it would be fair to say that the University itself exerts an influence especially on the girl who is living away from home.
It is easy to sneer at the 'holier than thou' moralizing attitude with which staid provincial ladies regard girls who go to University. It is not the education they disparage, they do not understand that. The avant garde attitudes, the clothing, the lack of inhibition, the absence of respect, these are the things which those who have not been to University find it hardest to understand.
"Salient" would be the last to attack the independence and the liberality of University life; but we do feel there are hazards in it—at least for the girls.
George Bernard Shaw was among the first to detect the dawning of the "New Woman". And there is no doubt merit in the view that woman should be free and equal. Legally women have now had their claims recognised. They have the right to vote, the right to own property, and equal (almost) pay.
What the "femme moderne" does not recognise are the claims men have on her. For thousands of years men have expected women to be feminine, warm, even demure.
The "New Woman" is a hard and brash super sophisticate, with dyed hair and drip dry morals. She can take her drink like a man and chooses who she will go to bed with. The one thing this woman does not have is the respect of men.
The female University student is in a better position than most girls to become one of these disillusioned bodies.
Every girl has a right, no doubt, to become one of these women. But each should be sure before she does that she knows what she is letting herself in for. At University it is very simple to slip into the easy routine of parties and high living. That is in itself a matter for no regret. The emancipation is a welcome relief from the almost suffocating restrictions that inhibit a New Zealand secondary school pupil.
The adage a girl who is becoming a woman must remember is that New Zealand still suffers, to some degree, from a 19th Century morality. This morality has two edges. What is right for a man may not be forgiven in a woman.
This is not a question of virginity. It is a question of sincerity and self respect. A man will take what he can from a body which attracts him. But he will marry a woman whom he respects.
Students cannot be students all their lives. While they can reject the standards of morality in the community while they are at University, they risk social ostracism if they persist in this too long. To be a student is a form of transition, not a way of life.
Girls who embrace wildly the party life, girls who drink too much and sleep indiscriminately will not find adjustment easy after the last party is over.
The dainty and demure lady of the Jane Austen vintage had many limitations and this is not an invitation of her reappearance. By all means women should be intelligent and realistic. So should they be attractive and vivacious.
The most important thing a woman can do is to maintain her femininity. She must maintain her taste in clothes and makeup, while avoiding becoming loud. She must have considered what her standards are. It is easy for a University girl to lose her femininity and her dignity. If she does this she will never become a lady.