Let’s Talk About Feminism On Our Campus Now

Annabel Winters-Mccabe ’22

Do you know how many women were in the 1973 graduating class at Davidson? The shocking answer is one, and she was the first ever to earn a degree here, as many students probably know, but a good number don’t, Davidson did not allow women to formally enroll until 1972. That’s less than 50 years ago and more than 100 years after the college’s founding in 1837.

The history of women at Davidson, or rather the history of the absence of women at Davidson, is one of the more glaring reasons why maintaining a prominent and engaged feminist presence on campus is important. Those dates are not as far in the past as they seem. 

As many Perspectives section writers have written before me, it is easy to forget the way things were and focus on how they are now. The now is important, don’t get me wrong, but thinking critically about and having conversations concerning the history of women on this campus is the key to understanding feminist issues on campus today. Davidson has a unique and important history whether or not it is the most progressive history, and that has lasting effects on the institution. 

However, it’s 2019, and these effects can be hard to see. There are policies in place and a student body with a definite liberal lean. As a student at a liberal arts college, an environment framed by acceptance and tolerance, it is easy to perceive the feminist work on campus as done.

 If you walked up to any student and asked them “Are you a feminist?,” a good number would probably say “Yes,” and that’s awesome. But, it’s good to keep in mind the definition of feminism. A basic definition according to the Oxford English Dictionary is “the advocacy of women’s rights on the basis of equality of the sexes.” True feminism is also intersectional, which means that definition must be extended to include all women, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, and other social and political factors. 

So, thinking about feminism at Davidson is about more than just equality between men and women. It’s about equality for all kinds of women: women of color, queer women, women in STEM, non-cisgender women. This raises the question: is Davidson the most welcoming, inclusive place it can be for all women on campus?

There is no clear answer to that, and I only offer one perspective. But my opinion is that there is still work to be done so that our school can offer true gender equality, and it’s important to have conversations about the previously posed question. 

I can offer this example as a probable computer science major. I hear from my friends that they were one of three women in one of their classes, and I see it for myself in my STEM classes. 

In the math and computer science departments, male professors outnumber female professors significantly. This fact is corroborated with the “Gender Inequality in STEM” infographic FIRST Action Team put up around campus last semester, which shows that gender inequality among faculty mirrors gender inequality among the number of declared majors in that department; to me, this should be considered a feminist issue.

Gender inequality in STEM is only one feminist issue of many on campus, but it’s one that is personally the most obvious. I know that I, as a white, cisgender woman, don’t see a lot of the inequalities on campus. But this is the biggest reason why feminism is important now. 

Continuously hearing different female voices and perspectives is essential so that Davidson can keep moving towards equality for all women. The problem isn’t solved yet, and keeping the conversation alive is the only way to improve things at our school and in all the different careers Davidson students end up pursuing.

Annabel Winters-McCabe ’22 is an intended computer science major from Columbia, Maryland. Contact her at anwintersmccabe@davidson.edu.

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