August 1976: After 268 years of all-male Yale, women try to get past ‘grinds’

Yale women are so goddamned didactic. Why can’t we have some good, unmotivated graffiti around here for a change?

Glance at the graffiti in the women’s bathrooms around campus and you’d think all Yale women were sex-starved, men hating, lonely, desperate lesbians or worried about being pregnant.

But you can’t judge a college by its graffiti – and you can rarely generalize about Yale women. That’s probably why you’ll feel so comfortable around here.

There are as many ways to be a “woman at Yale” as there are subjects to major in. You’ll find women running around the lacrosse field, making cookies in a residential college kitchen late at night, working programs on computer terminals, striking sets at the Dramat, manning dishwashing machines in college dining halls.

Whether your idea of a normal weekday evening is studying hard and late, downing at pitcher of beer at local watering sports, or gossiping in your rooms, you’ll never feel out of place. If you want to be pre-professional and plunge headlong into your chosen field, you’ll find competition and company, maybe for the first time in your life.

What was Yale like before women? Homosexual …

For a college that spent its first 268 years womenless, Yale has adapted reasonably quickly and well to coeducation. By all accounts, it’s a nicer place to be now.

Yale is not yet a mecca for women, however. Some vestiges of stodgy traditionalism still remain. While most organizations and clubs gladly accept women, some of Yale’s most esteemed honors remain stubbornly all male.

For example, women can belong to some of the senior secret societies, but the “big three,” Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, and Wolf’s Head keep their heavy iron doors closed to the distaff side.

The popular small singing groups are as yet single sex, and though both the women’s groups, The New Blue and The Proof of the Pudding, sing weekly at Mory’s, female songsters have no hope of joining the venerable Whiffenpoofs – unless they can hit a low C.

In other areas, where the feminine accent is not allowed to blend in, women’s auxiliary groups have sprung up. The (female) Slavic Chorus adds its Eurasian “yips” to the deep-throated tones of the (male) Russian Chorus in occasional joint concerts.

In athletics women now field their own teams in basketball, ice hockey, tennis, swimming, gymnastics, lacrosse, and crew. Girl jocks, however, are relegated to the leaky steam bath in the basement of Payne-Whitney gymnasium, while the men get to use the sauna upstairs.

But there is no doubt that the situation for women has improved in the past few years. Mory’s, that tweedy eating establishment with the carved tables and suspended oars, opened its membership rolls to women in 1974 after a bout with the liquor license board.

Women now hold leadership positions in the Political Union, the Banner, the Daily News, the Dramat, the student agencies, film societies, and music organizations, though not quite as frequently as the ration now warrants.

Don’t women believe in talking to each other here? For the sake of sisterhood and humanity, why aren’t women extending themselves a little? Competition inhibits – that element couldn’t be more obvious here. Therefore competition also restricts. Aren’t we restricted enough traditionally?

The last subtle vestiges of discrimination and male discrimination are the subjects of much discussion on campus. Feminist groups on a variety of levels are working to see that Yale does not turn out “1000 male leaders” and 500 housewives each year.

The Office on the Education of Women conducts frequent surveys and panel discussions on female trends in the University – such as why women don’t major in the physical sciences (they found disinterest more than discrimination to be the cause).

There is an undergraduate women’s caucus which last year sponsored consciousness-raising groups, a feminist film series, weekly study break and talk sessions, a feminist dinner table, and arranged for a grant enabling Yale to set up a core course in women’s studies.

The graduate and professional women’s forum brings feminist speakers to campus and a minority women’s group works with blacks and ethnic groups on tokenism and other special problems.

At this time Yale’s tenured senior faculty and academic stars are male (and WASP), but there are many women among the junior faculty and graduate assistants. Several courses in women’s history and sociology became part of the curriculum in recent years, and more are in the planning stages.

Sex at Yale is like bridge. If you have a good hand, you don’t need a partner.

Ask an average Eli son what he thinks of his female counterpart and he may grimace, roll his eyes, and call them “grinds,” “castrators,” or “dogs.” It usually depends on how successful his advances have been.

With women at times scarce commodities on campus, Yale men sometimes become sexist and snide about their Eli sisters. Remarks like “It’s harder to get into a Yale woman than it is to get into Yale,” are cliches by now.

For many students, the answer to the social malaise is to latch onto someone early and tight. Consciously or unconsciously, relationships tend to blitzkreig into steady ones here – for security’s sake on both sides. Things go very swiftly into that good night.

But many of these social problems are easing as the ratio grows more equal every year. The buses full of anxious, well-dressed lassies from Smith, Vassar, and Briarcliff rarely make the dark highway journeys to New Haven anymore. As Yale accepts more women with varying interests and outlooks, more Yale men are admitting they prefer the local talent after all.

So despite what some disgruntled students write on bathroom walls, things are looking up for female blues. With the social life approaching normality and more opportunities to participate in sports, activities and friendships, there has never been a better time to be a woman at Yale.`

Comments

  • Anonymous

    A very timely piece in light of the Zeta Psi incident. I'd like to see a critique of this brave and honest piece from the apparatchiks of today's Women Center. Should it be condemned as exhibiting false consiousness?