For all of the flowery, politically correct rhetoric of progressivism breezing through Madison these days, the University of Wisconsin still happily props up a living manifestation of one of the trends most delightfully laid to rest during the 20th century: sexism.
At a school where the student government, the two major political organizations and several other notable groups are chaired by brilliant women, it seems bizarre that at least 482 young ladies, every year, are ushered into a house of the sort of protectionism Gloria Steinem and Betty Friedan worked feverishly to unmask.
To be sure, Elizabeth Waters Residential Hall, the last gender-specific, full service dormitory on campus, works to inherently promote a pre-suffrage argument that females somehow operate on a different plane than males, while at the same time subtly vilifying men as the predators who must be kept out between the hours of 2:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. in at least one wing of the dorm.
Not only does Elizabeth Waters fly in the face of the progress toward gender equality achieved in this country, it also serves as an outright bastion of discrimination. Title IX has helped provide equality in academics and athletics at schools like UW, but somehow the brass atop Bascom Hill hasn’t taken note on the inequality in undergraduate housing. For men wishing to avoid the fairer sex while in college, no such university residence exists. But for women seeking shelter from the dangerous and predatory male species a haven can be found on Observatory Drive and it even comes with an unparalleled view of the lake. (Try getting panoramic scenery like that if you have a penis!)
Sure, the argument can be made that Elizabeth Waters merely exists to facilitate feminine bonding, like the many sorority houses adorning Langdon Street. But then one must ask why men are not allowed to engage in such a bonding experience outside of fraternity houses closed to freshmen.
That one wing of the dormitory, housing no less than 49 women and banning the opposite sex from late-night visits, is a wanton insult to the notion of adult sexual consent. This is a rule that exists to only prohibit the sort of sexual sleepovers found elsewhere in UW housing, and essentially attempts to assign certain Elizabeth Waters residents a veritable chastity belt for their tenure in University Housing. Are these young adults not capable of consenting to promiscuous activities like the legions of students living elsewhere on campus?
The counter-argument is simple enough: the rule is a protection afforded to roommates wishing to avoid awkward late-night petting sessions. But why, then, is no such shield offered to male students so serious about their studies that they, too, do not wish to lose sleep over the soft sounds of dormitory orgasms?
The reality is that this particular rule, just like the entire existence of Elizabeth Waters, serves only to promote a notion of female inferiority and a suggestion that not all young women are capable of the sort of sexual consent afforded them by Wisconsin state law.
Now surely full integration of the sexes in school housing would be ill-advised. The inherently awkward situations presented by co-ed roommates could be too strange for freshmen randomly assigned to live together for a year. And multi-sex bathrooms — no matter what UW’s LGBT community says — are an inherently bad idea; procreation sessions in public showers would only serve to send countless shy students to their first classes of the day without a polite bathing.
But why can’t opposite sexes live side by side? Even the sort of gender-specific wings found in most school dorms allow social bonding while avoiding the violation of moments of elected privacy. And in this social bonding comes much of one’s exposure to the “real world,” a healthy education not otherwise found in most lecture halls.
The time has come for UW to end this wretched, backward invocation of sexism and mindless promotion of prudery. The fight for equality has come too far to support a ladies’ dorm on any forward thinking campus in America, and the strategic isolation of sexes only serves to greatly inhibit the range of extracurricular social educations afforded students at UW.
Besides, by 2:00 a.m., the damage has been done.
Mac VerStandig ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in rhetoric.