No Shame Senior Year: Can college women have it all?

By Samantha Baker

Conversations about feminism have been gaining prominence recently around the nation and on our campus. From Democratic Representative Lisa Brown being banned from the Michigan House floor for saying “vagina,” to Anne-Marie Slaughter’s article “Why Women Still Can’t Have It All” in The Atlantic this summer, to the “Why do you need feminism?” project, the debate over feminism’s role and women’s rights rages on in the United States. While it may seem ridiculous that these issues are still so relevant after decades of working toward equality for women, a recent article about college women’s romantic relationships seemed to be a step backwards. Hanna Rosin’s article “Boys on the Side” (also published in The Atlantic) argues that college hookup culture, rather than being detrimental to women, is being chosen by young women as a means of advancement in their careers and in life. She says that women’s recent gains, which include being more successful as 20- and 30-year-olds than male counterparts, depend on the sexual liberation of the hookup culture. “To put it crudely, feminist progress right now largely depends on the existence of the hookup culture,” Rosin said. There is a problem, though, with Rosin attributing the pill, legalized abortion and sexual freedom with the credit for more women having college degrees than men and making more money than them as well—she takes away the agency of women working toward this change and says that relationships were the roadblock to women previously having careers of their own. In truth, it was cultural ideology that stood in their way. Like many other arguments about women’s choices—to shave or not to shave, to be a stay-at-home mom or working mom, to wear heels or Birkenstocks—the question of monogamy or hooking up is not something that should determine whether a woman is a feminist or not. Instead, a feminist would believe that a woman’s choices about her lifestyle are up to her alone. There is certainly a feeling of liberation that some girls experience when starting college and they realize that they can have hookups with (ideally) no strings attached. It can be empowering and give one a sense of control, as Rosin points out in her article. However, it is also problematic to assume that women who do not feel comfortable engaging in this sort of dating scene lack a feminist mindset and give up their ability to be successful in life. No longer do women go to college for a Mrs. degree; in fact, I bet many college students have not even heard this phrase because it is so outdated. Women’s choices are no longer dependent on those of their boyfriends, and we are past the time when girls had to choose between a career and marriage after graduation. As for academic achievement and the possibility of a relationship impinging on time spent on academics, again the time commitment is up to the couple to determine. Not to mention that hooking up can take just as much time and energy as a relationship, as can be seen at any weekend party where many attend with the goal of finding someone to go home with. The point, which Rosin’s article does not allow for, is that young woman can have a relationship and be successful. College women really can have it all, whatever “having it all” might mean to them for women who consider themselves feminists. Hooking up can be liberating to college girls, just like having a healthy relationship can be empowering. Likewise, there are instances where both can be detrimental to women. Such a case can be seen in this “Who Needs Feminism” contribution: “I need feminism… because I am tired of guys who proudly claim to be ‘feminists’ because they support girls enjoying sex & having one-night stands or multiple partners … But still treat girls like they are intellectually inferior, play on their insecurities to make them work for approval … you are not a feminist.” I do not think this describes Macalester guys by any means, though it certainly does reflect possible issues with the college hookup culture across the country when it is seen as an expectation. Women should absolutely have the freedom to choose hooking up over a relationship. However, this is not the only way to be a feminist when it comes to dating. Being a feminist means supporting women’s choices whether that is a hookup, a relationship or something in between. We have to acknowledge that choiceand the voice to express it as feminism, not assume one dating culture to fit all women in the name of feminism, as Rosin did. One last note on a point in the article about something close to my heart. Rosin tries to liken the HBO show Girlsto her theory of women being empowered by the hookup culture. As a fan of this show, I find this to be a gross misrepresentation, since most of the characters’ episodic problems have to do with the lack of satisfaction from their most recent hookups. Additionally, the four girls’ relationships vary from having a long-term boyfriend, to hooking up with older men, to being a virgin, to something in between. This is a more realistic picture of 21st century women in their 20s than what Rosin suggests, and honestly, one I like much more. refresh –>