Smith College to be confronted by a trans test case

Well, I’m back on the tumblr.

For a singular purpose.* To respond to this:

Which I did here. And I’m not done.

Let’s review the original intent for the creation of Smith College. In Sophia Smith’s own words, her will bequest was for:

the establishment and maintenance of an Institution for the higher education of young women, with the design to furnish for my own sex means and facilities for education equal to those which are afforded now in our Colleges to young men.


Unfortunately, women are still in need of these safe harbors from male entitlement and classroom domination. Women remain significantly underrepresented in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Despite what Larry Summers might think, it’s not because women are stupid. It’s because of “…environmental and social barriers – including stereotypes, gender bias and the climate of science and engineering departments in colleges and universities – that continue to block women’s participation…”

As a result, single sexed educational institutions continue to offer critically valuable and unique opportunities to young women:

At Smith, there are no stereotypes about what women should do, but there are unlimited expectations about what women can do. Smith is a great training ground for careers that might still be considered non-traditional for women.


One does not become a woman by complying with the antiquated sex-based stereotypes that Smith College was established for the express purpose of combatting. A male does not become a female by identifying with, nor by expressing, what is traditionally understood as “femininity.”

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:

Traits stereotypically assigned to females – such as care-taking, emotionalism, and weakness – have served as sufficient [] justification for women’s exclusion from employment, participation in government, and many other critical social functions.  Archaic stereotypes are directly responsible for the denial of female credibility and intellectual authority, in addition to causing the historical marginalization of females, lower social status vis-à-vis males, and lack of power to engage equally with males. Even where law has evolved to formally prohibit sex-stereotyping; women continue to suffer from the lingering effects of sexist ideologies about female inferiority. So although we support every individual’s right to freely express their gender identity, it is absolutely critical that [we] not confuse “feminine expression” with [sex].

Gender essentialism is NOT OK. It is regressive and it is counter-productive to female equality. I will never accept that gender expression is what fundamentally constitutes being a “woman.”

Please reblog, please tweet, please help make some anti-gender-essentialism NOISE about this attack on Smith College.

*Yes, I’m a Smith College graduate. Class of 2000. Philosophy: a major I would not have had the confidence to undertake but for the supportive, woman-centered environment and the encouraging words of my female peers and professors. I would have been too intimidated by the arrogance of male intellectual authority in a co-ed environment. I was still scared to take all those upper level philosophy courses, but at least I knew that I wouldn’t have to endure endless mansplaining in the classroom from other students.

6 thoughts on “Smith College to be confronted by a trans test case

  1. One thing that really bother’s me about the tumblr post you link to, is that the person applying to Smith calls themselves a “girl.” Someone who is 16-18 is a man or a woman, not a girl. Indeed, males that age don’t refer to themselves as “boys.”

  2. How would people react if blue-eyed blonds started identifying with their genuine african heritage and demanding inclusion into Spelman College? How about if those blue-eyed blond folks started wearing brown contacts and afro wigs? How about if those blue-eyed blonds insisted that they be hired as part of a required quota for black hires? How about if those blue-eyed blonds insisted that it was okay for racists to use the n-word?

    Identifying with a group isn’t the same as actually belonging to that group.

    If you want to be considered a member of a group which never suffers from discrimination, then fine, go for it. But if the group that you want to join happens to suffer discrimination, then you need to be born in that group lest you start making it even more difficult for them to resist, over-come, and fight discrimination.

    Performing stereotypes isn’t the criteria which determines membership in a designated oppressed group. African-americans are discriminated against because they were born looking african, not because of stereotypes they appropriated later in life, or because “they feel african on the inside”.

    Btw Bess, thanks for the heads up regarding the attacks on all-women colleges, and also, I seriously appreciate the superlative analysis you do pretty much everywhere.

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