Response to the Claremont Independent: End of Women’s College

Opinion Piece by Claire Hirschberg ‘15
Guest Writer

Dripping with sarcasm, the opinion article “The End of the Women’s College” by Brad Richardson published in the Claremont Independent on Jan 31 argues that Scripps cannot “survive the politics of transgenderism unscathed” and still call itself a “Women’s College.” I cannot strip the transphobia away from this piece, and I cannot work through each act of aggression committed, because frankly such a piece does not deserve that close of an examination.

To in one fell swoop invalidate the existence of micro aggressions, the importance of trigger warnings and reparations, while simultaneously being driven by a transphobic ideology is not an act of ignorance. The implications of “the politics of transgenderism” is the regressive idea of trans agenda to destroy “the woman’s college,” something which Richardson believes is “tragic.” To say the crux of that argument is anything other than transphobia would be to afford the privilege of ignorance to someone with enough privilege already. It exemplifies the deep contempt and fear that is still held for trans people by many on our campuses, and for the Claremont Independent to validate that hate is an inexcusable attack.

The most shocking aspect of this piece, however, is the moments where Richardson and I seem to… agree? I don't want to align myself too closely with Richardson, but hear me out! For example, Richardson writes:

“Although Scripps rationalized its new admissions policy with the purpose of serving the gender-marginalized, it will have to uproot many of its traditions and significantly alter its campus in order to ensure that those it claims to be protecting from gender-marginalization do not actually feel marginalized by expressions of gender at the college.”

Contextually, this theme is used to aggressively mock what Scripps’ unofficial motto should be with suggestions like “Scripps College: The [Trigger Warning!] Women’s College.” Obviously this is not a playful mockery; making light of trigger warnings in order to forward transphobic ideology is not a joke. But void of that aggressively-sarcastic context I think I can begin to agree with Richardson.

Scripps adopting a trans inclusive policy isn’t about being feminist or progressive; it is about undoing a violence that we have consistently been committing by excluding trans women from consideration at Scripps while erasing trans men and gender nonconforming people. While our policy may begin to undo that violence, it is not a fully trans-inclusive policy; we still erroneously place understandings of gender in biology by including only trans men whose birth certificates still identify them as female and by failing to explicitly account for the admissions of gender nonconforming people.

Adopting a more trans-inclusive admissions policy does not instantly make Scripps a trans-inclusive campus; many students frequently make light of gender pronouns or misgender people, whether intentionally or not. Scripps’ trans inclusivity is a work in progress that requires all of us to confront our internalized transphobia in addition to confronting the institutionalized transphobia.

Recent steps in the right direction show that Scripps may be ready to make radical changes in the name of building a trans-inclusive campus; for example, the new portal feature that allows students to submit to their professors their preferred gender pronouns. This is a step forward, but only if paired with a commitment to actually using these correct gender pronouns.    
In his piece, Richardson chose to highlight the fact that The Vagina Monologues is no longer performed at Wellesley as an example of this drastic change that trans inclusivity requires. Interestingly enough,  Richardson failed to realize that last year we held the “Monologue Dialogues” in order to centralize personal narratives of marginalized students rather than hold the traditional Vagina Monologues at Scripps.

Scripps needs to radically change in order to become a trans-inclusive place and if that means the “end of the Women’s College” then, contrary to what Richardson believes, that’s okay; by excluding trans women, Scripps has never been a college that’s available to all women, and calling ourselves a “women’s college” right now erases the existence of trans men and gender nonconforming students on our campus. As a Scripps student, I’m not that concerned with our unofficial motto (though I have already voiced my preference for “Scripps College: No Cis Men”). What I am concerned with is how Scripps will continue to build a trans-inclusive campus in light of our newly-clarified admissions policy, which is still a work in progress.