This Tuesday, I came as close as I probably ever will to being on the Donald Trump List of Insults, even if I wasn't referenced by name. In 2011, Stephen Bannon, the current Trump campaign CEO, said on a radio show that progressive women do not like conservative women because "the women that would lead this country would be pro family, they would have husbands, they would love their children. They wouldn't be a bunch of dykes that came from the Seven Sisters schools up in New England. That drives the left insane and that's why they hate these women."
First off, thanks to Bannon for the stellar recruiting quote. I can already feel applications to women's colleges rising. I'll come back to his use of a slur at the end of the post, but I wanted to first address his claim that the women running this country would not be people who went to women's colleges.
This isn't the first time this week that I've heard someone insinuate that women's colleges did not produce women fit for political office. I also heard a woman say that a women's college was where you went if you wanted to be the wife of a Congressman, but [Public University Name Redacted] was where you went if you wanted to be a Congresswoman." Combine those two things, and there's no way the world wasn't going to read a defense of women's colleges from me.
The assertion that graduates of women's colleges will not be the ones running the country is empirically, patently, false. Graduates of women's colleges make up 2% of college graduates and 20% of Congresswomen. You're actually far more likely to be a Congresswoman if you went to a women's college. Just ask Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi. Or Senator Barbara Mikulski.
Graduates of women's colleges also make up 33% of women on Fortune 1000 boards. Women at these colleges are 1.5 times more likely to major in STEM fields, and tend to be successful in male dominated fields. But don't take my word for it. Ask Hillary Clinton. Or Benazir Bhutto. Or Madeleine Albright. Or Zora Neal Hurston. Or Geraldine Ferarro. Or Alice Walker. Or Elaine Chao, former Secretary of Labor. Or Frances Perkins, first ever female cabinet Secretary, and a personal heroine of mine.
Women educated in women's colleges have been running things in this country for quite some time, and in higher numbers than women who graduate from co-ed institutions. And if Hillary Clinton wins in November, a graduate of a woman's college will literally be running this country.
What's that you say? You say that Bannon wasn't specifically saying that graduates of women's colleges won't run the country? You're saying the real thrust of his statement was that dykes won't run the country?
When I was an intern in the Senate, I had the chance to see Senator Tammy Baldwin (women's college graduate, long time politician, out lesbian, and another personal heroine of mine, for obvious reasons) speak and she said something in her talk that I still use as a motto in my life.
"If you're not in the room, the conversation is about you. When you're in the room, the conversation is with you."
The way people talk about you when you're not in the room, and they know you cannot hear them, is illuminating. It shows what people really think of you, whether or not they truly see you as equal. I'm not naive. I am not shocked that someone from Breitbart news has no problem throwing around the word "dykes." I do not expect anyone on the Trump campaign to make an apology. In terms of the horrible things Trump, and those associated with him, has said, this may not even crack the Top 50.
Our country is incredibly and delightfully diverse, and in the age of social media, you cannot assume that no one from a group you are talking about will listen or know what you say about them. Putting oneself in the room will not solve every problem, and it will not create more tolerance overnight. But being there reminds people that the people being discussed are real humans with feelings, and hopefully encourages them to think more carefully about their language choices, and maybe even their actual policies and beliefs. It won't be easy, and it won't be quick, but nothing in the government ever is. We dykes just have to keep trying until we can put ourselves in enough rooms. Senator Tammy Baldwin can't do all the heavy lifting for us.
And to Stephen Bannon specifically, who thinks that dykes from women's colleges won't run this great country, I quote from the acclaimed Broadway musical Hamilton, Act 1, Scene 1: There's a million things I haven't done, but just you wait.