Virginia Woolf may have written an extensively-read commentary on women and the need for women’s institutions in her book, ‘A Room of One’s Own.’ However, while sitting in a discussion in Newnham College itself, I was taken aback when it did not end with a unanimous agreement in favour of women’s institutions. Since kindergarten, I have been educated at Roman Catholic missionary school for girls. I never thought about the vitality of women’s institutions in today’s world. However, my recent experiences and interactions did bring to light the perks of being educated in a women’s institution. Usually, women are known for being shy, submissive, tipsy and delicate. And women’s colleges and schools are often blamed for compromising the ‘social’ life of its student body. While some facts turn out to be true, others are simply mistaken beliefs. For once, never have I seen a girls’ school or college advocating good parenting or how to be submissive wives. Neither do they dictate the rules of being rude in order to pave your way in the society nor do they preach going with the flow. My classroom is probably filled with more goal-driven students inclined to academics than most classrooms where one would probably find girls looking for their ‘Prince Charming’ or hoping to tread the easy path by pursuing their folks’ business. I do want to dismiss the fact that many co-ed, government and boys’ schools and colleges would be having very intellectually enriched students. But I have noticed that when women are surrounded by women, they also tend to have high self-esteem and are more motivated. They, perhaps, don’t have anything to ‘feast’ their eyes on or no force whatsoever that will treat them with inferiority or condescendence. In most women leaders like Sheryl Sandberg, Hilary Clinton or Oprah Winfrey or the Head-Girls of my school, there lingers a certain culture formulated by independent thought, dissent and sensitivity, all in right proportion. That women can challenge the world, steer opinions in different directions, handle jobs made of steel is something they teach the world. Mostly, women are shown as having cat-fights or being obnoxious bosses like Miranda Priestly but that’s just another model of misrepresentation. People have often passed remarks at my statements such as, “You’re too articulate for an Indian girl,” “Hey, aren’t you being too ambitious for a girl?” More traditional people from yesteryear would even question the legitimacy of so-called womanhood if the institution of marriage was non-existent. Women in Saudi Arabia, in fact, are confined due to the laws of a land that provides ample opportunity for them. The status of women, actually, need not be aggrandized and in settings such as my school, it is clearly spelled out. Women have to bear children, they might have to be good mothers or wives but it’s not crucial to their identity, as a whole. The identity of any human being should not be a social construct. It also should not be reduced to some inferior stand. It’s a long way to reaching the point where both sexes might be equal without one domineering the other. From the place where I stood at Newnham, was an open expanse in whose arms I could fling myself and rattle any organisation that barred me from doing so. 

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