Mawrtyrs have rallied on Facebook today in response to something posted online by a person who transferred away from Bryn Mawr, a post that denigrated virtually everything about Bryn Mawr (and women’s colleges in general), other than the academics. I am not linking to that post because I do not wish to bring more attention to her words; however, I would like to share a few thoughts about the Mawr.
We have a little saying at Bryn Mawr: “better dead than co-ed.” Not everyone believes in it, of course, and it’s not exactly meant completely seriously, but it is certainly a part of the culture. To me, it’s a statement of our commitment to Bryn Mawr as a women’s college — and while it may seem paradoxical as an alum who doesn’t identify as a woman, I understand where the “better dead than co-ed” sentiment is coming from.
Part of what makes Bryn Mawr wonderful is the dedication to people who have traditionally been, and are currently, discriminated against due to their gender (and/or sex). Sexism and misogyny are still alive and well in our society. Bryn Mawr provides a place where we can learn without battling that on such a constant basis, and Bryn Mawr gives us opportunities to grow stronger. Bryn Mawr reminds us that society has not yet reached a stage where gender is irrelevant.
If Bryn Mawr were “co-ed” in the sense that its mission no longer related to gender, and anyone with the proper application (grades, scores, interview, essays, etc.) could be become a Mawrtyr, BMC would be a very different place. Our Traditions would be different; our dorms, our culture as a whole would all shift drastically. Our sense of self as a community would change. I can’t see our Traditions surviving, not in the forms they now take and not nearly as strong. We would be . . . just another small liberal arts college on the East coast with excellent academics. Bryn Mawr would not be Bryn Mawr if it were no longer a women’s college.
Sure, it’s a little odd for me that so much is made of the “Bryn Mawr woman” because, though I’ll be a proud Mawrtyr all my life, I’m not really a Bryn Mawr woman. Still, I’m proud to count myself among their numbers. We are a quirky bunch, a community of unique, passionate, intelligent, imperfect people. There is a special energy and environment that comes from not being “co-ed” in that original sense.
That is not to say that Bryn Mawr is better than other institutions because of being a women’s college. Both Bryn Mawr and women’s colleges in general are not right for everyone, and Bryn Mawr is far from perfect. (Of course, no college is perfect.) Nevertheless, for me, Bryn Mawr has been phenomenal. Despite everything, I wouldn’t change my decision to go to Bryn Mawr, not for any other academic institution in the world. Being a Mawrtyr has been both a privilege and a pleasure.