Written by Jacqueline Vontersch
I’m at a frat. Its 1 A.M. in the morning, and I wish I could turn off my nose. It reeks of vomit. Someone’s frigid, slimy hand slurs across my exposed, lower back as tired, drunken twenty-year-olds mosh together, shifting to the beat of nostalgic tunes from the 2000s and 2010s. A group of several of my friends and I are dancing in a tight circle, and I mouth at one of them, “Her hand is freezing.” My friend mouth’s back, “Too much alcohol.” I look for the girl, but she’s gone. As I glance around the room, I notice a young man against the wall, staring at me and my friends, and I felt the grasping in his gaze. Weathering his look, I simultaneously felt very uncomfortable and deeply sad. He was eyeing us, it seemed, to fill a deep craving; he just hadn’t discovered, yet, that what he wanted from us, we couldn’t give him.
After decades of exclusion, women are the blood running through the veins of higher education, and, as shown in a 2021 Pew report, higher education’s demographics have truly shifted. Male enrollment is decreasing even as female enrollment increases. Women are graduating, and men are not. Now, universities are finding themselves increasingly female dominated, and men are the minority.
This is the situation at my university, and it is not good. When I visited my first frat, aside from the stench, the first thing I noticed was the boy-girl ratio. It was all female with only a handful of young men. After that night, I learned that the Frat houses do this on purpose – makes it easier to “get laid.”
In a New York Times essay titled, To All the Girls I’ve Rejected, Jennifer Delahunty Britz, the then dean of admission at Kenyon College, wrote, “What are the consequences of young men discovering that even if they do less, they have more options?” She was writing about the growing number of extremely accomplished young girls her university was turning away, a consequence of a widening gender ratio and the growing value placed on male applicants because of their decreasing numbers.
She followed this question with another.
“And what messages are we sending young women that they must, nearly 25 years after the defeat of the Equal Rights Amendment, be even more accomplished than men to gain admission to the nation's top colleges?”
I sympathize with Britz’s second point too. It is frustrating to work twice as hard as someone while receiving only half the recognition. I am reminded of the workload gap in domestic affairs. CBS News reported that in January of 2020, women, regardless of their occupation or education levels, worked more unpaid, “domestic” hours than their male counter parts.
Did the expectation for this workload imbalance develop during academic years? Why are our young men not striving for academic achievements? It is not good for men, and it is not good for women. We compete amongst ourselves and demand less from our men, and I’m afraid of what might happen when that gaze transforms to action.