In a nation where Men control everything “from A to Z”, women in the 1970s were seen as inferior to men, especially in the academic scene. Adrienne Rich, aims this essay towards female students at Douglass College, in order to have them strive to achieve their full potential, and to become equals to men by creating women only studies, and daring to be different. She motivates her students by telling them to “claim” their education rather than merely “receiving” one, all the while lashing out at the male population for dominating almost every aspect of life.
The beginning of the essay is littered with the idea that [women] students are not there to “receive” an education but rather to “claim” one. This statement is one that I am sure most, if not all people would agree. However, Adrienne Rich(1977) takes it too far by stating “The difference is that between acting and being acted-upon, and for women it can literally mean the difference between life and death.” (p. 221) and over-dramatizes her powerful concept. Students should view college as an opportunity to “earn their stripes”, and should not self-entitle themselves to their education. Too often can it be seen that a student merely coasts through the scholastic system, doing the bare minimum to obtain their degree. In the 1970s, when this essay was written, women did not share an equal part in educational status that men did. In order to combat this, Rich encourages the women at Douglass to work harder and not be so submissive to the world surrounding them.
According to Rich, the educational system was based particularly on male opinions and knowledge, all while the “women’s voice” was absent. Along with this, she claims that “Today, with increasing numbers of women students in nearly every branch of higher learning, we still see very few women in the upper levels of faculty and administration in most institutions.” (p.221) What bothers me about this statement is that, although the information may come from a man’s mouth, in a man’s own words, even since the early years of human existence, it has been said that “Behind every powerful man, there is a woman.”, and that most likely still rung true during this time period. In order to produce valuable information, whether it’s a man creating it or a woman, the person who is writing the information must consider every perspective and remove personal bias, irrelevant of gender. Now I will admit that I, myself, am a man and may be predisposed to arguing whether or not female intuition is included within the educational system, but I do feel confident that without female intuition, the information that is written would not have been able to have been achieved.
Women should not only stick-together to advance together in what is the “societal standings”, but should also reach out to join men in equality. The proposal of creating woman-only studies will only produce information with female intuition which is, in turn, no better than what Rich is accusing men of doing. You would lose the male perspective, and potentially lose the highest level of academic insight that can be obtained. To work together would allow both perspectives to mix into one great production, in which both female and male compilations of said information can be regurgitated to the public. Creating women-only studies is not a bad idea entirely. The idea of teaching from a woman’s perspective could allow men to see things from a new angle, and to gain greater understanding of the information that is being presented to them. With the new understanding provided from a new perspective, even if women were still on a slow road of advancement to becoming a larger part in society, the new teachings from man could be intertwined with female intuition, and passed on accordingly.
The essay was very empowering. Rich used very strong, very forceful diction, and allowed her “inner-voice” to practically project of the very pages. However, although her ideas of creating women only studies in order to allow women to learn from the other side of the spectrum, were not entirely thought through. But, as one could easily agree, we should never “receive” an education, but earn it. We should “claim” our education and work hard to learn new concepts and strive to be something better. We should work not as man or woman, but as man AND woman, to allow us to see both gender’s perspective.
Rich, A. (2010). “Claiming an Education.” In Krasny, M., Sokolik, M.E. (Eds,), Sound Ideas (220-224). New York: McGraw Hill.