A college like any other, so why is Murray Edwards treated differently?

As a student at Murray Edwards, I’ve realised that I’ve become worryingly used to sexist remarks about my college and the women who attend it. The language of college rivalries and the fact that most colleges have a stereotype about them hide the misogyny behind these comments. The words often used to describe us are derogatorily focused on our sexual availability to men – ‘slutty’, ‘easy’, ‘desperate for male attention’.

There’s a difference between saying ‘I’d rather be at Oxford than St. John’s’ and asking someone from a women’s college whether they’re ‘from the slutty college’, and the stereotype has a real impact on how other people treat us in Cambridge.

Sexual harassment of women in clubs is obviously not limited to students from women’s colleges, but in my experience, there’s a different twist to it thanks to this stereotype of students from Murray Edwards.

After discovering which college you attend, men are often far more relentless in their pursuit because they presume you to be sexually available and frequently don’t take ‘no’ for an answer – after announcing how much they love Murray Edwards girls, rejected guys sometimes switch to saying that you’re “just some bitch/slut” anyway.

For instance, one second-year student described an encounter where, after discovering that she went to Murray Edwards, the guy she was talking to was nudged by his friends and told it was his ‘lucky night’.

After persistently trying to buy her a drink and repeatedly ignoring her refusals, his friends comforted him with “You probably would’ve caught something from their beds anyway”.

There have been several times where I’ve been treated to a wink and a grope from someone after the whole ‘eh, hurry bedwards! I love you girls’ routine.
In one experience I had, I was aggressively told “well, you’re just a lesbian anyway”, after having to insist over and over that I wasn’t interested. This charming young man said this firstly as though there’s something wrong with being a lesbian, but also as if it could be the only reason why I wouldn’t be attracted to someone who thinks that ‘hurry bedwards’ is a swoon-worthy chat-up line.

If I had a pound for every single time someone leered at me and said that upon discovering which college I’m from, I could probably afford to add my own surname to the college’s title. The label that people fix to us doesn’t exist in a vacuum – it has a real impact on how we’re regarded by other people.

There’s also a condescending smirk that people give you as they ask, “So did you actually apply to a women’s college?” As one first-year pointed out, there’s an impression that other people think you don’t really belong at this university because they deem you to be at a college that no one would want to be at.

People expect you to be ashamed and feel inadequate for going to a modern women’s college because it’s so different to a lot of the older, central colleges, and seem surprised to find out that I actually love the supportive vibe of the college.

Regardless of whether you think that women’s colleges ought to still exist, the fact is that they currently do exist and there are no plans to change that any time soon.

Women’s colleges at this university have a rich and important tradition, and the students that attend them are a diverse group of students who deserve to be acknowledged as the interesting young women that they are, instead of being labelled with sexist stereotypes that reduce us to our sexual availability to men.

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