For some, places like Murray Edwards are a source of intimidation, disgust, and entertainment.Peter Corbett

Whenever I first tell people that I go to Murray Edwards, I often find that the response can go one of two ways. Most of the time, it is wholly positive, or ‘normal’, perhaps decorated with the classic, “so…what’s it like being at an all girls’ college?” line before we embark on the rest of our small talk. But there are others who the thought of an all-female environment intimidates, disgusts, and entertains – for some, it seems to encourage a certain reaction. I suppose this is an open letter, and a challenge, to a few of those individuals.

A week or two into my first term here, I passed by a boy who physically grimaced when his friend told him I go to a women’s college. He then proceeded to walk away. He never heard this from my own mouth. In fact, I don’t even think he directly looked at me. To him, I ask: how did this one fact alone allow you to blindly determine that I was a certain type of character, with a certain level of intelligence? It is a spectacular talent, but would you have done so if my college happened to be mixed?

“I’ve heard the remarks that swallow all of us up whole and dictate our sexual ‘promiscuity,’ and the way people interact with us”

There was a girl who looked upon me with pity when I told her I went here, as though I had been eternally damned by a lack of a continual masculine presence, as though I was to be so ‘starved’ of a male presence that this would ultimately impact my ability to properly converse with the opposite sex. To her, I would just like to say, I really appreciate the concern, but I’m doing perfectly fine, thanks.

I’ve heard stories, and even directly encountered, groups of male students who specifically pursue all-female colleges for swaps and blind dates. I’ve heard the remarks that swallow all of us up whole, dictating our sexual ‘promiscuity,’ and the way some people consequently interact with us. I’ve watched friends recognise or refuse to co-operate with such assumptions, and face backlash that revolves around branding all of us with derogatory slurs concerning an assumed sexual orientation as a result. To these men: what exactly is it about a highly concentrated group of women that allows you to jump to such conclusions?

In an attempt to answer my own questions, I identify that there is a serious problem that is rooted in our subconscious attitudes to an all-female community within academia. Being at Murray Edwards has nurtured a reassurance to confidently assert my own intelligence within what still remains a largely male-dominated field. I don’t see how this could be viewed as anything other than a step towards academic gender equality. Within Cambridge, it undermines such a cause to derive negative and ultimately misogynistic social assumptions about students who are part of all-female college communities. We achieve universal respect the minute we begin to recognise and deconstruct these subtle, but damaging connotations.

To the man who remarked that there needs to be an all-male college because not having one is “unfair”: you’ve had over 800 years of that privilege, how about you give us a turn