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“Think of it this way, half your competition’s gone.” The context of this quote; a conversation with college counsellors about the perks of all-women colleges. Taken out of context, it could also be the complete opposite; an argument for the perks of all-men colleges.

On the thorny path of college and financial aid admissions, young (and most of the time ambitious) high-school graduates are reincarnated as serial College Scholarship Service (CSS) profile-fillers and overnight-essay writers. There is no magic formula, no real contingency plans to fall back on, and even if one succeeds in these two steps, a final uncontrollable externality remains: the existence of other similar hopefuls.


Ever since I was little, a fundamental life rule was instilled in me; always look above, never below. It was my mantra against mediocrity. As I grew up, I’ve gradually realized that to understand the bizarre world in which we live, more categories were necessary, but that through it all, we generally try to sum reality up in the same simple order; who’s better than who?


Girls vs. Boys


To be considered each other’s competitors, two genders would have to be on equal footing in both quantity and quality. In terms of quantity, is it true that there is a 50-50 distribution of male and females in the world? Roughly so, nature has a thing for symmetry. The real question is which one is better than the other.


In my class, the leader board in grades is mainly made up of female names. This is not a singular occurrence, it’s been proven that girls struggle less with academics than boys. So If I were to look above academically, my entire competition would be from the same gender as me. But if we were to play catch or dodgeball and the teams were divided in’Girls vs. Boys’, in most cases, the boys would win by a landslide.


Once upon a time the discussion would have veered towards male dominance and victory, social progress however intervened and luckily so; men and women are now more or less considered fairly in all their differences. It would be a mistake to put the two in competition with each other; there would be no winner, just differences.


Therefore, what advantage do I really get even if the male population is out of the equation? Wouldn’t any woman want her achievements to be evaluated equally in perspective with both genders?


Differences and Inequalities


In my opinion, the beauty of women's colleges lies in the fact that they are places that view women and men in rightfully different lights, thus acknowledging the differences without turning them into inequalities. Women's colleges were at first a response to the dominance of male-exclusive colleges; perhaps now they are reminders that we don’t have to be the same to be equal.

To Thu Phuong

One of the writers of the column Student Eye, Phuong is Vietnamese born and bred. A little (in fact a lot) smaller than her classmates, her voice makes up for her size. If you’re lucky, you’ll find her sitting on a plastic stool on one of the busy sidewalks of Hanoi, feasting on local street food.