C.S. Lewis decried “men without chests.” He coined the phrase in The Abolition of Man, still worth reading after all these years. Indeed, Bill Kristol harks back to Lewis in his current Weekly Standard editorial “Men with chests.”
I wish Lewis were still around. He could update the book with a section on “women without vaginas.” He would introduce the analysis with a look at what happens when women become men at Wellesley, the women’s college, and how college administrators respond. (Paul Mirengoff took a look in “Bottomly’s bottom line.”) Lewis would have to take up the case of Wellesley junior Timothy Boatwright, a woman who hasn’t quite made the commitment to manhood as traditionally understood:
Like every other matriculating student at Wellesley, which is just west of Boston, Timothy was raised a girl and checked “female” when he applied. Though he had told his high-school friends that he was transgender, he did not reveal that on his application, in part because his mother helped him with it, and he didn’t want her to know. Besides, he told me, “it seemed awkward to write an application essay for a women’s college on why you were not a woman.” Like many trans students, he chose a women’s college because it seemed safer physically and psychologically.
From the start, Timothy introduced himself as “masculine-of-center genderqueer.” He asked everyone at Wellesley to use male pronouns and the name Timothy, which he’d chosen for himself.
For the most part, everyone respected his request….
We have to think this through. I believe Wellesley College President Kim Bottomly is still working on it.
Mount Holyoke College now presents us with another case study. Women without vaginas might raise a problem with the privileging of Eve Ensler’s distasteful theatrical tribute to female sexuality in The Vagina Monologues. After all, Ensler wrote the play to celebrate the vagina.
At Mount Holyoke College, the school’s annual production of Ensler’s play has been — what else? — shut down. They can’t go for that. No can do. Elizabeth Nolan Brown reports:
In a school-wide email from Mount Holyoke’s student-theater board, relayed by Campus Reform, student Erin Murphy explained that “at its core, the show offers an extremely narrow perspective on what it means to be a woman … Gender is a wide and varied experience, one that cannot simply be reduced to biological or anatomical distinctions, and many of us who have participated in the show have grown increasingly uncomfortable presenting material that is inherently reductionist and exclusive.”
C.S. Lewis could help us think these issues through, but you don’t have to be C.S Lewis to wonder if there is a place for women’s colleges in this particular brave new world.