Westhampton College '09
I broke down in tears last Sunday night as two of my best friends at the University of Richmond won the most distinguished awards offered at Westhampton College -- the Diamond Award and the Jane Stockman Award. I was so proud of these women, who coincidentally (or not) were seated in the same row, and I was overjoyed that the rest of Westhampton College saw the same passion, motivation, love and dedication in these women, that I have seen over the past three years.
But on the same night that while a sense of overwhelming pride was welling within me a sad sense disappointment was also present. On the night, which is supposed to mark the first and lasts steps of the educational journey of a Westhampton woman, no less than three times were the women of Westhampton College called to their most noble calling: marriage to a man.
Both alumni speakers consoled those Westhampton women who had not yet found "that special man in their lives," telling us that indeed he was out there and someday we would finally find him and at last would live the happy fairy tale we were destined to fulfill. One of our peers who read the letter she had written herself three years ago at our first year Proclamation Night, admitted to herself, her peers and now the bright-eyed women of the class of 2012 that indeed she was only attending the University of Richmond to get her "MRS" degree.
Westhampton College breeds strong, assertive, powerful, loving and passionate women. Westhampton Women stand firm in their beliefs, but also keep an open mind to new ideas and experiences. Westhampton women have a personal strength and drive rooted in a deep education and strong bonds with their peers. The mission of Westhampton College is "to strengthen women in their intellectual and personal development, to value diversity in all its forms, and to prepare women to lead informed, purposeful lives." Why then was marriage the preeminent theme of Proclamation Night?
I am by no stretch of the imagination an active feminist, but I was deeply disheartened by the hypocrisy of Proclamation Night 2008. Although I would love to someday find someone I loved so deeply that I wanted to share my life with, marriage was no means on the front of my mind at Proclamation Night, and I don't appreciate that by the end of the night it was forced into that position. The fact that the message of marriage overshadowed calls to character development, intellectual exploration and service to others is a testament to how fragile the ideas of Westhampton College realistically are and how far we as Westhampton women still need to come to fulfill our goal of creating a truly progressive and accepting home for all women. We are making progress, for just four years ago it was customary for all Westhampton seniors who were engaged to stand up and be recognized during Proclamation Night.
Although this practice has ended, by the theme of Proclamation Night this year, much more progress needs to me made.
Furthermore, Westhampton prides itself in being an inclusive community. With programs such as WILL, WGSS and Allies Institute, the marriage theme of Proclamation Night was downright appalling. Take a moment and think about how many of your fellow Westhampton women were isolated by calls to find that one special man. Take a moment to think of the women who will never be able to be legally recognized as joining their lives with the person they love. I wish our speakers would have taken this moment.
Think about all your fellow Westhampton women who have dedicated the past three years of their lives to growing their minds and spirits and becoming the strongest women they can be, only to hear that the way all their work would pay off is by finding their knight in shining armor. I am not trying to downplay the beauty of love or the joy of marriage. I merely want to point out that leading a woman to marriage is not the mission of Westhampton College and therefore should not be the theme of Proclamation Night; it being so is only demeaning to all the strong, passionate, intelligent and loving women of Westhampton College.
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