While trolling the stacks at a local flea market/treasure trove, I found a book called Where the Girls Are, published in 1965 by Peter M. Sandman and the editorial staff of Princeton University‘s student newspaper, The Daily Princetonian.
Truth: I don’t think I even opened this book at the flea market; I saw it sitting on a shelf marked “All Books 25 cents” and, entertained by the nymphs frolicking at the bottom of the cover, declared it mine. I don’t even think I read the back cover. I had no idea what I had in my hot little hands.
Apparently, Where the Girls Are is very difficult to come by. A (not overly-extensive, but still several Google pages deep) search on the internet turned up listings in used book stores (with a first edition going for as much as $45!), but gave me no real excerpts. Fine, I say. I’ll make them myself.
You see, as a woman, and as one who went to college, I was of course attracted to something that promised to be a cornucopia of the craptastic and focused on the wimmens. What I didn’t realize was just how malignant this book is.
It is, of course, a product of its time, and the perspective re: the battle of the sexes was markedly different in 1965 than it is today. Even with that being said, Where the Girls Are is a nightmare of epic sexism, though at least the introduction written for the female college student reader admits that. And I quote:
S.T.E.R.E.O.T.Y.P.E. Stereotype. We know it, we admit it, we proclaim it. Where the Girls Are is loaded with stereotypes. So what else is new?
Where the Girls Are (WTGA) is ostensibly a guide to which colleges have the most datable co-eds and having dated in the course of my life I get that dating can be one giant visual feast and con game. However, the sneering tone with which the authors discuss things like female intellectualism, social class, attractiveness (or attractiveness in relation to their social class), the ways to engineer an invasion of dating turf and each college’s permissible levels of winking-at-the-indiscretions-drunkenness only leads me to believe the author(s) wrote this with the intention of inciting as many boners and/or date rapes as possible. Consider their descriptions of two different California schools. The 8,000 attractive, middle class co-eds at UCLA, they say, “…face almost no intellectual pressure and spend most of their time–weeknights, weekends, any time–dating. They go out as much as they can with anyone who’ll ask them; they’ll go anywhere and do anything; they just don’t care.” At Stanford, however, a different story unfolds.
“Nine out of ten California girls are beautiful and the tenth goes to Stanford.” So they say along the Pacific coast. Leland Stanford Jr. University has 1,718 female undergraduates, which makes is undoubtedly the largest collection of Plain Janes in the country. And what’s worse–O Infamy–most of them are serious book-weenies. They study a great deal, which on the West Coast just isn’t done, and they earn better grades than their male counterparts, which just isn’t done anywhere.
Though there is some benefit to dating the Stanford female. Again, I quote, “As one knowledgeable senior male put it: Well, they may be ugly, but they sure are rich.”
Damn. I suppose I should be grateful for the honesty, since these are the things people think but do not say. But damn. At least there are no illustrations. I mean, could you imagine the snark that would flow from the fingertips of the author(s) if there were illustrations that could be drawn to highlight whatever unflattering stereotype you wanted to highlight? I mean, THAT would be like calling open season on….
Huh? There ARE illustrations? *checking*
Indeed there are. The 1965-flavor staff at The Daily Princetonian did, it seems, deem it amusing to include drawings that represented various school stereotypes, and what the inquiring dater could expect on his search for the perfect co-ed.
Say, for example, you’re going to be somewhere near the University of Delaware and thought you might check out some local action. According to WTGA, in 1965 the UofD campus was where “nineteenth-century ideals and mores [were] applied to twentieth-century technology”. This was at the cusp of the sexual revolution, after all, so the UofD took its “no members of the opposite sex in dorm rooms/chaperoned parties/alcohol free campus/surrogate parenting” duties seriously. Should the randy traveler find himself at the UofD in search of a date, he could expect…
…a scrawny drudge who goes to class with curlers in her hair. The illustrated co-ed is one of “…all except the third who flunk out [that will] manage to serve their full term (translation: graduate from college), quiet and obedient.” Of course, the next line reminds the reader, “Quiet and obedient girls can have their advantages.”
*swoon* Take me away, Prince Charmant!
Or suppose our randy traveler (I need to write a story with a character named Randy Traveler) ends up on the outskirts of Philly, looking for something to do. Bryn Mawr is close, and it’s a college full of young ladies. Chances are good that they’re not all claimed by the men on campus, right, ha ha? Only…
Apparently, the women of Bryn Mawr can’t even be bothered to wear non-gnarly socks. They are “…that dread word–intellectuals. Not all of them resemble the owl on the school’s seal, but nearly every one of the 750 of them got higher college board scores than you did…”. Oh, God, no! Not another school full of smart women! It’s a place where, “Foreign food is in. Ivy League “preppies” are outnumbered among dates by the soulful beard-and-jeans set; at Bryn Mawr the description of “Ivy” is likely to be intended as an insult.”
Oh, really, Princetonian, Ivy League guy? Should they forget the “owl intellectual” comment and throw themselves at your feet? I mean, not every girl can be like those at the University of Texas.
The women of UT are, apparently, rope-’em sexy, and “part of a pleasure-seeking herd” who “keep all signs of sophistication well-hidden.” Apparently, all you need is a way in the front door (find a friendly bro and have him introduce you around; you’ll meet a herd girl), a working knowledge of football and mastery of the terms “Yes, ma’am” and “Y’all come on, y’hear” and you’re ready to take the ladies of Texas by storm! No substance necessary.
My favorite description in WTGA is, of course, the one about my very own alma mater, Wellesley College. He starts by talking about Hoop Rolling, the admittedly tepid springtime event celebrated even to this day where graduating seniors dressed in graduation gowns roll their hoops down Tupelo Lane. It’s a throwback to a much earlier time when the hoop-rolling winner would be the “one to marry first”. Sigh. Now the winning hoopster is traditionally the first one to find happiness and success however the winner defines it, but it’s still a charmingly antiquated tradition. And I digress.
Considering the derogatory evaluation given the skinny girls at Delaware or the “owls” at Bryn Mawr (see pictures to freshen up the old memory), you’d think Sandman & Co. would be glad to see women who have a reputation for athleticism. Instead…
Code name: Lesbian.
This is only highlighted by the statement that “The Wellesley girl’s athleticism, by the way, is mainly confined to athletics. The occasional juxtaposition of energy and romance is most likely on the shores of Lake Waban: If you walk around the lake three times with a Wellesley girl without proposing, she can throw you in. She probably will.”
Translation: Don’t expect to get laid. EVARRRRRRR.
Sandman noticeably leaves the Ivy League schools alone; there is no mention of Harvard, Yale, Princeton. In 1965, most of the Ivies still weren’t admitting women as undergraduates, though there were a few that did allow students in as graduates. There are two notable exceptions included in this book. He talks about the “surprising number of uglies” at the University of Pennsylvania, trapped in the flaccid city of Philadelphia (elsewhere touted as a great place to go). He also talks about the over-hyped intellectual rigor at Cornell, and that it’s easy to get around the admissions requirements. Part of me thinks this could simply be sour grapes, and he’s swinging away at schools that have the wimmens close by, since his school doesn’t have any. Smart money says Sandman’s UPenn girlfriend dumped him for a Cornell man and there is no small amount of vengeful backlash in these two entries.
Ultimately, I don’t care that he thinks Wellesley women are wink-wink “athletic” or whether or not Stanford women meet his measure of attractiveness. What I do care about is his anti-intellectual bias and the way he switches evaluative measures; women in this one school aren’t smart enough, in another they’re too smart. They’re too skinny, too middle-class, too tied to their homes, so pretty they’re not available, not pretty enough, too free-spirited, too constricted, too outdoorsy. It’s dizzying, and ultimately highlights the fluid nature of the “standards” women have been asked to live up to. Menfolk: I get that there are a host of conflicting standards by which you are expected to live your lives, too (do you make enough money? Do you use that money to control people? Are you athletic? Are you too much of a jock? And so on, and so on) but I don’t have a book in front of me spelling it all out. WTGA reinforces blatantly sexist stereotypes, and WTFery like this is still alarmingly relevant. Don’t believe me?
Read any press ever written about Hillary Clinton over the past thirty years, and see how she’s been represented and misrepresented…smart enough, too smart, not mommy enough, overly emotional, not tough enough. Nobody ever gave John Boehner a hard time because he didn’t bake cookies.
These women are too pretty to date.
This article addresses the recent controversy over the monitoring and protection of the femininity of female Olympic athletes.
This 2012 article says women have finally stopped playing dumb in order to find a man who will marry them.
This 2012 article discusses the anatomy of the “perfect woman” and includes the statement that “men report less marital satisfaction when the female was the breadwinner of the family. So success is hot—just not too much success.”
This article asks if Jennifer Hudson, overweight when she first achieved fame, is now too skinny.
In this article, Jessica Simpson says that when she saw her weight right after having her first baby, she “thought her life was completely over.”
And on, and on, and on. Where do you find the balance in all of this?
I do find it ironic that Peter M. Sandman, author, went on to a career as a communications professor and that one of his areas of specialization was outrage management. I’m fairly sure he’d tell me to get over it, as tongues were firmly planted in cheeks and boys will be boys, har-de-har. I’m almost certain I’d tell him to go fuck himself, and he can bury his har-de-hars deep in his over-smug self-promoted stereotype, because after all, what are Princeton boys except for conceited tools with a false sense of entitlement?