But other factors compound these pressures on young women so intensely that the surprise is not how many do have eating diseases, but that any at all do not. Girls and young women are also starving because the women’s movement changed educational institutions and the workplace enough to make them admit women, but not yet enough to change the maleness of power itself. Women in “coeducational” schools and colleges are still isolated from one another, and admitted as men manqué. Women’s studies are kept on the margins of the curriculum, and fewer than 5 percent of professors are women; the worldview taught young women is male. The pressure on them is to conform themselves to the masculine atmosphere. Separated from their mothers, young women on campus have few older role models who are not male; how can they learn how to love their bodies?
The main images of women given them to admire and emulate are not of impressive, wise older women, but of girls their own age or younger, who are not respected for their minds. Physically, these universities are ordered for men or unwomaned women. They are overhung with oil portraits of men; engraved with the rolling names of men; designed, like the Yale Club in New York, which for twenty years after women were admitted had no women’s changing room, for men.
They are not lit for women who want to escape rape; at Yale, campus police maps showing the most dangerous street corners for rape were allegedly kept from the student body so as not to alarm parents. The colleges are only marginally concerned with the things that happen to women’s bodies that do not happen to the bodies of the men. Women students sense this institutional wish that the problems of their female bodies would just fade away; responding, the bodies themselves fade away.