Smith College, of course, is one of the Seven Sisters, and the well known women’s college has a certain reputation for feminism and identity politics — alumnae include Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Sylvia Plath and Rachel Maddow. (An aside — former First Lady Barbara Bush attended for a time, but dropped out.) Likewise, the school’s Office of Campus Diversity (via Wiki) informs us that “Smith offers “panel discussions and seminars for lesbian, bisexual, and transgender students on subjects such as coming out as transgender at work.” In 2003, Smith students voted to remove pronouns from the language of the Student Government Association constitution, in order to make that document inclusive of transgendered students who don’t identify with the female pronouns “she” and “her.””
But judging from a piece at NRO, apparently there are limits. This brings us to the case of Calliope Wong, a transgender individual of the male-to-female sort. Although Wong has not had sexual reassignment surgery (due in part to age and in part to expense), Calliope lives as a woman and applied to Smith. Smith declined Wong’s application, arguing that because Wong’s financial aid forms are designated as representing a male, that admission to a women’s college is not an option. Wong disagrees, of course, and has taken up the issue at a blog.
Now I’d be willing to bet that the folks at Smith take folks like Judith Butler Very Seriously, and the concept of gender performativity as well, at least in the classroom. It’s interesting to note that it apparently doesn’t extend to the admissions office. Good luck to Wong in finding a suitable college.