The Vagenda

10 Things I Won’t Miss About Being a Student


Last week The Guardian published ‘10 things I’ll miss about being a student’. Don’t bother reading it unless you think you’ll benefit from a ten point list of University clichés (onesies/student loans/shitty flat), but it did make me compile a list of ten things which, in the year of my graduation, I REALLY, REALLY won’t miss about being a student.

1)  ‘How did you get a first in that essay? You must have pulled some pretty big favours ha. ha. ha.’

Apparently a little lady brain isn’t capable of doing well in academia without a ‘helping hand’ from her male tutors. The little shit that said this to me failed to remember two things; we have a double blind marking system, and using my gender as an excuse to justify his 3rd Class degree won’t make him feel better much longer after graduation.

2) ‘I hadn’t had much sex in my life, until I met your house’

Ah, even university isn’t immune from the age-old binary stereotype of the Madonna or the Whore. Give it two weeks into freshers and you will be divided in the same vein of the Hogwarts sorting hat, only this time it’s his misogynistic hat uncle (probably a fedora) doing the sorting. And you’re not at Hogwarts. And unless you’re a virgin, you’ve been put in the equivalent of Slytherin. And once you’re in, there’s no getting out. But seriously, I’ve seen many houses of women slut-shamed during my time at university, and I know not one boys’ house that has suffered the same abuse. In the end, we reclaimed it and named our house ‘Titty Terrace’, partly as a ‘fuck you’, partly because we like alliteration.

3) ‘Feminist Society? Really?’

Yes feminist society. Yes I am a feminist. No I don’t hate men. If you knew how much bras cost you wouldn’t bother asking me if I burned mine. I didn’t come to university to have to waste my time answering these questions.

4) ‘I thought girls were supposed to be clean??’

The dawning realisation that women aren’t actually a robot army of Anthea Turner clones in disguise got pretty tiresome pretty quickly. In our house of 9 girls, one housemate amusingly documented the progress of a cup growing mould (day 7, the bacteria is multiplying quickly but hasn’t learned to love yet). Our male friends were less impressed.

5) ‘Your case of sexual assault is legitimate because, clearly, you’re a respectable girl’

This was said by a student counsellor to a victim of a serious case of sexual assault. The point he was trying to make was that her case was definitely rape, as she didn’t seem like the kind of girl that would be ‘asking for it’. This simultaneously offered no comfort or support, and added to the blurring of that one actually very defined line. With 1 in 4 female students experiencing instances of unwanted sexual behaviour (NUS statistic), this backwards view of the ‘perfect victim’ is particularly dangerous when coming from student support structures.

6) ‘Mind The Gap Tuesday… Get the Tissues Ready!’

The title of one of UniLad’s infamous examples of truly hard hitting journalism, featuring 12 of ‘the hottest’ thigh gap photos they could find. I will buy anyone a drink that can stay on this website for longer than 3 minutes without wanting to grow their armpit hair long enough to use to strangle the editors.

7) Whilst on the subject of hard hitting student journalism – The Tab

An online national student publication with content submitted by and for each university. I’ll let it make its own case, with articles such as ‘Slinging a Bird: A Geezer’s Guide’, ’5 Worst Make-Up Mishaps’ and ‘A Girl’s Night Out from a Guy’s Perspective.’  They’re not even the worst examples, and we’re not linking to them, so you’ll have to seek them out yourself. You’re welcome.

8) ‘Women are the housewives and carers of our country’

Senior Labour Party politician Andy Burnham (that one with the hypnotic eyelashes) came to our university as a guest speaker, and after being asked how Labour would engage women with their policies, he spouted five minutes of babble about how women are the carers and housewives of the country. I’m not disputing that there are huge issues of childcare and maternity leave that need to be addressed, but pigeonholing a room of female students as solely capable of being housewives was hardly inspiring. I was less mesmerized by the eyelashes after this, tbh.

9) ‘There’s only one woman on this term’s reading list’

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been able to study many women writers, but have heard some horror stories about universities with no women writers on their reading list. We’re already having trouble being taken seriously in academic studies (see point no.1) – symbolically annihilating women by excluding them from reading lists is hardly going to help change that.

10) ‘Tight and Bright…’

…pimps and hoes, nympho nurses and dirty doctors. The Carnage fancy dress themes that may as well have been randomly picked out from an issue of Loaded from 1998. This nation-wide student night out insists it’s all in jest, and I would be willing to accept this as ‘just a bit of fun’ if I was allowed to have my fun and dress as a pimp from the eighties in a purple suit two sizes too big, without being shunned to the corner of the club for refusing to adhere to the ‘sexy bitch’ dress code.

In fact, the best thing about graduating is probably being able to wear your own clothes.

- PP

15 thoughts on “10 Things I Won’t Miss About Being a Student

  1. I never went to Carnage. Too many uniLads in deep Vs.

    I was looking for writing experience and a Tab-esque startup was looking for contributors (unpaid students to tweet discount vouchers in return for a CV reference) and their website was just the worst of cosmo and buzzfeed combined.

  2. This is bang on, especially the parts about female writers on reading lists, I study a science and we have only two female members of staff in the whole department and I have yet to come across a female author of a recommend book. It’s not as if its a male dominated student body either, its 50:50.

    R.e. the fancy dress costumes, I recently attended a genderflipped “pimps and hoes” party, where the women had to go as “pimps” and it was literally the hottest night of my life, I thought we were all going to pass out from wearing so many clothes in a club

  3. Great piece and so true!
    One thing though, a pet hate of mine – saying ‘women writers’ (or whatever profession). You would never say ‘men writers’, and I just feel it puts too much emphasis on the fact they’re women first and writers second. (Whenever I hear someone use this, in my head it always sounds like they’re going Women?! Writers?!; female writers sounds much more natural.) A very picky point I know.

  4. “If you knew how much bras cost you wouldn’t bother asking me if I burned mine”- i’ve said, word for word, exactly this a few years ago when i first ‘came out’ as a feminist.

  5. Wow, I think I was lucky at my uni experience – I never really came across any of this stuff (apart from the dress-up stuff and even that was more balanced).

    I guess my view is skewed as my uni had a strong history of educating women, and the student body was made up of more women than men so much of the sexist stuff outlined above wouldn’t have been tolerated. I studied English and Drama (which can tend to be more female-dominated subjects anyway) and we had stacks of female authors/playwrights on all our reading lists – and mostly female professors, too.

    I’m VERY glad UniLad wasn’t around when i was at Uni…Facebook/Twitter was only just getting going when I graduated in 2006 and there wasn’t anywhere near as much poisonous stuff online as there is now…..

  6. Hey,

    In terms of women being underrepresented on reading lists, me and a friend noticed the same thing on our masters politics course. After asking around other students on different courses, we found that the phenomenon was widespread, so we put together a survey and report which you can read here:

    We also found that the invisibility of female authors on reading lists doesn’t simply reflect the gender imbalance in academia, it amplifies it.

    Great article!

  7. #2. Seriously? Please tell me you don’t actually think being a socially awkward virgin in your late teens makes you a metaphorical Gryffindor and everyone applauds you and thinks you’re awesome. It was so shit being a 17 year old virgin, people took the piss ALL THE TIME and all I saw were the girls who had sex treated as normal. Despite my best desperate efforts to get laid in my teens (meeting random strangers off the internet, going on awkward dates with guys I didn’t fancy, snogging random men in clubs) I somehow didn’t manage to lose it til almost 18. Which with hindsight was actually fine even if I felt like a huge failure at the time. I can only imagine those feeling would be even worse by the time someone was at Uni. I think this is one of the many occasions where women can never win. We see our choices/situations ridiculed and judged by others while the opposite choices seem to be celebrated. But in reality it’s never true. Someone’s always going to take issue with what we do. I still got judged and didn’t even have all the sex as compensation!

  8. I’m in my first year of uni at the moment and numbers 3 and 9 are particularly resonant (even at Oxford, which my friends at other unis say is better in terms of casual sexism/lad culture/feminists being ostracised etc. than some other places). So so depressing.

    But I love this article! xx

  9. Yesssssss I love this!

    Though, in my experience, there’s a lot of variation across British universities. I’ve studied at both UCL and SOAS and saw a world of difference between them: UCL’s lad culture is exactly as described here and all up in your face all the time, while I’ve never felt less harassed than inside the cosy progressive walls of SOAS.

    Could university league tables maybe formulate some sort of misogyny quotient? Might make a big difference to applications!

  10. Literally so sick of seeing posters advertising club nights using scantily dressed women as “bait” to the club, and names/slogans suggesting that basically the night is for guys to get laid and enticing girls just by letting them in free. So basically advertising the women as sex objects.

  11. Career-wise I wish I’d been able to afford to go to uni – but in every other respect, nope, don’t regret anything about it, however different it might have been in 80s Australia (I’m guessing the misogyny would have used different slang, mainly).

    What is this fixation with thigh gap? I really don’t get it.

  12. Good article, agree with everything except, as someone else mentioned above, I would be careful about lumping all the Tabs in together. The Cambridge one is regularly publishing really great, eye opening articles about everything ranging from physical disability to mental health problems to feminist issues etc. etc.

    Although it is galling that this stuff gets overshadowed by the more ridiculous ’10 best orgasms’ or whatever, you could argue that the traffic the shallower articles generate is essential to get the good ones the attention they deserve from students across the university.

  13. I loved the dressing up aspect of uni! We had a lot of fun nights out where everyone was expected to dress up and the idea was more silly fun than sexy outfits. The only time I took exception to the theme was our ‘Emergency Services’ bar crawl. Discussing our options I was a little disturbed to find the women dressing as ‘sexy policemen’ while the men were just ‘policemen’, or ‘sexy nurse’ while the men were just ‘doctors’ (and definitely not nurses!) I rebelled against the whole idea of enforced sexiness and went as an emergency plumber, dressed in dungarees with a tool box for a handbag. It was an awesome night!

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