Term Paper: Educated in Romance Women Achievement and College Culture by Dorothy Holland and Margaret Eisenhart

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Educated in Romance

The purpose of this paper is to introduce and analyze the book "Educated in Romance: Women, Achievement and College Culture" by Dorothy Holland and Margaret Eisenhart. Specifically, it will contain a book review of the book, including the authors' theoretical perspective. These two authors undertook a study in the 1980s to discover why women often turn aside from their career goals during and after college. They studied 23 women in two southern schools, and followed their progression through college and into the business world. What they found was that most women abandoned their career goals and instead supported those of their husbands, and raised families. Their study indicated to them that when women enter college, their attractiveness is what matters most, and their ability to attract men is the secret to romance and their success at it. Therefore, the authors concluded that schools are fostering a "culture of romance" on campus that effectively disenfranchises women and leads them into romantic relationships rather than committed career choices. Does this culture still exist on college campuses around the nation? For the most part, it seems it does.

While this book was written in 1990, and the study took place in the 1980s, it seems much of the information is still relevant today. The authors certainly take a very theoretical stance, they believe that American culture and American educations institutions perpetuate the "culture of romance" in such a way that it prepares women to be wives and mothers, no matter what their career aspirations may be. The authors note, "At both Bradford and SU [the pseudonyms for the universities studied] the peer culture established an ethos for women that emphasized romantic relationships with men as a major route to self-worth and prestige" (Holland and Eisenhart 118). They maintain the peer pressure of college supports romantic relationships as one way of gaining prestige and popularity, and that these are still very important aspects of the college experience. They are extremely committed to this conclusion, because they reached it after extensive study, and have 23 different case histories to prove their theory. How does that relate to the college experience today?

While it might seem that college campuses are more "enlightened" today, nearly 20 years after this book was published, in fact, the culture on college campuses is still much the same. College co-eds still compete for male attention, and those who are unpopular or "odd" do not find acceptance with the main student body. There are still athlete jocks and perky cheerleaders, along with a core group of student leaders and activists that gain attention and often admiration from the other students. These are the "movers and shakers" on the college campus, and just as in high school, to gain their acceptance is to gain approval and social status.

Witness the recent school shooting at Virginia Tech. The student was unpopular, withdrawn, and mentally unstable, and so, he was ostracized by most of the other students. The social hierarchy on college campuses really is not all that different from what the authors studied, and because of this, the "culture of romance" still applies. Girls still try to attract boys by dressing provocatively, making themselves as attractive as possible, and dating a variety of men to attract even more and assure them of their popularity and prestige. Included in this peer culture is an overwhelming need for most women to be "with" someone and to spend time with their boyfriends, even to the exclusion of schoolwork. This phenomenon still exists today with most young women on most college campuses. While the authors' study may be dated, their conclusions still seem relevant today, because essentially, men and women are still the same, and the colleges to little to change that equation.

This perspective may have colored the authors' assumptions, description, and methodology because they are women, and they may have experienced many of these situations themselves, or had experiences with friends who did. However, they cite other studies that have found similar results, starting as young as elementary school. They cite a study in Great Britain that found that even young girls would choose boyfriends over girlfriends in most instances. They write, "The girls in her study claimed a preference for going out with girlfriends instead of boyfriends, but found themselves compelled toward the latter" (Holland and Eisenhart 46). Thus, this "culture of romance" begins early, and with recent statistics indicating that even young elementary school-age girls are engaging in sex, or at least oral sex, it seems this statistic, as well, is still the case on campuses across the nation.

However, the authors' assumptions and methodology do not seem to be particularly biased. They describe their methodology of choosing the women they studied. They picked women with high grade-point averages, and chose two sets of women, one set interested in non-traditional types of degree programs, such as science and math, and those choosing more traditional, female-oriented programs, such as nursing or education. They all had participated in college-prep courses, and they all entered school in the fall directly after high school. They also surveyed random sophomore women, and included those results as part of the survey. Thus, while their sampling was small, a lot of thought and preparation went into the choices, and they followed the women throughout college and into their careers to get a balanced view of the overall results of their college experience.

Their findings indicate that women offer themselves on a "sexual auction block" (Holland and Eisenhart 152), where they faced rejection and even loneliness. They note, "Since women's prestige was tied to the world of romance, bad treatment was the sign that a woman was of low social worth" (Holland and Eisenhart 152). This is still true today, where women are expected to sexually please their boyfriends, but if they date too much or are promiscuous, they are still "whores" and not worth dating.

The ethnographic information in this book is rather small, which is one criticism that occurs after reading this study. The two authors only studied 23 women in two southern schools. For the study to be more meaningful, they could have included a larger sampling of women in a much broader area. In addition, it would have been interesting to know the ethnicity of the women, and if the roles and patterns changed with ethnicity or all remained basically the same. It is true the two schools were essentially segregated, with one being predominately black and the other predominately white, but the authors did not identify which student attended which college, which might have had some outcome on the overall end results. However, since a majority of the students had the relatively same experiences on both campuses, the student's ethnicity may not have any bearing on the study at all. They note, "As it turned out - and has been true on U.S. college campuses since the 1920s, gender relations dominated student culture and activities at both Bradford and SU" (Holland and Eisenhart 79). Thus, the experience was basically the same, and remains essentially the same even today.

Another theoretical perspective may not have given the same results, as well. If men had conducted the study, they might not have come to the same conclusion. In fact, they might not have seen a decrease in the ambitions of the college students, but instead might have rationalized their decisions were based on academic preparedness and desire to have a family life rather than a career. That does not invalidate this study, but it does imply that different researchers could conceivably have come up with different results at the conclusion of the study.

Of course, that can be said for just about any research project, no matter how detailed and in-depth it is. These two… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Educated in Romance Women Achievement and College Culture by Dorothy Holland and Margaret Eisenhart.  (2007, September 15).  Retrieved December 5, 2019, from https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/educated-romance-women-achievement/634570

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"Educated in Romance Women Achievement and College Culture by Dorothy Holland and Margaret Eisenhart."  15 September 2007.  Web.  5 December 2019. <https://www.essaytown.com/subjects/paper/educated-romance-women-achievement/634570>.

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"Educated in Romance Women Achievement and College Culture by Dorothy Holland and Margaret Eisenhart."  Essaytown.com.  September 15, 2007.  Accessed December 5, 2019.