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As women outnumber men in higher ed, campus mental health has never been worse

‘Female dominance of the campus population is intimately tied to the rhetoric of unsafety and victimhood’

One of the apparent consequences of the “Great Feminization of the American university,” as conservative scholar Heather Mac Donald puts it, is a mental health crisis that grips today’s college students and young people.

“The more females’ ranks increase, the more we hear about a mass nervous breakdown on campus,” Mac Donald wrote in a March 5 column for City Journal. “Female students disproportionately patronize the burgeoning university wellness centers, massage therapies, relaxation oases, calming corners, and healing circles.”

Mac Donald began her piece by spelling out, by the numbers, how in fact colleges campuses today are decidedly majority-female in both student population and administration, noting females made up 66 percent of college administrators in 2021 and females earned 58 percent of all B.A.s in the 2019–20 academic year.

Under this combination, she points out, “Female dominance of the campus population is intimately tied to the rhetoric of unsafety and victimhood.”

“Females on average score higher than males on the personality trait of neuroticism, defined as anxiety, emotional volatility, and susceptibility to depression. (Mentioning this long-accepted psychological fact got James Damore fired from Google.) … Hearing an argument that chromosomes, not whim, make males male and females female is another source of alleged existential threat,” Mac Donald wrote.

The problem is compounded by the constant mantra of campus leaders promising students safety — and their near-equal constant claim that their universities are steeped in hate, toxic masculinity and racism. As Mac Donald puts it, there is a “ubiquity on campuses of the language of vulnerability.”

“When students claim to be felled by ideas that they disagree with, the feminized bureaucracy does not tell them to grow up and get a grip. It validates their self-pity,” Mac Donald wrote.

The scholar then linked today’s “safetyism” campus paradigm with the threat against free speech.

“The most far-reaching effects of the feminized university are the intolerance of dissent from political orthodoxy and the attempt to require conformity to that orthodoxy. This intolerance is justified in the name of safety and ‘inclusivity.’ It turns out that females and males assess the value of debate and the legitimacy of speech restrictions unequally,” Mac Donald wrote, citing a parade of recent polls which found a majority of female respondents prefer shutting down controversial speech.

“As long as the rhetoric of safety, threat, and trauma remains dominant, the push to shut down non-progressive speech will continue. And now the traumification of everyday life, like other modern academic trends, is fast spreading outside the campus,” Mac Donald wrote.

Mac Donald is author of the forthcoming book “When Race Trumps Merit: How the Pursuit of Equity Sacrifices Excellence, Destroys Beauty, and Threatens Lives.”

MORE: Students protest visiting Professor Brett Kavanaugh as threat to ‘mental health’

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About the Author
Fix Editor
Jennifer Kabbany is editor-in-chief of The College Fix.