Higher Education Is for Women
"Girls go to college to get more knowledge. Boys go to Jupiter to get more stupider!"When a cast of teenage characters graduate from High School, the girls are more likely to go to university while the boys are more likely to either get a job straight out of the gate, join the military, or at least decide that university is not for them (sometimes briefly attending before dropping out). While there is a Real Life gender split when it comes higher education — that is to say proportionally more women go to university — in fiction, this trend can come across as heavily exaggerated. In part this seems to stem from Girls Need Role Models (which means most girls in a high school setting will be good students) and the tendency for boys to be portrayed as Book Dumb. This is an Evolving Trope as society changes — a couple of generations ago, the gender ratio would have been reversed and as late as the 1970s, young women attending further education would have been stereotyped as looking out for potential husbands. Currently, the sex ratio in universities is higher for women, but there are differences in the majors, with men dominating engineering, physical sciences, and to a lesser degree economics, and with women dominating life/medical sciences and humanities.
ExamplesAnime and Manga
- Papa no Iukoto o Kikinasai!: In the Rojou Kansatsu Kenkyuu Nisshi series, Yuuta was tricked into thinking he impregnated Raika and would have to get a job to support her while she furthered her education. Only after signing what he believed to be wedding papers, he realized he actually joined the Street Observation Research Society.
- In Clerks, Dante dropped out of college to work in an awful job; his girlfriend Veronica stays in college and tries to persuade him to return.
- The Transformers movies invert this, having Sam go to college in Revenge of the Fallen and graduate by the events of Dark of the Moon while Mikaela sticks to manual labor.
- In A Brother's Price, education is for women. Jerin's ability to read and write is highly unusual ... not to mention his ability to read thieves' cant. He meets Cullen, whose cousin tries to teach him how to read and write, but Cullen isn't a good pupil as he considers it as waste of time.
- Harry Potter: According to Word of God, Hermione was the only member of the trio to go back to Hogwarts to finish her education after Deathly Hallows. In Harry's case it was justified as he wanted to continue his studies so he could become an Auror. However, Kingsley allowed him to join their ranks immediately after the final battle, making school redundant.
- On The Chalk, in the Discworld novels, education full-stop is for women; it's generally agreed that it's useful for the girls to visit the Wandering Teachers when they arrive to learn reading and arithmetic (which are, after all, useful for running a household), but there's no sense in the boys filling their heads with stuff. This may have changed with the building of a permanent schoolhouse in I Shall Wear Midnight.
- The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson is an interesting example. Alethi culture has very strict gender roles, and among those is that education is seen as an exclusively feminine pursuit. With the exception of the Ardents (a priestly caste that ignores most gender rules), Alethi men can't even read or write.
- In Beverly Hills 90210, only three characters to go on to university: Annie, Ivy and Naomi — even though Naomi is an indifferent student at best it is never even suggested she might not want to go to university and Ivy likewise was never suggested to be a particularly book smart girl. Another female character (Silver) was all set to go to go but her interview was sabotaged by her rival. Meanwhile, all boys are abandoning their education, even the nerdy Navid.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer had Buffy and Willow go to university while Xander didn't, though that's more because his grades were terrible. Cordelia got accepted to several universities but couldn't go because her family fortune vanished when her father went to jail. Oz did go to university, but seemingly only because Willow was going — he certainly dropped out quickly when they broke up.
- Dawson's Creek had Dawson go to university but drop out almost at once. Pacey didn't go at all making Jack the only male main character to keep attending. Both girls (Joey and Jen) went to university and the new female main character (Audrey) was also a university girl.
- In The O.C., Summer and Taylor went to university. Ryan and Seth did not, at least at first.
- Gilmore Girls: Rory Gilmore (page image) and Paris Geller were both accepted into numerous Ivy League schools and Lane also attended college. Meanwhile neither of Rory's ex-boyfriends considered carrying on serious study: Dean dropped out of community college and Jess didn't even graduate high school. Logan did attend college but only because his father forced him to and spent most of his time partying.
- The issue of college being considered unmanly (see Real Life), was Discussed in an episode of Parks and Recreation:
Ron: My first day of college, my father dropped me off at the steel mill. He didn't think I should go to college, but I hitched a ride, enrolled, and learned a lot.
- In Roseanne Darlene went to college (and in fact got accepted into a writing program earl)y) and Becky wanted to; however, her plans were derailed when she got married. Neither of the two boys who the Conner daughters dated went. David wanted to, but was rejected. Mark, who was shown to be an incredibly gifted mechanic, attempted a local garage management program, but dropped out.
- Very much averted by The Big Bang Theory, with the only main character below a Masters level of education being Penny. Penny does later return to community college, however.
- The Simpsons:
- Flashback episode "That '90s Show" revealed Marge went to college after high school while Homer formed a grunge band.
- A very realistic flash-forward shows Maggie and Lisa at college while Bart works a blue-collar job.
- "Lisa the Simpson" took this to the logical extreme: Almost every woman in the extended Simpson family (aunts, nieces, cousins, etc.) had graduated from college, as well as being successful in their careers. Almost every man, however...didn't. Bart and Homer, upon learning this, simply shrug their shoulders and join their uncles, nephews, and cousins in a head-butting contest.
- Played with in "Holidays of Future Passed" where the family photographs revealed that Bart and Lisa went to college while Maggie had either dropped out or didn't make it to college. Soon Bart was a college dropout while Maggie became a famous rock star.
- As part of their overachiever/underachiever dynamic, Kim Possible receives a mountain of college offers as she nears the end of high school, while her sidekick and boyfriend Ron is left going begging. This becomes a plot issue in the Grand Finale, as he comes to believe she will (or should) shoot away into a stellar future and leave him in the dirt.
- In Sword of the Stars, Tarka culture is very prejudiced against males in positions of higher education. This is due to the belief that their male hormones makes them too irrational and emotional to do well at it. Most positions that require long education are instead filled by females, with males being more involved in the military and lower-education jobs.
- Subverted by XKCD:
Girls go to collegeTo get more knowledgeBoys go to collegeTo get more knowledgeBoys and girlsGo to Jupiter
- In the United States since at least 1990, women both enroll in and graduate from college at higher rates than men, as multiple studies show clearly.
- Paul Willis' iconic book Learning to Labour discusses how, for working-class men, the whole notion of education is feminized, because 'real' men get a job quick smart.
- To a degree, the fact that men have it easier to get a job right away without higher education is the reason why women go to university in higher numbers: If a woman wants to jump over the gender pay gap, she'd better have a decent education.
- Practically an Enforced Trope in Singapore, as by law, almost every 16-year old Singaporean male or man who's finished his pre-university education has to enlist in the army for about 2 years, meaning that girls who graduated from the High School equivalent in the same year as the boys are two years ahead by the time they're out of the army.