In another forum I read the term “co-ed”, which referred to a female college student. I understand that once-upon-a-time single-sex schools were more numerous than they are now, and that “co-educational” schools were less so. There were jokes about women being in college when they “should have been” making a home for their husbands. But in my lifetime colleges have always had male and female students. The idea that a woman’s place in society is in the home has long been outdated. While I know that single-sex schools still exist, it’s difficult for me to imagine them. IMO “co-ed” is an outdated, sexist term. And yet I still hear it occasionally.
Is it still acceptable to refer to a female college student in a mixed-sex school as a co-ed? If so, why?
I have a feeling that this may get moved to IMHO or GD because I don’t think there is an answer to it. “Co-ed” is one of those terms that is in transition. I agree that it sounds outdated and somewhat sexist, but I wouldn’t go so far as to label all uses sexist (at least not yet). It does tend to get used in patronizing or denigrating senses. I don’t think that it serves any useful function and will die a natural death.
I tend to think of the term less to describe the people, but to describe the school. For example, some colleges/universities have male-only residences, female-only res, and co-ed. I never thought of this in reference to the females, like described in the OP. To me, it just means “mixed”.
I don’t think that describes what I mean very well, but I tried.
I agree with Jeff about this term being in transition. My thing was that whenever the term was used as a noun that it was referring to a female college student (and usually an attractive one at that, don’t ask me why) and when used as an adjective to describe a mixed sex environment.
Let’s see. We all seem to agree that the noun “coed” serves no purpose and is almost(?) always sexist. (I personally have never seen it used in a non-sexist way.) Sounds like a dead word to me.
When I was in the sixth grade (c. 1980) our Home Ec teacher was selling subscriptions to a magazine called “Co-Ed”. She explained that co-ed meant co-educational, so it could refer to boys as well as girls (i.e. boys should buy it too). Even in the sixth grade we knew she was full of crap, just trying to sell a crummy magazine.
The word is still used now, but mostly to describe college living arrangements (“Co-ed by room”).
Mainly on the East Coast it’s in use as “coed fraternity” for a fraternity that accepts both men and women as full members. The members themselves are not called coeds. Usually these houses are progressive in their gender role views.
It’s a clumsy term but it’s the best anyone has found. The oldest sororities are still “women’s fraternities” in their official charter. It was several decades before someone invented a better word.
Just on Friday, a professor of mine told a story in which he used the term “coed” to refer to a female college student. It’s handy shorthand, I suppose, but it does seem kinda dated. I’m surprised that the term didn’t show up in my old “Women: What Terms Offend You?” thread.