I’m Not Sure But… Undergraduate Women’s Confidence in the Elite University Setting

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This paper investigates women’s confidence in the elite university setting in the United States and argues that women often experience a decline in confidence in this space. Within the scope of this paper the elite university is defined as a liminal space and a bubble where destructive gender norms are continually performed and reproduced. Focusing on women’s voices, beauty, sexual culture and Greek life this paper aims to highlight how women’s confidence is undermined in this setting. The manner in which gender is performed and reproduced in this space undermines women’s confidence, as the quest for effortless perfection or an ideal, means women never feel enough. The destructive habits that emerge out of this gender performativity also put women’s confidence at risk. This paper furthermore elucidates that while external and institutional factors impact women’s confidence women themselves contribute to their decline in confidence as they perform and reproduce gender norms and police other women. The paper highlights that there are multiple intersecting factors that contribute to women’s decline in confidence and that the liminality of this space and its highly competitive environment facilitates a confidence crash for many women during their time at college.





Marey, Tierney (2017). I’m Not Sure But… Undergraduate Women’s Confidence in the Elite University Setting. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/15353.

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