Sunday, 19 July 2015

Lessons From An All-Girls Catholic School

Being a teenage girl isn't easy. Getting good grades, making informed decisions about your future, being cool, trying to learn about yourself. it's hard work. Doing all this without the gender balance of teenage boys is questionably even harder. Here's some of the lessons that 6 years of all girls education taught me...

Sexuality, shexuality!
Believe it or not, I'm not gay *because* I went to an all girls school. It seems absolutely absurd to me that people seriously think that, aged 11, girls would decide 'Yep, I'm gay, I'm going to send myself to an all-girls high school to try and score myself a future missus.', I'm sorry to burst the bubble but it doesn't quite work that way. I went to the primary school (which was mixed gender) so naturally it only made sense to then go into the high school. Plus it's one of the best state schools in Scotland in terms of exam results and the closest to our house, so why would I? 

Girls Are Bitches, Boys Are Bitches, Everyone's A Bitch, Life's A Bitch
You'd expect all girls schools to be bitchy, right? Because females are inherently bitchy and males aren't, right? Dream on. Bitchiness was rife at my school, put any group of hormonally charged, insecure teenagers in a confined space, throw in the pressure of exams and making decisions about your futures as well as the usual teen worries of sex, body image and being 'cool' and it's no surprise that there's bitchiness. But I don't believe that's down to our gender. All genders bitch, it's natural. For the most part though, there wasn't many arguments or physical fights at my school, nothing compared to how I've heard other schools were.

Most of my classmates were and still are confident and loud and if they had a problem, it would get discussed face to face (or via notes getting passed in class) instead of behind peoples' backs. Swimming for six years in a sea of girls makes you ballsy and opinionated and hard to shut up. We never had to fight for male approval so we learned that we could think and say as we wanted and wouldn't be silenced by our male counterparts. 

Feminist Ideal? Feminist Reality
By it's truest definition, I've probably been a feminist since my early teens. Then though, it didn't ever strike me as feminism. Being a female in a female focussed environment whereby we were encouraged and supported in our aspirations and dreams, it was alien to me that that wasn't the norm. Retrospectively, that was a great way to be educated because the idea that women should have the same opportunities as men should be natural and unquestioned. It wasn't until after I finished high school that I got properly into feminism and discovered that how I'd always thought wasn't as natural to everybody as it seems to be to me and my classmates. 

In an environment whereby gender was never made an issue of, inequality in gender rights and responsibilities was never much made an issue of either. We were all female and we were all equal. I can't imagine how different a person I'd be today and how different my outlooks on feminism would be had I had to struggle with gender inequalities in my education.

You Can Never Be Too Open Minded
Being educated in a very religious environment was experience. We said prayers at assemblies and had crosses and paintings of the Virgin Mary were round every corner. However, being single sex, there was a high proportion of Muslim students too. Personally I'm not religious, nor have I ever really been. I don't know why that is, but I think is anything, being around religion so much made me keen to question things. Why should I believe in this magical man in the sky? The repression of religious made me feel suffocated and as I result, I'd say I'm now a very open minded person. It's fine to be any gender, race, religion, sexuality, colour, shape, whatever, just as long as you're a nicer person.

Two of my oldest friends, two of just a small group of people from high school who I ever still see or speak to!
Side note - what on Earth was I thinking with that fringe?

Independence is key
The running joke that girls don't don't anything alone, the most cliche example would be going to the loo. Women travel in packs, or so I've heard. As a child or teenager, I was never really one to stray away from the crowd. I craved normality, I didn't want to be any different from everyone else. However, being educated in such a script environment made me realise the importance of individuality and independence. We don't all have to be well mannered, well behaved and well  presented in our clone-like uniforms. In fact, it's better that we're not all the same.

I can count on one hand the people from school that I still speak to in real life and quite honestly I don't really regret not keeping up with more classmates. We were friends then but if we were meant to be friends in adult life, we would be. School creates the illusion that seeing our friends every single day is a good thing, while in reality, I'm not sure it is. It's the intensity of these teenage friendships that make them so fragile and probably plays a big factor in why a lot of us don't keep up with our school friends. The majority of my friends these days are from uni or work or other random places and I think for the most part, not seeing them every since day is probably best. Maybe I'm just a recluse, but at least I'm an independent recluse!

It's Nice To Be Important, But It's More Important To Be Nice
It wasn't til the end of high school and life following it that I realised that the high school movie stereotype of the cool kids actually exists. Schools in Britain have that? Who knew! This really came as a shock to me. Sure, there was a bit of name calling now and then, but there definitely wasn't the silence descending as the cool kids entered the lunch room, strutting like a runway model to the popular table as all the less being stared in awe and jealous.

I'm not saying everything was always harmonious at my school but for the most part, people either got along as much as they needed to or stayed out of each other's way. That's the best way to be in life I've found. You do you, let them do them. 

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