Feminism | Posted by Kate S on 10/20/2009
I attend an independent boarding school with some caliber. Wait, I lied. I attend a set of schools: one for the boys, one for the girls. Students are admitted through an application process. The tuition resembles that of Ivy League schools and in return, the school offers academic, leadership, and social opportunities.
As a second-year immigrant from Korea living in a heavily Asian-immigrant-populated city, I decided to apply to this school. It seemed to have an abundant amount of diversity. I applied with my poor English and I was ecstatic to find out that I had gotten in with financial aid. But, imagine my surprise on the first day of my freshmen year. I walk into my first class and there are no y-chromosomes.
Soon, I learned that freshmen and sophomore would be in single-gender classes and that upperclassmen would attend co-educational classes. The school’s logic is that certain subjects are better off taught as single-gender classes. For example, in math and science classes, girls would feel more at ease without having boys in class. Vise versa for boys in humanities classes. While I respect the Administration’s concern for younger students, I see no value in separating the students by gender. And as a senior awaiting graduation, I can really say that I did not benefit at all from this curriculum.
I’m not bad mouthing my school at all. I loved my time here, but I remember dreading the single-gendered-ness of my first two years in school. I found its existence purely offensive. Not only that, in classes that are discussion-based, I felt like the direction was limited since most of us thought in similar ways. Then comes my junior year and I felt so much more engaged in classes. Both boys and girls were surprised to find that they had different perspectives from each other. We achieved wonders in classes, and I kept questioning, “What’s so dangerous about productive discussions that they are reserved for upperclassmen?”
There are other subtleties in my school that frustrate me. The fact that I seem to be the only one noticing it aggravates my anger. Since there are so many and since I am a senior, I’ll use graduation as an example. The senior boys are allowed to wear any suit of their choice and their graduation is held at the heart of the campus. The boys’ graduation location is one of the oldest spot on the campus that embodies years of tradition and value of the school. The juniors, sophomores, and freshmen attend the event in their uniforms, looking sharp and professional. It’s a very majestic event that conveys their manhood.
Girls’ graduation, on the other hand, is a tea party. We don’t even have a location since ours is held in the middle of the football field. What does football field have anything to do with a school that doesn’t even have girls’ football team? Not only that, other classes wear all white –if that’s not a virginal imposition, I don’t know what is. To top it all off, senior girls are expected to wear a pastel dress. Not just a dress, a pastel one.
Parents of both boys and girls spent thousands of dollars on their children for a high-quality education. Four years later, boys graduate as men in a regal ritual with grandiose. Girls, however, are encouraged to purchase yet another pastel dress to look pretty, in hopes of finding a husband much like their male counterparts. I know that this is not the school’s intention but I can’t seem to convince myself with its reasoning. Luckily, my class officers are trying to change this pastel image with a more classic garment: caps and gowns. They have my full support. If it doesn’t work out, the school should expect to see a spot of black suit on the podium in a bouquet of pastel dresses.
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