I was recently asked in a survey by a friend if I am supportive of single-sex schools. Of course subjects like this are more of an open ended subject, but this was a yes or no response. As someone who had gone to an all-girl’s school from kindergarten until I graduated high school, I felt like I held an important perspective when answering this question. As I felt obligated to say yes, my gut pressed no. The problem with attending an all-girl’s school for most of my formative years is that my experiences within this education system are what make me who I am today. But I am not sure if this experience hurt me or helped me in comparison to who I would have become if I were to have gone to a co-educational school in my area.
My school often discussed the relationships between classmates as a “sisterhood” and there was a common phrase within the community that stated “to (insert school name here) forever”. While there are a couple girls within the school that I still communicate with and still consider to be my friends, the entirety of the all-girls community I saw within my whole school as a toxic environment.
Sometimes I did see benefits and comfort being within a small community of all-girls. However, this sometimes gets outweighed by the competitiveness and sometimes cattiness within the school’s culture. As women “defeating gender stereotypes” there were a lot of expectations put upon us to excel academically and within extracurriculars, which lead to fierce competition between classmates. There was little room for error which often left me feeling judged and ashamed when I underperformed in comparison to my classmates. Rumors and gossip about others’ academic prospects and social status would circulate like wildfire throughout the school. While this sounds very stereotypical for a school filled with girls, it still remains true within my experience.
An ideal that many people see as a positive for attending an all-girl’s school was the absence of romantic and sexual distraction. Administration assumed that the absence of boys within the environment would allow girls to focus on their academics, however, this is exclusive to the LGBTQ+ community. People neglect the idea of the possibility of queer invididuals within the school, defeating this ideal of academia without sex or romance. These heteronormative ideas were definitely perpatrated throughout my school and, I am sure, other single sex schools within America.
However, I always try to remember the good memories, lessons, and people that came out of going to that all-girls school. There is no way I could turn back time on these decisions, so the best thing I can do is take what I have learned from these experiences and not let it alter my life today.