By Emily Cyr
It is February and most girls will immediately think of that dreadful February 14th, Valentine’s Day, the day that manages to be the most polarizing, secular holiday in America. So instead of concerning myself with thoughts of the future Valentine’s Days that await me in life, I chose to look back at the Valentines’ days of my young life; Valentine’s days where shoeboxes decorated in pink and purple construction paper became vessels for sugary well wishes and chocolate treats. It was easy to feel loved in elementary school because everybody gave valentines to every girl in her class.
Yes I said every girl, and no, I did not leave the boys out because they had cooties. I left them out because they were not there. My parents decided to enroll me in an all-girls school from the age of five until I reached college. Some people, actually most people react in horror or astonishment when I tell them this fact about me. “I can’t imagine what that’s like” or other statements that give the impression I went to some weird dystopia of a school, shielded from reality. But the point of all girls’ education is not to wipe boys from the equation and pretend they do not exist, the point is to focus on girls’ abilities and foster an environment where she feels no boundaries, especially any because of her gender. Unfortunately, not all girls have this opportunity and it did not take me long to realize what a gift this truly was.
During a class my freshman year, we were discussing The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, and my professor threw out the hotbed of a question “who in this classroom considers him/herself a feminist?” I raised my hand, no problem and so did one other girl. That was it. Out of about 20 students, not a single boy raised his hand and no other girl than my ally, who was in fact a Women and Gender studies major. The students who rejected the feminist label had varying reasons but they all had a similar premise: they were turned off by the negative perceptions of the word “feminist”. I sat there in disbelief; I had never really run into a situation like this. To me, a feminist is anybody that believes men and women have the same capabilities. What could be so negative about this? Then I realized, most people have not had the benefit of learning feminist values through a subtle education. At my school, feminism was not ever the discussion of the day, but an idea sewn through all aspects of our education.
My favorite example of my secondary education was in fourth grade; my class participated in a Famous Women of History wax museum. This may seem like an obvious feminist platform but not to a fourth grader. But really, this was a history project, teachers trying to provide an alternative take on history and assume it focused on women because duh! Everybody in this school is a girl! This was the thought process of a fourth grader after all. For my project, I chose Annika Sorenstam, because she was just a really cool golfer who played in men’s’ tournaments because she knew she was as good as the men. I admired her for being a woman who relentlessly pursued her dreams and never let her gender be a reason for defeat.
In an all-girls school, teaching female empowerment and gender equality never had to be the task at hand because it was woven into all the topics. For this reason, I have been able to participate into a co-ed learning environment with the same confidence that I had in high school; I will always be grateful for this, to my parents for choosing to put place me in a limitless environment during my most formative years and to Georgetown for letting me continue to grow as a student and as a woman.