Shalom Obisie-Orlu
July 05, 2017 5:51 pm
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High school is a place where many of us start laying the foundations for who we are, what we think, and what we will be in the “real world.” High school is also a very messy place, to say the least. Competition is rife, and the stage for girl-on-girl takedowns is set up on a grand scale. I had the peculiar fortune of changing high schools three times, and I learned a lot during that period of my life.

While every school taught me important lessons – as one hopes a learning institution would – the all-girls school that I graduated from opened my mind to something I thought I already knew enough about: sisterhood.

I’d assumed that having friends and three biological sisters would have taught me everything I needed to know about sisterhood. I wasn’t entirely wrong, but sisterhood was about more than walking closer to my friends in the mall because we needed to look out for each other.

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An all-girls high school taught me about the universal struggles of womanhood.

My school was a pretty good microcosm of women in our society. Our student body had several nationalities, religions, sexualities, and ethnicities represented. I learned about the struggles experienced by several of my peers: reconciling their faith with their sexuality, enduring the stress of being a non-binary person at a “girls” school, and fearing similar things, like walking alone after 5 p.m. The struggles faced by women and queer people are struggles of which we should all be aware, and I’ll always be grateful for my peers who shared their personal experiences with me.

I learned that takedown culture doesn’t have to be our default way of existing.

This shouldn’t have been a massive revelation, but the world that we live in paints a different picture. General reporting on celebrity culture often shows women fighting over some thing or some man. This media perpetuates the idea that women can’t support each other, and that, in general, groups of girls can only accomplish gossip, general cattiness, and unhealthy competition.

But high school taught me the complete opposite.

When girls come together, incredible things happen. A culture of co-development was ingrained in the values of my school, resulting in groups of girls lifting each other up through different kinds of support. From the unity within the houses every student was sorted into (no, I did not attend Hogwarts), to the bond formed when every freshman is assigned a senior to help them out during their first year, our school was full of girls supporting each other at every turn. Of course, there was definitely still conflict and competition, but togetherness reigned supreme. The effects of this network weren’t small scale either – unity and school pride translated into real outreach programs and citizenship, and every student is better for it.

Finally, an all-girls school showed me how incredible girls really are.

In a world where simply existing as a woman is dangerous, it’s important to have affirmation that you still have power. High school taught me that your passions are power. It taught me that my words are my power, and my body is mine and only mine. I learned that every girl inadvertently works to protect and empower every girl, whether by blazing the trail for other girls to follow or by opening doors previously locked to us. Ladies, that unity is our power.

The sisterhood that existed within my high school exists all over the world, and I’ll always be grateful for it. As women continue to cross various frontiers and fight gender-based violence, I hope that we continue to lift each other up. I hope we can learn about the different experiences we face, and that our knowledge of the global sisterhood grows as we progress through the school of life.

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