Established gender roles, in tandem with the peculiar hook- up culture specific to Deerfield, work to create convoluted gender relations at our school, both inside and outside of the classroom. When asked to identify the culprit behind it all, some point to student culture, while others instead blame school policy.
One of the student body’s most potent arguments over the past year has been that Deerfield does not create enough casual spaces in which students of the opposite gender can bond.
In response, the school is piloting an open-dorm program– developed by Austin Parenteau, Eileen Russell, Mrs. Loftus and Mrs. Young–in which students of both genders visit two designated dorms (one underclass and one upperclass) each weekend without checking in with a faculty resident in exchange for wide-open doors to student rooms. The Deerfield Scroll applauds this effort to reduce the stigmatization around friendships between students of opposite genders.
Although some believe the requirement of open doors is a lingering reminder of the administration’s lack of trust in students, the open- dorm policy seeks to foster casual interactions between students. Parietals remain available in all but two dorms every weekend and, as always, offer sacred time for romance.
But we at The Scroll also believe that if the administration intends to foster real friendships, instead of acquaintances and relationships, it should take a greater step towards integration—with co-ed dorms. Many upperclassman dorms, such as John Louis, Louis Marx and Rosenwald-Shumway, have two distinct wings with a common room in the middle and are structurally suited to be co-ed dorms.
Another idea could be alternating genders for different floors. The most natural platform of inter-gender interaction that The Scroll board can conceive of is dorm life, from hall feeds to hanging out in the common room after curfew.
For girls in particular there is currently a disparity between the world “inside” and the world “outside” the dorm. The existence of dorms separated by gender fuels this idea that “going out” of the dorm is equivalent to “putting yourself on show.”
The pressure on Deerfield girls to look like the epitome of perfection outside the dorm may be alleviated by co-ed dorms, which will mirror the real world more closely, since girls and boys will interact with each other in their home environment, no matter the state of their appearance. Meanwhile, co-ed dorms might encourage boys to clean up their act a little bit.
The “real world” that we always talk about is, thankfully, not artificially segregated by gender. It is time that the student body begins to understand that, as adults, most of our relationships with people of the opposite gender will be friendships and work relationships. A school environment that fosters these kinds of interactions will not only be promoting a better student culture, but also better equipping its students for a less regulated life in college and beyond.