I made my way into my last Girls’ Meeting with optimistic hopes of feeling empowered, heard, seen, and proud to be a Deerfield girl afterwards. Instead, I walked out early, with a migraine too painful to listen to one more anecdote glorifying hookup culture, school violations, and white feminism. The Girls’ Meeting was once created to provide a safe haven for Deerfield girls to feel empowered and share words of advice, but over the years, this meeting has become, quite frankly, an unproductive waste of time completely straying from its original intention. In the future, a diverse representation of girls should be able to speak about relevant experiences that all girls at Deerfield might share, rather than the reality that takes place every year.
The Girls’ Meeting is held at the start of each academic year, typically setting the tone for the atmosphere between girls on campus. It begins with the gathering of all female-identifying Deerfield students. . Next, a group of selected seniors and teachers each give advice that they believe will benefit attendees as the year commences. Finally, the teachers exit the meeting, allowing free speech from the students to continue the trend. The first half routinely starts off exceptionally well and some of my favorite moments at the Academy have come from the opening moments of the Girls Meeting. However, post-removal of teachers, everything goes downhill. A false advertisement of sisterhood begins as similar speakers share similar stories. An overarching sense of white feminism develops as white senior girl after white senior girl spare no detail as they recount stories of their failed Deerfield relationships, hookups, or even infractions of school rules (some even during a global pandemic). As a new sophomore, it was incredibly disheartening to experience such a shocking and misleading introduction to Deerfield. As a senior, it was outright embarrassing to listen to my fellow classmates who followed the lead of our predecessors. The worst part was looking around at other women of color, who not only looked disinterested but also uncomfortable. We, as Seniors, leaders of Deerfield and of that particular meeting, had failed to lead the way.
For the past three years, I have sat in and heard a myriad of “girls supporting girls” pledges and the spoken reminder to respect confidentiality of any shared stories. However, each year, without fail, within thirty minutes after the meeting, rumors emerge through botched recaps of what was shared. Every. Single. Year. Habits like these transcend the Girls’ Meeting, creating a domino effect of unnecessary drama that poisons our campus. I cannot attribute this only to the Girls Meeting, as gossiping is typical high school behavior regardless of location, but our Girls Meeting definitely exacerbates the situation.
This domino effect reflects what I would unfortunately label as “Deerfield Girl Culture.”. While it is very exclusive to one demographic, somehow it manages to spread to those who perceive it to be the standard. LoveShackFancy dresses, blonde hair dye, and the dreams of a fairytale proposal to Semi. Nothing is wrong with these things outside of Deerfield (minus the Semi proposal), but, within the community, they have completely stripped the female student body of individuality and inclusivity. This is just one example of the many effects that the current structure of the Girls Meeting has had on Deerfield girls. Deerfield Girl Culture develops and spreads during this meeting. Each word of “advice” that is given, while they may be given with good intentions, poses a false narrative of what Deerfield actually is.
There is so much more to being a girl at Deerfield Academy than just relationships and boy troubles; the diversity and intersectionality amongst all students should be celebrated in places like the Girls Meeting. I so strongly wish and believe that we as a student body need to verbally acknowledge the errors made at Girls Meetings in previous years, and take responsibility in correcting them. In the future, any person who wants to say a few words at the Girls Meeting should feel comfortable speaking on topics such as mental health, shouting out an empowering event they’ve witnessed, asking questions about experiences at Deerfield, and sharing appropriate and relevant stories. By the end of the meeting, each person should leave with at least one new friend. Refocusing the atmosphere and result of the Girls Meeting would be a step towards restoring a healthy Deerfield Academy.