Miss Represented

Where does the stigma surrounding all-girls education come from? Students explore their experiences with stereotypes surrounding all-girls schools, narrowing in on STA in particular.

by Tierney Flavin and Caroline Hinkebein

When Junior Katherine Judge went to her very first high school football game, her eyes were filled with frosh excitement. With a few months of high school under her belt, Judge felt confident as she walked up the tall metal bleachers—that is until someone decided to comment on her shorts. “You’re just trying to get attention,” one boy said. Judge believes these comments had a direct correlation to her attending STA; she believes that, in that moment, she was being stereotyped.

According to freshman Janie Gacek, the judgement surrounding all-girls schools stems from ignorance, fueled by the lack of these types of schools in the Kansas City area. Gacek believes that the single-sex nature of these schools may come off as exclusive.

“People assume the worst because it’s not that common,” Gacek said. 

The two most popular responses to a poll sent out to the STA students about the stereotypes surrounding the school were that everyone is LGBTQIA+ or that everyone is boy-crazy.

Sion Junior Adaline Huhmann has experienced the “all-LGBTQIA+” stereotype throughout her education. Upon leaving grade school, Huhmann began to tell people about her plan to attend an all-girls school and was shocked by the narrow responses she received. 

“I went to a public school, so when people heard that I was going to an all-girls school they were like ‘Oh my God so you like girls?’” Huhmann said. “I was like that’s just not the case, that’s not how it is.” 

STA junior Samatha Molle offers an explanation for the generalizations surrounding students’ sexualities and their choice of attending an all-girls school.

“Most people have a choice in where they go to school,” Molle said.  “Some people might think that by choosing to go to an all-girls school, that makes you gay because you don’t want to be around boys.”

Senior Victoria Andrews has been hearing stereotypes about STA since before her freshman year. Andrews dislikes these stereotypes as she feels that they are untrue and unfair to her peers.

“I would say [these stereotypes] have a negative effect, whether you’re part of the LGBTQIA+ community or not,” Andrews said. “A lot of girls here just aren’t into women, and whatever your sexuality is that’s fine, but a lot of people think that when you go here you don’t meet guys, and that’s not true at all.”

Opposing the stereotype that students who attend STA are “all gay,” Junior Ella Rogers has heard that STA students act “flirtatious and boy crazy” outside of school. 

“I would say that [all-girls schools] are considered a little bit boy crazy,” Rogers said. “Especially since we don’t go to school with boys, people might say we try to seek them outside of school. STA girls hang out with guys outside of school, but we’re not distracted by them in school.”

Along with students’ social behavior, Rogers has also heard stereotypes regarding the academic rigor at STA. 

“Everyone calls St. Teresa’s ‘The Daycare’,” Rogers said. “They assume it’s an easy school academically. The stereotype is that we don’t learn very much but, in reality, we all are working hard to get into college. It’s such a competitive environment so it defies the stereotype in that way.”

Judge, who has also been told that her school is a “daycare,” believes that students’ social media presence has something to do with the persistence of this stereotype. 

“With the ‘daycare’ stereotype, I think other schools are only seeing the stuff that we post on our stories.” Judge said. “They see the fun things that we post, but they never actually see that we are learning.” 

Huhmann has heard that the classes at STA are as easy as “coloring pages.”

Rogers concludes that the course selection at STA could in part be feeding into this stereotype, especially when comparing our classes to those of bigger schools. 

“The truth is that it’s not a daycare,” Rogers said. “We have our course load and we might not have as large of a selection, but we have more quality in classes and the teachers overall care more about the curriculum that they teach. STA is harder than it looks.” 

Senior Emily Franklin reflects on the difficulty of STA’s coursework through all of her classmates’ achievements. 

“Some girls go off to Ivy Leagues for college; people are striving for the best,” Franklin said.  “Our school is just so good, I’ve noticed we have such good college counselors and all of our teachers are phenomenal.”

Franklin was troubled by the ignorance of this stereotype during her freshman and sophomore year, seeing her classmates disprove them every day in school. Over the past two years though, Franklin admits that she has been able to ignore the stereotypes.

“I’ve really had to be here and sit through [classes] to realize that these rumors aren’t true at all,” Franklin said. “I think that we are academically one of the best schools in Kansas City.”

Senior Lily Brown shared the sentiment that she hopes that the people who spread these stereotypes will understand the weight that the phrase ‘We are such a daycare,’ can carry. Brown feels hurt and powerless when it comes to refuting this stereotype.

“I feel stupid when somebody calls my school a ‘daycare,’” Brown said. “There’s nothing I can do about it to change their opinion, and that is hard.”

Biology teacher and alumna Mary Montag questions the root of the belief that STA’s classes aren’t as difficult as any other school.

“I often wonder if people really think that [women] can be 100% as rigorous and as academically minded as we are,” Montag said. “I don’t know why it’s a threat. I don’t know why strong assertive women are perceived as a threat.”

The students of STA have also heeded a more bothersome stereotype, Andrews says. The first stereotype she thought of when asked about STA stereotypes was an alternative acronym for STA: “S**t Training Academy.”

Judge also heard this name as early as when she was 14 years old. 

“I heard [this stereotype] when we were deciding where to go to high school in 8th grade,” Judge said. “People going to other schools would say things like ‘Oh you’re going to S**t Training Academy.’”

Huhmann used to take offense from stereotypes about herself and her peers. She says that now, she has grown to see it differently.

“I kind of take the stereotype like a joke,” Huhmann said. “I feel like the people who assume those things are fools.”

Andrews believes that shaming young people is not funny and should not be used as a generalization as it can be harmful. 

“Whatever someone wants to do with their own body is their own business and I don’t think that should have a negative connotation,” Andrews said. “Or if someone isn’t like that, we’re all grouped together and that isn’t fair.” 

Judge offers up a possible origin for this stereotype. She associates this stereotype with the depiction of girls wearing private school uniforms in the media.

She also points out the continuous use of this stereotype. 

“They just use the same [names],” Judge said. “They’re not very creative.”

Franklin agrees that this term has been passed down. She believes the origin and the continuity of the nickname are connected.

“[This stereotype] is rooted in sexism,” Franklin said. “People don’t go into school as freshmen thinking that everyone is a s**t. It gets passed down.”

Montag believes that generalizations can be harmful, and can have a negative impact on the people it targets.

“As soon as you start making someone feel less than they should feel, anytime it’s derogatory, anytime it makes someone feel any kind of insecurity, or you’re putting them down, you’re underestimating them; I don’t care for it,” Montag said. 

Alongside currently teaching at STA, Montag also attended STA in the late 70s through the early 80s and claims some of the stereotypes she faced while at STA have been carried over to present-day students.

The most prevalent, she has noticed, is that STA students are “rich and preppy.”

“Sometimes you walk through the parking lot and you see very nice cars,” Montag said. “But does every kid have one?” 

Andrews also recognizes and refutes this stereotype.

“People see how much tuition is and assume that we are all very spoiled and stuck up,” Andrews said. “Some girls are here on scholarships and you really don’t know until you have a conversation and ask.” 

Brown acknowledges where this stereotype stems from but adds that this type of language can be harmful for those who work hard to attend STA. 

“You can see people parking in Jeeps or Teslas, we have new buildings, new equipment, nice computers and we dress in uniforms,” Brown said. “It looks like we’re preppy and rich but a lot of people go here off of scholarships. Or, on the other hand, some of my friends have money but they don’t act like it. It’s just what [the school] looks like on the outside.”

Although some people, like Huhmann and Montag, believe that stereotypes can begin as a form of humor, in a poll of 72 STA students, 85% feel that the stereotypes surrounding STA can be harmful. 

Gacek felt that the impact of these stereotypes caused unnecessary wariness when she was coming into high school. 

“When you first start school after hearing stereotypes, it makes you 100 times more nervous than you need to be; it gets people worried for no reason which can cause a lot of stress,” Gacek said. 

Andrews believes that the “all-gay” stereotype has a negative effect on anyone at STA, no matter their sexuality. 

Brown said she is upset hearing people speak negatively about her school and wishes there was a way to stop it. 

“It’s just frustrating because everybody here knows it’s not true,” Brown said. “It’s so frustrating and I wish I could just be like ‘Stop saying that.’”

Despite the sometimes negative stereotypes, Rogers is proud to call herself a STA girl. 

“It gives me a confidence boost to say I go to St. Teresa’s outside of school,” Rogers said. “If you say you go to St. Teresa’s there’s a level of esteem you get with the name.” 

Andrews agrees, and shares her gratitude to be able to attend STA.

“I wake up every morning very grateful that I’m here and alive and fortunate enough to go to this great school.” 

Montag believes that being labeled as something does not define you.

“Being a woman, there’s always going to be stereotypes about us,” Montag said. 

Senior Ruby Harris believes the way to combat these stereotypes is to talk about them and bring awareness to how they can be harmful. She wants to stop these harmful stereotypes from continuing for another generation by educating her younger brother. 

“I want him to understand the differences between boys and girls and how girls have it harder in a lot of ways and I want him to realize that,” Harris said. “He’s a freshman so he’s just starting high school and I want him to, if he sees something wrong, to stand up for it and not be quiet in the corner and watching. Just making it more aware to people.”

Franklin’s method of combating these stereotypes is to stay true to yourself despite what others say about you. 

“You’re going to get criticism everywhere you go,” Franklin said. “Outside of high school people are going to criticize you, label you. They’re going to call you names, assume things about you and judge you. You can’t take it to heart, you can’t make it who you are just because they say it.”

To Montag, these stereotypes are an easy way out; they are limiting and only look at one side of a situation. Montag believes that women have always been stereotyped.

“Any stereotype like that, it’s very convenient, it puts you in a neat tidy little box, but it’s never based on truth,” Montag said. “It’s like, this is true, dismissal. And I don’t know any young woman that I teach or walk these halls with that likes to be dismissed.”

These stereotypes, she says, often target teenage girls. She has noticed a tendency to sell them short when it comes to their knowledge. 

“I sometimes think that people think that about girls’ schools; well they’re all this or they’re all that. No. They’re young women, deciding who they’re going to be, becoming educated, exploring their goals, receiving the same kind of education women everywhere should be entitled to.”


*Alternative Coverage by Rebecca Speier | Editor-in-Chief