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Barbie, Beyonce and Beyond

In Greta Gerwig’s recent film “Barbie,” women found themselves in charge of “Barbie World” and were shocked at the male-dominated “Real World.” Similarly, The Dart explored how STA’s all-girls environment may provide a different experience than a co-ed high school.
Olivia Cooper
STA seniors pose at the end of the annual Senior Fashion Show.

Sophomore Savanna Love prepared herself for the Junior Teen Miss Missouri 2020 pageant in her room. It was on Zoom, but she still managed to connect with her fellow contestants. Having competed in the pageant sphere since 2017, Love is familiar with the dynamics that come with the competitions. 

Despite stereotypes and assumptions, Love enjoys her time in pageants and believes that she has been able to develop self-confidence and respect for her peers. 

“Most of the time [pageants] empower you and you don’t win because you’re prettier than the next person,” Love said. “Usually it’s because of what they see inside of you and your potential…So if you’re doing service, [the judges] are looking at the impact that you’re actually going to make instead of just being prettier than the next person or wearing a better dress.”

After being crowned Miss Missouri in that 2020 pageant, Love was exposed to different types of women, and observed how they choose to support each other. Throughout her time at STA, she has noticed similarities between both female-centered environments.

“[Pageants] definitely remind me of [STA],” Love said. “It’s always everyone talking positively about each other. [The two are] really parallel because there’s things that we can connect with that you won’t necessarily be able to connect with other people through that girl-on-girl connection. It’s really similar.”

As an all-girls high school, St. Teresa’s Academy values an environment for young women to grow per its mission statement: “…empowering [young women] to change the world.”

STA students attest to this mission by highlighting the school’s diverse course offerings from classes such as Pottery, Broadcasting & Production and Ballet Fundamentals to App & Game Development and Accounting, along with an array of STEM-based classes.

“I really like how [STA] offers courses that fuel any kind of interest,” junior Gretchen Nessinger said. “They have [classes] for STEM like engineering and science. I’m interested in the arts and psychology, and I know we have classes for that. I feel like STA just offers courses that inspire women to go into fields that maybe they didn’t think they could.”

This array of class options allows for students to find themselves through the school environment, according to junior Ella Janssen. She attributes her interest in STEM to Science teacher Mary Montag. Janssen said that she has also considered becoming a teacher in order to serve students as Montag has done. 

“I would say just being at STA at all has taught me to be proud to be a woman,” Janssen said. “I came from a co-ed school, so just seeing the community that women tend to have here is amazing. Wherever I go, I know that if I need help with anything, there are so many people that are willing to come to my aid and so many other people’s aid. That just makes me really proud.” 

In conjunction with the institution’s mission, STA’s administrative team is all-female. Women hold high-ranking positions throughout STA; the school librarian, STEM coordinator and athletic director are all women. Additionally, students can also find strong female role models not only in the administrative team, but with their peers. 

 “We are surrounded by girls every single day and you never see a man doing something better than a woman because women are doing it all here,” sophomore Ava Haskins said. “It helps me feel like I can do anything.” 

Student resources at STA are also led by students. From the Math Hub to the STEAM-oriented Maker’s Space to student government, students have many opportunities in  extra-curricular activities to see their peers in leadership roles or hold these jobs themselves. 

“I feel like it’s just very [much] women supporting women,” Nessinger said. “It just feels like a very strong, empowered place for girls and students like me. I feel very supported and like I know that I can do anything I set my mind to.”

As a man in this female-dominated environment, English teacher Dr. Jarrod Roark has experienced STA with a different lens than female teachers have. He details the “reductive” and “bias[ed]” questions that male friends have offered him in response to his position at an all-girls school and how his daily experiences combat these stereotypes. 

“It’s possible that exploring ideas with women in the classroom, and working for administrators who are women, has shown me that women in my life have probably offered me more patience and grace than most men have,” Roark said. 

Roark also recognizes a supportive environment unique to STA. He praises the grace students have when they fail and how STA guides them to success.

“I also think that an institution can provide opportunities and a culture that invites students to try, to fail, to succeed, to risk and to be supported,” Roark said. “I feel that at STA, a student likely feels that in even more profound ways.”

Outside of STA’s single-sex environment, students find other ways to feel acceptance. Various forms of media impact how young women view themselves. Students highlight the importance of an empowering environment at home. 

“I think I grew up in a pretty positive environment,” Nessinger said. “My parents have always been pushing me to go outside my comfort zone by telling me that women can do anything a man can do…my parents used the media to influence me and show me that I had no limits.”

On the other hand, students say that social media can promote harmful stereotypes such as ideas that women should be soft-spoken, women who stand up for themselves are “bossy” and women should look a certain way. Freshman Charlotte Becker recognizes how each stereotype blurs her views of herself and other women.  

“I think that stereotypes about women affect my life mainly by what I see on social media,” Becker said. “Both comments and posts show stereotypes in women, and certain stereotypes build my opinions on who I am or who I want to be. I don’t want to prove that the wrong or hurtful stereotypes of women are correct.”

However, Becker also remarked on a more constructive side that conversation about women in the media has brought about. 

 “A positive stereotype I want to live up to is about motherhood,” Becker said.  “The stereotype about mothers being kind, caring, hardworking, generous and selfless. I really want to live up to that and have my children think about how much they appreciated me as a mother.”

Becker believes that the women in her life have lived up to these standards. She lists her mother and grandmother as some of her biggest role models. 

“It’s just good to see a woman that you know has worked hard in life,” Becker said. “My mom always pushes me to be better and helps me and supports me in any way she can. Like for volleyball, she encourages me; she has never pounded me down.” 

Similarly, senior Catherine Gyllenborg sees her mother as an inspiration and an important piece in her journey as a woman. Gyllenborg said her mother has shown her how to move past the boundaries that society places on young women. 

“My mom truly does empower me,” Gyllenborg said. “She raised four children while pursuing a predominantly male-led career. She has taught me from day one that regardless of gender, ultimately life is about hard work, respecting each other and respecting ourselves.”

As a father of a young daughter, Roark says that having experience teaching young women has allowed him to approach fatherhood with more care and patience. He sees traits of his wife in their young daughter’s fledgling personality and respects the bond of motherhood that they share. 

“I can see in [my daughter] my discipline and eccentricities, but I also recognize my wife’s patience and generosity and compassion in her,” Roark said. “She is a creature born of disparate parts like the rest of us. So when I watch her and admire her, some of those parts are because she has a personality and autonomy, yet other parts are because of her young womanhood.”

 STA students have found many strong female role models outside of their families whose accomplishments inspire them to challenge cultural norms. A notable figure who confronts issues in society, according to Nessinger and Becker, is Taylor Swift. 

“I know that [Swift] writes a lot about her breakups and how they’ve affected her,
Nessinger said. “I feel like [Swift] doing that brings together this whole community by saying ‘you’re not alone.’ She’s a media source that lets people know that other people have gone through what you’re going through. [That community] is just a good way to build good relationships with people.”

Several STA students attended Swift’s $2.2 billion-grossing “The Eras Tour” over the summer. Fans armed themselves with multi-colored glitter, tulle skirts, sequined tops and more. Becker believes that her experience there helped her feel comfortable in her own skin. 

“A lot of nice people were there and you could kind of just tell that everyone wanted to have fun and be friendly to each other,” Becker said. “Everyone was just kind of excited to be themselves and to have fun and they didn’t feel like held back by embarrassment or what the crowd would think of them.”

Another highly anticipated event of this past summer was Greta Gerwig’s “Barbie” movie starring Margot Robbie. The movie’s release grossed $626 million domestically, ranking it as the highest-grossing film directed by a woman. 

STA students took their experience at an all-girls school into the movie, and interpreted “Barbie World” differently than many others did. Haskins saw the importance of middle ground between women and men from the division between “Barbie World” and the “Real World” in the movie. 

“In Barbie Land, it was all run by girls and then once the girls went to the real world it was all run by men,” Haskins said. “The women saw that this is really different from what they were used to…I think there was a hidden message that we need to reach an equal standard between women and men running things.” 

In creating “Barbie,” Gerwig believed that wit was vital in conveying the battle that women face, she explained in an interview with The New York Times. Nessinger appreciated Gerwig’s satirical approach — especially in scenes at the Mattel headquarters — while still valuing the film’s overarching message. 

“[‘Barbie’ helped], society as a whole realize that misogyny, despite it maybe getting a little bit better and women starting to speak up more about it, is still very present in the world,” Nessinger said. “Especially in big jobs and big corporations, I feel like people still picture a businessman before a business-woman. I feel like “Barbie” did a really good job of showing how women can really do anything, especially anything a man can do.”

Despite loving the movie herself, Becker saw a lot of mixed commentary on the movie through her social media feeds. To Becker, the negative reviews only enforced the message that “Barbie” sought to convey: that for women, navigating a male-centric society is complicated.  

“I think [the criticism] depends on the person or depends on what sort of media you’re watching,” Becker said. “But if you’re on a feed that’s more supportive to different ideas, it was a little bit better to see women. Then some people really hated [‘Barbie’] and were saying that this is false, like women don’t experience those things. And it was a lot of men mostly saying what women do and don’t experience, which doesn’t really make any sense.”

Some positive feedback of the “Barbie” movie detailed the film’s reflection of real-world challenges that women face in their careers or even hobbies. Nessinger explains how her experience in the arts has echoed this sentiment.

“Theater kind of goes both ways for [empowerment], because it has taught me to be more confident in myself as a woman and embrace my talents,” Nessinger said “But then there’s also the competition as a woman. Because guys get parts a lot easier than a lot of girls do, so it’s much more competitive for a girl to go into theater, audition and then get a call back, it’s really competitive; whereas a guy can just get a part almost right off the audition.”

Nessinger is not alone in this experience. Becker also deals with things being less enjoyable because of gender. She goes through bouts of embarrassment and shame for being a girl who is enjoying something. 

“I think it really depends on the environment you’re put in,” Becker said. “Sometimes I really enjoy being a girl and it’s really fun. And then sometimes you get kind of embarrassed easily and it’s not so fun feeling self-conscious.”

Despite feeling comfortable in the “Barbie World”-esque environment at STA, Nessinger believes that standards for women are extremely prevalent in the real-world. These conventions follow her, no matter how much empowerment she feels within herself.

“Stereotypes still have a place in my life, even if society has moved past a lot of them,” Nessinger said. “I still see TikToks and Youtube videos; while they are satire, joking about a woman’s place in the world and how they “should stay at home,” and while these videos are meant to be funny, it reminds me that stereotypes are still present in the modern communities. It kind of sucks sometimes seeing how people think it’s funny to make a mockery of the societal clichés women have fought, and are still fighting, very hard to overcome.”

Regardless of the boundaries that many women feel in society, media like “Barbie,” and “The Eras Tour” foster discussion and community between women. At STA, Gyllenborg has witnessed the support of an all-girls environment and feels aptly prepared to face the world after high school. 

“Growing up in a co-ed school I thought that there were certain things in society that boys can do that girls can’t,” Gyllenborg said. “I used to think of [girlhood] as a weakness, but it is now something that motivates me to, for lack of a better phrase, “fight the power,” and I feel like it has bonded me with a whole group of people just by being a woman.”

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Tierney Flavin
Tierney Flavin, Editor-in-Chief
Hello, dear Dart fans! I’m Tierney, one of your co-editors-in-chief (shoutout Mrs. Hirner on the compound modifier). This is my third and final year on The Dart and I can’t wait to pump out more news! If it were up to me, I would read The Dart 24/7, but I also love watching movies. My favorites are “Interstellar,” “American Pie” and “Love, Rosie.” I couldn’t live without my cat Beezus, burritos or energy drinks. You can follow my beverage review account @tierneyandvioletjudgebeverages for elite content… Anywho, here’s to the best year of Dart ever!!!! Happy reading! Love,  Tierney
Katelyn Buckley
Katelyn Buckley, Opinion Editor
Hello! My name is Katelyn Buckley and I am a senior! I am super excited to be on staff this year! I love to walk my dog Nunzio and watch movies. I also love to cook and bake with my sister in my free time (I make the best bread). I am so excited to be able to spend my last year at St. Teresa’s with this staff! Happy reading!!
Wynnie Sprague
Wynnie Sprague, Staff Writer
Hey! My name is Wynnie Sprague, I am a sophomore at STA. This is my first year working on The Dart as a staff writer. Outside of school, I love being with my family, friends and most importantly my dog. I am also on the STA volleyball team. Over the past few years, I have grown to love writing and I am extremely excited to grow as a writer this year and I hope you guys enjoy my work!
Olivia Cooper
Olivia Cooper, Web and Lifestyle Editor
Hey Stars! My name is Olivia Cooper and I am a senior. This is my second year on staff and I am so excited to be one of the Web and Lifestyles editors this year. I have always loved writing and photography and I am so excited for this school year. A little bit about me is that I am on the STA tennis team and this will be my fourth year in the book club. I am also a huge Taylor Swift fan and one of my favorite TV shows is “New Girl.” When I am not doing those things you might find me hanging out with my sister, Carly, or playing with my dogs, Charlie and Isabelle. I am so excited for this school year and getting to grow my skills on The Dart!

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