Don’t be the “Hill girl” who fuels the patriarchy: A letter to female students

You may be able to remember the day you were accepted to Hill or even the day you decided to enroll. The excitement, pride, and anxieties that flooded through your system as you subconsciously became part of a prestigious academic institution meant to shape you into a successful young woman, equipped for life’s challenges. You may remember the first time you tried on your academic dress clothing, worrying that you looked weird or boxy in the menswear attire, fixating on your appearance, wondering if you belonged. These first few doubts and anxieties marked the first time Hill changed a part of you or questioned who you were and who you wanted to be. It may have been unbeknownst to you at the time, but the atmosphere and expectations that define Hill’s identity were ever-present in your life then just as they are now.

No matter if you’re a rising 4th, 5th, or 6th form student, you have surely faced the challenge of “fitting in” at Hill in one way or another. Whether it be changing the color of your hair, bouncing from group to group, or indulging in the latest self-proclaimed dress code fab, your individuality has been taxed by the pressures upheld by Hill’s social culture. You’ve felt unlikeable, undesirable, and unwanted. In the social sense, these standards separate those who subscribe to them and those who do not or cannot, regardless of participation or the desire to be included in this culture. You’ve been ignored, gossiped about, or humiliated due to your lack of something proclaimed vital to fitting in. Maybe you didn’t have the money to buy that Hermes bracelet or balayage your hair to a crisp blonde, and those things hurt you in ways you could have never prevented yourself. 

These collectively, socioeconomically, and racially motivated gender constructs that define Hill’s identity, and in turn, the expectations Hill upholds for its female students, are defined not by the institution, but by the students themselves. For 24 years, the women of the Hill have been badgered by sexist remarks and ideologies, and for 24 years the women of the Hill have furthered the implementation of backstabbing constructs. Our own friends, peers, and alumni, regardless of gender, have left behind a set of unfair standards that harm the female psyche – standards even we as female students perpetrate against ourselves.

Admitting this isn’t even the first step. I wish I could be more encouraging about the journey to redefining femininity and female empowerment on Hill’s campus, but the reality is that this is only one amongst many instances and battles you’ll fight throughout your time here. The opposition is and will be brutal when this community makes it hard to be different, diverse, or, dare I say, “normal.” But having the courage to seek confidence within yourself, to reject those around you who pressure you to look, act or talk a certain way is the biggest step you can take in helping yourself and others feel more comfortable within their own identity here. This action requires reflection and inward thinking, it requires you to admit your wrongs. This action will allow you to use your newfound wisdom to treat others with deeper respect and acceptance, and those around you will follow in domino effect. It is your duty within your privileged spot here on campus to face your fears and biases with admittance and humility, not only for yourself but for those around you who suffer at the cost of solidarity.

You’re not crazy or making things up or living through this experience alone. Your stories and truths are valuable, in fact, they’re truths that belong to Hill as much as they belong to you. Your voices and desires make up the values of this campus and your calls for change will echo far. Speak up for yourself and take care of yourself, but don’t do it alone. Find your army because if you don’t act against the structure and the culture, no one will.