Shadowed by sexism: How gender inequality manifests in school community

Students and faculty share their thoughts on the current climate of sexism at ASL. An online survey conducted by The Standard March 7-22 with 149 student responses showed 73.8% of students have experienced or witnessed gender-based stereotyping at the school.
Students and faculty share their thoughts on the current climate of sexism at ASL. An online survey conducted by The Standard March 7-22 with 149 student responses showed 73.8% of students have experienced or witnessed gender-based stereotyping at the school.
Sophia Bateman

Editor’s note: *Indicates source would only agree to be interviewed with the condition of anonymity.

“At the beginning of the year in Research Colloquium, I walked into class and one of the boys was like, ‘What are you doing here?’” Kira* said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t be taking this class? Like, I get it. Maybe you’re smarter than me, but like, I really can’t sit down and take the same class that you can?’”

Kira’s experience dealing with sexist behavior at the school is not uncommon. 

According to an online survey conducted by The Standard March 7-22 with 149 student responses, 61.1% of students believe sexism is a problem at ASL. However, many more have experienced or witnessed instances of sexism occur around the school, and countless of those stories remain unshared.

As defined by Oxford Languages, sexism is defined as “prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.”

Gus Bhatia (’25) said sexism is “typically brought upon against women” and includes “the idea that one gender or one sex may be superior to the other.” Bhatia also said sexist culture can link back to “what [people] believe traditional gender roles should look like.”

Sexism Glossary by sophia_bateman

Origins of the problem

Olivia Holmberg (’25) said the issue stems from the school’s limited ability to control the information students consume while on campus. 

“Society as a whole has problems, so even if ASL does a really good job, kids are still going to be hearing all these other narratives from other places and taking that back to the school,” Homberg said. “It’s a really hard issue to combat.”

Likewise, Assistant Principal Natalie Maisey said because “school is a microcosm of the world,” sexist culture is inescapable at ASL. 

Ziad Ben-Gacem (’25) said the wider world is a key factor in the ubiquity of sexism at ASL.

“It seems, both in ASL and in the world in general, there isn’t really a desire to think about equality and equity and where people are coming from and more a desire to play the victim,” Ben-Gacem said. “It’s a prevalent problem at ASL because it’s a prevalent problem in the world.” 

In addition, Maisey said sexist culture is progressively intertwined with the growing presence of social media, ultimately heavily impacting students.

“What’s really difficult is that we do have social media influencing, I think, boys, particularly,” Maisey said. “There’s the lack of male role models that are really showing boys what manhood can look like.” 

Moreover, Ben-Gacem said the presence of sexism on a global scale is exacerbated by social media due to the “incessant cycle of whataboutism”a response to wrongdoings by bringing up offenses committed by the other partyand competition over “which group is more marginalized.”  

“That’s how you get people like Andrew Tate,” Ben-Gacem said. “It’s how you get people and movements that claim to advocate for gender equality that, in truth, just want to oppress the other group, and I think most of that is as a result of social media.” 

Furthermore, Kira said the amplifying effect of social media in sexist culture impedes the school’s ability to limit the propagation of such ideologies.

“People are getting fed information that is not exactly positive, and I think having access to so much in the world, you’re obviously prone to getting more extremist or sexist ideals,” Kira said. 

It seems, both in ASL and in the world in general, there isn’t really a desire to think about equality and equity and where people are coming from and more a desire to play the victim.

— Ziad Ben-Gacem ('25)

English Teacher Alissa Mears said she wishes “there was a little bit more leadership and space for boys to talk about issues of masculinity” at the school. 

Over the course of my time at ASL, there have been so many women’s and girl’s groups, which is great, right, where it gives space to talk about issues, concerns, trauma, all of that,” Mears said. “But, there’s not been made a space for boys to talk about that, and I think that would really benefit our community.” 

Bhatia said for many students, a sexist mentality can materialize as “a product of growing up” and male students wanting “to feel like men.” 

As an administrative leader, Designated Safeguarding Lead Richard Harrold said he views other individuals in positions of leadership as complicit in the problem.

“If you look at the highest forms of administration in the U.K. and other countries, we haven’t seen a lot of accountability and integrity,” Harrold said. “That does trickle down, you know, people see that and they say, ‘Well, he’s successful, he got away with it, I’m going to behave like that.’ That needs addressing. You need people in positions of power, in positions of authority, who are demonstrating integrity.”

Sexist culture at ASL

Kira said while sexism at ASL is “surface level better” compared to other schools she has attended, many incidents occur under the radar. 

“It appears to be a much better-handled topic than it is,” Kira said. “There’s a lot that goes on and happens that ASL doesn’t know about or doesn’t recognize or fully appreciate.” 

Although the school may be unaware of the frequency of these incidents, Felix Destin (’24) said the existence of a sexist culture is undeniable.

“There’s sort of no choice but to believe it because I’ve heard off my sister, off of my friends’ sisters, girls in class like a million times and through word of mouth that groups of boys will be systematically dismissive,” Destin said.

Though Destin said his awareness of sexism is magnified by having a sister, Kira said she struggles to break down the barrier between her experiences and those of her brother.

“[My brother] very much understands how prevalent sexism is and how much I am a feminist and all of that, but I think there’s a certain point where, when all the doors are closed and all the guys are together, the whole ‘boys will be boys’ thing does come into effect,” Kira said. “No matter how much I tell him, I can’t exactly control that. That’s just social commentary.” 

Moreover, according to The Standard’s survey, 73.8% of students have experienced or witnessed stereotyping based on gender at ASL. Additionally, 63.8% of students and 58.4% of students have experienced or witnessed discriminatory language and students being bystanders to sexism, respectively. 

However, Harrold said this pervasive, misogynistic ideology at the school is not a new phenomenon. In May 2022, Everyone’s Invited, an online forum in which students can document incidents of sexism and sexual harassment at schools across the U.K., publicized the names of the reported schools. 

“You’re going to ask me if ASL was one of them,” Harrold said. “It was.” 

Nowadays, Sara Kim (’24) said the sexist culture at the school is characterized by perpetrators “trying to be hushed.”

“Most of the time, the sexism at ASL happens in whispers, and, a lot of the time, whispers are quite loud,” Kim said. “There are some people at ASL that sort of walk that boundary of slightly problematic, but not enough to feel like they can be called out.” 

Similarly, Holmberg said there is “definitely a prevalence of sexism” throughout the school, particularly in the form of “jokes and small comments and remarks.” 

“It’s more of a general culture where it’s just acceptable to make jokes and remarks at the expense of women,” Holmberg said. 

From a teacher’s perspective, Mears said although she does not always bear witness to instances of sexism, there has been a recent increase in students mentioning such occurrences.

“I’ve heard about it more secondhand from people who have been concerned about things that have happened outside of the classroom and definitely have heard more, I would say, over the last year and a half, than prior to that,” Mears said. 

Most of the time, the sexism at ASL happens in whispers, and, a lot of the time, whispers are quite loud.

— Sara Kim ('24)

Likewise, Maisey said students’ sexist comments reach the faculty’s ears, and the frequency of derogatory remarks made is hard to digest. 

“The interesting trend is that, and it’s really difficult actually to hear this as a trend, but how often students at ASL are experiencing misogynistic microaggressions and those just being what feels like a typical part of the day,” Maisey said. 

Yet, Kim said students face challenges in sharing sexist experiences due to society being “rooted in a misogynistic mindset.” 

“You tell your experiences about sexism and then people are like, ‘Well, that’s not really sexism,’ because the comments that are made or the experiences that, at least, I’ve felt have been sort of pushing the threshold of sexism,” Kim said. “If someone says a comment to me that I’m like, ‘Oh, that’s not okay,’ then it feels like ‘But, oh, I can’t call that out’ because it’s not that blatantly sexist.”

When facing offhand sexist comments, Kira said she too struggles to speak up given the lack of positive consequences.

“There’s only so many times girls can keep calling out guys, and they won’t listen, but I think as soon as a guy calls out another guy, there’s like, I don’t know, there’s some sort of recognition there,” Kira said. “It’s sad that that’s the way it is, but I’ve witnessed guys calling out other guys and it actually causes some change in behavior versus when I call it out, it’s just like, ‘Oh, of course she’s complaining about it.’”

Destin said when victims of derogatory comments confront the perpetrator, it can escalate to unsafe conditions, complicating the prevention of such comments.

“There’s subtle biases you can only work to give confidence to the person to go and push the boundaries of, but then the moments where it’s uncomfortable, that’s where there’s the risk of like, being emotionally or physically problematic,” Destin said. 

Additionally, Kira said what can be described as casual remarks often hold a significantly heavier emotional burden for the victim.


“Offhand comments are definitely internalized by people,” Kira said. “I’ve internalized comments before and I think that’s something that is definitely restrictive because it’s something that you carry with you, which could affect your life.”  

As students, Ben-Gacem said sexist culture is exacerbated by tendencies to lean towards extremism.

“There’s this stereotype that, you know, a f—boy will be misogynistic and not really care about women’s opinions, like, ‘Shut up, go to the kitchen,’ and then there’s also the idea of the, like, classic lesbian girl is an absolute man hater, you know, like, ‘All men are pigs,’” Ben-Gacem said. “Those are two extremes, you know, and because they’re extremes, they’re kind of ideals, and because of that, us being impressionable children, we tend to lean towards the extremes, so I think that is definitely something that is holding us back from having conversations, just the general tendency to fall into a stereotype.”

Experiences & incidents at ASL

The result of the sexist culture at the school manifests itself in many different ways. Bhatia said he bears witness to curt comments made without proper understanding.

“You kind of hear a lot of uncomfortable, aggressive and strange language being used to refer to women or refer to girls in a way which, you know, for me listening, you wouldn’t like to hear that,” Bhatia said. “If people really understood kind of the ramifications, but also the meaning of what they said, that wouldn’t be as prevalent.”

In addition, Bhatia said a large group chat for male students has become a medium for the spread of sexist ideology. 

“There have been instances in which pictures of girls from our grade have been pasted into [the group chat] and comments have been made, kind of fat-shaming, just really kind of commenting on a lot of girls’ physical appearances,” Bhatia said. “Honestly, I can’t even say I’m friends with the people who do that, but to be a peer of these guys is kind of embarrassing.” 

Kira said even in-person sexist comments are frequent.

“At Bottom O, there’s a group of boys who spend time rating girls,” Kira said. “That’s been a thing for a long time, so it’s not, I guess, limited to ASL.” 

Furthermore, according to The Standard’s survey, 63.1% of students said they have experienced sexism and 77.9% said they have witnessed instances of sexism at the school. 

Within the classroom, Kim said problematic behavior is minimal as the school effectively  “ensur[es] that there’s no systemic or built-in sexism in the curriculum.”

However, Naz Kaya (’25) said while the innate nature of the curriculum promotes equality, it does not prevent sexism from taking place. 

“The system is set up in a way that definitely considers men and women as equals,” Kaya said. “But I think that sometimes personal beliefs or personal actions can come across differently depending on the individual.”

Nevertheless, Holmberg said the shortcomings of the equality embedded in the school’s curriculum are evident during discussions in English classes. 

“If you’re reading a book, sometimes I feel like kids will bring up sexism and the reaction to it will be very varied across the Harkness table,” Holmberg said. “Some students will be very active in wanting to talk about it, other students will think it’s not really worth talking about.”

Kim said she has also experienced a sexist demeanor when seated at the Harkness table. 

“It doesn’t feel like sexism is a part of the class itself, but you might notice it more like, ‘Oh, the men are really dominating the conversation and the girls or the women don’t have as much of a voice at the table,’” Kim said. “Or, a girl will make a really good point, and then a quiet boy who doesn’t speak a lot will make a sort of lackluster point and the teacher is like, ‘Brilliant.’ It feels like there’s almost a different level of respect or expectation when you’re a girl at the Harkness table versus a boy.” 

As a teacher, Mears said she frequently observes such incidents. 

“There’s small things oftentimes that are said, like assumptions about what girls would like or do,” Mears said. “There was a comment made recently about women being interested in washing machines that I had a conversation with some boys about.”

Furthermore, Maisey said it is not just students who suffer the brunt of sexist biases.

“I taught AP U.S. History, and another teacher also taught that class who was a man, who no longer works here,” Maisey said. “I would have students who would come into the office and ask him questions rather than me, and I remember thinking sometimes, like, ‘Okay, is there an assumption that I don’t know? Or that they’re gonna get a better answer from a male teacher?’ And just that was very painful.” 

Standing outside of a photography class, Maddie Kotsen (’27) said she experienced a misogynistic comment made about her interest in photography.

“I was talking about taking pictures and stuff and how I liked to do it even before I took the class and someone was like  ‘Oh, it’s just for your Instagram or whatever,’” Kotsen said.  

There was this guy who got a girl’s number, and then he walked over to the other group of guys and was like, ‘Add one to the tally. That’s another one.’

— Kira*

During a school trip, Kira said she once again witnessed derogatory comments made in a casual manner.

“There was this guy who got a girl’s number, and then he walked over to the other group of guys and was like, ‘Add one to the tally. That’s another one,’ and I was just like, ‘That’s really disgusting,’” Kira said. “There’s a lot of instances like that where it’s a little offhand.” 

As a student who regularly participates in the theatrical and musical opportunities offered by the school, Ben-Gacem said he feels the impact of these sexist comments frequently.

“I’m in the musical,” Ben-Gacem said. “I do acting. I do band. I’m generally a very artsy kid. I think there is a lot of pressure around that, the idea that if you’re a guy doing arts, you’re either gay or soft or something of the sort.”  

Furthermore, Ben-Gacem said coping with the resulting perceptions others have of him can be challenging.

“The fact that I sing in front of a lot of people, the fact that I act, the fact that I present myself as very emotionally vulnerable, I think, gives this idea to other guys around me, and even in many cases to girls, that I guess I’m not capable of being normal or, basically, that I’m a freak,” Ben-Gacem said. “You see it in how people interact with you, you see it in how they look at you. It’s uncomfortable. It’s unfortunate, but it is how it is I suppose.” 

Ben-Gacem said male students’ aversion to theater as a result of sexist culture breeds insecurity. As one of the few male students auditioning for musical roles, Ben-Gacem said he is able to play principal roles frequently, and, as a result, he struggles with feeling worthy and deserving of the parts he is assigned.

“There’s a much higher chance that you’re going to get a lead role because you’re, well, there are so many male roles and there are only so many males,” Ben-Gacem said. “In being selected for a main role, there’s this nagging thought in your head, you know, like, was I chosen because I actually am capable of doing what is set out for me, or is it just because I’m a man? Is it just because of who I am?” 

Math Teacher Jenny Wexler said she has noticed a lack of progress in the attitudes of other community members toward her position. 

“I always get both students and parents of students telling me how important it is that I’m a woman doing math to my female math students, and that has been a comment I’ve gotten across my entire career,” Wexler said. “Twenty-seven, twenty-eight years ago when I started, that was a comment that I often got, and I’m still getting it today, so it doesn’t feel different to me at all, which I think is sad because I would like to say it feels better now … it seems like over 25 years, it should get better, and I’m not convinced that it feels like it’s better.”

Gender balance in the classroom

Mears, who teaches Gender in Literature, said there has only been one boy enrolled in the class in the past two years, despite her wishes of there being “more than just girls in the classroom.” 

“The class has been a really nice space for girls to talk about issues in a way that they haven’t felt as free to talk about, but I think the class, the learning in the class, would be so significant for boys and has been in the past,” Mears said.

Having taken the elective, Kim said the experience of an all-female environment was refreshing.

“You could talk about any female issue and not feel like you have to, like, so carefully choose your words so you don’t offend the man in the room,” Kim said. “There wasn’t a man in the room to offend.”

Although she enjoyed the comfort provided by an all-female class, Kim said male education of gender dynamics is essential.

“There’s a need for men, white men, who don’t have to understand what women or women of color go through, they need spaces to be educated about that because they don’t have to go through that to know about it,” Kim said. “It’s exhausting to feel like you have to be that doorway of education for them when you have had to go through the experiences that allow you to understand without having to be educated about it.” 

Similarly, Holmberg said she feels the effects of sexism most prominently in her advanced computer science and math classes. 

“It’s very subtle, but there’s very few women in those classes at all, so there’s just that sort of boundary there,” Holmberg said. 

It’s exhausting to feel like you have to be that doorway of education for them when you have had to go through the experiences that allow you to understand without having to be educated about it.

— Sara Kim ('24)

Kaya said she feels more suppressed in her classes with a greater number of boys.

“Usually people are very considerate and they watch what they say, but sometimes I do feel like I’m more silenced than I would feel in more equally balanced gender classes,” Kaya said. 

Though Wexler said she is aware there are choices beyond just male and female, classes that are balanced between gender identities offer room for more diverse ideas.

“When it’s mostly balanced, I find that there are just more perspectives in the room that are being voiced,” Wexler said. “It’s not up to like one person to be that person.” 

Wexler, who teaches Precalculus with Calculus and AP Calculus AB, said she noticed an immediate gender imbalance in one of her classes, in which there is one girl out of 11 students. 

“That felt weird to me from the beginning,” Wexler said. “When I first got my class list, I actually looked at my other calculus class, as well as Mr. Sousa’s calculus class, and there are just fewer girls in that class, so it wasn’t like a random fluke of the schedule, and I don’t know what sort of sexism things might have fed into that aspect.” 

However, Wexler said she sees instances of sexism occur less in the unequally balanced class in comparison to her balanced class. 

“In that particular class, actually, they are a really nicely put-together family,” Wexler said. “I don’t actually notice that difference in the way that I thought I would, and the class where I do notice the difference actually does have a more even split, so I think it’s a really complex thing in terms of the impact.”


Despite the fact that 63.1% of students know how to report instances of sexism to the school, only 47.7% of students feel comfortable coming forward. 

Kim said reporting can be a powerful step in creating a culture in which these instances no longer occur. 

“The goal or the hope is that if people then stop making those comments because they’re afraid of the punishment, then hopefully it will just become a habit and an understanding that it shouldn’t happen,” Kim said. 

However, Holmberg said she is skeptical about the ability of reporting to alter mindsets.

“I don’t really think it would be able to change the culture,” Holmberg said. “The only thing it might change is that now people aren’t going to be sexist around me because they don’t want to get reported, but it’s not going to change for anyone else really.” 

Furthermore, 41.6% of students think the school handles occurrences of sexism in a productive and effective manner. 

Kim said she would gladly come forward, though partially as she feels there is an “obligation” that she does so. 

“As someone who is so publicly a feminist and advocate for conversations around gender equality, as hard as it is a lot of the time to report instances, I feel like it’s almost like I can’t be promoting using your voice and standing up for yourself and all that without doing so myself,” Kim said. 

Moreover, Bhatia said he feels “absolutely comfortable” reporting instances of sexism, especially given its significant role in improving the school community. 

“It’s important that if something is consistent, those who are acting like that have to be held accountable,” Bhatia said. “It’s for the better of the community, it’s for the better of the school, and I think once you realize that, it’s unfortunate. Nobody wants to be a snitch, right, but it’s kind of something that you feel like you have to do for the betterment of your community.” 

Director of Student Life Royce Wallace said although reporting instances of sexism is a “challenge globally,” he hopes students will feel increasingly empowered to speak out.

“I’d like to see people feeling more confident about reporting things, especially being new in this role and especially being someone who’s also safeguarding,” Wallace said.

Despite Wallace’s desire for more students to come forward, Kotsen said previous failures on the school’s behalf to address incidents of sexism have left her disheartened.

“There was something that happened that I was a part of, and I reported it and [the school] made someone apologize to me, but it wasn’t a very sincere thing,” Kotsen said. 

Holmberg said the school’s struggle to treat issues with discretion undermines students’ confidence in ASL’s ability to handle reports.  

“I have friends who reported instances of sexism where they haven’t been, sort of, treated with the confidentiality that they wanted,” Holmberg said. 

In regards to confidentiality, Wallace said because high school can become a “game of telephone,” it is hard to always maintain privacy.

Similarly, Kira said typical school culture makes it impossible to guarantee true anonymity. 

“I agree that the school maintains confidentiality, but I think as far as being a high schooler goes, is anything really confidential?” Kira said. 

As Holmberg progressed through the High School, she said she has experienced a growing tendency to be judged for reporting incidents of sexism. Holmberg said this sense of shame discourages other students from coming forward.

“If you asked me this question like freshman year, I’d probably be more comfortable reporting it, but I think as you get older, there’s more stigma around it,” Holmberg said. 

Wallace said another issue potentially discouraging students from coming forward is “whether or not they think it’s worth saying something.” 

“Depending on how you navigate the world, or how someone feels like they navigate the world, it could be just like, ‘Well, this is what happens all the time, so I just have to deal with it,’” Wallace said.

Similarly, Kaya said the frequency and degree of the issues prevent her from speaking up.  

“If they were severe, I think I would be very comfortable telling a teacher or an adult or someone from faculty,” Kaya said. “I do see hints of sexism around school, but they’re not too serious, so I decide not to do anything about it.”

Echoing Kaya, Kira said the regularity of sexist instances leads her to view it as commonplace.  

“Everyday offhand comments, I just take note of in my brain and continue with my day, which is really sad, but like, I don’t think that you can report every single incident if it’s happening so often,” Kira said.

Addressing sexism at ASL

Although Kira said the school provides opportunities to discuss issues such as sexism, the general reaction to these events reveals students’ unwillingness to listen to other’s experiences.

“Based only on how the reception of Aequitas week is and I guess other school events, like assemblies, people are generally not excited about such school-wide events … just because it’s another thing that ASL has a meeting about, it’s another thing that we all have an assembly about and interrupts our Conference B,” Kira said. “On some level, we have to meet halfway. You have to be willing to hear, and I just don’t think people are willing to at this current moment.” 

Some boys can be turned off because they think, ‘Oh, we’re just hearing about how women are so hard done by, but we’re not allowed to say, ‘Actually, we’re hard done by too.’ That is a real problem, and it is about saying, ‘It all harms you too.’

— Safeguarding consultant Beth Davies

Consultant Beth Davies, who works at Ella Savell-Boss – a safeguarding consultancy company supporting youth organizations and schools – came to speak to the school community about sexism within education April 11. Davies said while she believes the majority of people are “really receptive” to discussions about sexism, recognizing the presence of both misogyny and misandry “inequality on both sides” propels the conversation even further. 

“Some boys can be turned off because they think, ‘Oh, we’re just hearing about how women are so hard done by, but we’re not allowed to say, ‘Actually, we’re hard done by too,’” Davies said. “That is a real problem, and it is about saying, ‘It all harms you too,’ you know. You being taught that you have to look a certain way and sound a certain way and be strong, whatever strong means, and all of these things, you being squeezed into a box isn’t okay for you either.” 

Kaya said events held by the school to address sexism are not “taken seriously at all, especially by boys.” 

While Bhatia finds that these events are impactful for his personal growth, he recognizes not everyone may feel the same.

“I’m happy that I get to be challenged within my own masculinity and I agree with a lot that comes out of these conversations, and I think that they’re very valuable lessons for me, personally, to learn,” Bhatia said. “But, at the same time, I do think that it takes a certain sense of security and acceptance to be able to see that for a lot of guys, and I do think that’s just something that maybe at 16 or 17 years old, you either have or you don’t.”

Moreover, Kim said there are obstacles regarding student participation when it comes to opportunities to discuss sexism.

“There’s a lot of different spaces,” Kim said. “What’s funny about those safe spaces is that they’re occupied by the same sort of people, and those are the people who are interested in feminism, who are interested or passionate about gender dynamics and gender equity.”

However, while Kim said she acknowledges the deficiencies in such spaces, she said school-organized opportunities to discuss issues of sexism are essential in dismantling the problem.

“Those workshops, at least, begin to promote a culture of talking about these problems in school, and having students lead those conversations is really helpful and productive,” Kim said. 

Similarly, Davies said “asking questions and having discussions” about gender inequality fosters engagement among students who wouldn’t normally take interest in the topic.

Furthermore, Wexler said she sees the majority of these conversations surrounding sexism fall on Advisory time, which doesn’t make for productive discussion as students are still forming relationships. 

“I currently have a Grade 9 advisory, and we’re all still just getting to know each other, so I’m not sure our conversations go as deep as when I think back to the Grade 12 advisory that I had, where we built up over time an ability to have those conversations,” Wexler said. 

Yet, Kim said despite the school’s attempts, sexist culture remains extremely difficult to combat. 

“Because this is on more of a social level, it’s really hard to change people’s mindsets into being like, ‘Let’s not be sexist, because that’s just the wrong thing to do,’ rather than like, ‘Oh, let’s not be sexist because there’ll be consequences,’” Kim said. 

Correspondingly, Bhatia said modifying beliefs and opinions cannot be forced.

To change the fundamental outlook of a person is a very difficult thing, and I think to change the culture of a group of people is even harder. You can only take a horse to the water, you can’t really make them drink it.

— Gus Bhatia ('25)

“To change the fundamental outlook of a person is a very difficult thing, and I think to change the culture of a group of people is even harder,” Bhatia said. “You can only take a horse to the water, you can’t really make them drink it.” 

Harrold said the challenge with shifting these mindsets lies in the difficulty of gauging the level of care students have for moral values.

“How do you measure that?” Harrold said. “You don’t get a GPA of 4.0 for integrity. I think you have to measure it in other ways, qualitative ways, ways that perhaps don’t lend themselves to numerical indices.” 

In essence, Bhatia said the impacts of school-organized events addressing sexism depend on the individual. 

“For some people, it’s a bit harder to maybe, you know, want to embrace that, want to accept that, want to even see that as truth,” Bhatia said. “It does depend on who you are, but I think the efforts alone do go a long way, and I think for a lot of students, they do have an impact.”

Next steps

In regards to efforts to end the problem, Holmberg said because sexism tends to be a “generational thing,” it is hard to combat among teenagers. 

“I don’t think we can come in now and tell kids to stop being sexist,” Holmberg said. “It has to happen in the Lower School.”

While the root of sexism culture at the school is nuanced, Mears said there are ways to shift the issue towards resolution.

“It’s a lot of awareness,” Mears said. “It’s a lot of acknowledgment of patterns. I think the acknowledgment of inequities, even in really small everyday situations, is the first step to being able to name it and being able to change it.”

Wexler said awareness can hold great power in improving sexist ideologies at the school.

“We all have to be mindful,” Wexler said. “As a community, the only way it gets better is if everyone’s kind of paying attention and looking at it.” 

For Harrold, the path to improvement is clear.

“The biggest and most important tool is the student body we already have,” Harrold said. “We need to be constantly engaged in conversation about them. We need to translate those conversations into practical action to keep our eyes and ears open … We now need to put some teeth behind it and say, ‘You know what? There are consequences for misogynistic actions.’”

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