The Great Convent Girl Hoax
Editor’s Note: A few week’s ago the article “Convent Girls: Crashing the Stereotype” raised tempers on outlish.com. Some were offended; some agreed. To say there was debate would be an understatement. As with many stereotypes, there will always be disagreement. Nicole Greene, a Convent girl herself, wanted to give her own take on the stereotype. Here’s her take.
There are people who will have you believe that “Convent Girls” are different. They tell tales of wealthy, conservative, conformist clones who do not deviate from their groupthink, and identify themselves with an accent that proves their membership in this elite group.
Some would have you believe in a select cadre of girls empowered to make their mark on society in their own unique way.
That second one. That one is true.
I grew up considerably, shall we say… less than wealthy. I know what it’s like to battle hours of East-West corridor traffic on a daily basis, and see my house in daylight only on the weekends. I was a rebel for every cause, until maturity and experience taught me that the battles weren’t all mine to fight. I had zero connections and my accent (an amalgamation of nuances I picked up from living in South, East, and North) qualified me for a club of one. I got into St Joseph’s Convent because I was bright.
Am I the typical Convent Girl?
You’d better believe it.
What defines a Convent Girl is not a look, or religion, or any other trait so easily encapsulated. What defines a Convent Girl is the shared experience and the sisterhood we forged behind those walls. For many of us, the Convent years were teenage years lived full of passion. How anyone can believe the stereotype of the zombie conformist teenager is beyond me. It is unrealistically one-dimensional.
We struggled to define ourselves and railed against authority in an effort to negotiate a more empowered position for ourselves – even if the rights won were as trivial as being able to use khaki as our house colour on Sports Day instead of the traditional despicable brown. I smile to myself as I wonder how many attorneys and activists developed their skills during those battles, testing their wings before launching themselves full flight into careers that would bring them into visibility as successful women and leaders.
We philosophized about religion, faith and humanity. We didn’t always agree. Despite what others may think, the Catholic school’s religious composition was quite diverse, with significant representation from other Christian denominations, and a smaller representation of Islam and Hinduism. I met my first Muslim friends there, friends with whom I remain in contact to this day. They asked me about my Catholic traditions and beliefs. I asked about the role of women in the Islamic faith and gained an appreciation for the religion that was quite apart from the Social Studies textbooks, and a respect for my sisters from another faith.
This is my Convent experience. If it doesn’t fit the image of the stereotype in your head, you’re not alone. It didn’t fit mine either when I walked through the doors on that first day of Form One. But then that’s the thing about stereotypes. They’re so often wrong.
Sure there’s usually a kernel of truth tucked away inside, but often stereotypes just don’t accurately represent the majority – they represent the extreme, the outliers.
All blondes are dumb.
White men can’t jump
I could go on, but I think you get the picture.
Unsurprisingly, many girls feel that the stereotypical image of a Convent girl just doesn’t fit them. Some see it as an unfair attempt to squeeze them into an uncomfortable mould and it’s something they, in fact, rebel against. Some take the approach of redefining the stereotype, as we so often must redefine stereotypes in our lives – “I belong to that, but I’m not that”.
The latter group embraces the positive aspects of the stereotype, and dismisses any perceived negatives. They take advantage of the potential career boost that such a stereotype may bring. And they’re not alone.
The image of the exclusive school turning out bright, capable and networked alumna is certainly one the school administration cultivates. Not that there’s anything wrong with that – in business circles the translation would be the company vision.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the famed Convent accent. Most people graduate taking with them the accents they brought. Having said that, there is no doubt that there are others who took with them an accent that was acquired during their years there.
So there, perhaps, is the kernel of truth. And you know what? My sense of humour and I are okay with that.
In the home of the freshwater Yankee, and where lyrical creativity is such a mark of our culture, this should surprise no one. It just goes to show – that girl that goes to Convent; she’s really not that different from you.
I am Nicole. I am yet to meet stereotype that can contain me. And I am proud to be a Convent Girl.
Image credit: Trinidad Guardian.