A Call for Change: Renaming the Divisions
August 5, 2020
Let’s Make History With the “Women’s Division”
During one of the first virtual Convocations of Summer Phase on July 8, 2020, Headmaster Fr. Edwin Leahy ‘63, O.S.B., questioned whether the titles “boys” and “girls” are appropriate. He then prompted the community to decide whether we should propose a new name for both divisions. This inaugurated a thought. Finally, I would have the opportunity to be referred to as what I really am. I propose that we rename the Girls Division as Benedict’s “Women’s Division.”
As a young woman, I am aware that the terms “girl” and “woman” are simply used to distinguish gender and age difference. In extreme cases, however, the terms can be seen to be condescending. So much is expected of us at present. Our families, teachers, and communities have high expectations that we must handle a multitude of challenges, from academics and sports to activities. We are expected to run the school and lead by example. These are not the expectations of someone who is a girl. It almost seems unfair to refer to us as girls in light of the great promise some perceive in us. Believe it or not, we are going to live up to these expectations, regardless of those who have little faith in us. Do what is right and give us the name commensurate with those high standards set for us.
I am not what society says I am. Because I am not yet eighteen, I am technically a girl. Girls are children and children by nature are immature and fragile. I have long outgrown those characteristics. I am far closer to being a woman than a girl. My actions and principles define me far better than these vague terms. In fact, as a pioneer of the “Girls” Prep Division, I propose the use of a new definition for the word woman. A woman is a female who acts with dignity, respect, and honor towards herself and others. She is someone who learns from her own experiences, leads by example, and is not afraid to admit her faults. Consequently, one does not merely become a woman but learns how to be one.
With this new way of thinking about the word woman, I am not arguing that teenagers are full adults. What I am saying is that we are women at heart. We are women through our actions, in how we treat others, and in the respect we give to our Sisters.
Now you may be asking yourself, what exactly does that look like ? Well, it looks like someone who is persistent, not a quitter; someone, as The Benedict Man’s Chant says, who “acts with dignity, respect and honor” towards herself and others and most importantly someone who “respects all walks of life.” In other words, we are Benedict’s Women. We carry our name within the SBP community and society with dignity, respect and humility.
Getting it Right with the “Men’s Division”
A favorite Convocation story of Headmaster Fr. Edwin Leahy ‘63, O.S.B., discusses the short-lived “High Street Academy.” This was the new name for St. Benedict’s after its reopening in 1973. Over the years, the school, like the city, had transitioned from being mainly white to becoming predominantly Black. One day, soon after the opening of “High Street,” one parent of an African-American student asked Fr. Ed why the school wasn’t still called St. Benedict’s. Didn’t his son and fellow students deserve that honored school name? In relating the story recently, Fr. Ed said he and other school administrators did not have an answer. “The next day,” he said, “the school went back to being called St. Benedict’s.”
Sometimes, simple questions, innocently asked, can be a spark for great change. Like the one before us now, raised during Convo in July. Fr. Ed questioned the term “Boys Division” at Convo, given the history of the word “boy” in relation to Black men in the United States. The connotation that it carries is not positive as it was used to belittle Black men just as the n-word was and still is.
The question is new because there is only now a “Boys” Division because there is a newly created “Girls” Division. Until now, the high school was referred to as the “Prep” Division.
The change presents us with a golden opportunity to ask: What’s in a name? And that examination may further propel us to ask another: Should the Boys Division be renamed?
SBP has always been innovative and nimble, its administrative and student leaders changing the way the school is run to fit what is needed. The school restored the name “St. Benedict’s” in 1973, due to feedback from parents and students. The school created a Girls Division when a group of students advocated for its creation after the closing of Benedictine Academy. Heck, when Convo goes overtime, student leaders reconfigure the daily schedule on a moment’s notice.
We always adjust. Even during times of great uncertainty, such as the present when we are faced with a terrifying global pandemic, we have not shut down. We’ve simply gone virtual.
St. Benedict’s has always been a pioneer. We lead, we don’t follow. If the name doesn’t fit, we should drop it. Since we first stepped on the property as freshmen, we have been referred to as Benedict’s Men. So let’s be consistent. Let’s rename ourselves as the Men’s Division.