It’s been hard to read all of the testimonies because it’s shone a light on all the casual misogyny I encountered but shrugged off to fit in. It’s also be a relief to find that the unsettling and uncomfortable feelings I had felt a lot throughout my time at KEGS was not irrational. I joined at sixth form as a fairly naive girl and honestly made a lot of excuses, and believed a lot of reasoning because ‘boys will be boys’.
I’ll begin with the staff – a teacher to this day who I continue to describe as one of the main reasons I have such awful imposter syndrome. Despite being very good at my subject and going on to study it at university, this teacher genuinely seemed to enjoy making all the females in our class feel invisible, stupid and unworthy. When I was encouraged to apply to Oxford, despite getting very high marks in his class, he told me I wasn’t good enough.
Funnily enough in that same class, a guy who was dangerously self absorbed couldn’t believe I got a higher mark than him, and proceeded to ask me in front of others how it was possible I got that mark. He walked away and tutted in disbelief that a female achieved better than him. I honestly felt so dumb and unworthy and it’s experience that I think about regularly today. I wish I had said something, but considering he was the favourite student of that teacher, I knew I hadn’t a chance of support. In retrospect, the atmosphere at sixth form was heavy – I felt very self conscious and I can see very clear examples of objectification of myself and others in group chats of guys that I was friends with, which hurts because it’s hard to think of friends this way.
There were other boys – one in particular in a class, who clearly felt they could be overpowering and embarrassed me when they felt like it. I’d always hoped he would be nice. I realise he enjoyed picking on people, not just me, and it was a strange power trip for him. This behaviour was not unusual – I noticed it in other guys who clearly thrived off making girls feel awkward. Younger boys in the years below were very creepy, and would message me about my love life or come up to me with nothing but entitlement to find out about me. I think the common thread is entitlement to be honest, and no one ever checked them. It just all became something we laughed off and justified by virtue of them simply being male. There are countless incidents where I felt slut shamed, inferior and simply inadequate. Whilst I do look back on my time at KEGS very fondly, and it was truly full of great memories, recognising these incidences has been painful but essential to being truthful to myself about how things were brushed under the carpet at KEGS. Girls need to stop being taught about how to deal with KEGS boys and instead, this institution really need to take a look at how they’re perpetuating this insidious culture amongst staff and students by not taking action.