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Strong women support strong women

Grace, Year 12, reflects on what it actually means when we say, “Strong women support strong women.

To be frank, I didn’t sit down to write this speech last night – it has been percolating, or more accurately, festering, for a good while now. I felt like I didn’t necessarily have an interesting story to own or anything more to add to the conversation; also, most of my previous ideas had been come up with at 11pm (or later) and it didn’t feel appropriate to recount an existential crisis to the entire School.

So instead, I figured I’d talk about something I’d been thinking a lot about lately. Sure, I walk around saying “queen” and “girlboss” to the point where it is sadly, no longer, ironic but what does it actually mean when we say, “Strong women support strong women”?

Society pits women against one another, to force us to always compete, where we must be better than those around us in order to succeed. If the spotlight is shining on another person, we’ll be standing in their shadow.

And I’m totally guilty of this; seeing someone who looks like their life is completely together - they can use their diary fabulously well, practise their flute 10 hours a week and they somehow understand combinatorics - and being incredibly jealous of them. And we forget how corrosive that is.

As I’ve got older and been lucky enough to befriend some pretty cool girls, I’ve learnt that when one of us succeeds, the rest of us do too. The spotlight is not beamed on just one of us, but rather we burn bright as stars, creating spotlights for our friends. We all get to share a little bit of each other’s happiness, enthusiasm and triumphs.

But as we all know, sometimes this is easier said than done - so I’ve come up with a couple of steps that might help.

Step 1: when you find someone who is kinder, smarter, funnier, cooler, wittier, more creative and all round better than you, try not to resent them for it, and rather try to be friends with them. You don’t necessarily have to be as bad as me; rearranging your position in the school photo line in order to introduce yourself to the girl with the absolutely awesome swatch watch, and you don’t have to go so far as to make these fabulous people your best friends (though it is pretty great) - but you can just say ‘hi’, sit next to them in chemistry, go up to them and remark ‘Wow, we truly are complex female characters! Who knew??!!’

And now for Step 2. And this is where I contradict myself a little bit. Not everyone is fabulously stupendous yet. This is going to sound totally sappy, I know, and I’m rolling my eyes at myself, but genuinely the best part is learning together, discovering what being great means by your own metric. Year 7, Year 8, Year 9: work with each other and support each other, and most importantly don’t judge, to let everyone grow into who they’re supposed to be. Through a feral amount of introspection and an aggressive slap from puberty I am (hopefully) not the same overzealous, annoying Year 7 I once was, nor the introverted Year 9 or totally audacious Year 10. And now I’m just an angry 16-year-old, emotionally attached to her blazer ranting on stage in front of the School. But, as long as I’m one step closer to fabulous and I’ve picked up some cool friends along the way, I think I’m on the right track. Friends who are way too obsessed with France, who like reciting T.S. Eliot, who exclusively watch movies starring 50-year-old Danish actors, who like to show me the maps they’ve made, who share the same birthday as me, who drink too much coffee, who write about failed party magicians, who yell at me in German, and those who are surgically affixed to their Spiderman mugs.

Notice there’s no mention of a Maths mark, a firsts, seconds, or thirds sporting team or a failed debate against a very talented third speaker. Rather, we shine when we just, be.

If you take one thing away from this total conundrum of a speech, it is this – take time to look out for your friends, celebrate their successes, comfort them in their lows, go out for dinner, have a movie night, talk about your secret hobbies or interests that seem mortifying otherwise and most importantly, remember there’s a reason why Mamma Mia is such a transcendental masterpiece, and it’s got more to do with Dancing Queen than it does with Pierce Brosnan’s singing.


Grace, Year 12
Debating Captain