Carrying on the tradition of “Abbotween” where Andover students trick-or-treat through Abbot campus, the Brace Center has been hosting spooky feminist activities since 2019. This year, Brace student board members took over Abbot Hall with haunted décor, music, crafts, treats, and feminist community.
Pictured below: Brace superfans complete the Feminist Scavenger Hunt created by Brace board student Sakina Cotton ’24; Brace student board member Max Berkenblit ’24 shows off his destroyed “Gender Norms” piñata, which students ceremoniously smashed. Donoma Fredericson ’23 and Pema Sherpa ’23 helped to make the Brace Center especially festive with a fog machine, pumpkin painting, cookie decorating, and more.
I actually had to do an essay at the start of the term about “what is home?” for my English  class [with Brace Adult Advisory Board Member, Ms. Staffaroni]. I don’t exactly have one place I would call home. It sounds kind of cliche, but home is where your heart is: wherever you feel comfortable, accepted, and embraced.
How would your answer differ if instead asked: where are you from?
I would probably say automatically, “I’m from Brazil. I’m from Rio,” but there’s much more than that. Every single person represents much more than simply the place they come from. [Belonging] is way more than a single country or a physical place.
How did you get introduced to the Brace Center?
I got one of the emails and was very interested because gender studies were something completely new to me. I had [researched] them myself, but I never had those at school; the closest we got to gender studies was sexual reproduction for health. [I was especially interested] when I saw that students could engage in discussions and research [by] themselves.
Tell us about your experience being a remote student and a new upper.
It has had upsides and downsides because at some moments I feel that [my ability] to manage my time is good, but I’m not a very self-organized person[…] Being new is strange considering there are not many new students. More often than not [in class], I [am the only] new student, and everyone else is a returning upper, so I’m kind of just there.
At the same time, one day we had to do a project in my math class. It could be a group or individual, but I didn’t know anyone so I was planning to do it individually. [Later], I got an email from one of my [peers] who asked me if I would like to be part of her group. I was like do you even know me? I didn’t even notice that I was noticeable in that class. You are not just existing. People are caring for you.
What is the most important thing you learned last term?
It has a lot to do with self-knowledge.
Specifically, in my English class, we studied The Book of Delights [by Ross Gay] and our mission was to post an essay each week talking about delights. [In our essays,] we reflected and expanded. What is the definition of a delight? When is it not necessarily a good thing?
When you sit down to write, you end up learning about yourself. You end up reflecting. Who are you? Who are your friends? Who are the people you hang out with?
[Before Andover,] I had been in the same school for the last five years. I had built a community and now I don’t have it anymore. But at the same time, people [from my old school] are supportive. I’m still in their study groups and we chat all the time.
When I sat down to write, I noticed that I am very privileged to have people who care about me. They are always there for me.
Are you involved in any extracurriculars on campus?
I actually [started the] Portuguese club with another new upper named Emilia [Fonseca ‘22]. We do want to teach a little bit of Portuguese, but we also know that people will not be as committed because it’s not a class. [Additionally,] Portuguese is a complex language.
Our goal would be to talk about the culture in Brazil [and in other] Portuguese-speaking countries. [We aim to focus] on history, fashion, art, music, and literature. We think that even though we have a movement of Latinx people as a whole, Brazil still has a very different and particular culture.
One of the things [Emilia and I] have reflected a lot on this term is [as Brazilians], are we Latinx or not?
[Before Andover], we had never classified ourselves as so, and then suddenly we had to. It’s not that we don’t agree or that we don’t feel comfortable. In fact, every single Latinx person I’ve met so far has been very nice, warm, and [in] solidarity. They really want to make you feel part of the community, but at the same time, it’s strange to get labeled from one day to another. That is something we are still digesting.
I’m also part of the GSA [the Gender and Sexuality Alliance]; I went to pretty much all their meetings. I’ve also been engaged in the Spanish Club because I love languages.
What do you enjoy doing most in your free time?
I enjoy chatting with my friends and listening to music. I’m very into pop music, like Ariana Grande, Anitta, and mainstream pop artists. I’m also fond of Little Mix. I have been a fan of theirs for the last three years or so because I really love their music. They just sound perfect.
What is something that most people do not know about you?
One thing that most people do not know about me, and that I’m not exactly proud of is that I used to attend a single-gender school.
There was a lot of sexism and homophobia[…].
Even though Andover has its problems, I think it is kind of a break from [everything that happened] in those last five years, which were definitely rough. But at the same time, I feel proud that I was able to handle it. I know that I am not the best “role model” that I can think of, but I know many people looked up to me when it came to discovering and accepting themselves. Being queer in a place where you’re totally kept from being yourself is very hard. When [others] saw me and my friends being so open about ourselves, I think a lot of people found the strength they needed to actually move on.
I’m actually sad that I left because I think [our openness] would be important for [new students to see], but I am proud when I look back. I see some legacy. It is interesting to see that people got something from my presence there. I’m very happy about it.
Who do you look up to?
I look up to my mother. She is a very strong woman. She had me when she was 22. She had a dream of going to college, and I was seven or eight when she got in. She was a wife and a mom, a housewife, and also working part-time. She was so dedicated and finished her courses with honors. She had the highest grades [out of] everyone in her class, and I’m proud of her. [My mother] has gone through some [hard times] like when her father, my grandpa died when I was five. It was a difficult period for her, and she went through depression. But somehow she found the strength to move on. She was able to [bring] her life back up again, and I’m really proud of how strong she is.
10. Who is your feminist ancestor*?
I have a friend who founded a group here in Rio [that I’ve become] a part of. We have been working on a project that aims to include tampons and pads in what we call food baskets here in Brazil. Food baskets contain the [essentials] needed for one month. They include items such as rice, beans, oil, salt, and sugar, but here, [menstrual products] are considered cosmetics and not hygiene products.
We have been granted some very nice money and are still waiting for some more. We have already donated three baskets to a girls’ orphanage [and we are going] to donate more. We really want to impact more people.
While I’m doing some of [our project], it was pretty much [entirely] elaborated by [my friend]. It was she who came after [our partnerships]. [My friend] is a very driven person and I definitely look up to her. She is someone who is very dedicated and committed to [social justice] issues.
*Note from the Editors:
We use the word “feminist ancestor” instead of “role model” or simply “someone you look up to” to signify our roles in continuing, adding to, honoring, and learning from the gender and sexuality justice work of those in our life and/or before us. Brace Faculty Advisory Board Member, Ms. Engel, introduced us to this term, riffing off of the “Call Your Girlfriend” podcast episode on “being a good ancestor” — an interview with adrienne maree brown.
Welcome to the Abbot Inkwell! We are absolutely thrilled to be the first news outlet dedicated to the Brace Center for Gender Studies and the work of gender equity and justice around campus and beyond our Andover bubble. COVID-19 may have disrupted some of our plans, but this is our effort to keep you updated with and connected to the Brace Center virtually for now, and hopefully, at home on our beloved Abbot campus in the near future.
In this first issue, we’re still finding our footing and figuring out how best to communicate and to get you involved. We would love to have your voice contribute to our commentary section or our upcoming art section. For commentary articles, we’re looking for opinions and personal narratives related to gender. This could be regarding events, media, pop culture, anything! Our art section will be a space for student artists to communicate themes related to gender justice through their work. There’s room for visual art, poetry, short stories, photographs, and more! We want you to hear your voice.
This year, our overarching goal, which we share with the Brace Center, is to uplift the experiences of trans and genderqueer people. Though stances against homophobia have been growing in popularity, society has yet to combat transphobia and the gender binary perpetuated by harmful gender roles. We stand with all gender identities. To deepen our understanding of and thinking about these issues, over winter break, the Student Advisory Board will be reading and discussing The Pink Line: Journeys Across the World’s Queer Frontiers by Mark Gevisser. We encourage you to read along with us or to take a look at any of the other pieces in our suggested reading list.
We also would like to bring your attention to the legacy of Abbot Academy on the Andover campus beyond the name of the Abbot Cluster. Abbot’s contributions to Andover’s current traditions and co-curricular offerings include our literary magazine – the Courant, the newly announced sport option – Abbot Walks, the bagpipes at graduation, Abbot Grants, our dance program, the Fidelio Society and so much more. Our name, the Abbot Inkwell, is our way of honoring the voice of the women of Abbot whose contributions to our school, we so often forget.
At the Abbot Inkwell, we commit to being not only an accurate source of news but a creative outlet and a tool for activism for students. We share a commitment to intersectional gender justice with the Brace Center. We strive to feature diverse perspectives and complicate the single-story, but only if it is in keeping with our commitment to fight for gender equity and justice. That being said, we want to encourage you to engage critically with the writing and have discussions with your peers and adults in a safe way. We take responsibility for everything that is publicized through us, though what is shared may not reflect our editors’ personal opinions or experiences. Please reach out if you have any questions or concerns.
Thank you for all of your support. The work has just begun!
This summer, because of the Brace Center for Gender Studies, I had the opportunity to research and analyze queer identity in Pre and Post-colonial India and look at how the British Colonial Regime worked to colonize sexuality and enforce heteronormative ideals through legal instruments such as Section 377 of the British-introduced Indian Penal Code as well as a reconstructed education curriculum. Throughout the research process that took place during the end of Spring term and the start of summer, I was intent on creating a bibliography that centered South-Asian voices.
Alongside reading gender theory by Western academics such as Michael Foucault and Judith Butler, I read theory by South-Asian Post-Colonial scholars such as Gayatri Spivak. However, finding and accessing the works of South-Asian academics was not the easiest task. But with the help of OWHL, specifically Ms. Goss, as well as Dr. Vidal and Ms. Driscoll, I was able to scourge through the depths of JSTOR, Internet Archive, Amazon, Hathi Trust, etc. to find books and articles that emphasized the South Asian voices that have been trampled over by the world of Western academia and colonization and highlight them in my bibliography. Though this process was difficult, I never once had to worry about being unable to access any resource and I’m so grateful to everyone at the Brace Center for making me feel seen as a South Asian woman of color in academia.