As the 2021-2022 school year comes to a close, sending love to all the members of the Brace family for an outstanding year of programming.
Love Better Week 2022
Schedule of Events!
- Brace Student Fellow Nina Choophungart ’22 presents her phenomenal research project, “The Meaning of Marriage: Exploring the Nature of Transnational Partnerships Between Isan Women and Western Men,” from 5-6:30 in the School Room (dinner will be served!).
- Stop by the Brace student board’s Love Better table in the OWHL throughout the day today!
- WoFo (Women’s Forum) hosts an open discussion about love and the body, introducing and problematizing the “body positivity” movement through an intersectional feminist lens: 7-8 PM in CAMD.
- Join the Peer Listeners, Andover Loves, and other student leaders for open small-group discussions on consent culture and parietal policy, during dinner hours in the Mural Room (5-7 PM).
- Our Love Better keynote address! Acclaimed sexuality educator Justine Ang Fonte will give a talk called “Pleasure > Power: Raising the Standard of Consent.” Davis Hall (Abbot Campus), 7 PM.
Justine Ang Fonte is the child of Philippine immigrants and a nationally-recognized intersectional health educator, speaker, and consultant. She received her Master’s in Education in Teaching from the University of Hawai’i and her Master’s in Public Health in Sexuality from Columbia University. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Business Insider, NPR, and USA Today for her notable teaching career in sexuality education and according to a Buzzfeed List is one of 13 sex educators teaching people what they really need to know when it comes to sex. On Instagram, she’s known as “Your Friendly Ghostwriter” composing the texts you avoid sending about setting your boundaries.
- All juniors and lowers will attend student-led YES+ talks during ASM Block! Juniors: Underwood Room. Lowers: Kemper Auditorium. 11:20-12, attendance will be taken.
- Justine Fonte hosts an affinity space for all PA community members identifying as BIPOC, on “Decentering Whiteness in Beauty and Success,”12:15-1:15 in Underwood Room (lunch will be served!).
- Abbot Independent Scholar Theo Baker ’22 presents his research project, “The President Who Could’ve Been: Conjuring Eleanor Roosevelt in the 21st Century,” in Kemper Auditorium from 6-7 PM (desserts will be served!).
This week’s programs wouldn’t be possible without the support of wonderful campus partners; special thanks to Ms. Jeter and Mrs. Fallon, as well as LCG, Dr. Tsemo, Ms. Goss, Dr. Cai, M. Martin, Mrs. Barnes, Ms. Ainsworth, the Wellness Collaborative, and the boards of Brace, YES+, Andover Loves, and WoFo. ❤
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.
Reflections on virtual hours
Gender and STEM: A Collaboration with Gender Minorities in STEM
The discussion about gender in STEM really highlighted the importance of intersectionality. We ended up discussing how colonialism has destroyed and stolen valuable medicinal and technological knowledge from the Global South. Many incredible discoveries were made by women of these communities and were overlooked. We also discussed how race and gender intersect to cause the mistreatment of BIPOC women in the healthcare system, and how women are discouraged from entering STEM fields because of the patriarchy. – Aleisha Roberts ’22
“Some takeaways I had from the virtual hours’ discussion are the dangers of explaining how there are fewer women in STEM due to something innate and biological rather than it being a result of cultural and social structures, the importance of recognizing the exploitation of marginalized groups when learning about certain medical discoveries, and how it is important for STEM teachers and spaces to be intentional with uplifting students of gender and racial minorities. Virtual hours are just an amazing way to connect with people as well—The Tik Tok conversation in particular was very casual and it was hilarious sharing Tik Toks and bonding over certain niche subgroups of it!” -Josephine Banson ’22
Peggy Orenstein’s ASM- Femininities Affinity Space
Peggy Orenstein’s ASM focused on some of the harmful approaches to heterosexual relationships taken by cisgender men and how rigid masculinity can be at the root of many problems. Following the ASM, the participants in the femininities zoom space discussed the experiences of female-identifying people on the receiving end of toxic masculinity and the expectations created by the patriarchy that are thrust onto women. The group observed how there is often an imbalance of agency in heterosexual intercourse as the media and culture normalize male dominance in sex while suppressing women’s desires and eroticism. The group emphasized the importance of consent as a baseline for ethical sex and mutual enjoyment. Furthermore, we explored consent in other aspects such as giving a hug or even asking for emotional consent when ranting to a friend. – Evalyn Lee ’23
“When talking about toxic masculinity, we should also reflect on how toxic masculinity affects women, how we can bring folx who do not identify within the gender binaries into the conversation, and how society places pressures on women as well.” -Emily Turnbull ’24
The topic of my Brace Virtual Hours was Feminist Theatre, and with the help of Mx. Thayer, we covered everything from A Doll’s House to modern experimental theatre, whatever each person had read. Our hours were very laid back— since only a few people came and went, we didn’t maintain a firm structure, but fortunately we instead got to know each other individually very well. I’d like to shoutout Huda, Karsten, Lesley, and Leo, who all brought such great energy to the group and whose faces I really appreciated seeing in the midst of a very busy week. – Emiliano C ’22
Juniors Explore Masculinity by Discussing 2015 Documentary The Mask You Live In
By Aleisha Roberts ’22
On October 20th, the Brace Center for Gender Studies hosted discussions with the class of ’24 centered around The Mask You Live In. The 2015 documentary highlighted the harmful effect of society’s narrow definition of masculinity on people who identify as male as well as on their relationships with each other and people who do not identify as male. Juniors were expected to watch the film with their dorm pods before attending the program and student leaders from the classes of ’23 ’22, and ’21 facilitated discussions. Agnes Agosto ’24 expressed that she had never discussed masculinity as a potentially harmful construct before the programming.
“After watching the film, my first feeling was this deep sympathy for boys. I wasn’t aware of the majority of the issues mentioned in the film. When I was in middle school, my grade watched a documentary on female relationships and friendships. However, I never had seen something that focused on the struggles of boys rather than girls in our society and it was really eye-opening,” said Agosto.
The facilitators, most of whom watched the film in their own freshman years, rewatched the film to prepare for the discussion. Facilitator Sophie Glaser ’22 explained that the statistics shown regarding the prevalence of mental health issues and destructive behaviors caused by harmful masculinities shocked her each time she watched the film. She further expressed that her later encounters with the film were different as she was better able to connect the behavior on the screen to her male-identifying peers at Andover.
“Every time I’ve watched it, all the statistics that they show are still pretty shocking and I think in freshman year I was just starting to learn about toxic masculinity and what institutional sexism and rape culture and locker room culture were… I definitely think that now being a bit older and having experienced a highschool in America a bit more, I think I was able to understand a bit more of it. I’ve definitely, unfortunately, seen a lot of the behavior that it would talk about in The Mask You Live In in my peers and I was able to connect it more to my own life rather than just looking at abstract terms,” Glaser said.
Many facilitators expressed that they were impressed by the nuance the juniors brought to the discussion. Most were able to discuss the patriarchy, homophobia, transphobia, and gender identity through an intersectional lens. Some groups were even able to advance to criticisms of the film for an absence of queer narratives and an excessively heteronormative perspective. Glaser shared a hope that freshmen would continue the discussion beyond the programming.
Glaser said, “I definitely saw the freshmen that I was talking to in my leadership group and in my dorm engaging in conversations that they weren’t before. I hope that they will be able to take the lessons they learned from the film into their own lives and take the ideas into their own lives, but only time will tell. Hopefully, the rest of the grade engaged with the film as well, keeping an open mind.”
Unfortunately, some juniors were left disappointed with their group’s engagement. Agosto said that her class was not yet connected well enough to discuss these themes comfortably and that the discussion space was dominated by a handful of girls. In debriefing sessions, freshmen also pointed out that the majority of the facilitators were female-identifying, showing a need for persons identifying as male to engage with these discussions.
Agosto said, “While I think the idea of the discussion space was a good one, I didn’t think it exactly worked… In order for us to share our thoughts with others, we need to have a certain amount of trust that we are safe sharing these opinions with them… I also just especially felt that those who most needed the things said in the film were the ones who seemed not to care. In the discussion space, the main people who spoke were girls, and the majority of the boys remained silent.”