Abbot Inkwell, Events, Events, Speakers

The Conversation Following Peggy Orenstein’s ASM

By Evalyn Lee ’23

This October, Peggy Orenstein, author of the New York Times bestsellers Girls & Sex and Boys & Sex spoke at our virtual All-School Meeting (ASM) about the influence of unhealthy masculinities on sex. A panel of students involved with Brace Center programming had the opportunity to ask Orenstein questions regarding her work, research, and the relevance of discussions about masculinities on campus. Orenstein made the point that unhealthy masculinity still exists despite improvements in gender equity as she observed patterns of aggression, dominance, and emotional suppression in adolescent boys. 

Following the ASM, the Brace Center hosted affinity virtual hours to continue the conversation on campus. Each virtual hour was hosted by a Brace Student Advisory Board member partnered with EBI (Equity, Balance, and Inclusion) seniors. As a member of the Brace board, Holt Bitler ’21 hosted the virtual hour for students identifying with the masculinities. Despite the intentions of the ASM to address the boys on campus, according to Bitler, not many people attended the meeting.

“I see a part of toxic masculinity leads guys not wanting to listen to talks on social justice […] It’s kinda funny that no one ended up showing up because it pretty much states exactly what needs to be solved here,” said Bitler.

Bitler expressed the challenges in trying to engage a larger group of students with masculinities. He observed indifference and resistance towards the topic of ASM from his peers on campus. 

Bitler observed, “When some people saw the ASM, they reacted kind of negatively, saying like, ‘Oh, I can’t believe people would say this about guys and stuff.’”

Jane Park ’22 also noted the challenges in engaging male students in conversations surrounding masculinity. As a board member of YES+, Park believes that the language in these conversations is important to destigmatize topics on sexuality and masculinity while also holding people with toxically-masculine traits accountable. In the ASM, Orenstein introduced additional terms to the familiar “toxic-masculinity”: rigid and fragile masculinity. 

Park said, “I think with fragile masculinity, I do have my concerns because when something is fragile, it almost makes it seem easily disrupted. See when you say fragile masculinity it’s almost like brownie points or it’s trying to sugarcoat what it actually is when especially toxic masculinity isn’t fragile. By calling it fragile, I think we’re almost taking away meaning from what it should be, like you’re softening the blow […] Rigid has connotations that it harms both masculine-identifying individuals and individuals who do not identify so.”

Orenstein’s ASM mainly centered on heterosexual relationships between cisgender boys and girls. Orenstein briefly compared gay vs. straight power dynamics during sex. Avivit Ashman ’22, a Brace Student Advisory Board member, hosted the queer/nonconforming/questioning affinity space for the brace virtual hours. She said that her group felt the ASM was very binary, and the speaker’s short comment reminding us that queer sex also exists was not enough. Ashman also felt that Orenstein glazed over the realities of queer sex by idealizing it when comparing it to straight sex.

Ashman said, “[In] queer relationships, especially gay relationships, power dynamics do exist. Not every gay relationship is based in consent and a lot of these issues, like [in] queer relationships, don’t exist in a bubble away from all of these societal norms and expectations around sex, like queer relationships aren’t removed from that. I guess it kind of felt a little othering to kind of reduce all of the diversity of queer relationships into that one thing.”

Ashman also said her virtual hour group spoke about the lack of sex-education for queer people.

“We just talked in general about how sex-ed and education around sex and relationships, in Andover and outside of Andover everywhere, it just has really kind of failed us as queer people, and how can we make conversations about Andover specifically more expansive,” Ashman said.

Peggy Orenstein’s ASM inspired students to reflect on the inclusivity of sex-education and the culture of toxic-masculinity in various parts of campus life. As more students begin to evaluate our institution and their own identities, we hope that Andover continues to make strides to cultivate healthy and inclusive sexuality and masculinity. 

Abbot Academy, Events, Speakers, yes+

Take Back The Night 2020

by Emma S. ’20

For the past five years the Brace center has organized a Take Back the Night march and vigil at Phillips Acadmey to stand in solidarity with all survivors and speak out against sexual assault, harrasment, and gender-based violence. Traditionally, our program has ended with a community circle on Abbot Campus uniting us in light and love.

While we are not able to gather together physically, many members of the extended PA community still stand together in support of survivors through song, dance, poetry, and word. Brace students and adults have worked together to create a video version of Take Back the Night that includes all of these messages of support and love. Our hope is that this video will unite us all in support of survivors and in the fight to end gender-based violence.

This video, and its content  deals with topics related to sexual assault, harassment, gender based violence, and self-harm. If you are feeling triggered or need a safe space, please visit some of these resources ( Ensuring safety for yourself is a sign of strength, not weakness.



This video will go live on the evening of May 19th, 2020 – at the time that we would be starting this event on campus.  It will be available for viewing for a limited about of time.

If you are able, please join the Brace Center for a community conversation following the release of this video.  

brace fellows, Events, Speakers

Faculty Brace Fellow: Dr. Stephanie Sparling Williams

May 20th, 2020
6:30 pm
Live Session!
The Brace Center for Gender Studies is pleased to invite the community for a live Q+A with its 2019 Faculty Fellow, Dr. Stephanie Sparling Williams. Dr. Williams is the current associate curator for the Mount Holyoke College Art Museum and former visiting scholar in art history and assistant curator at the Addison Gallery.
Dr. Williams’s project “investigates connections between technology and the body, particularly how these seemingly disparate entities relate to and impact the creative praxis of women-identified artists of color.” Her timely investigation of these issues is framed by a series of questions, which include “What are the implications of post-human theories on gender and race identity constructs in art and media cultures?” and “How do modern technologies shape how women-identified artists of color approach their work?” These questions lead to a deep inquiry into “intersectional histories of technology, critical gender and race theory in game design and gaming cultures, studies in advanced technologies of art and visual culture, theories of post-humanism, the body, cyborgs, avatars, and technological surrogate studies.”
On Wednesday, May 20, at 6:30 pm, Dr. Williams will be available for a live Q+A session via Zoom. Zoom meeting information will be available on the day of the Q+A.  Questions can be submitted ahead of time and during the live session.

Click here to register for the Q&A Session with Dr. Williams.

Click here to submit questions for the Q&A session ahead of time.  


International Women’s Day 2020

The Brace Center celebrated International Women’s Day during exam week of Winter Term.  A delicious, super-tasty cake awaited students in Commons for snack and/or dessert.  Yum!


International Women’s Day (March 8) is a global day celebrating the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. The day also marks a call to action for accelerating women’s equality.