Abbot Inkwell, Community Features, Uncategorized

10 Questions with Ryan Saboia ‘22

By Kiran Ramratnam ‘22

By Joy Kim ’23
  1. Where do you call home? 

I actually had to do an essay at the start of the term about “what is home?” for my English [300] 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

  1. 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. 

  1. 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.

Abbot Inkwell, Community Features

Donoma Fredericson ’23 Navigates Gendered Spaces on Campus and Societal Gender Inequities

By Evalyn Lee ’23

By Joy Kim ’23

By engaging with feminist media and observing the role of gender at Andover, Brace Student Advisory Board member, Donoma Fredericson ’23, acknowledges societal gender inequities as well as gendered tensions on on our own campus. Even before becoming a board member last year, Fredericson took an interest in activism related to gender studies and was enthusiastic to join the board because of the Brace Center’s uniqueness as the only center for gender studies at a high school level.

“It’s not common to have gender studies or centers that are designated spaces for addressing gender-related issues. I consider myself a feminist, and I’ve been engaging in that sort of media and discussion for a little while, so hearing that Brace was an official thing going on here was really cool,” said Fredericson.

In her approach to the work of Brace, Fredericson finds inspiration from Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC).

“I tend to not think of having an idol or one significant role model, but I definitely admire some performers that I follow and then definitely, in particular, AOC. She’s really amazing in my opinion. She inspires me a lot with what she stands for, how she treats other people, and what she advocates for in her politics,” she said.

Following AOC’s work, Fredericson described her vision of an equitable world. She emphasized that the most basic requirement of an equitable world is human rights being afforded to all people. She also noted some of the inequities of the current times by highlighting the intersection between gender and poverty.

She said, “I’d definitely say the baseline and the main thing is just unconditional human rights being afforded to everybody. […] There are certainly a lot of women or non-male identifying people, in particular, who are affected by, and I’m not just saying that male-identifying people aren’t, but there are definitely intersectional effects of poverty, misogyny, and sexism in general. For example, there are women and girls, who will have, or have had to miss school or miss out on a lot of things because of lack of access to health care or menstrual products.”

In addition to these larger societal inequities, Fredericson pointed out the role of gender on Andover’s campus. In her involvement in Les Mis and her observations of the Fitness Centre last year, she found spaces on campus to be heavily gendered, fostering stereotypes of masculinity and femininity and limiting certain opportunities and resources. 

She said, “Performing arts don’t need to be gendered spaces. There doesn’t need to be unwritten rules, like, performing arts are kind of deemed feminine when they don’t need to be because that’s a thing that everybody should be able to engage in. [In the Fitness Center,] there’s a lot of testosterone in there. And there’s a lot of upperclassmen guys that are there. You don’t see a lot of people outside of that demographic, so it can be, and I know it is, to some people, intimidating to try to go in there.”

Fredericson accounted for the importance of the Brace Center’s work for Andover students’ futures. She believes that the conversations that the Brace center initiates will help students influence their communities, small or large, to be more equitable. 

She said, “Having these discussions and acknowledging issues when we’re in high school […]in a guided space is really important because if you have the time to learn about it for a while, then you can be more prepared to help aid in eliminating those issues wherever you continue on in life. Even if that’s just like your particular niche. If you go on to one job, even if you’re not necessarily making policy or even starting a movement or a nonprofit, et cetera, you can influence your personal environment and that’s a good thing.”

Abbot Academy, Community Features

Palmer Simpson ’23 Envisions Campus as a Wide Safe Space

By Evalyn Lee ’23

By Joy Kim ’23

Palmer Simpson ’23 reckons with his own identity as a cis-het-white male in his approach to starting more discussions surrounding race and gender. Simpson became a Student Advisory Board Member for Brace last year, and was first introduced to the Brace Center by his physics teacher  following a candid conversation about feminism.

Simpson said, “My physics teacher Ms. Artacho recommended that I look into [Brace] because we had a little discussion about feminism, and I was really interested. I wasn’t too afraid to speak up. I like sharing my opinions and that kind of stuff. And so she was like, ‘Hey, Palmer, I think you might be really interested in this. Do you want me to recommend you for getting involved?’ And I’m like that sounds awesome.”

After becoming a board member, Simpson’s initial curiosity for gender studies evolved into a habit for seeking more information. He also tries to share what he learns with his peers to encourage discussion on campus.

“Now that I am part of Brace, I think it’s changed my drive to find information…  [Now] I’m seeking it out because not only do I want to learn more, I want to be knowledgeable enough to teach people about it and to answer people’s questions and start discussions about it with my friends. I want to get a deeper understanding so that I can not just talk about it, but also teach about it,” he said.

Simpson’s approach to speaking up and engaging in conversations was initially inspired by his older sister. He admires her for her bravery to bring up topics such as LGBTQ+ rights with his family.

He said, “I think my sister is  kind of a trendsetter in my family. She’s older than me, and I feel like she really inspires me because she was the first to speak up about LGBTQ+ rights, and before that I hadn’t really considered it all that much. My family isn’t crazy conservative or crazy liberal, but we hadn’t discussed things like that and she wasn’t afraid to talk about it and bring it up and let us all know her viewpoint.”

In regard to conversations on gender inequities, Simpson acknowledges his privilege in his identity which can create blindspots. He also realizes the importance of Brace to help students like him become more aware. He used the pay gap issue as an example.

“For instance, the pay gap doesn’t really affect male-identifying people as much as it does female-identifying people. And so it’s all these issues that as a CIS white male, I probably wouldn’t have thought about. I can’t speak for everyone, on every CIS white male on campus, but if at least some of them shared the same perspective as me, I think having a place like Brace share information about those issues, it can prompt them to learn more or to consider how other people are struggling,” he said.

Furthermore, Simpson believes that a truly equitable Andover would provide a safe space, campus-wide, for all students. He believes that conversations regarding social issues shouldn’t be limited to EBI. 

He said, “I feel like the fact that we need a single space, like EBI, to talk about those issues means that people aren’t comfortable talking about them all around campus and I feel like if we can make the entirety of campus feel like a safe space like EBI is, I think that would be ideal. And that would be very helpful for everyone.”

Abbot Inkwell, Community Features

Evalyn Lee ’23 Uses Brace Center Education and Programming to Honor Women in Her Family

By Aleisha Roberts ’22

By Joy Kim ’23

In 2019, Evalyn Lee ’23 joined the Andover community as one of the first female-identifying people in her family to have access to a private school education. Lee was thrilled to join the Brace Student Advisory Board at the end of her freshman year, after being introduced to Brace’s work through her English 100 class. Lee hopes to make best use of her time on the board by learning about and advocating for gender equity since most women in her family did not have that opportunity. 

“My grandma never received a formal education and my mom went to a public school in Chicago. She told me that in the hallways she’d see girls walking around pregnant. It wasn’t a Phillips Academy… I think I have this privilege in attending an institution like Andover and… I feel like I need to do some work in gender equity because of the inequities my mom and grandmother faced which prevented them from going to a place like Andover,” said Lee.

She expressed that before coming to Andover, she had already been interested in social justice work, but was not yet familiar with its vocabulary or major concepts. Lee added that Brace functions as a place of learning for her as she develops her idea of an equitable world and works towards a more equitable environment on campus.

Lee said, “In freshman year at Andover, in our English class, we talked about gender and toxic masculinity. A lot of these topics and definitions and terms, I had never heard of. I didn’t know what intersex was, I didn’t know the difference between gender and sex, and then once I started learning more about these terms and definitions I started getting more interested in gender equity. When I was asked to join Brace I was super excited because I wanted to learn more and I wanted to learn different ways we could implement work for gender equity on campus.” 

Lee noted that before coming to Andover, her image of the community was idealized. She imagined that the campus would be perfectly liberal and accepting but found that there is still much work to be done with regard to gender equity. She highlighted the presence of transphobia, homophobia, and toxic masculinity on campus. Lee believes that Brace’s work is necessary to improve the community dynamic.

“I feel like the work we do at Brace is so important because if we can stir up conversations about healthy masculinity and gender equity, then we can make people start thinking about these topics. I think even if they remain ignorant, if they have that seed of an opposing belief, maybe that can make a difference… If we want to make Andover a school with an environment that’s accepting and joyful then we have to start with gender equity,” said Lee.

In an equitable world, according to Lee, everyone would feel comfortable being themselves and sharing their experiences. She argued that victims of sexual violence would not need to be afraid of not being believed, and that society would be less defined by a gender binary.

Lee described, “A world where people aren’t afraid to be themselves would be equitable in my eyes. For example, related to gender, if someone wanted to come out to their parents as nonbinary, I know a lot of nonbinary people have that fear because of the way society is extremely binary and non accepting of people who do not fit in the binary. I think in an equitable world people could be fully comfortable with their identities and not be afraid. Even for female-identifying people, they should not be afraid to go outside at night or walk back to their car in the parking lot. That fear shouldn’t exist. They shouldn’t be afraid to report sexual assault or rapes. I know a lot of women have that fear because they’re afraid of not being believed. I think an equitable world would be where people are not afraid to share their own experiences and their true selves.”