By Evalyn Lee ’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.”