By Aleisha Roberts ’22
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.”