Twelve Seniors Create Website To Promote Feminism and Equality on Campus

After weeks of debate, commentary articles in The Phillipian and a heated election cycle, 12 Seniors created “Feminism is Equality,” a website to address common misconceptions about the feminism movement and the gender norms at Andover. Angela Batuure, Connie Cheng, MJ Engel, Gabbi Fisher, Maia Hirschler, Samuel Koffman, Jackie Murray, Nicole Ng, Jing Qu, Madeline Silva, Heather Zhou and Julie Zhou, all class of 2013, launched the website last Saturday. The site is intended to foster discussion about gender across campus, challenge the idea of Andover as a meritocracy, increase female leadership on campus and precipitate a cultural shift away from gender norms, according to the website. “‘Feminism is Equality’ aims to raise awareness about the implicit sexism that exists in our world and to challenge structural and institutional barriers. We hope to promote the recognition that feminism means equality in opportunity and treatment, not to promote one gender or antagonize another,” states. The site includes an “experiences” section for students, faculty and alumni to submit their own experiences with microaggressions or gender norms. The experiences submitted include overheard day-to-day comments. “You’re a girl, and the teacher is a feminist, so it’s an easy six,” wrote one student. Hoping to educate the greater school community, the Seniors included vocabulary to frame the discussion, such as “microaggression” and “sexism,” and resources for further reading on the topic on the website. Feminism is Equality also started a group on Facebook, called “Feminism at Andover,” open to all Andover students, to facilitate discussion throughout the Andover community. The members of Feminism is Equality started designing the website towards the end of Winter Term, but they sped up the launch of the website after learning that “The New York Times” was writing an article about female leadership at Andover titled “School Vote Stirs Debate on Girls as Leaders.” “We expected there to be a lot of criticism [after the article] because the reporter did touch on some sensitive subjects, but we didn’t expect people to be more focused on the original writing of the article itself than of the message. I think, after that, there was a really big push to publish the website so that the focus could be brought back towards feminism and equality,” said Qu. “I think the ‘New York Times’ article skewed the focus back on the election, which is something we don’t really stress in the website. It’s much more about feminism itself, and it’s much more about microagression, everyday experiences and it really doesn’t touch on the 2013 Andover Presidential Election,” Qu continued. Microaggression describes the everyday incidents of overt sexism that the population has grown so accustomed to that they are no longer viewed as sexist, according to the website. Social constructionism is the formation of gender-specific roles and identities. The creators are currently looking through the Andover and Abbot Academy archives to gather ethnographic data about leadership and gender norms at Andover. “The aim of looking through the archives and putting stuff onto the research tab is to show that these little day-to-day experiences are products of a bigger problem,” said Silva. They plan to host discussions with Allegra Asplundh-Smith ’04, the most recent female School President, and Kanyi Maqubela ’03, the 2002-2003 School President, according to the website. In the future, the group will also post historical data and research, host face-to-face discussions and reach out to underclassmen, according to Engel. The same group previously organized the “Sex, Gender and Race in Leadership” forum during Extended Period Week of Winter Term. The Feminism is Equality group will continue to work directly with the Girls’ Leadership Project (GLP) to help encourage younger girls to get involved in leadership and enact a cultural shift towards gender equality among younger female students, according to the members. Though the community response has been largely positive, the website has received some negative responses, Fisher said. “We’ve gotten a lot of praise in the form of e-mails from students, but we’ve also received a bit of the expected ‘you guys are just being naggy feminists’ feedback on an anonymous tumblr submission box where people can submit their experiences with cultural or gender inequality at Andover,” said Fisher. Fisher said, “We love this school, and we want to leave it a more equal place; no matter your gender, race or socioeconomic status, we want to raise awareness to the fact that we do not live in a pure meritocracy.” Qu said they will hold an “informal” selection process for those interested in continuing the site next year after the Seniors’ graduation.