Kicking off the Coed@40 weekend programming, seven students shed light on their experiences with gender and race, an intersection that is often excluded from the mainstream feminism conversation, and, some argued, from Andover’s Feminism is Equality movement.
“People tend to think of the two issues as taking place in different silos and if you’re talking about gender you’re not talking about race, and usually that means you’re talking about white gender. I thought it was really important for us to use the anniversary events to make the conversation about gender broader,” said Tony Rotundo, Instructor in History and co-chair of the Coed@40 committee, a group of faculty and students organizing events in honor of the 40th year of coeducation.
The student panelists at the event were Alba Disla ’15, Devontae Freeland ’15, Kai Kornegay ’14, Farris Peale ’14, Soha Sanchorawala ’14, Alex Tamkin ’14 and Daniel Wang ’14.
Kornegay’s own experience emphasized the importance of acknowledging diversity of background within gender, race and class labels.
“I could never really separate being black and being a woman, and if anything coming from a race standpoint it almost felt like a privilege to be a black woman. I’m not being read as immediately dangerous and that’s something that a lot of black men have to deal with,” Kornegay said.
While Kornegay found her experiences with race and gender as synonymous, Freeland grew up with the opposite mindset.
“My experience with race and gender simply were separate. I didn’t find for the most part any kind of crossover any kind of correlation between [them]… in my town, when you were a boy, in my town, in the fall you played popcorn football, in the winter… basketball, and in the spring you played baseball. Now, if you were black, you played all three of those, and you did it rather well,” Freeland said.
Kornegay explained her feelings of estrangement from Feminism Is Equality, Andover’s feminist movement from last spring.
“I think that one of the faults is that they want to be intersectional but they never asked us directly… they never contacted Alianza or AfLatAm and said, ‘Look, we really think this is important we really want you guys to get involved’… I think that that would have been one way the feminist [movement], I think, would be a lot more appealing to me,” said Kai Kornegay.
Wang described growing up feeling like an “outsider” as a Chinese-American in a predominantly white community.
“East Asians, Asians, Asian Minorities, are taught from a young age both that ‘you are different, you are the other, and you are inferior’ and that ‘you should not acknowledge it, you should not fight against it, you should not argue against those facts,’” said Wang.
He reflected on the small moments in his life in which his Chinese heritage and language set him apart from his classmates.
Disla’s experience as a Latina woman stemmed from the expectation for her to get married and have children early instead of pursuing an education, according to Disla. She began to feel like an outsider when she arrived to Andover’s campus, where the majority of white students differed from her majority-Latino community in Lawrence, and she felt that her academic preparation was inadequate in comparison with her peers.
“[Before Andover] I never really had to interact with anyone other than the Hispanics. Race wasn’t something that was something on my mind everyday… and then I came to Andover, big shock to me…[and] I started to really see that I was an ‘other’ and I didn’t see it… It was a big blow to my self esteem,” said Disla.