Combatting the Gender Fad

In celebration of Andover’s 40 years of coeducation, the library walls are currently adorned with historical articles, statistics and documents relating to the merger of Phillips and Abbot Academies. The issues and movements presented in the articles tacked to the library wall parallel issues many students on campus vehemently discuss today. The Feminism is Equality movement that took campus by storm climaxed exactly a year ago — and has since dwindled. This type of decline in conversation cannot happen to campus-wide discussion of gender and its role in society, as this is a permanent idea. As part of celebrating Coed@40, we as a community are responsible for taking the time to understand the gender issues that still affect Andover to this day. Only in doing so can we fix these issues once and for all. This past weekend, I attended the Girls Leadership Project’s annual sleepover in the Brace Center, which focused on celebrating and improving methods of gender integration on campus. The sleepover provided female students on campus with the opportunity to socialize, seek mentorship and become more cognizant of societal and campus issues surrounding gender. For example, when discussing the dynamic evolution of female body image over history, we noticed that each decade’s volatile and ideal images were based on the unattainable. Despite one’s internal security and assurance of her image, we determined that these ceaseless societal pressures often overpower. Unfortunately, a fad in the discussion of gender cannot fix this — only a permanent change can. While students profoundly interested in gender studies tackle the social culture and stigma surrounding feminism in their free time, others who are not will remain unaware of the vast extent of these issues, and an irreversible knowledge gap will form in-between as a result. Girls Leadership Project is a step in the right direction to increase awareness and education relating to gender issues. Instituting permanent changes, however, such as a program during orientation, mandatory dorm talks or workshops on these perpetually relevant topics, will ultimately help the school create a uniform understanding of coeducation. Coeducation affects all Andover students, male and female. Thus, the study, discussion and understanding of gender in our community must be all-inclusive, and programs similar to Girls Leadership Project must be introduced on a wider scale so these messages can reach students and faculty from all areas of campus. I urge the school, alumni and parents to collaborate with students pursuing gender studies and lend a hand to create permanent and useful change. Phillips and Abbot Academies may have merged 40 years ago, but the development of coeducation is not over.