Brace Center Holds Conference on Gender-Based Abuse

The Brace Center for Gender Studies, an academic resource center for students and faculty to learn more about the intricacies of gender, hosted a secondary-school conference on gender-based harassment last Friday.

Headed by Tracy Ainsworth, Director of the Brace Center for Gender Studies, the conference focused on the pervasive challenges created by gender-based harassment and violence, as well as the potential for positive interventions.

The main goals of the conference were to create a growing network of educators working on gender-based issues and to form a list of practices meant to combat gender-based harassment and violence.

“[The conference] was a great opportunity for the Brace Center to function in a leadership role, promoting awareness of one of the most important issues facing adolescents today and bringing together educators from peer schools to work together to develop solutions and programs,” wrote Ainsworth in an email to The Phillipian.

In the hopes of deepening their understanding of issues related to gender-based harassment and violence in educational institutions, faculty and administrators met with leading experts in the fields of gender and sexuality, including Corinne Field ’83, Director of Undergraduate Programs for Women, Gender and Sexuality at the University of Virginia.

Ainsworth said, “About 100 educators from K-12 institutions came from the New England area, New York, Washington D.C., and even from South Africa to discuss ways that K-12 schools can do a better job of educating kids about gender and sexuality diversity and can begin to form partnerships and collaborate to try to combat gender-based harassment and violence.”

Additionally, the conference featured an awareness-raising session led by facilitators from Mentors in Violence Prevention (MVP), a mixed-gender and multi-racial gender violence and bullying prevention program that has a unique way of addressing issues of relationship abuse and sexual assault.

MVP’s “bystander approach” teaches bystanders to be effective combatants against gender-based violence by reacting, according to the program’s website.

Ainsworth said, “Active bystander intervention is the only data-tested program that has been proven to reduce gender-based harassment and violence on college campuses, and we are trying to bring that here to Andover for faculty and students.”

Following the gender-based discussion sessions, the Brace Center Conference presented a screening of the film “The Mask You Live In,” a documentary that explores America’s narrow definition of masculinity by following the lives of boys and young men of various backgrounds.

Ainsworth said, “The day was a huge success, and people brought so much vision, commitment and energy to these conversations. We’re hoping to facilitate ongoing working groups and to write up a report that conference attendees can share with their home institutions.”