At the “Left/Right Dance” on Saturday, a chaperone asked two female students wearing bralettes to either put on shirts or leave the event. Without shirts to wear, the students, Nikita Muromcew ’21 and Izzy Poros ’21, were required to leave the dance.
The two girls then posted about their removal from the dance on Instagram. In the comments section of that post, Amelia Meyer ’21 suggested a day in which girls wear bras without shirts to protest.
The movement, initially called “Bra Day,” has since shifted and now encourages students to hang bras from their backpacks or dress as they choose on April 26 “to stand up against societal clothing choice perversity,” according to an announcement posted on Meyer’s Instagram account. The protest is now called “Bras 4 A Cause.”
The movement’s original message accused the administration of gender bias because of allegations that shirtless male students were permitted to stay at the dance, although it has not been confirmed whether or not there were shirtless students at the dance.
Meyer explained that the movement has since shifted its cause to address gender-based clothing discrimination in society at large.
“In our initial movement, we had suggested that the deans had acted in a sexist behavior on behalf of the administration, but the problem with that is that that is just too far to push the event, basically. And so we kind of revised it, so instead of having everyone wear bras on Friday, as was the initial plan, we’re just having people hang bras off of their backpack or wear stickers to show that they support not standing for societal clothing choice perversity,” said Meyer.
Muromcew and Poros said that although they were initially upset at their removal from the dance, they were not involved in the planning of the actual “Bras 4 A Cause” protest.
“I hadn’t seen the email [written by Meyer about the protest] before it was sent out. I don’t think Izzy saw the official statement before it was sent out, but it made it seem like we had founded [the protest],” said Muromcew.
In the days following the dance, Muromcew, Poros, and Meyer all had the opportunity to talk with Jennifer Elliott ’94, Assistant Head of School for Residential Life and Dean of Students, and several other members of the faculty and administration.
Poros thought that speaking to the administration directly was a good course of action following her removal from the dance.
“I think the first step was really just collaborating with the faculty, because I think they’re really what can help us the most to get the word out and to help foster more conversations about this…I know that this school tries to talk about things like gender expression and identity and things that control how this school works and how students feel, so I think talking to them was the first big step to doing something bigger.”
Muromcew said that she felt glad to have a constructive conversation on the matter.
Muromcew said, “We weren’t angry at [Andover]. We weren’t angry at the administration. We were angry that we still felt unsafe and upset, and talking to the deans and everyone in that room that was with us, it was so comforting actually, just because they really just wanted to hear how we felt, and then they all understood how we felt as well,” said Muromcew.
According to Elliott, the movement created the opportunity for conversation about gender-based discrimination both at Andover and beyond.
“I think what students unearthed, though, in the last couple of days, is where they are really wishing there was more conversation around where it feels like there’s inequities, where it feels like there’s systemic issues around gender that feel really frustrating and that there’s need for change. Those are issues that extend far beyond Andover, but certainly, Andover’s not immune to them,” said Elliott.
“I very much hope, that the students felt supported by faculty members and administrators in that room. That was definitely the aim. I think the discussion of a protest led to a lot of really good conversation, and I think that that’s a really good thing,” she added.
While “Bras 4 A Cause” has stirred many reactions from students across campus, Shyan Koul ’19 spoke to both the drive that he felt from the Lower class and the indifference that he witnessed on the part of the Seniors.
“What I think is the most interesting thing is seeing how different grades feel. I feel like this is one of the first times that the Class of ’21 is really…taking initiative… feel[ing] really passionate about the things that they do. And seeing that, and then also seeing the Seniors kind of don’t really care as much…maybe it’s just because it’s Senior spring, so we don’t really want to get involved,” said Koul.
Despite the indifference from some students, others have taken to social media to express their opinions on the movement. One of them, Isaac Heitmann ’22, posted a message on Instagram to express his views and give others a chance to debate, which Heitmann said he appreciated.
“On my Instagram post, I stated my opinion on what happened, and I said that A) we need to consider the other motives that could have impacted the deans’ decision and B) we do need to examine these other motives before we make accusations that will potentially have very big impacts on people’s lives and their families… No one is considering just the other things that could have been going on,” said Heitmann.
Koul noted how the lack of a complete narrative may be contributing to the proliferation of “performative wokeness” around social justice issues.
“There’s a lot of speculation about what happened, and I think the whole idea of there being so many different parts of a story is indicative of an Andover culture that is obsessed with extrapolating some kind of meaning to everything that happens,” said Koul.
He also pointed out how Andover students may have also unintentionally created a culture where incidents are blown out of proportion in the pursuit of social justice.
“People want to fit a certain narrative to serve their own interests, whatever that is…[It’s] a show of, ‘Look. We’re standing up, we’re rebelling,’ which is cool, but I think it’s also important for that to be grounded in an understanding of this community,” said Koul.