Brie Did Matter


Opinion by Jeppe Damberg,
December 8th, 2017


As many UWCM readers may know, Brie Mathers visited our school Wednesday and Thursday last week. I attended the second session on Thursday, and I feel compelled, somewhat provoked, into sharing my thoughts on how the session unfolded.
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We gathered in the atrium to what we thought would be a repetition of the girls’ Wednesday session, including singing, dancing and debating with strong emotions. Something was, however, different from the very beginning on Thursday. Brie Mathers started by sharing with us that she had come to feel vulnerable after the previous session’s many challenging questions, but that she still wished to take on this session as a challenge. A thoughtful approach to handling a non-familiar audience, I thought.
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Brie then proceeded by talking about male beauty ideals in media and discussed how beauty standards affect young boys today. Unfortunately, it was nearly impossible to hear her voice due to a hum of chatting and giggling in the atrium. This is perhaps expected when inviting many young kids into one room, but as she delved deeper into how ideals of masculinity are perpetuated in products – think Old Spice – the noise intensified. It became clear that not everyone was capable of engaging in the topic respectfully. When Brie illustrated the increasing visibility of gender expectations in toys, it became too much for some boys to bare.
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From that moment on, Brie’s explanations were consistently interrupted by students. One student interrogated her sources’ credibility, another questioned Brie on why she raised issues of masculinity to an “already-accepting community.” It came to a point where it seemed as if Brie was becoming emotional. Embarrassing, I thought, we praise ourselves as an accepting community and here we were undermining a person’s attempt to share her opinion.
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Bouts of aggressiveness continued. A younger student felt the need to state, in a rather arrogant tone, “in this community most people do not feel pressured from gender expectations.” A statement statistically unrealistic and with the sole purpose of undermining Brie’s presence in the atrium. Brie answered by stating that many girls in our school had written testimonials evident of the opposite. The lower years did not accept this answer and only became wilder. A disturbing thought came to my mind. I wondered if the same disregard of everything Brie said would have occurred had she been a man. I do not have the answer, but I perceived Brie to be fragile, an easy target and I assume the boys had the same notion.
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The noise withdrew as Tom Oden decided to stand up in front of the audience. Clearly embarrassed by the performance of us as a community, he reminded us why we were at this talk in the first place: to reflect upon ourselves. He then asked us to reach the level of decency we claim to have as a community. Watching the almost deliberate attempts to disrupt Brie’s presentation had left a bad taste in my mouth, and I felt somewhat guilty for my passiveness as a member of our community.
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Fortunately, from Tom’s pause, voices of DP students led the group to a respectable form of discussion. We started to listen to each other and to present arguments in a proper manner. It was the maturity students should have shown from the very beginning and which could have avoided this embarrassment. Some boys may think that their attempt to sabotage a speech brought them praise from peers, but it only proved Brie’s point that we do have a problem discussing gender-related topics in our community. Ultimately, Brie’s visit highlighted why this school needs more vertical targeting, for that reason I believe it was a successful event.

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