I created a series of art pieces in response to micro-aggressions against women in the improv comedy community. (I understand this is a very niche example but hopefully anyone can relate to some of the sentiment and method behind my project.) I partnered with FairPlay and organization in Minneapolis advocating for equitable spaces in improv comedy.
Fighting micro-aggressions is particularly difficult because they are everyday slights or put downs, but they amount to a definitive culture. In other words, casual comments and passing remarks can create an environment of hostility. Oppression doesn’t have to come in the form of laws or explicitly defined.
In order to reverse this inequality there needs to be a shift in the culture at large. I realized the best way to influence a community is to facilitate conversations – my mind jumped to art! My campaign sought to point out some of the micro-aggressive instances I had gathered from shared stories and my own experiences.
I knew I needed my art to be intelligent and start discourse around these issues but I also knew I needed my art to grab the attention of my audience. For this reason my art is particularly crude and shocking.
Improv is often made to be hyper sexual (dick jokes get a cheap laugh). But lots of the women I’ve spoken to have been in situations where they’ve been made to feel uncomfortable as their male scene partners make inappropriate comments about a woman’s body. Another problem – not exactly expressed in this piece is the frustration expressed by women who have had their body made the butt of a joke on stage (fat jokes/eating disorder jokes). This piece is a combination of gross and sexy.
“Woah, this is kind of gross…”
“Yeah well misogyny is gross.”
Another big issue FairPlay has been trying to tackle is creating more opportunity in improv comedy for women. After all representation is key when it comes to changing the culture. Male improvisors need to get over the preposterous idea that she can’t kick it with the guys. She can and she will. There is not a lack of good female comedians, there’s plenty but they aren’t getting gigs. Ultimately it’s about what audiences want to see. Hopefully this can inspire you to support a diversity of headliners.
Finally, FairPlay and other campaigns like this have been met with frustration and anger by men in the community. So my final piece is a bit of a general assertion to on behalf of all causes fighting for recognition and equality (pronouns can be switched the sentiment remains). People of dominant identities may feel ‘called out’ or threatened but it’s important to remember this is a discussion, not a yelling match. Listening to others sacrifices nothing, but when we silence a diversity of voices we loose the countless opportunity to advance ourselves (or just have a laugh).