Panelists go beyond #MeToo

Panelists discussed creating safe spaces within classrooms, and the need to increase inclusivity in the college’s curriculum, at the Beyond #MeToo: Confronting Power Imbalances in the Arts and Media Industries event.

Over a hundred people attended a panel sponsored by the visual and media arts, and performing arts departments on Wednesday night in the Bright Family Screening Room. Four panelists—assistant journalism professor Catherine D’Ignazio, marketing communications associate professor Kristin Lieb, business of creative enterprises Director Wes Jackson, and Assistant Director of Career Services Jessica Chance ‘00—talked about the the movement’s influence on the college’s campus, as well as initiating the discourse necessary for students entering the creative workforce.

Chair of the visual and media arts department Brooke Knight, who organized the event along with visual and media arts Programming Manager Anna Feder, said in an interview that the event began as a means to engage the Emerson community in a real, meaningful conversation about sexual assault in response to the #MeToo movement’s acceleration.

“Our #MeToo panel is the start of a broader discussion,” Knight said.

Associate visual and media arts professor Miranda Banks, the moderator, started the panel explaining the history the movement, from Tarana Burke’s introduction of the phrase in 2006, to the popularized usage of the hashtag on social media during the fall of 2017, especially in October.

Chance, a part-time actor, said during the panel that the theater community has always been an intimate space where boundaries blur due to the nuances of close performance art with others. Career Services receives important questions from students in the media and arts industries about what to look out for in the workforce, Chance said.

“The first thing we think about is telling students that if the internship is in a basement, that’s a problem. If there are red flags, we want to know. ” Chance said. “We want to put those facts in front of students.”

D’Ignazio said she was no stranger to red flags in the technology industry, a well-known sexist space.

“There’ve been conversations about diversity in tech for a very long time, and very little has changed. In a lot of ways, I don’t think MeToo [has made] enough roads in tech,” she said.

Visual and media arts freshman Kate Gondwe said she identified with the female and person of color perspectives discussed by the panelists, and was surprised to see a large audience of students outside of those identities.

“Having discussions like this really helps VMA students across Emerson, no matter what your demographic is, in terms of getting a better understanding of the struggles of other people within the film industry,” Gondwe said. “I think having more panels as such, and more discussion of [these problems] brings greater awareness, especially to a school as was said in the panel, [that] is predominantly white.”

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