This year I planned to be more active in my mentorship and volunteer roles, mostly to break up the monotony of teaching the same thing every single month. Volunteering helps me feel worthwhile, and like I’m doing something meaningful with my life. I have put a lot of energy into these efforts, I believe in what I am doing, and I know that I am helping younger people on their journeys. Currently, we are organizing the SoundGirls Orlando Expo 2019 set for July 13 at Full Sail University. It’s a lot, and I am super excited about helping host this event!
Diversity is the key to survival; this is a fundamental aspect of any ecosystem. If you look around and see a bunch of people who look and think exactly like you, how are any of you adding something valuable? An aspect of being more active in my community is the sheer amount of people that I am deliberately exposing myself to at a higher frequency. This year has been the year of Confrontational Assholes; we will call them CA going forward. There are two examples that stand out to me from this year of hustling and promoting *the cause* of equality in the industry.
Story Time, Folks
I was a vendor at an industry expo; it was my first time doing this. I have been to many expos and shows, so I know the deal, but it’s still exhausting for me to speak to a ton of strangers all day. Most responses from people at the expo (predominately male, which I expected) were humoring me, and I felt mild amusement from them. That’s fine because there were ten women who were so excited that SG exists it was worth it, that’s our target audience. I know I am not changing any minds who don’t want to be opened. I am helping connect people to a growing network of resources and allies. As I am speaking with a woman who works in marketing for an entertainment technology company, another person (CA) comes up to ask us, “What is this all about?” I give my spiel. His gloriously clueless response is forever burned in my memory: “Well, you don’t see women working in this industry (for him it was Broadcast) because they can’t wear high heels to work.” The two of us glanced down to our *flat* shoes in astonishment. “Well, there are many women who are working in a variety of technical positions who seem to do just fine with whatever shoes we choose to wear, and that comment is why we are working to promote awareness and establish allies in the industry,” I exhaled, exasperated. The looks exchanged between me and, the other woman were priceless, we had a shared silent moment of “Jesus Christ; this is literally why we are doing this and how clueless is this guy?!” He seemed to have that comment locked and loaded just to piss me off. Grace and manners got me through that one. It was worth it, I tell myself, for the people who I can reach and help find some amazing resources.
My second CA incident this year comes from a panel on Women in the Entertainment Industry hosted at my university. I was excited to attend, as these things are my jam. One of the comments that stood out to me explained that women seem to lack confidence and that they don’t get promoted or recognized because they are afraid to stand up for themselves. After listening to what I felt was a lot of women-blaming, which is my interpretation of some of the panelist’s comments, they had a Q&A.
My question was formed around how the panelists suggest we handle those situations, rather than accepting abuse in the workplace. I prefaced with my position, job, etc. and gave a personal example from when I worked on a cruise ship almost a decade ago, and my production manager called me a “stupid white bitch” during a rehearsal. How do we handle that situation and still have confidence in the workplace? One panelist’s response was, “You need to quit that job,” which I replied was not always an option. Another panelist went OFF on me. Her response was fueled by aggression and blew me away. I wasn’t ready for a woman, a perceived ally, to tell me in front of my peers that I am clearly incapable of being a mentor to others because I carry around insecurities and damage from my past. Completely shocked, and with attempts to rebuff extinguished by more bullying, I did what seemed the best in the situation. I said nothing else and sat down. She very loudly proved the exact point I was asking for a solution to, which was that when women ask for help or guidance, we are often shut down or dismissed. The same thing happened when I went to the director in response to being called names by the PM; I was dismissed. They were buddies, so it was brushed off.
Too many successful women blame other women for not trying hard enough.
Several women came up to me after the panel, which I considered leaving early but did not want to show weakness. They expressed outrage at the panelists’ response and correctly understood my point of “your reaction is literally what I am talking about.” THOSE women are allies, and I hope they know that I appreciate their comfort and support. I’ve done some additional research because I still hadn’t gotten an answer to my question. How do we handle adversity when faced with bullying or aggression in the workplace, when no one is listening, and a clean escape is not an immediate option? I defer to a quote that I found within this article, “9 Keys to Handling Hostile and Confrontational People.”
“Don’t take anything personally…What others say and do is a projection of their own reality…When you are immune to the opinions and actions of others, you won’t be the victim of needless suffering.” -Miguel Angel Ruiz
Empathy is, once again, a valuable tool. We are not excusing the behaviors of others, instead taking the time to control the only thing we can: our own reaction and behavior. There is so much more wisdom than I have space to include here, if this is helpful to you, please find this article as well: “Agreeing with the Four Agreements.” There are many more resources referenced, and I am just now going down this rabbit hole.
During Infocomm 2019, I had the privilege of attending the AVIXA Women’s Networking Council, hosted by Shure. This was a lovely, positive, and hopeful event with a keynote speech given by Shure’s CEO Christine Schyvinck. She explored the trends of women working in STEAM positions and incited a call to action for us to promote and cultivate young women’s interests in these careers. The women I met there made an effort to get up and be presentable at 7:30 am, and Christine inspired us to take our energy and efforts to help move the next generation. This is why I give a shit about what I do; this is why I will handle whatever confrontational person I encounter. What we are doing now matters to the future generations, we can shame people in public for having bad experiences, or we can lift them up to be greater and learn from those times instead.
Susan Williams is an educator in Winter Park, FL for a creativity and technology-focused university. Previously she was a local theatre technician and independent micro-budget film producer. She received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Theatre with a minor in Cinema Studies from the University of Central Florida. Susan has spent her career working for various theatres around the country, including the Orlando Repertory Theatre, The Garden Theatre, and the Lake Tahoe Shakespeare Festival. She has also worked as a digital projectionist for the Florida Film Festival. In addition to theatre, she has produced an award-winning short film, “Séance.” In 2014, Susan produced her first feature-length horror film, “Interior,” which has won many festival awards, including Best Horror Feature Film at Shriekfest 2015, Best Sound Design, NYC Horror Film Festival 2015, and Audience Award for the Knoxville Horror Film Festival 2015. Susan is an active member of the Orlando chapter of SoundGirls.