By Aimee Chiavaroli
The Guerrilla Girls Broadband visited Stonehill sporting gorilla masks Wednesday, Oct. 28, and Thursday, Oct. 29, for a panel discussion, a knit-in, a poster collaboration and intimate discussions with students about feminism and sexual assault on campus.
The Broadband is an extension of the original Guerrilla Girls, formed in 1985 to protest the lack of women artists and minorities in art galleries. The group works anonymously, using the names of deceased female artists to ensure their work is about the movement, not themselves. Most of their protests come in the form of posters. The posters show statistics and use humor to communicate the group’s message. Many of the posters have been featured in the art galleries against which the Guerilla Girls have protested.
The Broadband focuses on communicating on the Internet and at multimedia events. Their projects have centered on discrimination in the workplace, army recruitment tactics in schools and reproductive rights. They also helped Colubia University student Emma Sulkowicz carry her year-long performance art project in which she carried around the mattress on which she was sexually assaulted.
The Guerrilla Girls Broadband were almost unable to come to Stonehill because of a disagreement over the College’s conservative views and the Broads’ (as they call themselves) belief in the right to abortion access.
The Broad with the pseudonym Gerda Taro, who wore glasses over her mask with lipstick, said Broad Alla Horska was in touch with a faculty member, but was uninvited last spring because of the feature “map abortion” on their website. This map feature shows where women can seek help for abortions by state.
Candice Smith-Corby, director of the Carole Calo Gallery, was their point person of contact, Horska said, and thought the Broadband could help discuss the issue of sexual assault on campus. Despite the conflict in politics, some faculty and students pushed for these events.
“To get them here was a long road of talks and discussions,” Smith-Corby said.
Taro believed the workshops would “provide a tactile exchange between activist artists and student activists,” and Gene Stratton-Porter said it would give students a “safe space to freely discuss issues of rape and sexual assault.”
“Guerrilla Girls Broadband has a very specific mission with engagement and having voices represented, specifically audience engagement and audience participation online and in person. It’s important for us to engage with students and amplify their voices,” Alma Karlin said.
The most unique aspect of the visit to campus relates to the fact that Graphic Design students were able to collaborate with the Broads on a poster, this being the first time they have collaborated with people outside of their collective, making Stonehill part of their art history.
“We’re hoping other schools follow Stonehill’s lead and participate,” Horska said.
On Wednesday night Oct. 28, the panel consisted of Jessica Greene of the Health and Wellness office, Caroline Martell of The Moore Center for Gender Equity, Professor Megan Mitchell of the Philosophy Department, Vice President of Women’s Health and Empowerment Now (WHEN) Katie Lusa and the four Broads: Gerda Taro, Alma Karlin, Alla Horska and Gene StrattonPorter.
The panelists introduced themselves and offered resources for students, and the Broads showed a PowerPoint presentation explaining their history and their mission.
“We’re committed to diversity,” Karlin said, and “We’re about audience participation and collaboration,” StrattonPorter said.
At the end of their presentation, they had a list of goals they wanted to accomplish during the visit including, “How can we create a better dialogue surrounding this issue as a community and individuals within it and create a safe space? How can procedures, laws and responses be improved on campus or in the public sphere? How can our efforts instigate change?”
Audience members had the opportunity to ask the Broads questions. The conversation covered many topics beside sexual assault. One female student asked, “Is it OK for me to like guys and want to be respected, but still be a feminist because I’m awesome?”
“Part of what’s critical to being a feminist is that empowerment, Alma said.
She added that it is important to be gender blind and to treat people equally.
Smith-Corby asked how women today view feminism and the Broads’ reaction to people who are not feminists.
“It’s about opening up questions and not shutting them down,” Karlin said.
“What it means to be a feminist is a conversation,” Professor Megan Mitchell said. “There’s no way to tell exactly what it means for everybody.”
“I think the move toward intersectionality is amazing… I never found more of a community who wanted to support who I was,” Horska said.
Kate Odden ’16 raised concerns about how women are not only paid less, but are hesitant when it comes to pay or will not ask for more money even though they deserve it. She asked what people can do personally and as a culture.
Horska said it is alright to ask companies about their guidelines, how they can protect you in terms of pay wage and find out how many women in the company have leading roles.
During the night, there was a memorable comment by an older white man who expressed concern about police brutality and the rapidly growing number of black men and women who are being senselessly killed by police. He also talked about the divide between the sexes and politics. When he finished making his statement, the audience applauded him.
To continue the dialogue about equality and sexual assault, join the Stonehill community Thursday, Nov. 5, when students, faculty and staff are encouraged to pick up a “Hello, my name is…” name tag and fill in the blank. People can make a personal statement indicating how they have been impacted by sexual assault. There will be an event at 9 p.m. at Brother Mikes Nov. 5 with student performers and visual displays by social justice clubs on campus