FairPlay Art Campaign

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).

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  1. April 27, 2017 by Susan Fine

    Wow! So appreciate your art and what it communicates. It would be GREAT to see these pieces in a space where a large audience would see them. I could imagine a whole campaign on this topic, illustrated with your art, on social media! You must continue to pursue this. I also wouldn’t use the word “crude” for your work but rather would call it provocative. And, you’re quite right that we’re sometimes willing to do whatever it takes to get a laugh. I guess my question is where humor can be clever and satirical and used to push for change and when it crosses into insulting or denigrating others, especially the less powerful…? Keep up your great work!

  2. April 28, 2017 by Max Bethel

    I think this project is amazing. Your art pieces are beautiful, and I think it sends a great message. I thank you for the project.

  3. April 30, 2017 by Katarina Yepez

    I like your project very much! I think that women are often targeted in humour because men are quick to make lighthearted jokes about are bodies and mannerisms. It’s stereotyping and not at all what we want to be recognized for. Women have to go through so many changes with their bodies over their lifetimes which men, generally speaking don’t have to go through, most of the time it takes a while for us to even become comfortable in our bodies, if we ever are. Having jokes made about us crushes that and the fact that communities find it funny to laugh about things a person can’t change is just quite sad. I really like your art. I am also an artist and it reminded me a bit of a girl in my AP class’s art work. In a similar fashion she used skeletal body parts to depict major societal issues. It is quite a shocking graphic and draws attention. So from an artistic standpoint your project accomplishes a lot, as well. One question I had was: How might women seek to stand up for themselves in improv and stand up comedy if a crude remark is made about them?

  4. April 30, 2017 by Julia.Halm

    Hi Ana! This is such a cool project! My school has an improv troupe, and I definitely notice the bend toward (crude) male humor, and how the few girls in the group are treated differently than the other guys. Like you said, gross jokes/fats jokes are abundant because they always seem to get a laugh. Advocating for women in comedy is so important, but it’s not something that everyone thinks about. Great job!

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