Third year Alison Kuhn had a particular investment in last Thursday’s “Bad A** Women in Media” panel at OpenGrounds.

As a double major in Media Studies and Women, Gender and Sexuality, she was a key organizer of the event but also listened to advice of the panelists with personal interest. Kuhn has also noticed more females in her classes which inspires her and “signals that girls are ready to take charge in the media industry […]” Kuhn invited panelists and a moderator, as well as helped with marketing by writing press releases and creating a Facebook event.

Iris Magazine, based in the Women’s Center, has interns who plan, prepare and execute the event each semester on a different area of study. Assistant Editor of Iris Adelyn Bender, Assistant to the Editor Emily Lloyd, and Iris interns Breeonna Reed and Kiana Williams were also instrumental in promoting the event on social media, ordering catering and setting up the venue. About 25 guests were in attendance at the latest installment of the speaker series on “Bad A** Women.”

Kuhn asked one of her professors, the current Chair of the Media Studies Department, Siva Vaidhyanathan to act as moderator for the panel. The three panelists were Media Studies Professor Andrea Press, Associate Editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review Allison Wright and Web Editor of the Virginia Quarterly Review Jane Friedman.

“All three of these accomplished professionals have stories of their own, in terms of making their own careers, but they also are astute observers of the places that women have occupied in [… media], various challenges that women have faced, and of course, the great successes that the most bad a** women in media have accomplished,” Vaidhyanathan said to kick off the event.

As the first panelist, Press highlighted women to watch on her PowerPoint.  Although she said it was difficult to narrow her list because it kept “getting longer and longer,” she selected Rachel Maddow, Geena Davis, Tippi Hedren, Jennifer Weiner and Laia Abril as because they’ve spread awareness about gender inequities among different areas of the industry such as publishing and film.

Similarly, Friedman recognized resources that have increased visibility like VIDA, Lady Journos and Tech Ladymafia. She also pointed out digital magazine work by women that are different than most women’s magazines, not “the stereotypical things that are sometimes associated with women like fashion […]” such as Symbolia and Emily Books.

Lastly, Wright focused on one woman, Rachel Sklar. Sklar’s efforts encouraged collaboration rather than competition by creating networking opportunities with sites such as Change the Ratio and theli.st. Before concluding her portion of the panel, Wright looked directly at undergraduate students in the room, who were sitting together, and gave a direct call to action that garnered applause.

“[…] While all of these women are bad a**, what’s truly bad a** is that six […or] seven years ago in Japan, something like four out of the seven of the best-selling novels were written by girls on their cell phones,” Wright said. “So the really truly bad a** women in media are you. Right? […]”

“The goal of theli.st five years from now is to be so successful as to be obsolete. So how are you going to make that happen? That’s what I want to know. That’s what I want to watch.”

Kuhn found this comment to be the most inspiring.

“I loved it when Allison Wright said that the young women in the audience were the ‘bad a**es’ of media and challenged us […],” Kuhn said. “Obviously, as a media studies major and someone hoping to work in the media industry, that struck a chord with me.”

Following the panel, the audience was “very interactive with the panelists and really made it a dialogue rather than a presentation,” according to Kuhn, as they considered questions like “What are structural impediments for women?,” “How do we inform or educate men who don’t recognize these are impediments?” and “Does the ‘Lean In’ discourse allow for necessary structural changes to happen?”

Friedman ended the Q&A session with a personal note about individual responsibility.

“I really wish that early in my career […] someone had told me to […] ‘Always ask for more in a business negotiation or contract […] and don’t hesitate to apply to things that you think you might not feel highly qualified for.’

For more about this event, check out the OpenGrounds blog.

By Agnes Filipowski