CTN Diversity Flub

Warning: If you think Nazis are cool and that “feminist” means anything other than “men and women are born equal and deserve equal rights,” you will not like this post.

All right SO I’m an intersectional feminist and was really looking forward to Noelle Stevenson’s talk about She-Ra at the CTN conference. Unfortunately when I got to the panel’s room, the talk was cancelled and in it’s place they put “how to build a rockstar portfolio.” I figured “can’t hurt,” and sat down.

The panelist, a older white male, was a egomaniac with a temper. The first part is my opinion. The second opinion I know was commonly shared because at one point when he was yelling at the volunteers, I heard “pss pss pss temper pss pss” from those around me. He didn’t like the door to the room being opened. He said over and over that when HE wanted in the room they wouldn’t open the door, but NOW people could mosey in any time and interrupt his talk. “Trust me, if you were up here on the stage, you’d see it’s very distracting.” Every panel at the fest allowed latecomers and I never witnessed ANYONE being bothered about it. Even though he had already yelled at both volunteers and newly arrived guests, you could tell he was tightly wound, holding back from unleashing a lot more. I was straight up afraid to leave because it would involve opening the door so I sat tight.

Portfolio Rockstar man spoke very slowly and repeated his credentials over and over. He didn’t say much at all. I’d say the talk was 15% actual tips, 40% commenting on/yelling about  the door, and 45% repeating his credentials and daring us to ignore his opinion. His main tip was that we needed to “know ourselves and show ourselves” in our portfolios. As an example, he said that with his guidance, his college students would come to “know themselves” right before graduation and suddenly their art and portfolios would be knocked out of the park.

I put up my hand- I admit my motivation was to push back at him a bit for being such a dink. I said “Among me and my friends, and what I’ve read, a common experience is to not really know yourself until you get into your 30’s. So can you please give examples of themes your students came up with? Not to be an asshole, but I’m dubious they ALL ‘knew themselves’ in their late teens.”

He couldn’t answer the question, or come up with examples, which is what I was expecting. My take on it is that despite being at least in his late 50’s, this man was emotionally stunted, didn’t know himself yet and was incapable of seeing authenticity in anyone else. He just liked talking guru talk. Because he couldn’t answer the question he a) put me down for not ‘getting it’ and b) surmised that HIS students were “exceptionally sophisticated” (unlike me who actually needed TIME to reflect and GROW.)

So here I am feeling all smug that this guy is exactly what I thought he was… not realizing that I had just said something that probably made everyone in the room hate me more than him. More on that later.

In the evening, I ran into a guy I’d met earlier, lets call him Ryan. I was already unenthusiastic to see this guy for a few reasons, but had come to the fest alone and couldn’t resist a short chit chat. I relayed my story about Rockstar Portfolio guy. Except this time I told the full question as I had actually asked it, which included this part: “They say they want you to show the real you, and I know what they really mean by it. They want people from diverse backgrounds to show their culture. But I’m just a WASP and I have nothing interesting to bring to the cultural table. And… (what I wrote above) …so can you give examples of themes.”

Ryan’s eyes lit up and he got very excited. “I’m SO SURPRISED to hear you call yourself a WASP!” I was confused. I said, “It just means White Anglo-Saxon Protestant.” “Still!” he said. I got worried. I’d already made a point to turn around and clarify to everyone in the row behind me that I thought diversity was a GOOD thing once the portfolio talk was over.  Ryan told me not to worry and then said that he had actually spent the entire previous evening with Rockstar Portfolio guy and “he was actually a good guy.” This was one of many clues that Ryan was a shithead, but when he started saying that he watches Nazi videos “to hear all sides” and was a fan of Jordan Peterson, I made my escape. Ryan was a close talker so escaping wasn’t easy, but I said I was sleepy and going home to bed.

Hours later, Ryan saw me at a party, clearly not in bed, but that didn’t stop him from emailing me after the conference with the subject line “Hello to my fellow WASP!” The email had political links about trans people and an invite to hang out next time I was in LA. I knew Ryan was interested in me when we first met because he “negged” me. My portfolio is diverse and drawn from years of employment and practice. His was just some unfinished comic book panels at a student level. He looked at mine and said “I think I could do that.” Okay.

Once I got the email I was really wondering about this WASP thing so I looked into it. YIKES. It doesn’t JUST mean White Anglo-Saxon Protestant. It also means “and proud to be” “and rightfully more affluent” “and generally better.” I’d learned my flat definition from a teacher in high school, who had declared that we were all mostly wasps in the class. Maybe he meant the whole definition but left it unsaid. It was in Orangeville after all, one of the most conservative towns in Ontario. Figures that my O’ville education left me short.

So now I’m left thinking back on this horrible workshop where I declared myself a WASP in front of a room full of people. CRINGE. The one moment of the fest where I hope NO ONE remembers me! Now that I’ve told you that part, I’ll tell you part c) of Portfolio Man’s answer to my question, which was “Some of the students include their ethnic roots.” No shit sherlock, I just said that. This guy and his Nazi best bud need to take a long walk off a short pier!!!!!!!

Anyways… “Know yourself, show yourself” IS good advice and I actually DO have lots to bring to the table. I’m female, queer, and from a Canadian town named after a fruit that will NEVER grow there. I’ve done all this live comedy but have yet to explore what *I* think is funny in my portfolio pieces- so far I’ve been coming up with gags and safer things that I think companies will like.

Then there’s all the stuff that requires courage… small example… like that I’m older than most the people at the fest who were there for the same reason I was. I can try and hide it, or lean into it. Talking about things that are true to yourself but may turn off a potential employer are the things that require courage. I’m grateful to all those that had courage before me.

AND FOR THE RECORD I THINK DIVERSITY IS A GOOD THING and I’m fine with taking a back seat so that someone else’s unheard story can be told. Stories shape culture and community and I think the greater good is more important than my career goals. I’m sure Ryan and his Rockstar friend would agree with me /s

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