By Rachel Benner and Kerri Lynne Thorp
When I first heard about Vox Siren, I had a lot of questions. Vox Siren - Why that name? What does it mean? I loved the company’s work and mission, but I was a little bit confused. In my time working with Vox Siren, however, I’ve come to learn that our name and the story behind it is powerful. It speaks to our values as women, our practice as feminists, and our goals as a company.
I talked to the Vox Siren team about the process of naming Vox Siren. The company is a creative agency that promotes the stories, skills, and safety of women, so it needed a name that did the same. The team wanted a name that shifted harmful narratives and took back our story, so they looked to words that had been used against women.
Kerri thought a lot about words that are used to hurt women, like bitch or whore. These can be words of violence used to demean women, but at the same time we associate these words with power. As Kerri put it, “every time I have been called bitch it has been a time I have been standing up for myself or someone else.”
Of course, the business couldn’t really have expletive language in its name. The professional world is not quite ready for that! They had to get a little more creative. They started by asking “why.”
Feminized insults are an integral part of patriarchy. They serve to control and limit women who act outside gender normative behavior. “Bitch” is used to silence women. “Whore” shames women. These words are punishments used to keep women within their prescribed gender role. They quiet our voice and erase our experience.
Prescribed gender roles dehumanize both men and women by erasing individual expression and replacing it with one dimensional categories. Women can be virgin or whores, mothers or scientists, adventurous or stable. They have to pick just one of these myths. “The long history of mythologizing women is at the root systematic and institutionalized sexism,” said Kerri. “Myths about women are more about the historical thoughts of men than the experience of women. In order to promote our stories we need to dismantle our myths.”
Consider the myth of the siren. A siren is beautiful, but villainous. In the legends, the sound of her voice lures sailors overboard to their deaths. We want to reclaim and deconstruct this myth. To embrace the word “siren” is to reject the notion that having a voice is something dangerous or wrong. We label ourselves as sirens, with powerful voices that sing across the sea, and are celebrated, not feared.
The first part of our name literally illuminates the power of the siren label. Vox is the Latin word for voice or sound. We celebrate the song of all sirens. As Zoe put it, “listening to the voices and stories of all women is one of the most valuable ways that we create a society that fits all of us. My voice and the voices of women all over the globe should not be feared. We need to listen closely to our stories of strength, love, support, kindness, tragedy, accomplishments, pain, fortitude, resilience with open ears. “
“Vox Siren,” then, is a call to action. We prioritize women’s voices, and separate them from the myths, insults, and norms of the past. We envision a world where our voices are not feared, and our name reminds us to pursue that vision every day.
Summer Video Production Instructor
Vox Siren is looking for a summer video production instructor who believes the stories of women are important and is deeply excited by the opportunity to inspire young women to share their story.
Your role will be to share your technical and artistic documentary filmmaking skills with a group of young women grade 8 -12.
Vox Siren in is holding a summer Documentary Program partnership with Girls Inc. of the Pacific Northwest, Metro, and the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. The important stories of women are underrepresented in media and history books and film. Through this 5-week program, girls travel their community by bike, collecting stories and working in groups to make short documentaries about women in the community. The culminating project is a series of 3 to 4 short documentary-style films that are directed, produced and edited by the girls and will premier at the Hollywood theater in August.
The Instructor will work with Program Director to mold curriculum to their teaching style.
Programs Runs June 13 - July 15 in NE Portland
Also required: 2- 3 Pre-program meetings, screening at Hollywood Theater on August 28th.
Send letter of interest, resume, work samples, and desired hourly rate.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org by May 21 2016
Rachel is a journalism student at the University of Oregon's Clark Honors College, where she also pursues gender studies and economics. She is passionate about the power of creative, strategic communication and hopes to one day use the powers of advertising for good, not evil. Her writing has been published in several campus publications, including The Emerald and The Siren. This summer Rachel will be spending six weeks in Accra, Ghana doing a media internship through the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication.
When she isn’t hard at work, Rachel is probably sketching in a coffee shop, singing too loud, or gushing over someone else’s dog. She hopes to keep telling interesting and important stories long into the future. This siren's song is strong and we are excited to see how far she will go.
Keep up to date with Rachel's journey on twitter @BennerRachel and check out some of Rachel's recent student work and stay tuned for her upcoming Vox Siren blogs.
Thank you Rachel for working with us to prioritize the stories, skills and safety of all women.
- Kerri, Kelly and Zoe
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