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
As a female filmmaker, I am always excited when young women are interested in documentary films. I once had a young girl tell me about her new favorite documentary: “The Men Who Built America.”
I asked her, “What about the women?”
She replied, “Well, this was all before the Rosie the Riveter stuff, so there weren’t any women.”
My heart broke a little. I thought, we have failed the children! Surely she knows women existed. She must think, then, that their contributions don’t matter.
In reality, we haven’t failed the children. History has failed us. How much do any of us know about our history? Women have been erased from the landscape of contribution. The history of women we do know has been sought out and fought for, not offered as fundamental knowledge. Our history is an elective or an afterthought: a thing to be chosen, rather than required.
It is an act of subversion to say that women have been participants, leaders, makers and creators since the beginning of time, but it is truth. We exist, we have a history and that history has value.
If we only learn the history of dominant culture, we are missing out on the majority of historical knowledge. It’s time to catch up and prioritize all the intersections of history: women's history, queer history, black history, indigenous history, history of people disabilities… The list is long and we are behind. Let’s focus all year long on learning the important stories that can shape a better future.
During the month of March, the history of women is prioritized and celebrated. We need and deserve this month, but our stories shouldn’t be limited to such a short span of time. We have a lot of discovery and catching up to do!
Why is it important to share women’s history all year long?
1. History is interesting!
Women have been doing amazing things for a long time. It’s fun and inspiring to learn about their stories.
2. History gives power.
Legacy matters. Our history helps us learn who we are, it shapes identity, and gives power to aspirations. It challenges myths about what women can and can’t do and provides a script that show what women always have been doing.
3. History guides change.
History connects the vestiges of the past to our present condition. Our historical context sets the standard for how we approach existing problems.
4. History is fundamental.
It’s a basic, folks. History informs so much of our lives, from politics to current events to simple day-to-day interactions.
Who are your favorite women in history? Whose story and legacy inspires you? Share with us in the comments! Share on social media and #LoveHerLegacy
At Vox Siren we believe that all people benefit from the stories, skills and safety of women. Here are a few incredible women we highlighted during our Women’s History Month partnership with Portland's Xray Fm, and a few videos from our series on the The Black United Fund Mural in NE Portland.
Stories from the Black United Fund Mural
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#LoveHerLegacy Audio Stories Made in Partnership with Vox Siren and Xray FM
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Vox Siren is thrilled to partner with Worksystems to help bridge the generational and cultural gaps that can emerge in the program. We are currently developing digital e-Learning training for Summer Works supervisors to help them better understand the culturally diverse 16-24 year-old workers in the program.
At Vox Siren, we know that creative change doesn’t start with a text-laden slideshow full of information that’s soon to be ignored. Effective training is meaningful, engaging and tailored to a community-defined problem. We go beyond compliance check-boxes and look past the history and power structures to all the possibilities and strategies for creative change.
Community evaluation is the first step in our process. To meet Worksystems’ unique challenges we engaged their diverse youth employee and supervisor cohort in a thoughtful discovery process, or community evaluation. We used qualitative methods like focus groups, individual interviews and surveys with both youth employees and worksite supervisors, and learned how workplaces can best support youth goals and promote company innovation.
These methods were grounded in feminist and critical theory. We sought to center the voices of those whose interests are most at stake. In this way, Vox Siren links theory to practice and action to create real change.
MARIA WEBSTER (@mariawebsterpdx) is our Evaluation Associate on Phase I of the project. Vox Siren first knew Maria as the fabulous emcee during our pitch with Start your Start Up’s Whiteboard PitchX event. She is a Portland-based speaker, performer, engineer and consultant who is passionate about exposing STEM-related opportunities to Portland's women and youth of color and increasing the lines of communication as Portland moves forward to improve technical diversity.
DONOVAN SMITH (IgnorantReflections) is our Evaluation Assistant. He is a budding reporter who has written for the Observer and Skanner News groups. Donovan understands the need for creating healthier communities. His unconventional entry into a variety of professions lends him a unique talent for understanding systems, and identifying when new paths need to be started. His extensive work in the community and generation similarity to of the workers in this program will enable him to ask the right questions and better understand youth issues.
ORCHADIA MCLEAN (@McBrDev) is our Evaluation Assistant. She is a University of Miami Law Graduate and student in the university’s public health program. She is passionate about teaching people how to find their own agency, and has navigated a wide variety of experiences in her career. Orchadia supports the team by formulating the right questions and diving deep into the issues at hand.
We are currently seeking a few amazing contractors to join our digital learning team. Our digital learning team produces a variety of content that prioritizes sharing the stories of women and developing inclusive spaces for all. You will be authoring digital learning content based on provided lesson plans, storyboards, and possible rough passes. We pride ourselves in lesson and learning content that engage learners on a higher level and change behavior. This position requires an individual to work mostly remotely with a high level of independence and the ability to meet as needed at our office in downtown Portland. We have an immediate work starting in late February as well as ongoing opportunities throughout the year. We are excited to be producing 6-10 individual learning modules in the next six months and look forward to growing our team with you!
Get in touch with us if you can:
- Develop interactive digital learning content based on provided lesson plans, storyboards, and possible rough captivate constructions.
- Provide support for existing eLearning courses.
- Conduct quality assurance testing on existing courses.
- 1+ year experience with e-learning authoring tools
- Proficiency developing content in any of the following formats Adobe Captivate, Prezi, Storyline and Lectora, Photoshop, Flash, HTML, and other web technologies
- Experience in technical writing, editing & instructional design
- Knowledge of a variety of LMS and CMS
- Experience with Final Cut Pro is a plus
- Experience creating inclusive learning environments the prioritize responsiveness to women, people of color, the LGBTQ community, non-native English speakers and folks with disabilities
- Ability to work remotely and independently, with little support
- Pleasant personality, collaborative, takes feedback well
- Must have their own hardware and software to support their work
Please send resume, cover letter and work samples to email@example.com
I love the new year. It's a time of renewal, opportunity, possibility and hope! The new year represents the story of our life yet to be written.
Of course it also can represent failure, disappointment and guilt that we didn't succeed at last year's resolutions.
So, what’s wrong with a little self improvement?
With all the best intentions, we often make forgettable resolutions that are ill-defined and based on misogynistic ideals of who women are and what we’re supposed to be. Like many aspects of life, self improvement expectations are disproportionately deployed upon women.
New year’s resolutions exemplify and focus on our perceived weaknesses and faults. We ask ourselves, “what can we lose or work on to be enough?” The answer is nothing, because the system is not designed for our success.
Because the system is designed to exclude us, let’s stop working within it and playing by its rules. Let’s make our own rules. We need to define our goals and make our plans based on our assets, our strengths and potentials. We can use this lens to make asset-based feminist resolutions.
What makes a resolution both asset-based and feminist?
How do we make an asset-based feminist resolution?
1. Recognize your potential.
What are qualities or abilities that you have that can be developed and can lead to future success, skills, or enjoyment?
2. Define a goal based on your potential and interests.
Clearly describe your goal based your potential. For example, "I have always enjoyed writing, and I am good at it. My goal is to write a short story."
3. Name your motive.
Why is this your goal? Is it based on enhancing your strengths and interests, will it improve you self-defined quality of life?
4. Identify a strength you have to help you reach that potential.
How can you strategically set yourself up for success? What strengths do you have that will help you meet your goal?
5. Acknowledge barriers and identify strengths you have to help you work around those barriers.
Barriers are real and can’t be “hoped” away. What barriers exist in your life that may prevent you from reaching your goal? Name them, be honest with yourself so that you can strategically plan to meet your goal in a realistic way that fits your life.
6. Make an achievable plan.
Create action steps, prioritize high impact tasks and be realistic about your capacity.
Above all have a happy new year, do whatever you like. You know yourself best.
We won along with two other great women founded startups, Placemaker and Winkpens. It was incredibly exciting to be standing with a group of such of innovative founders!
Pitch events are platforms for growing businesses to hone their message to practice settling their big idea in front of peers and potential investors. The purpose of a women founded startup pitch event is to prioritize women and recognize women own 28% percent of all businesses nationwide, yet we receive less than 3% of investments.
The rules of #PitchX were simple. Sell your business in 3 minutes with just your self a white board and a pen.
Here are a few lessons we learned from participating in #PitchX
- It’s Hard! Distilling our message down into three minutes was a challenge, in part, because Vox Siren is an organization that has so many projects and initiatives, not to mention unlearning everything I’ve been taught about being modest. We had to sell! Do we talk about our storytelling? Our digital learning? Our fantastic team? In the end we were able to follow a simple structure: state the problem we’re addressing, how we’re uniquely doing it, and say what our specific ask is. As far as saying who we are: Vox Siren is a creative change agency designing a world made for women. We’ve taken our collective skill and knowledge to make an agency whose product is culture shift.
- Fail Up. Sometimes when I get in a fearful bubble of not wanting to take risks, I tell myself to fail up. In terms of the pitchfest, this means: take the risk of pitching, even though it’s your first time, could fall on your face, and know that where you’ll land after failing at pitchfest is a better spot than never doing pitchfest at all. Once I had gotten over my fear of inviting people to watch us pitch in case we failed, I realized that the event was created to intentionally create a fun and supportive environment for start ups - the point was to set us up for success.
- We’re all Winners. Before you commence an eye roll at such a statement, let me finish. Though three of the six businesses who pitched walked away with cash in our pockets and the privilege of calling ourselves winners on our respective blogs, but participating in pitchfest benefitted all of us. Before the pitching began, all of us participants gathered in a back room to go over expectations. We all bonded over the opportunity to pitch, how much we wanted each other to succeed. Ultimately, that is what this event was about. The world is a richer place when all voices can contribute and be heard. All humans benefit from the success of women.
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Two weekends ago, I learned of the exciting ways in which Trinity Repertory Theater in Providence, RI is challenging old plays by deciding to diversify their cast. They have cast Julius Caesar as a white woman and Mark Antony as a man of color. My ears perked up when I heard this. I had to do research on the story line, even though when I was a history teacher, I, actually taught this. (Don’t judge me, judge the school system.) As I read the play, envisioning how this change in characters would add so much complexity, the analytical side in me geeked out with excitement. The possibilities of inclusivity and the conversations it might spark made for a feminist dream! Imagine Romeo and Juliet being cast as a gay couple. Does this make the play any less compelling? Does it make it more? Does it change the play?
“We had tossed around the idea of doing Julius Caesar in years past, and then it occurred to us that perhaps having a woman play Caesar might be an interesting lens through which to view Shakespeare’s text. I was also interested in setting the play in a relatively contemporary world, so I thought having a female Caesar may make the play feel a little more relevant..” Associate Creative Director, Tyler Dobrowsky, told me in our interview.
I thought about what he said about the lens. Casting Julius Caesar as woman changes the meaning of the lines, of the murder, of political and military power.
For example, remember the line where Cassius uses the word “womanish” as an insult? Tyler reminded me that, “the character of Cassius. . . is basically the lead conspirator. He makes a few shots that, under Caesar, Rome has become ‘womanish’ and that often Caesar behaves like a ‘sick girl.’ Those are direct lines from Shakespeare, but with a woman playing the title role, they have an added resonance.”
And then there’s the death scene. One of the notorious scenes in all Shakespeare’s work is when the group of senators gangs up on their leader to murder him. They’re uncomfortable with the absolute power, they have an interest in keeping the republican government - whether philosophical or for their own personal power. They surround and stab Caesar to death. From Star Wars to Shakespeare - audiences are accustomed to men killing each other. But change it to a group of men surrounding a woman, and it feels different. Why does it make us uncomfortable? Does is remind us of the all-too-prevalent violence against women, as perpetrated by men? Maybe it highlights how conditioned we are to men murdering each other?
Readers: what would change if you changed the gender, race, ethnicity, immigration status, ability, sexual orientation of a character? How would your favorite lines be different? What would the other layer be?
We’ve had a lot of folks ask us about this process, so here are the basics.
Digital learning should be fun, engaging and interactive (goodbye, Helvetica-laden slideshows!). To ensure this you need to start with a creative lesson design. Following best practices for teaching, craft a lesson arc that includes clear objectives, a fun hook and effective interaction for the learner to process the content, retain the knowledge and change behavior. Lesson design that engages strategically with the psychology of how people learn is the foundation of a strong online learning module!
Now that you have a lesson, it’s time to translate it into a fun online fit. Need the hook to be interactive? Engage the learner with a choice. Need the activity to be social? Use discussion forums for social learning. Need to keep your learner engaged through a reading? Gamify the content with graphic rewards!
Step 3: Build the Content
This is the fun part! You have finished the lesson design with strategic tools for online interaction, now you get to make the content! Videos, games, animated graphics, interactive quizzes and audio stories - the possibilities are endless - all customized to your branding guidelines.
Vox Siren looks forward to sharing more about online learning. Stay tuned, we have lots of exciting news. We are gearing up to be the provider of effective, authentic, woman-driven education and creative change!
Vox Siren is a creative change agency focusing on innovative ways to promote gender equity. We bring transformation through illuminating stories, promoting skills and making the world safer for women and girls via art, digital learning and community experiences.
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