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United We Are a Force, and Individually We are W.O.N.

Image Courtesy of Katelyn Jackson

Women of Note celebrates the unique talents of women of Hampton Roads and seeks to raise awareness of issues women face in the 21st century. We are well aware of the many hats women wear throughout the day as well as throughout their lives and we would like to give women the opportunity to share their experiences juggling these with our community. By sharing our experiences, we hope to inspire others, learn from their perspectives, and foster a dialogue that creates solutions. Today we spot light Katelyn Jackson.

Affiliation(s) (past and present):

I'm a board member at Spotlight News, Vice President of the Board of Directors at the Little Theatre of Norfolk, the First Hand in the costume shop at Regent University, and a freelance costume designer with credits throughout Hampton Roads.

How long have you been (working in/participating in) your field? How did you get into it?

I've been working in theatre for about 8 years. I started while still in college-- a theatre major and English minor.

How long have you been working/ living in in Hampton Roads?

Just over 10 years.

What advice would you give young women going into your field?

Be confident in yourself. Your youth and your gender are not things to feel limited by-- they help provide your unique perspective that's incorporated into your work as an artist. I spent too long being too self-conscious about my age, afraid that people wouldn't respect me as a young woman in the field. Invest yourself in what you do, and your hard work speaks volumes to anyone deserving of YOUR respect. This isn't to say the arts are a field free from discrimination. However, if you do face it, surround yourself with supportive people who will have your back and who will help uplift you and your voice. Finding that support network is one of the most important things you can do.

Does your gender influence your relationship to your work? In what way?

Working in theatre involves a lot of change-- you often work with different people on every show. Sometimes they're people you get along with, and sometimes they're not. Often there are egos involved. In the presence of some of those egos, I've sometimes been made to feel pressured to step back or be quiet in a way that I don't think male peers would be made to feel. Luckily, this has been the exception rather than the rule. Working in costumes, which is often perceived as a traditionally feminine role on a show's production team, also has led to some interesting stereotyping. Early in the pandemic, I remember being asked if I "missed shopping," as I often spend a lot of my spare time in thrift stores looking for pieces for whatever show I'm working on (and I'm almost always working on at least one). Well, sure. But it felt awfully reductive to have my entire process and profession reduced to a shopping habit.

Have you faced challenges in your field because of your gender or have you found your gender to be an asset? What kinds of challenges or advantages, and how have they affected your life?

I am very thankful because I've always felt that I have not experienced significant sexism in my field. I do wonder sometimes if that has to do with choosing a career path considered traditionally feminine, and if I would have a different experience if I were pursuing other work in the arts. I have more than once spoken with other women in theatre about how directing, in particular, is often a "boys' club," with at least one local professional theatre only featuring one female director for one show in the past 10 years. Even though theatre and the arts are largely considered a progressive and forward-thinking field, resting on those "laurels" can easily lead to complacency. There's always room to reexamine ourselves for our biases-- conscious and unconscious, and to work to make the arts community a better place for everyone. This is not just about sexism, but extends to intersectional issues that everyone in the arts community can work toward improving.

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