"As one officer cinched the handcuffs around my wrists, another frisked my body. She found a pen and a pad of paper tucked inside my left boot.
'And these?' she asked sternly.
'Weapons,' I replied."
—Terry Tempest Williams, “The Clan of One-Breasted Women”
What is the definition of a weapon? How can one use words, media, or culture as a weapon, and can we ever fully predict the outcome of wielding their power? Middle & Upper Schoolers discussed these themes and more on Wednesday, April 25 during the English department's 6th Annual Voices in Literature & Culture Conference.
The conference featured 28 students across five sessions and a keynote address by Audrey Wauchope, co-executive producer and writer for the TV series “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.” The conference’s theme and one of its panels stemmed from the school’s interdisciplinary Perspectives in Literature class, which this year looked at “weapons” in the broadest sense from the lenses of literature, art, and science.
Wauchope’s keynote was centered on how, in her work for a feminist TV show, she uses words as both a weapon and a defense to fight traditional media gatekeepers who have painted women “in a way not real to us.”
"The words I write," said Wauchope, "are often critiqued as 'fighting words'. But I think what we're doing is trying to change the status quo." Females and female writers, Wauchope added, have played a huge role in this by repeatedly calling out harmful notions of what it means to be a woman, a person of color, or part of the LGBTQ+ community, and advocating for diversity in workplaces and on screen. She ended by urging students to “use your words for good.”
Throughout the panels, students dove into themes of “Words, Wars, and the Making of a Modern Weapon,” “Revolution and Regression: Language as Weapon for the Oppressed and their Oppressors,” “Governmental Abuse,” and “Bias and Representation in the Media.” Panels included student musical performances, original short stories and poems, mixed media collages, 3-D art and designs created in STEAMWork Design Studio, and essays. Congratulations to all the exceptional panelists, presenters, and performers! Here are a few shots from an afternoon full of great insight: