So…About That Misogyny

Just a quick thought exercise post for today. Consider this: in the wake of the #MeToo movement, how should performing arts organizations handle content that was created during the age of rampant misogyny and sexism?

Adaptistration People 139Opera is almost certainly the tip of that spear and a recent article in The Economist started asking many of the questions surrounding this premise. While that post approaches the issue mainly from whether parents should take children to these works (spoiler: they should), it does open the door for a broader discussion about whether performing arts orgs have any responsibilities to address these issues.

If you accept the notion that art and culture have always been a mirror reflecting an image of society, then it makes sense they should incorporate the tenets of a widespread movement pushing back against the prevalence of sexual assault and harassment.

Should we stop performing classics like Carmen because works from that era tend to wallow in the crapulence of cruelty toward female characters while simultaneously glorifying the abuser?


But what about using the opportunity of a performance to acknowledge what were clearly sociological shortcomings from that day and age and work to prevent those character deficiencies from being romanticized (leave that for the music).

It certainly isn’t as though we could all use some fresh program notes!

What are your thoughts? Leave a comment or introduce the topic with colleagues on Facebook or Twitter.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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