Angela Washko, a globally recognized writer and artist, spent about a full year in correspondence with “the Internet’s most infamous misogynist.”
Washko, a Tyler School of Art alumna, returned to Main Campus Nov. 5 and 6 to share her performance art piece, “Tightrope Routines,” which is based off her communication with the Internet personality, who remains unnamed for privacy reasons.
A notorious pick-up artist, he published his techniques for picking up women in a book titled “Banged.”
“I became active as a feminist-identified artist after years of working with a variety of tactical media and culture jamming artists who I learned a lot from, especially about the potential for what art could be,” Washko said. “I was trained at Tyler primarily in areas of painting and photography, but I knew I felt more comfortable working in social justice, education, community-oriented work and activism.”
One of Washko’s focuses is facilitating conversations between feminists and groups hostile toward them. “Tightrope Routines” largely deals with combating many of the stereotypes often related to the feminist community, which were exemplified in her interactions with the misogynist.
“I had decided that I wanted to find the perspectives that were missing from his books and essays online—the perspectives of those on the receiving end of his pick-up strategies,” Washko said. “I wasn’t looking to expose anything, but rather to get a sense of how it works and is responded to by the parties being picked up.”
“After he saw my call for women, I realized that the project would benefit from an attempt on my part to ask him about his motives and practice, and that this could be the opportunity to have a civil conversation across perceived communities that most often exchange attacks,” she added. “I wasn’t in it to convince anyone of anything.”
Washko has been able to share her art, along with her messages, at venues around the world, including the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in Finland and the Foundation Vasarely in France.
Students who attended her performance at Paley Library took notice of Washko’s respect for each side of the argument.
“One thing that really stuck out about the performance for me was that she acknowledged the flaws of the design on her project,” said Shelby Schwing, a junior psychology major. “That was one of the most interesting aspects, especially when you’re dealing with a human subject.”
Washko is also known for creating the “The Council on Gender Sensitivity and Behavioral Awareness in World of Warcraft,” a way to promote discussions regarding gender in the popular, multiplayer online game.
She is committed to remaining respectful of all arguments, while still publicly maintaining her beliefs. Washko hopes to engage both male and female players in the conversations, whether it be associated with her video game audience or that of “Tightrope Routines.”
“I thought one of the scariest things is that [the misogynist is] not alone—he actually had a pretty good amount of supporters,” said Ray Calhoun, a junior information technology science major. “It seemed like his forum was thriving, and if I took that much flack from anyone, I would probably never go on the Internet again.”
“I could not stand it at all, so the fact that someone was able to endure something like that was incredible.”
Erin Blewett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.