On Wednesday we had the chance to take a sneak peek at SF’s latest pop-up Instagram-dream space, only this one is more serious than most. That Lady Thing was originally a one-evening event created by SF creative agency Eleven in honor of International Women’s Day, but is being relaunched today for just one week in San Francisco. Led by Creative Director Jamie Shaw and a team of women (and a few male allies!), it is an interactive art experience that addressed serious gender issues in a lighthearted, cheeky way. With That Lady Thing relaunching today, we spoke to Jamie to learn more.
What is That Lady Thing and how did you become involved?
I’m a creative director at SF agency, Eleven Inc. Every year, the partners at the agency invite the creative department to produce a project for International Women’s Day. After a few days of brainstorming with the women in the department (and an enthusiastic male ally), we came up with an activation that presented itself as one of these pop-up installations designed for Instagram, but we embedded ours with substantive stories about the wage gap, lack of women in leadership, gender bias, and harassment. We wanted to speak to these crucial issues of the day, but we also wanted to wrap it in a stylized format that would be noticed and shared. So often, conversations around these issues happen in classrooms, at protests, or in HR meetings. We wanted to bring our feminism front and center and make it colorful and compelling—something women wanted to share with their friends. There are still women who are freaked out by the word “feminism” because they were brought up to think it meant man-hating, non-shaving, humorless harpies. I wanted to present our ideas in a way that used clever, creative expression to make our messages magnetic and empowering. Too often, we’ve had to separate our serious, thoughtful selves from our recreational, playful selves. But when you merge the two—that’s power. For years, the patriarchy won by making us afraid to align with the notion of our own equality. Reveal it as being attractive and smart, and suddenly, everyone’s an activist. We joke about serving up selfies with a side of self respect.
What has been the most fun – and what has been most challenging – about bringing the space to life?
I’ve had the most fun finding visual metaphors for the obvious disparities we live every day. In some ways, it’s super obvious, but presenting the stories as we do has been received with utter delight because women recognize how these things feel. When we talk about how few women reach the upper echelons of the workforce (5%), we show it as a climbing wall and use cheeky narration about how hard and far you have to climb, as a woman, to get there. Seeing women posing on a climbing wall set in all their cocktail finery just creates this absurd image that people fundamentally understand as being ridiculous, but also startling, like what IS this? The most challenging part—no surprise—has been figuring out how to make it happen financially. We feel very fortunate that our agency, Eleven, decided to help back the project alongside sponsors. We added an extra challenge for ourselves by only taking on sponsors that have a story to tell about how they’re doing right by women in the workplace, and the world. This means we have to turn away sponsorship dollars from companies who aren’t doing the work, but when you connect with the right ones, it’s phenomenal. It’s pretty amazing that our little pop-up is now sponsored by companies like Ellevest and Lyft, which gives me hope that other conscientious brands will get behind our efforts when we take That Lady Thing on the road. We hope that, between ticket sales, sponsor support and custom activations for groups, we can cover costs and grow the thing into a roadshow. We will also be raising money for organizations that support women’s causes through donations and a silent auction. As we grow, so will those proceeds. There is no profit model for That Lady Thing—it’s truly a passion project.
That Lady Thing aims to deliver a message of intersectional feminism. What does that mean to you and how is it represented at That Lady Thing?
It means that we always have to have an all-women mentality. It’s not enough to talk about the wage gap. You have to recognize that the gap for white women in corporate America is real, but the disparity for women of color is far more devastating. You have to be thinking about issues of class and minimum wage. You have to recognize that bias is layered and gender + race + class + sexual orientation + any number of other factors reveals far more complicated systemic problems than simply the inequalities between women and men. At That Lady Thing, we try to be representational in our designs and our engagement. As we grow and add a content component to our activation (like wage negotiation workshops, women’s films, or investment seminars), we will showcase a broad array of women’s voices.
Check out That Lady Thing in the slideshow and if you are in SF, grab tickets quick because this pop-up runs from August 5-9 only!