If the Crown Fits…

(Image credit: Brandy Alvarado)

Three years ago, a series of events changed my life. One was very positive with a lot of encouragement and support from industry peers at the first ever SoCal Women’s Council meet up. The other was a very negative experience filled with guilt and shame that I’ve carried for years. These two events couldn’t have had a more diverse effect on me, but, yet, both have guided me along the path to becoming the chair for the AVIXA Women’s Council.

 As a result of those two events, I’m now offering to wear the crown, straighten others’ crowns, and give my voice to the women in this industry that have had similar events happen to them. Up until now, only a scant few of my #AVBesties know about these pivotal events. 

I’m going to slightly backtrack now and say that this blog was spurred by a few recent Twitter threads stemming from InfoComm 2019. Both threads brought these pivotal events back to the front of my mind. 

In one instance, its evoked camaraderie, because I’d had a similar “man-handling” happen to me during an offsite InfoComm event. I’ll share now that I was assaulted (and that’s not a term I write very lightly) during that event. When the assault occurred, I did not speak up, have him thrown out, or make a scene. I was afraid to call attention, and afraid that it would not be taken seriously. Instead, I handled it personally and discreetly, and proceeded on as the event host for the evening. 

Hindsight is 20/20, and, boy, have I regretted not speaking out. Maybe now I’m more comfortable—or perhaps, but truly it’s because I’m encouraged by all the men and women that have voiced their support. And now more than ever because I wear the crown, I feel I have the voice and the backing of my peers. 

The other thread made me step back and really evaluate how I can use my platform. Should I fight for the good or the evil? As a Star Wars/Game of Thrones/Stranger Things/The Walking Dead nerd, I often root for the bad guys because those characters are so iconic. Admit it‚Darth, Cersei, the Demogorgon, and Negan are badass! But, alas, I’m choosing to use my crown for good. 

After watching a product video shot during InfoComm 2019 where a male instructed his female colleague to “not talk, just stand there and hold this product”, I was disgusted. Is this what we have come to? It is not okay to humiliate and disrespect anyone regardless of gender. Period. 

I could have easily tweeted something out that night in my disgust. But I’m choosing to educate this man versus publicly shame him and, indirectly, his employer. After a lengthy and emotional group chat about how to resolve the issue seen in that video, I decided that it was my duty since I wear the crown, to educate versus disgrace him. I’ll be honest and say that it was a tough decision based on my experience with being man-handled and mansplained. I had to sleep on it, because I didn’t want to act irrationally and, again, I was still a bit afraid. But this time I looked down at my Fearless Leader sash, and acted with grace. 

In a personal email, I explained to the offender that his choice of demeaning words were the subject of a very contentious conversation among some on my Council. I suggested that he consider a few things, and maybe suggesting is a simple ask, but complicity is what I was after. I asked that he apologize to his female colleague and either edit or delete the offensive video outright. Bottom line, it’s about respecting each other no matter the gender. 

To date I’ve not had a response from him, and the video is still live, much to my disgust. So, I must side with Leia and the Resistance on this one. The few bad guys in our industry who man-handle and mansplain should not be allowed to become the industry standard.

I appreciate the men who do champion and support women in AV. The clear objective here is to stop the humiliation and mistreatment of women by a few bad apples. Martin Luther King Jr. said “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” 

Help me break that cycle of silence once and for all. One of my main goals as chair of the AVIXA Women's Council is to empower women and give them a voice. I cannot do it alone. I need you, and all of your voices, to support this cause. 

Don’t be afraid like I was and stay quiet. Let’s try this instead: from the princess wearing the crown asking for a New Hope, “Help me Obi-One Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” If you see, witness, or are involved in a situation like any I’ve mentioned, don’t stay silent. You’re not alone. May the force be with you.   

Brandy Alvarado
Brandy Alvarado is the business development manager for Mad Systems and 2019 chair of the AVIXA Women’s Council.