Jeanine Tesori at the 2016 Athena Film Festival: On Dudes Who ‘Talk Pig’

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Jeanine Tesori
Jeanine TesoriPhoto: Matthew Eisman

Broadway composer Jeanine Tesori has done a few things in her career (Fun Home, Caroline or Change, etc.). But at her Barnard-hosted master class session at the Athena Film Festival Saturday, she revealed just one more: calling out dudes on their sexist B.S.

Tesori, a Barnard alumna, said after first entering her career she encountered a memorable brush with sexism, from a contractor on one of her early jobs:

“I asked what we were going to be paid as a pianist … And he said, ‘Oh, like, what a New York prostitute makes: $50 an hour …’ I thought, ‘You don’t even know what you said.’”

After deliberating, Tesori decided to take action instead of staying angry. She just gave the guy a call:

“I said, ‘You know, I’ve stayed up all night, because I’m so afraid to end my career right here, but I can’t be spoken to like that,” she recalled to the audience. “I wont be spoken to like that. And I am really afraid that you will blackball me. And he, to his great credit, said, ‘You know, I’ve been talking pig for so long that I will never know until you call me on it. And if I ever slip, you call me on it, because that’s the only way.’”

Shutting down thoughtless comments and mentoring young musicians seem to be right in Tesori’s wheelhouse. The creative director and co-founder of A BroaderWay Foundation, Tesori is a fierce ally of women in her industry — she offered to “grab a beer” with a group of female Berkeley music students after the session. Maybe they’ll talk about how to stamp out blatant glimpses of the patriarchy in everyday conversation.

Regardless, that hang-out promises to be an amusing feminist film festival chat, because as Tesori proudly said, “This is Barnard; it’s full-on! We don’t fuck around here.”