On the 11th of March, as part of International Womxn’s Day, Tmesis Theatre took over the Unity to celebrate all things femxle including an all-day Devoted & Disgruntled session and multiple performances of ‘Wicked Women’, an all-female physical theatre piece, exploring women in history.
Having taken part in the D&D in the summer as part of Physical Fest, I was excited to explore the different questions people wanted to bring to the open space event. I was saddened although found it unsurprising, that there was only one male in attendance. I feel personally like this is the first hurdle we face. If people feel like womxn’s issues aren’t theirs to care about, nothing will change.
I personally asked the questions: ‘How can we support trans femxle artists better and push back against the TERF (trans-erasing radical feminism) narrative?’ as the day before, the Donmar Warehouse’s casting choices were called into question due to their casting of a cis-male in a trans-femxle role. As there were no trans womxn in attendance, it was hard to know how to best support them however we came up with a few ideas: be more vocal in your support, champion their work (as we should be doing for each other anyway) and assess how safe our spaces are.
I also posed the question, ‘In a recent survey, 8 out of 10 people show gender bias towards women’. Why are we against our own gender?’ This brought up a lot of feelings for people as in the survey, the 8 people included women, so we had to work out why we think in this way. We realised that due to society norms, historically, we are used to seeing the world through the male gaze, as for such a long time, we were informed in majority by men. Many of us felt that unless the gatekeepers change to include women more and the gender balance comes into play, this societal view won’t differ. It’s hard not to feel sad about the talks we had, as the people in attendance aren’t really part of the problem facing womxn today.
Additionally, we had a session with young people from a college and after they had seen the performance, we were able to talk to them about gender and sex and it made me hopeful for their future as they were a smart bunch (in a non condescending way). One thing that came up was the idea that the word feminism still can be seen as a bad word and that it means man-hating. Some of the young women were even afraid to call themselves feminists because they didn’t realise that in its basest form, feminism = equality. In addition, they said that feminism still isn’t taught in schools, which is probably why this archaic understanding of the word still exists. I remarked that one of the young men called sex “sacred”, which I found really surprising as we spoke a lot about how still in today’s society, we are taught that if a man explores his sexuality, he’s a “player” but if a girl does it, she’s a “slag”. It’s sad that this is still the case. but what I was left with was a real sense that these young people, although not in a traditional educational setting, are educating themselves anyway about these topics, which they shouldn’t have to, but is also inspiring to see.
As previously stated, the Wicked Women performance explored women in history who we have lots of knowledge about: Queen Elizabeth the First, Harriet Tubman & Frida Khalo but also women we didn’t know as much about: Tun Fatimah, Anne Lister and Gertrude Ederle. The show also allowed the audience to be involved prior to performance and respond with who their femxle heroines were. This was lovely and in a post-show discussion, the idea that people’s mum’s and nan’s and sister’s were inspirational too, reminded me of the importance of the female role in our lives. I watched the show three? times that day and I could have watched it again and again. It showed a pocket of women who we look up to and shone a light on the ordinary women we stand beside who are anything but ordinary to us.
Alex Stringer- Writer- producer- comedian