I follow Stella Duffy’s excellent blog – Not Writing But Blogging (see Blogroll on the right for the link) and she got angry a few days ago. As is her wont, when she’s riled up about something she uses her great gift with words to share her thoughts. Her point was about it not being good enough that theatre so poorly represents women – women actors, women directors, women writers and women theatregoers. She went on to say that if the arts world (supposedly more politically left than most arenas) is still ignoring the majority of the population, what chance do minority groups anywhere have in achieving equality?
As a woman I am very aware that women are still far from equal. I am aware generally of how poorly women are represented, treated, paid and so on and do my small bit to challenge this. However, I had made the assumption that theatre at least was an area where things should be better. Theatre is about people and life after all, so how can you represent people and life without women? But the main impact of Stella’s piece that hit home for me is that we have to get gender equality sorted out. If we don’t, regardless of laws and regulations, women will continue to be the also-rans in society.
In many ways I have had a very privileged life. I am independent, I have a job, I am free of major personal oppression, I have the right to vote. But equality, or the need for it, has always been present in my life, albeit it in small ways. As a teenager I fought with my parents over them buying South African produce. My heart sang at Martin Luther King’s impassioned words. I cried myself to sleep when told that it was far more important for my brother to go to university because, as a man, he would have a family to support. I was shocked into silence when my all-male colleagues in my first job refused to have a woman in the office, forcing me to work in a mobile office elsewhere. Years later I resigned when overlooked for promotion yet again because ‘people prefer senior post-holders to be men’. I fought against my sexuality for years because I knew how hard it would be to be gay in a small rural community. And I wrestled with God over a church that turned its back on me when I did come out.
In small ways I have fought back. Some battles I have won, others I lost and some I am still fighting. I’m stubborn and I don’t give up easily! But until Stella’s piece gave me a nudge I suppose I had put gender equality on the back burner. She made me realise that I have almost accepted the status quo, feeling that other areas, like gay rights, at least offer some hope of success. I hadn’t stopped being angry but I had allowed it to be a habit, one that I had stopped noticing really.
But Stella Duffy is right. When the majority of the population can be so easily dominated by the male minority, ultimately other equality battles will never fully succeed. Until those with the power ‘get’ equality and the need for it, all issues of equality will struggle. So I have to get my act sorted, stir up my anger and my indignation. I’m back in the battle!