I’m calling harassment of women what it is: bullying. Exclusion. Stuff that happens in school when you’re a little kid that we’re all taught is unacceptable behaviour. And yet, as women, we are bullied constantly. But no-one calls it that. If we take the sex out of it – along with the fucking ridiculous notion that it’s a ‘compliment’ – what we’re left with is, I think, very clearly bullying. We’re being picked on, made to squirm and feel self-conscious. Having our moods ruined and the illusion that we can simply go about our lives minding our own business and getting away with it shattered.
I’m making a show about it. I’m dressing up in a moustache and a glittery dress. I’m calling myself Syd and speaking in a gruff voice. In between telling bad jokes and doing gorilla impersonations, I’m talking about things that have happened to me as a woman, but as though I’m a man speaking. I want to see if we take these incidents and behaviours more seriously when the speaker’s image and identity is altered / ‘mascified’ (I just made up a word and I don’t care).
I hesitated for a long time about asking other women for their input, as I have always felt (somewhat self-righteously) that there’s something cheaty about theatre that makes work out of stories collected from other people…. But after I did a work-in-progress show last November, one piece of feedback that I kept getting from women was that it was cathartic to hear these stories and that it made them want to tell their own stories. And, on a personal level, I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I really need to reach out more to other people in my career and stop being such a frigging loner who tries to do everything their self and, ultimately, falls short.
So, as part of my research for Syd, I’m asking fellow women to help me out by sending me their stories. Stories about all the things I mentioned in the first paragraph and more. I want to start a conversation about how we can claim space. About the difference in the power that a (cishet, masculine seeming) man has when he walks down the street and that a woman has(n’t). About unconscious, inherited power and power that is deliberately abused. About how we modify our behaviour in order to get by.