In case you missed it, last week, five female identifying theatre artists created a closed Facebook group called Women in Theatre, now titled something different, but we’ll get to that. And yo, sh** got real, real quick. Before I dive any further, I feel its super important to note that I myself identify as a white cis-female, so the following post you are about to read is from the perspective of such individual. This post in no way aims to synthesize the entire situation, but rather share my thoughts on the situation with a hope to process with you all––start a dialogue. I am sure this is a topic that will be talked about in days, weeks, months to come. Also, I would be very interested in seeing responses from those who have been following the & specifically those who don’t identify as I do. I would love to know your personal reactions, thoughts, feedback, etc. Please comment below if you’d like, or make a post of your own so we can all be in dialogue together.
So, my reaction to the group initially was like, hell yes, it’s about darn time, singing, “Okay, ladies, now let’s get in formation.” I received my initial invitation into the group from a fellow playwriting mentor of mine and felt many emotions, but mainly I felt delighted to receive a little sparkle of light that reminded me why social media was still necessary in my life. A community of women artists? Sign me up! I looked around for a group description, but none could be found, but that didn’t really bother me, I then proceeded to browse my mutual friends who were already a part of the group, then I looked back at the group’s name, and happily accepted the invitation.
Now as a white cis-female, as previously mentioned, I didn’t initially have any qualms or questions about the group. In my mind, I thought, yay women identifying people gathering in one place with a common slay for theatre––what a dream! And now looking back, I realize, well da**, it’s because I’m privileged. I am privileged to feel welcomed into a women gathering. I felt at home in the group. I didn’t have to question if I belonged or not. And that wasn’t the case for many others.
Within a short amount of time of its creation, questions were asked of the #admins. Trans-women and non-binary folks posted comments asking the #admins and the group members if they were welcomed into the space. Some even shared how they identified and then said, “If I need to go I will.”
The comments from members that followed were all across the board.
Members were also asking for the #admins to reconsider the name of, Women in Theatre, to be something else to allow for inclusion. Polls were even made by members to give the #admins options. And the comments and post that followed went wild. I mean nuts. Arguments and name calling. Finger pointing and shame speak. Harassment and blatant ignorance. You know, all that good stuff social media is made for now-a-days. It seemed like everyone wanted out of the muck.
To be honest… I’m really embarrassed to admit how quickly this group went up in arms with one another. It’s heartbreaking and terribly frustrating. The patriarchy has a tendency to encourage stereotypical notions that when women gather, they are (fill in the blank here with misogynic viewpoint). It’s like, we lived up to their stereotypical expectations. And to see humans being so ugly to each other just makes me sad. I wondered, if a Men in Theatre Facebook group would have formed would they have had this same kind of argument with one another?
“In five days, an idea has exploded into an infinitely beautiful and complex movement and we, the admin, are doing our very best to read, participate, respond, and think towards the future.” ––#admin, Alison S.
Now at 25,457 members and counting, the group continues to grow every day.
Three days ago, the #admins shared their response which included a mission statement for the group, below is a curated excerpt of their post.
THE NEW DESCRIPTION: Women+ in Theatre (WiT) honors the intersection of theatrical disciplines and identities. It is a place for women, non binary folks, transwomen, women of all races, women of all religions, and women with [dis]abilites to connect about challenges, successes, questions, and collaborations.
We hope and PLAN to keep the fervor of that mantra alive within this group and into our careers in the arts and into the entire world. Let us live this and not just be active fighters within this facebook group. Let this small ripple carry further forward to create an entire network of incredible women.
We, the admins of this group, quite accidentally (and happily) have harnessed an intense amount of energy with the creation of the group and we hope to provide a framework to guide it, grow it, and allow other leaders to emerge as it outgrows our wildest dreams and current infrastructure. We will continue to work diligently to expand this network and its infrastructure and make these resources and ideas available for use and feedback.
What I am realizing more and more is that our world is progressing so quickly and what we all need to do is educate ourselves and stay up to date with that progression. Complacency is a terrible, rotten trait to take on, and I for one, a Texas girl through and through, am heartbroken by the many individuals who would rather stay complacent in their comforts. We can’t. Not now. Not ever. But especially not now. We, myself included, those who come from a place of privllege of any kind, need to educate ourselves and others in our society about identity politics. We shouldn’t rely on and force those who identify differently than the privileged, cis-gender experience to educate us. We ourselves need to educate ourselves and make those around us feel welcomed. How do we do this?
- Read some more.
- Discuss with a friend.
- Discuss with more friends.
- If one of your friends from above don’t identify differently than you, than you need to diversify your friend group and talk to others who aren’t as like minded as you.
- Be a good human being.
“If a term or concept is new to you or if you don’t understand something, do a quick Google search before you ask a more marginalized person to explain it to you. We have also created an ongoing list of #resources of common topics for easy reference (stored under Files).” ––#admin, Alison S.
I believe the #admins have responded appropriately, it might have taken them a couple of days, but the response was thorough––you could tell a lot of intentionality went into crafting a response. It’s a lesson on intent to walk away with, that’s for sure. Before putting something out into the universe, it’s crucial to have a rock solid intent. A clear and focused mission.
At the end of the day, I still am struggling with my thoughts on all of this. I know I have a lot of research to do on my own about identity/gender politics. But also, as a woman, I strongly agree with the need for a space where women identifying theatre artist, have a place of their own to be supporting one other. In a world dominated by men, its nice to not feel alone. And, I will say some really wonderful things are happening in this group. For example, a spreadsheet with every member’s contact info, website, and theatre trades has been created so that we can form connections with one another and SLAY in the theatre world! People have connected via city. Via trade. Via race. Via ethnicity. Via twitter. Via instagram. The group is intended to be an encouraging and positive place, and I hope that as we continue onward, it becomes just that for all that are present.