I recently attended the Tamasha’s Regional Voices scratch night at the Rich Mix. As defined on the company’s website, Tamasha translates into “commotion”, however, tonight did not create any sort of stir within me. As a theatre company that “aspires to create theatre that has the multiple narratives and global perspectives of Britain’s evolving culture and audiences at its heart” I was disappointed that this did not come across during Regional Voices, “regional” here translating very narrowly into different areas within the United Kingdom only, making no reference to any sort of global perspective. The term “regional” was further limited to different town perspectives as criticised during the post-show Q&A, neglecting any sort of rural dimension.
It is incredibly difficult to hold the attention of your audience with a monologue, which was evident in tonight’s pieces, three out of four which were performed by just one person. The only one that vaguely succeeded in drawing me in was ‘Can You Hear Me Running’, a story about a multi-faceted runner who is also a girlfriend, singer and actress, and struggles to finish both the London Marathon and master a musical audition after she loses her voice. The most interesting fact here was probably that the actress really had lost her voice and was actually not sure whether she would be able to sing tonight and just took the risk on stage as I found out during the Q&A. Despite a few comical moments, it was unclear how exactly the marathon and audition related to one another. It was nice to see, however, that the actress’ voice did not fail her and she was indeed able to sing her audition at the end of her performance.
The opening performance was based on a good idea but lacked the emotion I expect to see when someone narrates the death of their father. It was meant to be about a woman recounting her childhood and the loss of her father on a train journey to Dundee. I did not catch onto the jokes about her childhood memories and was left weirdly untouched by her loss, which made the jokes at the beginning irrelevant in the grander scale of events.
As I found out in the Q&A, the second performance, ‘Majorca’ was meant to challenge our conceptions of masculinity and how boys are expected to relate to one another, which is a great idea but not what it made me think about. It featured two boys planning their trip to Majorca. The trip becomes synonymous for the boys’ friendship and in the end, one of them cancels, leaving his friend very upset. It was a bunch of seemingly unconnected scenes at times and it is only after I found out that the piece was meant to challenge masculinity that I could vaguely see how this happened when it is difficult for one boy to admit that he really likes his friend since boys are not expected to reveal too many emotions.
‘A Quiet Street’, the closing performance, was about a stranger following the main character around London and ultimately stealing his wallet. It did not grasp my attention and I was not enticed by the story of a random stranger’s strategy to take the wallet by sharing his life story with the unknowing lead character despite the acting being very good.
While all performances were based on good ideas, they did not grasp my attention. However, they are pieces in development and the purpose of scratch nights is to give feedback and allow for the performances in question to be criticised constructively and to hopefully make them grow.
‘Doing’ intersectionality has never been easy. In fact, it is a constant struggle that requires continuous self-reflection and critique. Intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in the 1980s, has named the reality that we do not live single-issue lives but instead have multiple identities that can be the basis for both oppression and privilege. Intersectionality was also the overall theme for the last day of The Spark and I attended both the panel discussion ‘Ain’t I A Woman?: An introduction to intersectionality and why it’s key in the struggle for social justice’ and the ‘Health and Wellbeing for Women’ workshop right after.
It was refreshing to see a panel on intersectionality that was exactly that: intersectional. Panels usually focus on one aspect of intersectionality, the cross-overs between race and gender for example, but it is rare that you find a panel that actually addresses a spectrum of identities including gender, race, transsexualism and ability. What was also refreshing was the fact that Lola Okolosie, one of the panellists and a black feminist, did not take to merely celebrating intersectionality and emphasising the need for such an approach in the struggle for social justice but was also not afraid to point out some of the problems in its current practice. This was not a finger-pointing exercise to shift the blame but a very honest recognition of the fact that black feminists are not intersectional by virtue of their blackness but can actually be very silent about other aspects of discrimination as well, becoming complicit in the reinforcement of structures of domination. Lola continued by elaborating on how taking an intersectional approach has at times been reduced to merely listing difference, which has brought about a laziness in unpacking how power structures continue to operate, dominate and silence.
Ruth Pearce brilliantly summarised the complexities of living multi-issue realities, focussing on how we are all oppressed and privileged simultaneously. Ruth warned against competing with our oppressions and staging what she referred to as the “oppression Olympics” and instead encouraged us to acknowledge our privileges to enable us to check it and not use it in a harmful manner. Amrit Wilson continued along the lines of Lola, encouraging us to overlook our differences and contradictions and come together as a collective to fight oppressive structures such as patriarchy and capitalism. Eleanor Lisney, the final panellist, gave us a succinct answer as to why feminism is so important when she pointed to the fact that worldwide, there are 20 million more men under 30 years of age than women for the simple reason of systemic (fatal) discrimination against women. If you didn’t believe in intersectionality before and this panel did not change your mind, you’re a lost cause.
The well-being workshop for women facilitated by Michelle Homes was a major wake-up call in terms of the stress and anxieties that we women face. As Michelle accurately pointed out at the beginning of the workshop, as women we do many things for many people and often neglect ourselves in the process. The workshop was personal and very much created a safe space for women to share about their health and well-being strategies. What came out of it is that we generally do not carve out sufficient time for ourselves, sidelining our own well-being while trying to be everyone else’s superwoman. Michelle’s motto is yoga, meditation and mindfulness, which is a radical commitment to her own well-being in today’s hectic lifestyle. In the words of Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Published on The Spark blog http://sparkyouthteam.wordpress.com/2014/06/23/aint-i-a-woman-whats-intersectionality-got-to-do-with-it/
In an ideal world we would all learn in childhood to love ourselves. We would grow, being secure in our worth and value, spreading love wherever we went, letting our light shine. If we did not learn self-love in our youth, there is still hope. The light of love is always in us, no matter how cold the flame. It is always present, waiting for the spark to ignite, waiting for the heart to awaken and call us back to the first memory of being the life force inside a dark place waiting to be born - waiting to see the light.
The sense of self-righteous entitlement demonstrated by some white people gets me every single time. I don’t know why I’m still surprised but the way they confidently walk around like their shit don’t stank is actually quite fascinating.
I was on my way home in a relatively full tube this evening for a white man to creep up to me, thirst over my hair, and then ask me whether he could touch it. I say ‘no, most definitely not’ and he tries to argue with me until I go off and he goes ‘Why are you so angry?’ I was furious at that point, even more so at the middle-aged white couple shrugging, laughing and whispering next to me, and his friends just staring at me like I’m the one who was crazy. Of course no one said anything.
It gets me every time someone is so openly ignorant, especially after I already told him he couldn’t touch my hair. My ‘no’ obviously meant nothing to him and he disrespected me not only when he asked if he, a strange man whose hands had been God knows where, could touch my hair, but also when he deemed it appropriate to start an argument about what he thought was his right to access my self. There is a deep-rooted problem with how the bodies of people of colour are perceived as borderless, as though there was an open access policy to the curious groping and probing by white people. Never mind that it makes us feel extremely uncomfortable and powerless, we are expected to suck it up to cater to that incident of white curiosity.
I still feel frustrated about the fact that I wasn’t able to do much and he probably learned no lesson at all. Shout-out to @Payitforward87 for sending me this: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=A1zLzWtULig because it actually made me smile in light of my frustrations.
We’re excited to both be a part of this conference next Saturday as part of the ‘Activism in the Age of New Media: American Methods British Institutions’ panel. Yovanka initiated #itooamsoas and we’ll get a chance to talk about ‘Ain’t I A Woman? What’s race got to do with it?’
See you there!
As the product of an interracial relationship, I am by nature in favour of ‘mixed relationships’.
Also, as a ‘mixed race’ person I will always be in ‘mixed relationships’ by default so how could I not be? Nonetheless, there are some issues here to unpack.
What does it mean to be in a mixed relationship? We are programmed to assume this always involves white with non-white couples but we need to transcend this dichotomy and see that most relationships are likely to involve some sort of mix.
Additionally, I don’t believe that we should “celebrate” mixed relationships any more than we do other relationships. We should not put them on a pedestal as a manifestation of some sort of post-racial utopia but celebrate what is hopefully a genuine love, one that did not grow from fetishism or the desire for status.
Instead, any love should grow from a decolonised mind and an open heart. It might just be my personal wish to live in a world where we can love freely that inspires this (somewhat sappy) take but I do believe genuine mixed relationships exist so I refuse to believe that they are problematic from the outset.
Always reinforcing racial boundaries we never drew and insisting on ‘sticking to our kind’ is becoming increasingly unfeasible and is not progressive, which is why I believe you should follow where love takes you.
And if that is across some socially constructed racial divide and you are conscious of its implications, go for it and we will celebrate.
Published on The Voice 11 May 2014
Feminists are made, not born. One does not become an advocate of feminist politics simply by having the privilege of having been born female. Like all political positions one becomes a believer in feminist politics through choice and action. When women first organized in groups to talk together about the issue of sexism and male domination, they were clear that females were socialized to believe sexist thinking and values as males, the difference being simply that males benefited from sexism more than females and were as a consequence less likely to want to surrender patriarchal privilege. Before women could change patriarchy we had to change ourselves; we had to raise our consciousness.