Thanks to our Co-Artistic Director Carly Bodnar for posting this image on her Facebook page earlier today. It's a spot-on visualization of the no-win situation women are all to frequently put in when it comes to their bodies and how they clothe them.
Typically we see women judged because they are not wearing enough clothes, according to our patriarchal society's standards. Skirt too short? You deserved to be sexually assaulted. Wear a crop top but don't have a six-pack? Cover up that gross tummy! Flash a nipple? At best, be told to put it away; at worst, have a word like "Nipplegate" associated with your name forevermore, other accomplishments be damned.
But now, it appears, women can also be targeted for covering up too much. In recent weeks, several beachfront towns in France have enacted bans on "burkinis" - essentially flowy wetsuits with hoods that Muslim women can wear to swim and still adhere to their religion's dress code. The burkini was invented in 2004 by an Australian Muslim woman, Aheda Zanetti, and has been used by Muslim women around the world with relatively little fuss. That is, until this summer, when French coastal towns started banning the swimwear from their city's beaches. While Villeneuve-Loubet mayor Lionnel Luca cited "hygienic reasons" for the ban, it's evident that the crackdown is a result of rising anti-Islamic sentiment in France following multiple terrorist attacks in the country allegedly masterminded and perpetrated by extremist Islamic terrorists.
The city of Cannes was more transparent about their motivations, saying in their ruling, "Beachwear which ostentatiously displays religious affiliation, when France and places of worship are currently the target of terrorist attacks, is liable to create risks of disrupting public order (crowds, scuffles etc) which it is necessary to prevent." Of course, the ruling says nothing about whether showing up to the beach in a Catholic nun's habit, yarlmulke and prayer shawl, or bathing suit emblazoned with images of the Flying Spaghetti Monster will get you bounced from Cannes famed beaches.
These rulings are troublesome because not only do they reek of religious discrimination, once again, women's bodies are made the battleground for a larger cultural debate. Just like women who hit the beach in bikinis, whether or not they have the culturally-approved "beach body," Muslim women who wear burkinis because they want to stay true to their religious beliefs just want to enjoy their summer, soak up some sun and cool off in the waves, not be harassed and humiliated. Adding insult to injury, one French government official tried to defend the ban, saying in an interview that, like the burqa, the burkini is offensive because it's purpose is "to hide women’s bodies in order to better control them." So, the best way to prevent women's bodies from being controlled is to...control women's bodies? Did I mention these statements were made by a woman? Good luck unraveling that knot of sexism.
On the bright side (if there is a bright side) is that women, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, are not having this shit. And why should we? There's less than a month of summer left; let us enjoy it in peace, and when it comes to what we wear while we do it, mind your own business.
The 2nd Annual Philadelphia Women's Theatre Festival wrapped today after five days of performances, staged readings, and workshops that featured theatre, dance, music and comedy, all brought to us by dozens of incredibly talented women (and a few men).
For the uninitiated, the Philadelphia Women's Theatre Festival was founded to create opportunities for women in the arts (a mission ReVamp can certainly get behind!). The annual festival is dedicated to celebrating and developing artists, creating a community of diverse artists, and honoring women's contributions to storytelling, artistic advancement and creative innovation. You can visit their website for more information!
Although the Vamps of ReVamp were not able to attend all of the many PWTF performances, the ones we did see were daring, enlightening, challenging and a testament to the skill and creativity of female theatre artists in the Philadelphia area. From a look at the life of Simone de Beauvoir through movement and found text in Simone, a devised work developed by Amanda Coffin, Kristin Miller, Kasey Phillips and Elise D'Avella to Buzzfeed, Donald Trump, & Dead Black Kids, a darkly funny and deeply unsettling short play by Haygen Brice Walker about the unknown prejudices we hold within us, the works presented in this year's festival showcase demonstrate the breadth and depth of topics female theatre artists are tackling, and how much they have to contribute to the Philadelphia theatre scene.
The workshops and panels presented as part of PWTF's educational outreach featured many notable names from the Philadelphia theatre community including actor Alex Keiper, playwrights Jacqueline Goldfinger and Michael Hollinger, and solo performers Jessica Bedford and Kimberly Fairbanks. These artists shared their insight about practical and creative aspects of theatre-making, including how to get your work produced, different acting techniques, and the process of creating and staging solo work, advice that will perhaps help other artists see their work on stage during next year's PWTF.
Speaking of advice, director Joanna Settle, who received this year's Story Changers Award from the festival organizers for her contributions to theatre both nationally and locally, had some wise words regarding risk: "When you have an idea that's risky, and you imagine that risk being complete, and the result being marvelous, that's the risk you want to take." A good rule not just for theatre, but for life.
Congratulations on a wonderful festival, ladies! See you next year!
No, really, I mean it. Thank you, President Obama, for your thoughtful and powerful essay published this week in Glamour magazine in which you not only unequivocally declare yourself a feminist, but call on Americans of all gender identities and sexual orientations to continue fighting for gender equality in the U.S. Thank you for acknowledging that feminism is about guaranteeing equality for all, and that what you refer to as "dated assumptions about gender roles" are as harmful to men as they are to women. Thank you for using your platform as one of the most influential leaders in Western society to draw attention these issues, and for leading by example. Thank you for demonstrating what a truly respectful, enlightened president looks like. You will certainly be missed.
ReVamp Recommends is a special blog feature highlighting theater productions, artists, movies, TV shows, books, events, etc. that are relevant to ReVamp Collective's mission, and that we want to share with our fellow artists and audience.
What does it mean to be a man in 21st century America? How is masculinity defined, taught and expressed in our culture? What are the negative side effects of rigidly categorizing "proper" masculine behavior, and how do they manifest both in individuals and in society at large?
These are the questions posed by The Mask You Live In, a 2015 documentary directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom and written by Newsom and Jessica Congdon, available on Netflix and YouTube. Newsom and Congdon are also the team behind the 2011 doc Miss Representation, which explored similar questions related to our culture's definitions of femininity and women's gender roles. Newsom is the founder of The Representation Project, an organization dedicated to "using film as a catalyst for cultural transformation," and "inspiring individuals and communities to challenge and overcome limiting stereotypes so that everyone, regardless of gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, or circumstance, can fulfill their human potential."
The Mask You Live In draws on interviews with psychologists, sociologists, educators, and youth leaders, as well as men of various ages and backgrounds, to paint a picture of how our culture creates and encourages an environment of "toxic masculinity" - a world in which men are taught from an extremely early age to hide and deny emotions, reject anything hinting of femininity as bad, compete against other men in a zero-sum game of power and dominance, and treat women as objects provided only for their consumption. Set against a backdrop of pop culture references, including movies, music, video games, advertising and sports which demonstrate the hyper-masculine "man's man" ideal that men must achieve, the film charts the development of males from young children who are told to "man up" and that "crying is for sissies" into young men who cannot, or are afraid to, express their feelings and form trusting relationships, and turn to destructive or violent behaviors in an effort to prove their manhood. The doc explores how these developmental challenges have hurt the individuals interviewed for the film, as well as the larger implications they have for our society, including mass shootings, drug and alcohol abuse and the perpetuation of rape culture.
It's not a perfect documentary. I would have liked to see more historical context for the issue - how did this culture of hyper-masculinity develop, or was it always present, we're just better at recognizing it now? The film just sort of drops us in the present-day climate without presenting a lot of background on the issue. It also would have been interesting to see how masculinity is defined and taught in other cultures around the world, perhaps as a model for what we could be doing better here in the U.S. But overall, The Mask You Live In is a powerful, sobering look at what it means to be a man in our society, and how narrowly defining gender is possibly one of the most harmful collective attitudes we as a culture can hold.