Tag Archives: La Boite

Feminism and misandry

Art and domestic. Photo: Mick 2014

Art and domestic. Photo: Mick 2014

As I stacked the dirty dishes left by the ravenous young men in my life, I pondered whether I was a poor mum and feminist. As I pushed the dirty socks and jocks into the washing machine, finally out from their bedrooms – their floordrobes, I sensed that I have failed. How can I save the women of my sons’ future lives from a life of cleaning up after them, if I have not managed to escape the mothering 20 years later?

They have a good role model. Right from the start my darling man was the primary caregiver. Possibly more by accident than design: he was retrenched from his job shortly before the birth of our first child, we had a mortgage to pay and it seemed my prospects of a living wage were much better than his, in spite of his engineering degree and my recent arrival. So he was the one left holding the baby when I went back to work. Holding the baby, cooking, shopping, cleaning, gardening, school volunteering, homework help, sports duties on the weekend, kissing grazed knees better.

But none of this seems to have made one iota of difference. The parental nagging of teenage sons to clean up their room, pay attention to their hygiene, stop eating junk food, avoid sugary caffeinated drinks and clean up after themselves seems a boring reality of life.

My week has been full of feminism. First, I attended a Women of the World Festival workshop in Brisbane. Led by the fabulous Jude Kelly, Southbank London, the WOW Festival is coming to Brisbane in June 2015, thanks to some very wonderful Brisbane women. The Festival celebrates how successful women have been. Some women have it all, but it is a constant struggle, yet many younger women have no idea how far women have come. Yet one in three women around the world will be raped, beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime. Jude invented the WOW Festival to create a new space for human rights for girls and women, and now this space will come to Brisbane.

Next, I was treated to the ‘seminal feminist piece’, Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House at La Boite Theatre Company in a version by Australian playwright Lally Katz. Nora starts as a 1879 pretty wind-up doll, dressed in a pink period costume, singing about her haunting dream about slamming the door and Nora ends as a 21st century feminist, dressed in a little black thing, shouting an angry activist tirade reminiscent of the 1970s, before actually slamming the door.

30 years after Ibsen's play was first staged, women won the right to vote. Suffrage Alliance Congress, London, 1909. Photo: unknown - Creative Commons https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Suffrage_Alliance_Congress,_London_1909.jpg

Ibsen’s play created debate about women’s rights – including the right to vote. New Zealand was first to introduce the right to vote in 1893, with Australia following in 1902 and Denmark in 1915. Suffrage Alliance Congress, London, 1909. Photo: unknown https://commons.m.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Suffrage_Alliance_Congress,_London_1909.jpg – creative commons.

The five characters literally look and talk past each other, like they exist in different dimensions. They move on the checkered stage like a pieces in a chess game. In each corner is a chair, like a rook, but each with one sawn short leg, so its stability depends on the characters’ ability to balance three legs, until appearances disintegrate and the truth of imbalance can no longer be concealed. Above the stage, a thick messy cobweb hangs like a ceiling. Behind the stage an opaque curtain barely conceals Krogstad (sounds like Crookster in English) writing his letters and Nora desperately dancing the tarantella. The square stage rotates in the round theatre, though the symbolism of the entwining web of four strings and two rotations and the falling ceiling at the end is just a little bit too obvious. Nora’s ultimate transformation to a feminist is completely neutered by her assertion that Torvald is acting like a woman. Do we really aspire to women who act like men despising men who act like women? Not a good ending to otherwise excellent theatre.

Finally, This is not the work, an exhibition by Level, a feminist artist-run initiative, brings together community-engaged creative projects from around the world. Its title emphasises that the artistic manifestation is not the art work; rather the community engagement that resulted in these manifestations is the work. And just as well. As I walked through the exhibition looking at seemingly haphazardly put together textile pieces, I was reminded that skill comes before product. Last year’s Quilts exhibition at Queensland Art Gallery, which displayed – mostly – women’s exquisite craft skills in trying circumstances, including on board a convict ship. The quilts and textile art before me demonstrated none of that skill, but shouted angrily ‘victim’. The community engagement processes may have been excellent and empowering, but I found the manifestitations crude and substandard. Admittedly, I didn’t stay long – I felt repelled by the activist claiming of every type of disadvantage and social issue: as Jude Kelly asserted not everything women are achieving is through activism.

During visual arts lectures and tutorials, my studious man faces feminism of the activist kind. Vaginas are empowerment and penises are evil and oppressive. As a white Anglo-Saxon middle-class male he symbolises the oppression of women; and the domestic is the province of feminist art. Never mind that he probably has more domestic and feminist experience than most of the women there: he has to be cautious not to offend, which silences his perspectives in ways not dissimilar to how women have been silenced.

As I pondered whether we have brought up our boys to be decent, critically thinking young men, I remembered the Griffith Review article, Time to Trade in by Australian journalist George Megalononis. Our economy, media and society are hard-wired to the false certainty of the male brain and calls on women to change the model. However, he also throws in a caution about the growing disadvantage experienced by unqualified, white young men – and any female model will need to be inclusive, not exclusive, of the masculine or we will merely replace the much wanting patriarchy with its female equivalent and be in no better society than today.

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Hedonism, fatalism and free will

Fatalism or indeterminism? This week's arts experiences offered everything. Photo: Lone 2014

Fatalism or libertariansim? This week’s arts experiences offered everything. Photo: Lone 2014

I had not worn this fine leather jacket for some time. I bought it on Ibiza from a fashion house in the summer of 1989. Though it bemused us that students without many means were treated as princesses by attentive sales people, I walked away with the softest buffalo skin leather jacket, hitting the waist with generous pleats in the back and a diagonal zip overlay at the front. And a payment plan. It is fair to say it was an impulse buy.

The Queensland climate rarely lends itself to wearing a leather jacket. Our summers are hot and our winters are mild. But on Thursday I wore it to the opening night of La Boite’s indie season’s Hedonism’s Second Album. As we were waiting for the show to start, I thought to check if there was something in the buttoned pocket of my jacket. And I was immediately transported back in time. I found a ticket stub for a concert I attended with my very good childhood friends in Århus in February 1991. Mek Pek and the Allrights. I could almost hear the ska with the trio of trumpet, trombone and sax in the background, thumping out Hit me with your rythm stick, Mek Pek style, in a smoke-filled room packed with young people, well imbibed by the 10pm start, the laughter, the shouting, the drinking, the dancing, the sweating into my leather jacket.

Like a genie, this ticket was hidden for over 23 years and then appeared to make me think of the past and what got me to where I am today. Photo: Lone 2014

Like a genie, this ticket was hidden for over 23 years and then appeared to make me think of the past and what got me to where I am today. Photo: Lone 2014

It was an apt entré into Hedonism’s Second Album which portrays a four-piece band after the excesses of their first album’s success. It explores the ‘sometimes badly behaved characters we may hide within, behind our public selves’. The play was fun with its comedic approach to the ideosyncracies, posturing and insecurities of four young men. But it had a serious edge with its terrifyingly real message about conflicted young men struggling to be: in endless pursuit of pleasure, excruciating pain sometimes is the price. Did they have a choice?

This message came on the back of our Monday night experience when we, courtesy of the Danish Club, attended a special screening of the Swedish film, The Hundred Year-Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Dissappeared. It is a surprising and funny film, which places its affable main character in a series of historical events. Allan became an orphan at the age of nine, yet he is portrayed, not as a troubled, but as a straight-forward young man, whose favourite pleasure was to blow up things. He is almost oblivious to his profound impact on the course of history. Things just happen, as he carries with him the words of his dying mother: Stop thinking so much like your father – just start doing. But if you thought this liberatian advice was the message of the film, it needs to be seen in light of Mum’s fatalistic advice: it is what it is and it will be what it will be. No point to pursue pleasure or avoid pain.

In their painful pursuit of pleasure in the flotsam of their success, Hedonism’s musicians found it difficult to just do. So Saturday’s performers of Casus Circus were a perfect contrast, demonstrating the power of free will. We braved the unseasonal, relentless rain and went to the opening night of Finding the Silence at the Judith Wright Centre for Contemporary Art. The title refers to ‘that elusive silence, that moment of pure clarity’ which a circus performer has to find before every trick to defy danger, fear and gravity. Through physical exploration, the show questions whether the silence and clarity really exists. I was in awe of the young performers’ physicality, skill and bravery; and most of all their ability to work together to do what seems impossible. Like ballet dancers, just much more interesting. And shorter.

Real-life Casus appear not unlike fictional Hedonism. Hot on the heels of their international success with Knee Deep; however, Casus have been determined to follow up in a timely way that seems to defy the fear of not reaching the heights of former glory.

As I reflect on the arts experiences of the week, it seems to me that we fall into a trap when we give in to nostalgia. The youth, the dreams, the life in front of me, all came back to me when I stared down at that 23 1/2 year old ticket. Would it be what it would be or was I able to influence the course of my life? I think the latter. But as I look back I see that though my life is full of thinking and planning before doing, I also see that life changing events can happen with little planning and decisions may be taken at the spur of the moment. Like the soft leather jacket and the ‘she’ll be right’ attitude of Mek Pek’s Allrights. And when I find that moment of silence, I see that I would not change a thing: it is what it is, it will be what it will be.