Recently, I was reminded of this quote by writer and activist Audra Lorde, when my friend, director Eleanor Holdridge, shared an email she had received in response to the Washington Post article, Working Toward Theater Equity, about her production of Body Awareness at Theater J:
"Another whining woman. The probable reason male playwrights and directors are preferred is that they are, frankly, better at the craft than women. Women playwrights' themes are usually rants against their mothers, men, and otherwise drowning in female self-infatuation, like the lesbianism in "Body Awareness". Just not interesting or imaginative. Maybe better as directors, but not often. It's usually high school writ large. That's why the general public -- the market for theater -- votes with its dollars, and in that women lose. Tough titties."
When I first read this, I was concerned for Eleanor and wanted to make sure she was alright. She was, thank goodness. However, she was appalled by the somewhat extreme efforts this man went through to make his thoughts known to her. You see, initially, he sent this email to an arts critic at the Washington Post. However, when his words did not appear in print as he had hoped, he searched for Eleanor’s email address and sent them directly to her.
After confirming that Eleanor was okay, I was struck by three things:
- "Tough titties" isn’t a great way to end what one hopes is a definitive argument. People will laugh at you the way the world laughed at Governor Romney and his "Binder Full of Women."
- This play wasn’t for him and that’s really all he needed to say. Actually, he didn’t even need to say it, but blessed is the First Amendment.
- To eviscerate and admonish the work of an entire gender is neither productive nor useful.
As a woman of color, I can’t begin to imagine what it is to live in world of privilege, and specifically, of white male privilege. I’ve had it imagined for me in books, films, plays, poems, songs, commercials, advertisements, etc. But I will never know or experience this space. No amount of education, wealth or status will afford me this. I used to suffer over this quite terribly, but I don’t anymore. By that I mean, I no longer allow being passed over for opportunities because of race and gender prevent me from being productive and useful. And I hope you don’t either.
After a few days of mulling over what I might do, I spoke more with Eleanor Holdridge and also with Lee Mikeska Gardner. They each expressed a desire to learn more about the lives, careers, and artistic visions of other directors. We decided it would be a good idea to use this moment as an opportunity to celebrate, champion and herald the work of Women Directors in the D.C. Theatre community. Other women in the community agreed. What's more, a request was made for a Women Artistic Directors Series, so that will be coming in December.
Tomorrow, I will introduce you to the feature Women Directors of D.C. and over the next week, I’ll share their experiences with you. I hope you're as inspired by their lives, hard work, passion, determination and commitment to this profession as I am.