A Woman's Worth, A Man's World
Reeling, in all kinds of ways, from last night's episode of Mad Men. Peggy's demand of her worth; Joan's negotiation of hers; Don's flagrant dismissal of the former and chivalrous honor of the latter; my continued inexplicable annoyance with Megan (after all, she's only pursuing her dream in the exact manner I would have given the circumstances; save giving a clearer, more forthright explanation of the out-of-town rehearsal/performance schedule to said handsome, confused by what to do with me outside of the bedroom, and ultimately obliging hubby); and the callous, casual, and unbearably truthful observation that Black women are used to being bossed around (by the way, the current Black woman on the show, Dawn, is bellowed at, but doesn't actually appear in this episode).
While the offers made last night and the brilliantly interwoven scenes between Don's pitch and Joan's deal with the jaguar strike a Godfather cord, the positions Peggy, Joan, and Megan find themselves in also remind me of this equally brilliant scene between Jenny (Carrie Mulligan) and the Headmistress (Emma Thompson) in An Education, which takes place in the 1960s in suburban London. In particular, this line: "It's not enough to educate us anymore; you've got to tell us why you're doing it." It's not enough to give us a job or use us as your most valued asset or give us the chance to live our dream, you've got to respect us, honor us, and pay us our worth.
As I drink my Woman's Energy tea, to balance my hormones and make it through this day, I appreciate this meditation on the often uneasy, always bold, and sometimes dirty predicament of the challenging and evolving role of women in the 60s. Even more so, because I am struck and daunted by the recent assessment of my own current worth: a single, thirty-something, well-traveled, overly educated, black woman with no children, who chose to become an artist. Lovely on paper, but what gall.
Putting all of this into perspective and under a microscope is what happened this past Thursday. About an hour after I learned that I had been accepted (after being made an alternate only the week before) as part of the Young Leaders of Color Program at the upcoming TCG Conference in Boston, I also heard from the Head of Drama Department at UDC that everything is up in the air for the Fall. They are proud of my recent achievements, love my pedagogy and repoire with the students and want me back. However, UDC is struggling with funding as many institutions are and must wait for budget approval before passing out contracts to anyone.
This is a frustrating and disappointing position. It has thrown my entire sense of being off balance. What gall, again. How can anyone, let alone a woman...a Black woman--in this current economy, in this struggle for women's parity, in a world so wrought and marred with war, poverty, bigotry, and an ever expounding list of ism's and phobia's that we can hardly see straight for the sight of God--claim a sense of balance?
Indeed...the unmitigated gall! This is an accusation that is very familiar to me, as I accuse myself of it nearly as often as other accuse me. I become less and less critical of my needs and desires with each passing day. Thank you for your guidance and support.
6/5/2012 06:27:47 am
What are we worth? That's always the question, particularly for artists and particularly for women? It is not always what the market will bear but what gall we bring to the table to insist that we are well worth it, dammit, well worth the time, trouble, money -- whatever the currency of exchange, yes we are worth it.
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I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!