#Solidarity and Gender Parity Onstage

By Tiffany Antone

I’ve been doing a lot of reading this week.  It’s been good for me, because much of the recent conversation I’ve been observing has been coming from the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen perspective, and although I’ve got my own little Twitter account (and a rockin’ Twitter name!), I barely ever actually surf the Tweet Stream.

In other words, had it not launched beyond the Twitter-sphere, I probably would have remained completely unaware that such an intensely important conversation was taking place.

So, there’s today’s Twitter promo.

If you are a fellow part-time-Luddite and need a run-down on just exactly what it is I’m talking about, then take a moment to check out this link regarding the hashtag’s origin.  Then read a more personal accounting of it on XOJane HERE, and lastly – if you’re as fascinated as I’ve become- you can read a response to all the hubub by the hashtag’s originator, Mikki Kendal,  HERE.  Go ahead and do the clicking… it’s worth it to get the full picture and this post will be here when you get back.

Good, you all caught up?  Is your head spinning a little with the enormity of it all?  Me too.

I took Women’s Studies as an undergrad at UCLA.  I sat in class, did all the reading, felt that undergraduate tingle racing up my spine (making me sit up taller and pay more attention than I did in my History of the Beatles class…)  Because here was a class that was genuinely interesting to me because it was about me.  I didn’t grow up underserved because I was female, and I didn’t experience discrimination simply because I was female.  But I could feel a feminine fight stirring inside me as I read and discovered what ground the women before me had tread.  I was moved by the stories of my peers.  I was touched by the togetherness of those who marched and fought and made a difference.  I felt a sisterhood in those pages on in our discussion groups, because here were women who were interested in being their best selves and making sure the world honored and respected the female of the species.

It was awesome.

And then the semester was over.

So I put my textbook on my bookshelf and plowed on.

But by simply living in the real world, I found myself coming back to that book again and again as a sort of touchstone for my female reality…  I wasn’t out in the world getting abused because I had breasts, but I did find myself wondering how much of the daily crap I saw myself and my girlfriends wading through was more than just detritus from the unfinished work our mothers (and their mothers, and the mothers before them) had handed down to us.

The work is never done.

We never stop fighting for equality, no matter who we are, as long as a “majority” continues to swell against an “other than”.

This is as true for today’s feminist breakdown as it is for racial divides as it is for gay rights as it is for class warfare as it is for…  No matter where you fall in the Human Being Periodic Chart, you will struggle against the lines between yourself and “them”.

I’m a woman.  I’m white.  I’m straight.  I live slightly above the poverty line (or, at least I was before I became unemployed).

In witnessing the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen discussion, I come back again and again to a feeling of ostracism because my straight white mantra of “Women will achieve gender parity by building and maintaining an equal voice.” was not, apparently, equal at all.

Have I been a closet imperialist feminist all this time?  Am I part of the problem because, in maintaining feminist intentions based on my own socioeconomic background vs. the “movement” at large, I haven’t really been part of the conversation?

Or is it because I’m white?

I write plays.

I write plays with female protagonists.

My female protagonists are usually “white” in the sense that I am writing from a Caucasian perspective.  That doesn’t mean my heroines can’t be played by actresses of color – they certainly could and should be – but my characters aren’t speaking from WoC perspective because, well, I’m not a WoC and I can’t possibly expect to tell their stories better than they can/do.

But does my primarily pale perspective make me, as a playwright, part of the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen problem?

If the Guthrie committed to producing a whole season of work by women playwrights, but only two of them were women playwrights of color, would those of us angling for gender parity be appeased, or would we then stand up together and insist that true gender parity includes racial parity as well?

My hope is that we’d all fight for the latter.

My fear is that in order to achieve it, we need to be even more specific in what we’re asking for.

The discussion at large really must be: What does gender parity look like?  And in order to answer that, the #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen discussion needs to bleed over into the arts.

Because in order to really become a force to be reckoned with, we have to reconcile our divisiveness and create a dialogue that is productive.  I can’t presume to tell a woman of color about her own life anymore than a WoC should be telling a transgender white woman about hers.  Each of our perspectives is grounded in our own personal experience of the world – which is why we need to listen to one another.

And why we need to tell more stories.

We need to gather round the listening place, open our eyes and ears and hearts and minds, and bear witness to each story with shared passion and respect.

Then we need to promote one another’s stories with the same kind of passion and dedication we give to our own.

This is what being a feminist and a playwright is all about.

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