This is a call-out to women. A call to arms. A call-out about cat-calls. About the obvious and subtle ways that you experience the negative effects of patriarchy in your life. About manspreading, cat-calling, being ignored and talked over, being second-guessed. Being followed, threatened, assaulted, abused. Patronised. About being called a ‘girl’ when you’re a fully grown woman. About having to work twice as hard for half the recognition. About ‘darling’, ‘sweetheart’, ‘love’ and all of that shit. About wolf whistling. About how it feels to walk alone at night. About looking over your shoulder. About that invisible feeling that descends over you in a group of men. About the men in your life who take it upon themselves to speak on your behalf. About the annoying douche bag who thinks your Ok Cupid profile must have been written ‘…by a bloke…cos there’s no way a woman could be that cool’ or something. About that hollow laugh that street harassers deploy when you finally snap and show them your anger. About the times when you’ve been yelled at or reprimanded (or worse) for damaging a man’s pride. About the men who think it’s ‘cute’ when your angry. About the fact that TV comedy panel shows only ever seem to have one woman on there…because they have to. And they pick the most boring-as-fuck women they can find, seemingly to prove some kind of point. About those dudes who take ‘sly’ photos of you when you exercise in public. About the teenage boys half your age who sniff your hair on the back of the bus and laugh at you, making you feel half your age in the worst possible way. About all those opinions you didn’t ask for. About the lads in the pub who yell ‘Go on, get it on!’ when you and your female friend are laughing louder and having more fun than they deem acceptable. About that flabergasted look in some posh old twat’s eyes when you dare to talk back to them. About that low, anxious hum which follows you around when you’re out in public…that you may or may not experience, but I know I do.
I’m calling harassment of women what it is: bullying. Exclusion. Stuff that happens in school when you’re a little kid that we’re all taught is unacceptable behaviour. And yet, as women, we are bullied constantly. But no-one calls it that. If we take the sex out of it – along with the fucking ridiculous notion that it’s a ‘compliment’ – what we’re left with is, I think, very clearly bullying. We’re being picked on, made to squirm and feel self-conscious. Having our moods ruined and the illusion that we can simply go about our lives minding our own business and getting away with it shattered.
I’m making a show about it. I’m dressing up in a moustache and a glittery dress. I’m calling myself Syd and speaking in a gruff voice. In between telling bad jokes and doing gorilla impersonations, I’m talking about things that have happened to me as a woman, but as though I’m a man speaking. I want to see if we take these incidents and behaviours more seriously when the speaker’s image and identity is altered / ‘mascified’ (I just made up a word and I don’t care).
I hesitated for a long time about asking other women for their input, as I have always felt (somewhat self-righteously) that there’s something cheaty about theatre that makes work out of stories collected from other people…. But after I did a work-in-progress show last November, one piece of feedback that I kept getting from women was that it was cathartic to hear these stories and that it made them want to tell their own stories. And, on a personal level, I’m starting to come to terms with the fact that I really need to reach out more to other people in my career and stop being such a frigging loner who tries to do everything their self and, ultimately, falls short.
So, as part of my research for Syd, I’m asking fellow women to help me out by sending me their stories. Stories about all the things I mentioned in the first paragraph and more. I want to start a conversation about how we can claim space. About the difference in the power that a (cishet, masculine seeming) man has when he walks down the street and that a woman has(n’t). About unconscious, inherited power and power that is deliberately abused. About how we modify our behaviour in order to get by.
Please send your stories here. You can do so anonymously.