So we had pledged to make a show about protest, about changing the world, about taking action! Oh god I’m so busy, where do I have time around my busy schedule of making theatre, touring theatre, applying for funding, trying to earn money, doing the washing up and all that normal stuff? I think, in my head a ‘quirky little’ protest would be easy and would just catch someone’s attention and make them change their opinions, oh how naive I was.
It wasn’t really hard for me to pick a ‘cause’ as I was already quite angry about women’s rights. I had set up a theatre company, an all female theatre company, to try and combat this inequality in my own sector. I went to auditions for Drama schools and Universities and there were with a doubt about 90% women and 10% men in attendance. Why was it then that I read in an article that in 10 of the main theatres across England that only 38% of actors they employed were women? Not to mention 36% Artistic Directors and 24% Directors. This just didn’t add up. This lead me to look into it further discovering that government across the world was only made up of 18% women and that only 7% of people running top companies are women and of course editors of national newspapers only 5% are women. (Reclaiming the F-Word) I quote these statistics because the hardest thing about what I’ve chosen to do has been actually convincing people that Sexism even exists.
So I went out on the street asking people, ‘What does sexism mean to you?’ One lady when asked if she had ever experienced sexism said ‘Not really no’ when pressed ‘not really no… except equal pay’.
How am I supposed to change something that no one really thinks is a problem Now there’s a conundrum. So the first thing I decided to do was to start confronting sexism whenever I experienced it, not letting it wash over me because what was I really doing to change it if I just kept letting it happen around me? So I did… which caused conflict, as I should have expected. Conflicts with friends, conflicts with family, conflicts on twitter and on facebook. I didn’t want to cause conflict, I didn’t want to lose friends or for people to feel uncomfortable around me but this was what was happening all because I was standing up for what I believed in. Not as easy as I had thought.
And then I started paying attention to the Every Day Sexism project on Twitter and realised it is an awesome way to prove sexism is still a massive problem. People go on there and tweet their experiences of sexism… and my god it’s relentless. I would direct anyone who thinks sexism is no longer a problem to start following them on twitter.
So I thought, how can I change this, what can I do? I felt like I needed to narrow down the field a bit. I came across a carwash in Bulwell, that was advertising Ex page three models doing a bikini car wash, Coming soon! If the suns out, the girls are out.
I felt like I’d suddenly stepped back in time, could this actually be? Someone wanted women to be paid to wash cars in their bikinis so men could perve on them. And not to mention there was a school across the road. What would we be having next bikini boiler fixing? Bikini café? Bikini pizza delivery? Now that just sounds weird but really what’s the difference? So I organized a protest, my first protest (cough) to ask my question, ‘What does sexism mean to you?’ at the site for the proposed Bikini Car Wash. With free cake and badges! The day before the protest my sensible brain kicked in, wait a minute I need to make a official complaint to the council, the people making this decision. So I did and it turned out lots of other people had as well, and the man had been advised not to go ahead with the car wash. And he agreed. He even took the sign down (I drove over there to check). Amazing, the community of Bulwell had conquered sexism! For now… although there’s still a hooters in the city centre…