GENDER

Bechdel Testing Life

Bechdel Testing Life is a series of plays inspired by the Bechdel Test, which asks whether a film, play or television series features a conversation between at least two women, about something other than a man. The question is one of representation. But it also makes me wonder whether women share ideas in a different way when they are together. 

Kate Fox, in her essay Girl Talk, tells us that there are many studies which demonstrate that the ways genders bond are different. As she writes, ‘male bonding tends to be more formal and organized’, and also that ‘every known human society has some form of men-only clubs or associations, special (often secret) male-bonding organizations or institutions from which women are excluded’. The private interactions between women are similarly important and should be foregrounded as well.

Caitlin Moran points out that women have fears totally outside the male experience. No man can really get why women hesitate before walking home in the dark. Girls are raped, robbed, assaulted, as well as diminished and demeaned for no reason other than that they have a vagina. That is terrifying. As Moran writes

We're scared. We don't want to mention it, because it's kind of a bummer, chat-wise, and we'd really like to talk about stuff that makes us happy, like look at our daughters — and we can't help but think, ‘which one of us? And when?’ We walk down the street at night with our keys clutched between our fingers, as a weapon. We move in packs — because it's safer. We talk to each other for hours on the phone — to share knowledge. But we don't want to go on about it to you, because that would be morbid.

Communication between the sexes is certainly possible, and understanding knows no gender. But empathy might be a different, and more complicated, matter. 

-       Lynn Ruth Miller

This diagnosis is based on the performance Bechdel Testing Life at The Bunker, London. Bechdel Theatre are at the Fringe highlighting shows which pass the Bechdel Test. Check in with their work here.

 

Links relevant to this diagnosis:

The Bechdel Test - Dykes to Watch Out For

What Women Say to One Another - Huffington Post

Women in Conversation - Elite Daily

What Do Women Talk About Mostly? - Quora Topic

What Women Never Say to A Man - Caitlin Moran, Esquire

Girl Talk - Kate Fox

DROPPED / Gobsmacked Theatre Company

DROPPED / Gobsmacked Theatre Company

It’s an irony as old as time. Women may be seen as fit subjects for every conceivable violence, but they are not suitable for fight in war. From recent conflicts in Iraq, Afganistan and elsewhere, women's roles in the armed forces seem to extend little past the 2D. Physical, mental, societal violence is fit and fair game. But for a woman to fight in times of conflict has, until very recently, been seen as a frightening or morally disgusting transgression.  

SPILL: A VERBATIM SHOW ABOUT SEX / Propolis Theatre

SPILL: A VERBATIM SHOW ABOUT SEX / Propolis Theatre

Verbatim theatre may have its limitations, but as a way of meshing together oral histories and competing testimonies it has an effectiveness that ‘conventional’ theatre and performance can be more leaden in conveying. 

TRAVESTY / Fight in the Dog

TRAVESTY / Fight in the Dog

Travesty is a play dealing with transitions. From one state of life to the next. Between innocence and ageing masquerading as experience. From a romantic relationships move from cradle to grave. From early 20s insouciance to the creeping fear that this might be all you’ve got. From dissatisfaction to, well, what exactly?

JOAN / Milk Presents

JOAN / Milk Presents

In ‘Mind, Modernity and Madness’, Liah Greenfeld writes that “A widely held idea (say, that hell awaits those who eat flesh on Fridays, or that all men are created equal) is no less a reality for people in the community holding the idea than the Atlantic Ocean”. Her bracingly forthright sociological study goes on to dismiss those who “diagnose entire cultures as psychotic...retroactively pronounce medieval saints schizophrenics”. 

5 OUT OF 10 MEN / Deep Diving Ensemble

5 OUT OF 10 MEN / Deep Diving Ensemble

Male suicide is at epidemic proportions, the leading cause of death for men between 20 and 34 in England and Wales, an undiscussed wave of futile waste. Like mental health provisions across the UK, support for young men has been eroded, and the new societies of the 21st century have less use for the strong, silent and stoic men still lionised by those who advocate ‘traditional values’ and roles.

MAKING MONSTERS / The Golden Fire Theatre Company

MAKING MONSTERS / The Golden Fire Theatre Company

The sexism that Mary Shelley experienced while trying to write literary classic Frankenstein is unfortunately still an immediate and modern concern as literary award shortlists continue to be male dominated. Making Monsters does its best to explore the feminist context surrounding the creation of this psychologically gripping, and essentially modern landmark text.

BLUSH / Snuff Box Theatre

BLUSH / Snuff Box Theatre

The raw emotions on display in Blush are the primal responses to those whose lives have been detrimentally affected by pornography. Five candid stories address porn addiction, revenge porn, seeking approval and validation through porn, and as the characters and voices change, it’s apparent they are all defined by exposure to porn.

TWO MAN SHOW / RashDash

TWO MAN SHOW / RashDash

There is a crisis in masculinity. Men can no longer be bearded, belching monsters, retreating to their man-caves at the merest whiff of emotion. Women are in charge now, and men now have to stop solving problems with their fists. They have talk to each other. They have to have feelings, damn it.

DECLARATION / Sarah Emmott & Art With Heart

DECLARATION / Sarah Emmott & Art With Heart

Declaration draws on Sarah Emmott’s experiences and (late) diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Developed with medical professionals, ADHD and mental health support groups, the piece begins with a highly energetic and comedic tone. Emmott shares childhood stories of embracing her then-undiagnosed self-defined “weirdness” within a supportive family context.

TORCH / Flipping the Bird

TORCH / Flipping the Bird

The setting for Torch is a narrow one: its narrator has locked herself in a toilet cubicle at a nightclub, unable to summon the confidence to storm the dancefloor despite plenty of shots and a snort of coke. Within its confines, she journeys across her past, reflecting on the relationships and sexual experiences that shaped and eroded her sense of self.

WHEN I FEEL LIKE CRAP I GOOGLE KIM KARDASHIAN FAT / Mighty Heart

WHEN I FEEL LIKE CRAP I GOOGLE KIM KARDASHIAN FAT / Mighty Heart

The two elderly women whose voices are heard in Mighty Heart Theatre's When I Feel Like Crap I Google Kim Kardashian Fat speak of the past with a glow, as a time when women felt less media and social pressure to conform to a particular look or body image.