I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.
- Rebecca West
In her new play Touch, Vicky Jones explores what the fruits of feminism are, and questions who has the real power in a relationship. Dee, a 33-year-old single woman, has left a failed relationship in Wales to establish herself and make a life in London. She tries to connect with herself and build meaningful connections through a variety of online dating sites, but each liaison widens the gap between her expectations and reality.
Dee confronts Miles, an older man who is part of a group involved with S&M, and argues that he is trying to make her weak. ‘It’s no fun for me if you are weak’ he responds, because that is the game. We pretend we are strong to be mastered by another. Although Dee talks as if she is in control of each relationship, she is actually a victim of what her partners want from her. Eddie, the first man we meet on stage, tells her that ‘there are woman out there who are doing better than you at being a woman. Who enjoy being a woman. And who have their fucking shit together’. But getting her shit together is the very reason Dee rented her tiny bedsit in London.
The big question becomes one of what being a woman is supposed to be in this liberal, forward-thinking twenty-first century. As Elf Lyons writes:
You can’t use multiple relationships to fill the void and give you the gratification that you should be able to give yourself. More love doesn’t mean better love. If you are dating multiple people in order to enhance your self-worth, you end up feeling like out-of-date hummus, feeling jealous anytime anyone chooses to spend time with anyone else, resulting in you treating your partners badly and without respect.
And this is exactly what happens not just to Dee, but to far too many single thirty-something women, with their biological clock ticking, their hormones buzzing and constant reminders that they are not cohabiting, reproducing, or being what they thought they would be at this stage of their lives.
Some of the confusion rests with the new generation of men who support the concepts of feminism and yet do not know what is expected of them as partners. As Mark White writes in Psychology Today
It is difficult for men, especially those of us who appreciate and embrace the importance of being respectful and considerate toward women, to balance those attitudes with the animalistic, non-rational expressions of passion and desire that women want from us.
That is the dilemma faced by singles today. We have commercialized sex to the point where partners are touted as objects to shop for on sites like Tinder or in pornography for momentary excitement and passion, but when it comes to the long haul we are at a loss. No one knows how to react. Just where is the line between subservience and co-operation, dominance and abusive control?
- Lynn Ruth Miller
Touch is at the Soho Theatre, London until August 26th 2017. A new production of DryWrite's Fleabag is at Underbelly, George Square during the Fringe from 21st-27th August.
Links relevant to this diagnosis:
Touch - Soho Theatre
Fleabag - Underbelly George Square
Why Men Find It So Hard to Understand What Women Want - Psychology Today
Women’s Attitudes Toward Sex - Huffington Post
Has Feminism Worked? - Telegraph
Elf Lyons - Polyamory: A New Way to Love