Star-Rating-41

What does it mean to be a feminist now? Feminism: that altogether dreaded, dirty word that we are terrified of being associated with. If you’re a feminist then you can’t wear heels or skirts, you hate men, you never wants kids, you burn your bras as you roast copies of Heat Magazine and you’re ‘probably just angry because you’re not that attractive, love.’ This play shows us exactly how incorrect this view of feminism is in today’s society by highlighting the fact that sexism oppresses men as well as women. Imagine if ‘Hey, I’m a feminist’ was the new chat up line.

This one woman play about the difficulties of a young modern woman in gaining the courage to call herself a feminist reflects how, ultimately, we are alone in making choices about who we are and who we want to be. Inspired by the In-Yer-Face theatre style of playwright Claire Dowie and writers like Caitlin Moran, actress Joanna Griffin and director Lauren Bracewell brought this play together earlier this year, based on their own personal experiences of student life.

The production was brought to the University of Nottingham by the Women’s Network, who were contacted by Griffin and Bracewell in the summer. ‘The play highlights the sexism that many students face but often feel they have to accept, and I think it will inspire people to get involved in challenging it,’ commented Women’s Officer, Nina Humphries.

The makeshift stage had a very casual, intimate feel to it. As the audience took their seats, Griffin sat on a box painted with red and white stripes like a circus tent, handing out Rowntree’s Pick & Mix fruit gums. Inside the box were various costumes that the character changed into in front of the audience, even getting down to her Spongebob underpants at one point. Wearing tracksuit bottoms and baggy t-shirt, she read ‘Girls out Late’ by Jacqueline Wilson and danced along to MC Hammer’s ‘U Can’t Touch This’ before beginning her monologue.

Griffin plays the role of the bewildered fresher at University very endearingly. Completely unprepared for freshers’ week, she is aghast to learn that the theme of the first night is ‘CEOs and Corporate Hoes.’ So, wondering whether she was being subjected to a cruel social experiment, she staggers into a club in the only nightie she owns – an oversized Krusty the Clown t-shirt – with the girls she lives with donning corsets, suspenders and stilettos.

Griffin encourages the audience to laugh at LAD culture, not with it. She explores how this “banter” oppresses men as well as women. To give voice to the male perspective, Griffin presents the audience with an amusing deadpan impression of her Scottish beanie-wearing friend who is called the ‘girl in the group’ for refusing to partake in some of the cricket initiations: ‘I just wanted to be able to play cricket on Friday afternoons without having to drink the sperm of another team member.’

On the one hand, the play’s use of ridiculous situations like these means it verges on the absurd at points, perhaps to the extent that students in the audience no longer feel they can relate to the character. On the other hand, the exaggerated events work as part of the satire of the play, emphasising exactly what is wrong with the way women and men are victimised by LAD culture on campus. Perhaps this sexism is so subtle at times that it needs the hyperbole to open our eyes to it.

The journey that the character goes through was particularly moving. She asks some hard-hitting questions about gender that we as an audience are forced to ponder. Can she wear a dress and heels if she wants to take a feminist stand? Well this play suggests that yes, of course she can! The play also gives us an insight into her life post-University as she considers the clown-like juggling act that women face of maintaining a fulfilling career as well as having children.

The play picks up on an emerging New Wave of feminism that is breaking down the stereotypes that have subdued it. It suggests that feminism is a force that will liberate women and men from social constructions of gender so that we can feel free to, in the words of the main character, ‘stir things up a bit.’

Natalie Popow

For more information about University of Nottingham Women’s Network find them on facebook. https://www.facebook.com/groups/256709654363118/

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