Thinking and Talking about Arts and Culture in Southeast Asia
Edith Podesta
via Esplanade Singapore

#therageisreal: tackling gender inequality, one play at a time (via Esplanade Singapore)

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In the wake of sexual harassment scandals that dominated news headlines in the latter part of 2017, gender-based violence and discrimination have become a hot topic—and it doesn’t seem like it’s going to stop soon. Women (and some men) around the world are coming together to speak out against abuse (or lend support to those afraid to), whether it’s physical, sexual, emotional or online. And they’re doing so with hashtags.

In the age of internet activism, where hashtags can operate as a call-to-arms, create a sense of community and become a symbol of identity, how does one simple word (or string of words) empower women around the world?

Theatre practitioner Edith Podesta weighs in on gender-based violence, digital activism, and shares how her latest plays, The Immortal Sole and Leda and the Rage, contribute to the conversation.

 

Your latest works, The Immortal Sole (M1 Singapore Fringe Festival) and Leda and The Rage (The Studios), come at a time where women’s rights are once again in the foreground. How do they respond to issues surrounding violence against women and gender inequality?

The UN makes it very clear when it states, “the roots of violence against women lie in historically unequal power relations between men and women, and persistent discrimination against women”. I believe the stories we tell, how we tell them, and from whose perspective, influences our view of the world. In both The Immortal Sole and Leda and The Rage, I have chosen to unpack renowned mythological stories written by men—whose female protagonists experience a traumatic event—through a contemporary lens.

The Immortal Sole reimagines Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale The Little Mermaid. Through its retelling, audiences can see how far we have come in terms of balancing gender inequality, as well as question the appropriateness of this material as an example of imitation and role-playing by young girls (and boys).

Leda and The Rage seeks to investigate the enduring ramifications of gender-based violence through a personal lens. It makes reference to the exploration of trauma by famous artists through film, art, literature, and theatre, as well as explores the symptoms of, and inroads to healing PTSD.

I believe these shows add to the feminist discourse—they need to—especially when it is estimated by the UN that, “worldwide, one in five women will become a victim of rape or attempted rape in her lifetime”.

Do you consider yourself a feminist? What does feminism mean to you and what does it mean to be empowered?

I do consider myself a feminist, leaning more towards the second wave of feminism (1960s–1990s). I believe in the original enduring feminist maxim of equality for all. To be clear, that is not to say that I call into question that the third (1990s–2012) and fourth wave (2012–present) did not continue to uphold what the first wave feminists were fighting for.

Education is empowering; curiosity and questioning leads to power. I am interested in questioning why women own less than 20% of the world’s land (in developing nations, it’s as low as 10%). I’m curious why approximately 87% of married college-educated women still take their husbands’ names. Why is it that women aged 15–44 are more at risk of rape and domestic violence than cancer, motor accidents, war and malaria?

Asking why, having the freedom to ask questions, and having access to tools in order to seek answers to these questions in spite of the status quo is empowering, but it is only the first step. We need all of the population (not just 49.6% of females) as well as policy makers to go ahead together.

 

Read the complete interview with Edith Podesta on the Esplanade Singapore website.

ArtsEquator Radar features articles and posts drawn from local and regional websites and publications – aggregated content from outside sources, so we are exposed to a multitude of voices in the region.

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