When I was in primary school I remember calling myself a feminist and I remember schemes such as “I can do anything” days where a host of builders, architects, journalists, scientists and lawyers (who all happened to be women) came to tell us we could be whatever we wanted to be and there were no such things as girls’ jobs and boys’ jobs.
I don’t know if those things still happen in schools. I know that in some spheres there is a sense that feminism is no longer useful because we’ve already sorted that out. But I know that, for example, the current commercialization of childhood along gender binaries is shocking and cannot help but affect children. The chance to split the market and sell more products by colouring them pink and blue may well make sound business sense, but it brazenly contributes to the socialisation of inequality.
I also want to go further and explore not just gender stereotyping but where and how we can see queer lives on stage. The law says that any form of homophobia is illegal and we now see gay people getting married, but how often do we see reflections of gay lives, or even just non-hetero-normative lives in our children’s theatre.
I know that this is rocky ground and I have sensed unease at even the idea of sexuality and children being looked at in the same breath. But there is more to people than who they like to have sex with and we know that any silencing and taboo around children and their bodies always leads to trouble, so let’s talk about it.
For the next generation I believe we owe them more moments with positive representations of difference. We need to look at the stories and images we are creating and see how they can help make difference and doubt feel manageable and positive. I believe we need to create work that fits in with the big changes that have been made in our society that support difference and human rights for all.
What’s all this got to do with performance?