Jan. 30, 2013 - Issue #902: Come cry with Daniel Romano
Stories We Don’t Tell
What does gender-based oppression look like? Take a long, close look at your day-to-day life and you might realize it's a great deal more prevalent—much more insidious—than we'd like to think.
The world continues to be in a state of flux, and gender-based oppression continues on, whether it's through physical brutality or an individual being shunned because of their gender. In co-production with the University of Alberta's new program, the Gender-Based Violence Prevention Project (GBVPP), theatre arts graduate Brooke Leifso presents Stories We Don't Tell: Experiences of Gender-Based Oppression. The honest, explicit telling of real-life stories, from real women, marks the finale of the University of Alberta's International Week, with sense of hope and an opportunity to create change.
"It's forced me to also process some of the oppression that I have faced, and I firmly believe, I guess it's known, that most women have one of these stories in their experiences at some point," says Leifso, who gathered the stories through a mass call-out on campus. "It may not even be a catastrophic one, like the ones we think of, the ones that would end up on the news, I guess, but even something as simple as service work is quite oppressive. I believe that this really affects all women, and hearing and processing these stories has asked me to do the same with the ones I haven't."
The interesting aspect about a project of this nature, Leifso notes, is that it would generate completely different results with any given group of people, and she is intrigued by the idea of creating the same sort of production centering around gender-based oppression in men as well. She believes gender-based oppression is not a black-and-white issue, and has encountered it numerous times herself, citing the issue of consent as a dominate one.
"I was actually thinking about writing a monologue, which is how present in processing I was ... things have happened in my life where I saw myself as being sexually liberated and I learned and was hurt. I personally believe that type of power is quite thin and going through the process of this made me realize that," she says, adding the persisting prevalence of misogyny and patriarchy are other factors in the issue perpetuating. "It's not like men are just going around being assholes. I think patriarchy is being reinforced by both genders, and patriarchy actually limits both genders in how they interact. For some people, those really classical roles do work, but I think there needs to be intentionality around them, particularly in heterosexual relationships, which can very quickly fall into those roles. It wasn't even that long [ago] that those roles were the norm, so it takes generations for people to get out of patterning."
In some cultures, gender-based oppression is not questioned, and Amina Mohamed is sharing her experiences as a Muslim girl involving physical abuse from her father. She acknowledges that she believes it's particularly important to shed light on darker forms of gender-based oppression and says it can be particularly difficult to share these experiences when related to culture without it being taken as a culturally tokenist stance.
"The project has allowed me to attach value to my experiences and has validated those for me because of just the cultural background that I come from, I take my experiences for what they are and I process them and have dealt with them, but it was really interesting to actually turn the light inward," Mohamed explains of the emotionally cathartic process, adding she wanted her story to be taken into its own context, rather than a cultural one. "Oppression and gendered oppression and misogyny is seen as a black-and-white construct and it's really difficult for all of us to be like, we are actors in this process and we are perpetuating these processes and we are shaming this and shaming that, and if anything, I hope that people realize that gender oppression can be insidious."
Fri, Feb 1 (7:30 pm)
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