I was forwarded a blog post a couple days ago. It was quite provocative- the first half attacking some of the institutional sexism in place in theater, the coda illustrating what happens exactly when a female speaks out- smacked down with a "this is how it is" and flabbergasted.
The show quoted, Peter and the Starcatcher, is one I would undoubtedly not have wanted to see in the first place. And it's even more likely not one that I would ever write.
This writing thing is new to me. I've just "finished" my first 10 minute play, with revisions and workshopping. It's in the hands of a director and there will undoubtedly be more revisions. The cast is 2 males.
I've seen what the author is talking about first hand, not just in theater but in music as well. This shooting down sexism, saying "oh it's ok because of 'x,' " the tossing it off as a joke. It's always there though, under the surface. There's the conversations in music, the dislike of the all female, or all gay, or all whatever festivals. We talk like it excludes these groups from the mainstream events, that it's "ok to leave them off this concert, because there's a concert over here just for them." Separate is never equal. But also the victim-blaming, "Well, if s/he was just a better composer/writer/actor then we wouldn't even have to talk about this." It's there, a part of many arts...
But that's not what I'm afraid of.
I asked myself after reading this "how can i help change this?" the obvious answer is write strong female characters.
That's what i'm afraid of.
Why? Because I know many strong amazing women. Women who have started businesses, that attended N.O.W. conferences, that help organize unions to fight for workers rights. I've known women who have taken jobs and don't want a family, and women that have turned down high paying jobs to start a family, women who've organized everything themselves and made careers from the ground up while raising a family. I've seen women have to fight for their basic rights (again!) and watch videos of strong women inspiring young girls to not be held down by stereotypes.
And i'm scared to death I won't be able to capture any of that.
My last 2 vocal pieces have been premiered by Sarah E. Fox, a fantastic soprano. The most recent, I asked a friend of mine, Jacob Garbe, to write the text...and to make it somewhat gender neutral. I think the tone is close, still a bit masculine, but much less so than what I'm capable of writing. The older piece I decided that I wanted to set poetry by a female- i was sick of hearing songs for soprano that had an obvious masculine tone to them.
Now, I'm writing my own plays and possibly writing my own libretto (still holding out hope for a collaborator!). And I sit here thinking of great ideas for strong female leads, and I sketch a little dialogue, and it's definitely weak compared to my male characters.
All I can do is practice. Hopefully, I can grow to write a strong, convincing female lead. But I wonder how many men have this problem? There's the mantra "write what you know." And i think it's pretty obvious many men do not understand women in any way shape or form.
The way for me, personally, to fight these issues, is to become a better writer. Because, if I don't, I'll only contribute to the problem while bemoaning "oh, i just can't write convincing female characters." And that's a pretty horrible excuse to perpetuate a problem.