As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.
When I first went to see The Vagina Monologues in London about 15 years ago, everyone was talking about the play. It had gained massive popularity. But despite the fact that it was being performed to huge audiences in theatres throughout the world, it was still considered pretty out there.
The funny thing (and by “funny” I mean really, really depressing) is that when I told people that I was performing in the play last month I realised that popular perception is still pretty much the same now. I don’t think Eve Ensler would mind if she heard me saying that I wish the play was no longer of interest. I wish the issues she described in the Monologues had been resolved to such an extent that the play had become a bit of a yawn. Gender inequality? I want to hear people say. That’s so last century!
Things have arguably improved for women over the last few decades. One only needs to watch Mad Men to see that we’ve taken huge strides in gender equality in the workplace since the fifties (although I did once work in an office in Suffolk, England, which, as much as I loved it, bore considerable resemblance in many ways to those times!)
It’s very difficult to describe the zeitgeist of a period of time that you’re still living through. There’s so much going on at any one moment in history that all sorts of issues get blurred and shadowed, each by the other. When we look back on this decade in the 2030s or 2040s, we’ll no doubt think about financial crises, Middle Eastern conflict, governments spying on their own people, and global whistle blowers.
But I think we’ll also look back with gratitude on the beginning of the fourth wave of feminism. There’s a brilliant article here which details exactly what that looks like.
It should be pointed out that men need not fear this fourth wave. In fact they should embrace it. I’ve just found a Tumblr site, fantastically named MA’AM, for Men Against Arseholes and Misogyny, that lists Ten Ways Feminism Benefits Men. The whole point is to make things better for everyone.
At the The Vagina Monologues after party in Geneva last month, one of my fellow cast members introduced me to a friend of hers, a lovely young man who was interested in knowing my thoughts (probably as a member of his mother’s generation!) about feminism today. I told him that I think progress had pretty much plateaued during the nineties and noughties, but that I was excited about the massive upsurge in determination to make things better that I see now.
There is a rise in consciousness. And to give the last word to the woman to whose work I’ve dedicated this last month of writing, “When you bring consciousness to anything, things begin to shift.”