The dreaded word, feminism.
For several years, the board and director of the Foundation felt scratched, caged, or misidentified by the word. This followed, of course, the intense media attacks on the feminist movement and its leaders that was one of the hallmarks of the eighties and nineties, attacks that led young women to say things like, “I don’t need to be equal to men, I have my own feminine power”—without noticing that that power, which I believe is real, has no effect on the two crucial problems all women face today: economic insecurity (our median wage is still thirteen percent lower than men’s, across the board) and sexual violence.
A few years ago something changed. The generation of young women coming of age now, many of them raised by mothers who proudly call themselves feminists—or in some cases, like mine, grandmothers—began to roil the waters by focusing our attention on the hideous problem of assault on college campuses, including the most prestigious.
Perhaps these young women also learned through the few university women studies’ programs that remain (replaced largely by something called gender studies) the history of our movement. And were inspired. And were not yet, as some of the older generations are, discouraged, exhausted, even defeated.
Yes, the future is coming, and it has some remarkable qualities.
We tried for twenty years to increase the representation of women playwrights and directors, especially on New York stages, and now it is happening. (Don’t tell me it’s a blip, I won’t believe it).
My own theatre, The Women’s Project, is moving into its own space; Lisa McNulty, the artistic director, was picking out façade colors and deciding on a marquee—a marquee!—she told me yesterday. There’s something almost brazen, do you agree? About a theatre marquee featuring the word, WOMEN.
Now we’ll see whether more women will buy tickets to the productions.
I learned today that the Signature Theatre in Manhattan, long known for reviving forgotten plays (many of which of course are by women) is inaugurating its season with an extraordinary play called John, by Annie Baker, three hours long, breaking all the Broadway rules, and giving some kind of presence to the inanimate objects that witness a young couple’s struggles to stay together in a Bed and Breakfast in Gettysburg, Pa.
I hope to see this play this week when I’m briefly in the city.
Four of the six Signature productions this season are by women, including the amazing Naomi Wallace, originally from Kentucky, with Night is a Room, Angel Reapers by Martha Clarke, Daphne’s Dive by Quiara Alegría Hudes, and two nearly-lost masterpieces, María Irene Fornés’ Drowning and Adrienne Kenedy’s Funnyhouse of a Negro.
Those names bring back memories. I met Naomi when a play of hers was being workshopped at the Kentucky Women Writers’ Conference in Lexington. This was some years ago, and Naomi was nursing an infant and supervising a toddler. I was amazed; when I was working in the theatre, a decade earlier, an infant and a toddler at a workshop would have been unimaginable.
And that Irene! When we presented, here at Santa Fe Stages, her first play Fefu and Her Friends, Irene came to oversee the production, and she was a whirlwind, kicking up sand in the desert, so used to exercising her formidable powers that no one, even the noted local feminist who called the play “Reinventing the wheel,” had a chance of bruising her roaring self-confidence.
I deeply admired Adrienne, whose work inspired mine, and she was so kind to me when I was starting out as a playwright in New York, that I’ll always remember her calm presence as she sat waiting for me at a café table, and the clarity with which she urged me onwards.
Would any of these women call themselves feminists?
They were, and are, being it, acting it, demonstrating it.
I believe there are young women, as well as older women and certainly some men, who are beginning to claim this noble, long-rooted word, that connects us to a heroic tradition as well as spurring us forward into the future.
KFW News for September 17, 2015 from the KFW Hot Flash. If you’re interested in receiving the newsletter, you may subscribe here.
The opportunities, grants and resources listed are often national so even if you aren’t a resident of Kentucky, many will still apply. You may also want to check out the wonderful Resources and Links page on their website.
KFW Welcomes Six New Board Members in 2015
Each of these outstanding women brings a unique perspective to the Board, along with a strong commitment to feminism and a belief in the power of art to create positive social change. Collectively, they bring a wide range of valuable skills and backgrounds to the table, including arts funding, social justice work, civic engagement, education, leadership, and financial planning, as well as deep connections to artists and arts organizations across the state. We are proud to have such a strong and diverse group of women joining the Board. KFW is in good hands!
Rebecca Amsler, Nisha Gupta, Shayla D. Johnson, Nancy C. Jones, Journey McAndrews, Judy Nichols