Many thanks to super Bang2writer Carla Grauls for providing us with some notes on the Vamps, Vixens & Feminists event at the Sphinx Theatre last thursday (Oct 28). About Carla: Carla Grauls is a writer of screen, theatre, fiction and non-fiction. She is working on writing more feminist sci fi. Note: For additional notes on this event. check out the lovely Carmel Shortall’s blog, here. Enjoy!
Beatrix Campbell kicked off proceedings with an inspiring talk about how the paradigms have shifted. Women and men have started questioning people’s behaviour, and call them to account – like bankers, a working class woman challenging the pope, even Wayne Rooney can’t get away with the typically footballer behavior anymore. Beatrix said this was a new kind of courage to challenge and question what it means to be a man and challenge old perceptions of masculinity. She said gender has become an argument and patriarchy has lost its legitmacy. people are at last questioning issues of money and power – which are traditionally a man’s domain. It’s the first time in history that capitalism is being judged not celebrated and the macho culture that goes with it.

Then we had Bidisha talk about The Token Woman in the arts (on panels, female playwrights (esp at the national theatre) book award lists etc). She likened the absence or minority of women in the arts as a cultural femicide, with women being erased from public life.

The third panel was about ‘creating the roles and expanding the boundaries’ about how to keep women in the arts in a sustainable way. Guy Hibbert, screenwriter, said that the change has to come from the writer and the writer should make a conscious decision to write more female protagonists and finding the female stories in traditionally ‘male’ stories like the war/ banking etc. We need to make women mainstream not marginal.

Glen Walford, who used to run a theatre, added that women need to continue to campaign for their creativity by creating female friendly environments, challenging venues that continue to have a majority of male written work (with the new Gender Duty and outline suggestions/ action points) and not colluding with victimisation.

Maggie Steed (actress) said that you need to make alliances with others in order to survive in a competitive industry and be a feminist by example. And it needs to start with the writers who need to honour their female experiences.

Then there was a panel about sustaining the network and Kate Kinninmont from WFTV talked about launching a new mentoring scheme for older women to tackle ageism.

There was also talk about other initiatives for female actors and technicians.

What came out of the conference was a need to build a network of women who will actively challenge/ campaign for change across the arts and cite the new Gender Duty as a way to make people sit up, take notice and do something about it. This could be a letter signed by 50 women to encourage the National Theatre to have more female playwrights showcased or challenging stereotypical depictions of women in Film & TV.

All inspiring stuff – I was particularly interested in what Bea Campbell said about the change in our times and the potential this has for people to really start listening to a female point of view.
Thanks Carla and Carmel!

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