Talking about toxic masculinity
Why two feminist queers are spending so much time with young straight men
We started making Give Me Your Skin, our new show which premieres at Battersea Arts Centre, after 49 queer people were killed at Pulse Orlando.
Since then, there have been countless terror attacks even closer to home. A racist misogynist has become the president of America. And the rights of minority groups across the world are threatened by rising far-right extremism. Our violent, macho culture offers young men and boys increasingly negative examples of masculinity. The alternative, we suggest, lies in feminism and queer politics.
We wanted to explore how the energy of identity politics could shed light on the often dark terrain of men and their relationship to gender. Outside of our work as theatre-makers, we’ve both campaigned for social justice issues, and that experience is what forms our approach - that change starts with the individual, but is galvanised by the collective. More importantly, if you want to bring people onboard, what you’re offering has to be attractive, even better if it can be fun.
Which is why Give Me Your Skin is a structured as series of parlour games - big group exercises where the audience are asked to break the rules of gendered society, and in doing so, to explore viable alternatives to life under the patriarchy.
Spend some time on certain parts of the internet and you’ll hear lots of kickback to feminism: “What about men? Where has female emancipation left men?” We recognise only too well the image of the straight, white, male in 2017: angry and disenfranchised. Maybe he blames feminism for his lack of success with women. He attacks people he sees as enemies on the internet or in bars and nightclubs. Or perhaps he turns his violence inwards against himself.
And so we’re breaking out of our echo chamber, and asking men to share our space. A huge effort on our part has been to develop this show in collaboration with the people we think these issues affect the most. We have run workshops with young people in the UK and Ireland and through this work we met Kieton Saunders-Browne, a young man who has become an integral part of the show. So much so, that Give Me Your Skin has gone from a two-hander to a trio of performers, with Kieton joining us on stage. And in this way, the show wouldn’t be possible without the accompanying workshops. Quite literally, we’d be a man down.
Give Me Your Skin will run at the Battersea Arts Centre from 14 – 17 June 2017. Tickets are available here.
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