Each Works In Progress Resident will contribute several blog posts over the course of their residency. This first post addresses the central question of the project each is building during the residency, and discusses aspects of their creative process.
Emily’s project explores identity after healing from trauma.
Details about the presentation on April 20th and 21st: HERE.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those solely those of the artist.
– CFPA Mpls
Me Too But . . . Who Are We After Healing From Sexual Assault, and Publicizing it?
I never shared my #metoo story. Did you?
The first #metoo story I read, I felt so much connection and deep empathy. A woman shared her story on Facebook about being sexually assaulted in college. She went into detail about how she felt at the time, what steps she took after, how it was impacting her now. I witnessed her vulnerability as friends, family members, and coworkers commented support. The “likes” and “hearts” and “sad face” reactions were pouring in. I observed a community surrounding this woman and I felt that she was getting the attention she desired and deserved. “Finally!” I thought, “We can start to talk about the dangers of sexual assault and the lasting impact. We can come together and heal!” I felt like we were entering a time where being a victim was no longer something to be ashamed of, but something to be open and honest about. To truly see one another.
And then I saw another post. About someone getting cat-called on the street. “Hey, baby,” he had said, with the exact same #metoo written. This woman received the same support. The same reactions. The same vindication. And maybe she did desire and deserve it, and maybe that was sincerely a life-changing moment for her. I was devastated. This movement that I was just starting to uncover was not what I had thought it was. This was not a movement about sexual assault or domestic violence, this was about ALL of it, and that made me furious.
I know we are not supposed to compare trauma, but to see assault and harassment in the same conversation made me feel like I had soggy bread in my mouth. Everything was gray and dull. I worried, “Do people REALLY think being patronized at work is as bad as being roofied at a frat party?” One may lead to another, one may have the same misogynistic roots as the other, and they both definitely tie in to toxic masculinity and rape culture, but no matter how many feminist crossword puzzle answers I can conceptualize this with, it doesn’t change how I feel.
I am just one victim. One person, one story, one reaction. What I’m saying here might not be popular with a lot of people. A lot of people, who have good intentions and their own valid #metoo stories, deserve to be heard. But can we also respect those who did not or COULD not speak out? Or those who say, “I don’t want to talk about it any more?”
The creative process begins with self reflection. If I am not able to peer deeply into my own hang-ups and privileges and preferences and aversions, how can I possibly speak clearly with my body as a performer? The piece I am creating has to do with who we are after sexual assault far beyond being a victim. I have used that to describe myself, I have worn it, I have fought for others because of it. But as I continue to grow and nurture who I am, I find it less and less authentic for that to be the first line of defense. It’s the armor I use to hide who I am trying to be. As I try on new identities, being a victim feels like the only one that stays consistent, because it happened in the past and can’t change.
This piece will explore imperfections. It will explore failure. And I get sick to my stomach even admitting that out loud. Because while it’s easy to try a hobby or a job or a relationship and decide it’s not working out, that’s not something that you broadcast to the world. The let-downs, the hardships, the awkwardness: every day a sexual assault survivor is deciding who they want to be today. And the next day. And the next day. And sometimes it’s messy. Why don’t we let ourselves see that?
The thought of having an imperfect performance makes my skin crawl. Have I ever seen something not fully fleshed out performed on stage? Probably, but I probably took it at face value. We assume that if something is being performed that it is finished, but what if the performance is of creation? Of a process? To actually show a process of trying on new identities or new ways of being. In the flesh. Not the manicured social media posts about fake positivity and self righteousness.
What can live theatre and in person conversation do that social media can’t? It is magnetic. When things go wrong you can’t just keep scrolling. Sometimes your inappropriate reactions are heard by others. You can’t edit what you say or how you feel. There is no screen to hide behind. And that’s a vulnerable and important thing for human healing.
Know that after this performance or exploration or whatever you want to call it, there will be a community gathering and conversation. Know that you never need to out yourself as a survivor. Know that we can make mistakes and disagree and in that way we can heal. Love yourself and know you are not alone.
To you, with love:
Here’s 6 self-care tips for sexual assault survivors. Pretty much the most important so I’m putting it first (no offense, other articles.) https://www.teenvogue.com/story/self-care-tips-for-sexual-assault-survivors
Here’s a standing meditation you can try anywhere, anytime: https://onbeing.org/blog/sharon-salzberg-a-standing-meditation-for-self-care/
Here’s some women using humor to fight rape culture and jokes: https://splinternews.com/meet-the-woman-making-rape-jokes-that-are-actually-funn-1793857812
Here’s some mindfulness practices. Mindfulness is a big buzz word right now. Miiiiindfuuuuullneeeessss. Also, women! https://www.mindful.org/mindfulness-practices-from-mindful-women/
Here’s actions of self-respect that you can try. You may smile at some you already do! https://thoughtcatalog.com/brianna-wiest/2017/07/30-things-people-dont-realize-youre-doing-because-you-actually-have-self-respect-now/
Here’s some thoughts on female friendships shared by Roxanne Gay. Yes THE Roxanne Gay. No, she’s not my friend but I sure wish she was. https://womensenews.org/2014/09/roxane-gay-lists-13-rules-for-female-friendships/
Here’s Teen Vogue (again) because they are honestly the best news source I read right now. https://www.teenvogue.com/story/self-care-tips-for-sexual-assault-survivors