About a week ago, I made a decision to cancel an event. This event had been published in several places already. I had graphics. I had a venue. I had performers. I had absolutely no energy to pull it off. In a moment of either sheer panic or divine intuition, I sent out the text to those who needed to know first: “I’m canceling the Bazaar. I just can’t do it.”
I’ve never done anything like this before. In the past, I have generally used the public announcement of a thing to be a contract to myself: you will do this now, because you said you would. It was a way to hold myself accountable, to push myself out of my comfort zone and past my fear, and to force myself to continue growing and doing and experiencing and living.
A good friend asked me if I felt relieved after pulling the trigger. I wish I had. In truth, I felt like a failure. I said I was going to do something, and then I decidedly did not do it. I broke a contract to myself, and it felt terrible.
Naturally, when you cancel something that has been put in motion, people ask why. Furthermore, when you are presenting yourself as an organization, and you cancel something that has been announced as part of your season, you need a reason why. I’ve spent the last week trying to put into words the reason why. Why couldn’t I put the event on? What happened?
The simplest answer to give was that obstacles were continuing to present themselves and I was unable to overcome them. This much is true: there are easily twice as many holiday markets this year as compared to last. This means higher competition for traffic and for vendors. The purpose of my events are to bring together diverse communities of artists and their respective audiences in order to foster new relationships and build a wider, more robust artistic community. I love this mission. I think it holds value. However, I understand that for many artisans selling their wares during the most heavily shopped month in the year, priorities are a bit more monetary than they are kumbaya. It was much harder to find people who would commit to selling this year, and that is a problem when you are planning a bazaar. Beyond that, I had volunteers back out and I was short on time to secure the donations needed to keep costs of producing the event down. These obstacles are real and they are valid. I think I could easily hide behind these obstacles alone, but in reality, the biggest obstacle was me.
I am exhausted. I am fatigued to the very core of my being. I am so tired I truly think I could sleep for 24 hours straight if my schedule and anxiety allowed it. At the tail end of the summer, I posted an incredible article from the Harvard Business Review on my Facebook page. In “When Passion Leads to Burnout,” Jennifer Moss discusses the emotional and mental roller coaster of doing what you love for a living. Ms. Moss writes, “I love my work, and as such, can easily fall victim to burnout… I would never claim that it doesn’t ever feel like work. It is more like being involved in a complicated love affair. One minute it’s thrilling, passionate, engaging. The next, it’s exhausting and overwhelming, and I feel like I need a break.” She goes on to explain the unique conundrum that is “purpose-driven burnout” caused by “obsessive passion.” To paraphrase, when you care (a lot), you work (A LOT).
I recall reading this article in the middle of the night in a burst of insomnia induced by panic over how behind I was in preparing for the upcoming season of teaching, performing, and producing. I read with a few tears slipping down my cheek: I saw myself in every sentence and I had no idea what to do about it. I have been told by a few mentors now that perhaps I should condense: do I need to teach AND to perform AND to create AND to produce? One individual went so far as to suggest I was unfocused. Should I cut back? Probably. But when you do what you love, it can be very difficult to distinguish what to cut back on.
I honestly believe that having my hands in as many aspects of the dance world as possible guides my creative process and enhances my creativity. Teaching encourages me to define my artistic philosophy and my students inspire me to continue learning, growing and exploring. Producing allows me time and space to exchange and collaborate with other artists. Performing unlocks a part of me that I need access to in order to make sense of the world around me. Creating challenges me to construct a language with which to express those thoughts, feelings, perspectives, and ideas for which I lack words. Being an artist makes me a better arts administrator and vice versa. Teaching makes me a better performer and choreographer and vice versa. It all intersects: I need each component to fulfill my potential. How could I cut back? On the flip side, if I can’t cut back: how can I survive? As I type that last sentence, I am recalling a meme I saw on Facebook that read “True self-care is not soft baths and chocolate cake. It is making a choice to build a life you don’t need to regularly escape from.”
I’ve been trying to alter the way I use language while I teach, in particular exchanging the verb “to force.” For example, I began to notice how often I would say, “If you do it this way, it’ll force you to…” I’ve been swapping out “force” with “encourage” as I think about the type of language that instills a sense of support, autonomy, and consent in the young populations with whom I work. “If you allow your head to spiral in toward the movement, notice how it will encourage the momentum to continue in that direction” Doesn’t that sound much more positive? In my first edit of this very post, I caught myself using that unsettling verb again, when I said “It was a way to hold myself accountable… to force myself to continue growing...”
In college, I read Succeeding When You’re Supposed to Fail by Rom Brafman. Mr. Brafman concludes his book - which is based on the anthropological and psychological study of underdogs and designed to teach you how to overcome the odds and “make it” in this crazy world - with his unscientific but rather heartfelt personal pointers on how to succeed. It was in this section that he wrote, “Don’t treat yourself any differently than you’d treat your best friend.” This sentence has stuck with me for years, and I have worked hard to grow into a person who can heed this advice often. Every now and then, I realize that my work is not done. This moment is one of them: why use language toward myself that I have realized is not healthy for my students? Why should I “force” myself to grow? “Force” seems hostile and aggressive; it feels nonconsensual. It eliminates a healthy environment for growth. In fact, you cannot force growth: no matter how loudly you yell at a plant to bloom, it is only the encouraging factors (water, sunlight, fertilizer, etc) that will create results.
I want to continue to challenge myself. I want to maintain an active, multifaceted life full of various stimuli. But I do not want to continue to “force” myself to do anything. I don’t want to “survive” my life, particularly when I’ve structured that life around a passion I do truly love. So what is the answer? A respected mentor told me that my life is a dance that I get to choreograph. In choreography, stillness is not dead. On the contrary, it allows space and time for movement to become clearer and more pronounced in contrast. Perhaps my life needs some more stillness; or, as Ms. Moss most succinctly stated, maybe I just need to take a freaking break. I guess I won’t know until I try.
In summary, consider this my formal announcement. After careful consideration, I have decided to cancel my second annual Mrs. Claus’ Bizarre Bazaar. I will be reimagining my January SHOW + TELL event instead, and I am very excited to say I’ve found a like-minded local dance company to partner with so I will have help with the workload. I can’t wait to announce those details soon.
This post almost went in about a dozen different directions. I chose to keep it fairly simple and personal. This post is what I had the time for. It is what I had the energy for. It is what felt right. However, I would like to note that I am not uncommon. Many women work extremely hard, and experience incredibly high rates of burnout. Research for this piece encouraged a great deal of reading about the outdated feminist fantasy of “having it all,” as well as statistical data supporting that women regularly work harder for much less than male counterparts, exhaustion rates for women, and more. I highly recommend clicking some of the links and contextualizing my experience - and perhaps your own experience - because at the root, this is not merely a personal journey for me to traverse. It is actually a societal problem that we should all be examining and trying to right together.
Each of these is hyperlinked for your convenience! Read up, folks!
When Passion Leads to Burnout by Jennifer Moss
Why Women Have to Work Harder to Be Promoted by Leonora Risse
Why Are Women So Exhausted? by Jean Kim
The Complicated Origins of 'Having It All' by Jennifer Szalai
Seriously, Why Are We Still Asking If Women Can 'Have It All'? by Marie-Claire Chappet
Having It All: Feminism, Dreams and Family by Christa Hogan
My car died a few weeks ago, in the pouring rain, as I was taking a turn off Mass Ave onto Boylston Street by Berklee. If you know Boston, you know this is an unfortunate place to break down. I frantically turned my keys in the ignition over and over, as if my car had simply misunderstood what it was supposed to do for a moment and would come to its senses. Eventually, resigned to reality, I got out of my car and stood motioning others to drive around me as I sat on hold with AAA, the lovely soundtrack of cars honking and drivers yelling “ASSHOLE” serenading me as cold rain seeped through my sneakers and soaked my socks.
A kind man pulled over and offered to give me a jump. “I’m not sure it will work,” I said, explaining that I had been waiting for a part to arrive at my mechanic; the car likely gave out before the part arrived. “Well, we can try! Maybe we can get you over to the side where you’ll be safer.” So we tried, and for one blissful minute my car drove safely onto Boylston before breaking down again. Disappointing, yes, but as he said: at least we got the car over to a safer place to wait until AAA arrived.
While waiting, I sat in my car and read the news: after 28 years of service to the Greater Boston dance community, Green Street Studios would be closing its doors on October 27. Rent hikes had presented obstacles that simply could not be overcome. In this moment, I thought, “Surely the world is ending.” Was this dramatic? Yes. However, I was literally broken down on the side of the road in the rain reading of another example of the erasure of art and community in favor of… who knows? Luxury condos? Hip retail space? Tech offices? I don’t know what the space will become, but I have a pretty good feeling whatever it is, it won’t be meant for me. It was, in my opinion, a moment that warranted dramatics.
Each dancer in the Boston area has a different relationship to the spaces that house us and our work. Allow me to briefly share my relationship to GSS. Coming into the second season of ...that’s what she said, and the first full season as Lady BOS Productions, I was in need of a dance home for a variety of the activities I was planning. This project was, and still is, very much a fledgling endeavor. Money is tight, and sometimes nonexistent, and being so green, there is not much else to barter with as my reach and my audience are more limited than those I am approaching for help. When I reached out to Green Street Studios to be the “home” of the project, I don’t even recall these issues coming up. I presented my mission, my proposed plan, and my experience to those in charge, and was greeted with a fairly immediate “Yes, this is what we want to support.” Do you have any idea how gratifying a simple “yes” can be? Where other organizations immediately responded with prices and policies, GSS responded with excitement and ideas. And if you are thinking, “Well, maybe that is why other organizations stay open and Green Street had to close…” then you are using a limited perspective.
I have seen many artists posting along the lines of “I know the writing was on the wall for awhile, but I am still sad to see GSS close.” This is not really a fair statement. Yes, Green Street has a history of struggle. For the first five years of my dance career in this community, I felt as if GSS was at all times on the verge of closing down due to financial distress and physical disrepair. However, in the past two years, the organization turned a corner. Building improvements have been consistent and considerable, and the financial condition was stabilizing as well. Yes, Green Street evaluated my project budget alongside their own, and they provided a contract listing their policies and procedures. They evaluated how my project would fit into their financial and operational needs. They did their due diligence and we worked together to ensure the relationship was mutually beneficial. Green Street also evaluated what could be, for themselves, for me, for the artists I was working with, and for the community. They considered what could happen if they helped fertilize this young project, and, most importantly, they led the discussion from that frame of mind.
In this way, GSS was very much like the guy that jumped my car in the rain: maybe this will work, or maybe it won’t, but regardless it won’t hurt us to try so let’s try. Let’s see if we can get you where you want to go. Because new leadership worked tirelessly to revitalize Greet Street, they were in a financial position to offer help, and so they did. They used their prosperity to nurture me. They showed me that their space was a space for me: a space for my inquiry, for my growth, for my experimentation, and for my art. For that, I am forever thankful.
Whether you have had a personal relationship to Green Street Studios or not, if you are a dancer in Boston, this closure affects you. With three less studios to occupy, our community, for whom space was already a precious and scarce resource, is now scrambling. Studios that remain in the area have already experienced the frantic chaos of teachers and choreographers desperately searching for a new home for their classes, their rehearsals, and their performances. As we navigate the confusion, anger, and sadness of this news - all of which, really just amounts to grief - please try to remember the importance of kindness and grace.
I have seen an upswing of community engagement and organizing, which is wonderful. I have also seen a natural, but nevertheless unpleasant, amount of negativity and public venting. As we note the systemic problems that have led us to the situation we are in, let’s remember to approach conversations with respect and humility. At this point in my life, I have worked for and with several nonprofit arts organizations. Regardless of what funding and other resources you perceive them to have, let me assure you: struggle abounds. I have also worked with dozens and dozens of artists, each of whom has varying operational practices, financial needs, and artistic values and philosophies. Again, struggle abounds, and each of us chooses to handle and combat that struggle in very, very different ways. I note this specifically to highlight the complexity and nuance of building spaces and demanding resources “to support the dance community.” It is a tall order to ask any one space, organization, or even politician, to “support” us, when we are all over the map in terms of what we need, what we want, and what we have.
Yes, question the status quo, but balance that with respect for the efforts being made. Yes, speak your truth, but balance that with an understanding that your truth isn’t the only truth. Yes, speak with authority on topics you feel well versed in, but balance that by recognizing you do not know everything. And yes, be mad as hell, but balance that with empathy for those around you who may be grieving differently, but grieving nonetheless.
It is easy to slam your horn and scream out your window at the car that is broken down and blocking your path. But it isn’t very effective, and it isn’t very kind. Think of the person driving that car: their toes are probably cold. Offer them a jump. That is how a community should behave. That is how Green Street behaved.
WRITTEN BY: Kristin Wagner
Published October 23, 2019
From a very simple friendship group to a community of people worldwide, support systems are an integral part of being a person.
Studies show that social support actually improves health qualities in an individual.
Our interaction with others directly impacts our health and well-being.
Researchers Wiseman and Brasher in the public health industry define community wellbeing as, “...the combination of social, economic, environmental, cultural, and political conditions identified by individuals and their communities as essential for them to flourish and fulfill their potential,” emphasizing “connectedness, livability, and equity” as the three main factors to measure.
As humans, we are wired for interaction by connecting with one another, living well, and producing for the next generation.
Now is the time where (of course!) we talk about how each individual values personal time to recharge, and how some people don’t like a lot of interaction - or even prefer being alone rather than with other people. That’s okay. I’m sure the interaction they have while out in public, on the phone with their close friend or family member, or even in a workplace setting, functions just as well.
Regardless, that’s not exactly the intention of this post. Rather we need to explore communities as a whole - on a broader level instead of on an individual one.
Abraham Maslow, the esteemed human behavioral psychologist, lists friendships and personal relationships just after food/water and personal safety. So after finishing supper and you’re lounging on the couch - do you text a friend?
Aside from the general well-being of people around the world, there are many different sub-communities that also support specific types of individuals - not according to location.
Women everywhere are in need of support in a multitude of ways. From guidance while being young, encouragement as a young adult, to advice when making life choices, or even providing their own ways to support women - many are still in need.
EVEN MORE GRANULAR
For our women artists and creative types, the need for expression is always pressing.
However, most communities lack proper exposure, funding, other same-types, a place to call home for art produced, or any combination of these.
That’s exactly why it’s important to have these institutions work with women at the bedrock of a community. The arts hold culture, value, and enrichment for the surrounding general community and various sub-communities, too.
Allowing for multidisciplinary and communal enrichment, artists are free to incubate new ideas and execute them in a sound environment filled with other creatives.
Music, art, dance, theatre - all require a space and people to do so.
WITH THE CORRECT APPROACH
From a national perspective,
“The National Endowment for the Arts is committed to providing assistance to artist communities for projects that encourage and nurture the development of individual artists and foster and inspire their creative processes.”
Trickling down from the NEA are each region, state, county, city, and even neighborhood - all providing ways to help if not also serve as communities for artists and artistic expression.
A PERFECT CULMINATION
Lady BOS Productions is an artistic support system for female and femme-identifying dancers. Being a part of a production like ...that’s what she said not only enriches the creating artists, but also your local community of patrons.
Help us celebrate the culmination of this production.
Show support for this arts-centric, dance-expressive, femme-tailored community program (You may just live a little longer, too.)
Learn more about LadyBos Productions and how you can be a part of this community, and if you can, please donate to help support the company’s work.
WRITTEN BY: VICTORIA NUNWEILER
Published April 5, 2019
Wage gaps have been a hot conversation topic well before the entrance of the women to the workforce in the mid-20th century. By 1943, women made up 65 percent of the industry’s total workforce (compared to just 1 percent in the pre-war years). Since then, wages still have not caught up for everyone working today to ensure an evenly paid workforce.
NOT JUST A CORPORATE THING
Unfortunately, this inequality seems to have leaked into all areas of the American workforce - and the arts are definitely not immune.
A recent study reported by NPR’s social science correspondent Shankar Vedantam found that the difference in wage gaps between men and women in the arts was more than $13,000.
But what does this mean for a field full of individuals who are often outspoken in the interest of gender equality?
“Unconsciously, we may be doing something differently than we are consciously,” explained Vendantam.
Maybe there needs to be a reevaluation of how we address this gap. With recent discussions of having corporations report salaries, or explorations of setting minimum wages in art organizations, could be a great start.
Clearly, transparently, and communicatively approach the gap to close it.
Typically being considered as self-employed individuals, artists (both visual and performing) can fall outside the bounds of regulated wages. Following expensive training and education, aspiring artists are expected to scrape by with little means of supporting themselves. The arts require complete dedication to “make it”, or prove oneself to professionals - an act of self-destruction in the name of a passion with high hopes of succeeding. This could dissuade talented individuals - and we absolutely do not want that.
In this age of digital attentiveness and quick communication, platforms should be used as an open forum, and at the very least, to keep the conversation going.
A few years ago, fringe actors based in London proposed they receive a minimum wage, regardless of a break-even show. The producer of the show thought it was a worthwhile exploration of theatre, however, and did not report any notable income from the performance - resulting in no pay for hard-worked hours in prep work, rehearsals, and performance.
These actors pursued an employment tribunal case which appealed directly for minimum wage - but lost.
In the United States, there are minimum wages in place. But let’s be honest, the minimum wage is not meant to be lived off of forever and we can’t expect artists to do the same. From a nonprofit arts organization’s view, a regulated minimum wage may be difficult to process, let alone comply with. Now add in that wage gap and you can see a highly stratified view of the gender wage gap in the arts - it’s not a pretty picture.
Much like the producer of the London show mentioned above, the issue of wage gaps and the ability to pay artists, in general, comes down to a fundamental funding issue.
Running a nonprofit does not mean that you can run it without a profit.
For performing arts specifically, a viable organization cannot and will not survive on ticket sales alone. In a for-profit entity, diverse revenue streams equal stable income and a well-rounded portfolio. This same strategy is employed by very successful nonprofit organizations who rely on a diverse revenue stream as well.
Two buckets. Bucket One collects rainwater and Bucket Two you fill with a hose. Both water your beloved flower garden.
Say Bucket One starts to run empty because this is your primary water resource for your garden. You look in the bucket and see that there is little left - because it hasn’t rained in a while.
No worries! You’ve got Bucket Two, that you fill from the hose, and you can still water your garden.
Save the cheesy metaphor and think about it in terms of earned and unearned income. Too often performing arts organizations rely heavily on ticket sales and not enough on fundraising revenue.
Ticket sales or other forms of service revenue are time constrained, leaving no room to make more money once the event has passed. Funds that are raised, however, are typically not time-restricted, and can fall in that bucket when needed. A successful performing arts organization has both so that when it hasn’t rained in a while, they can still water their flowers.
A two-way street
In addition to having diverse revenue streams, it is also important for arts policymakers and advocates to continue the conversation of (at the very least) minimum wages and (at the very most) closing the gap.
Remember our dear friends the fringe actors? In Edinburgh, the “City Council is to produce a report on how to promote fair working conditions at the fringe.” Advocates want to ensure proper contracting to result in proper pay.
Wage requirements coupled with well-organized fundraising initiatives will ensure our artists do not stay “starving.”
Be the change
Advocacy starts with an idea, and funding starts with a donation. Find your forte and give however you can.
Crowdfunding is a term that refers to any effort to raise money with donations from a large number of people. Crowdsourcing is the umbrella term for anyone not (as of yet) affiliated with an organization to become a part of one.
A few years ago, a small bookstore based in California was facing foreclosure due to a minimum wage increase (sound familiar?). Thus “Crowdsourcing A Beloved Bookstore’s Minimum Wage Raise” was the answer to their growing problem.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
The anticipated aggregate expense of LadyBOS’s next production ...that's what she said is $20,000+.
From Monday, February 18 at 9am through Wednesday, March 27 at 11:30pm, Lady BOS Productions is campaigning to raise $8,000 to assist with the costs of this project.
Please consider supporting this important endeavor!
Written by: victoria nunweiler
Published March 19, 2019
This year is the first that I decided to use International Women’s Day as a promotional opportunity for my artistic ventures. Feeling pressured to raise awareness and momentum for ...that’s what she said, I prepared my social media posts and email campaigns hastily in the middle of the day this past Friday March 8. I thought to myself, “I should have done this yesterday so I could post and send first thing in the morning. Now I am competing with media that has been going strong all day about International Women’s Day, and I’ll just be lost in the onslaught.” While these thoughts ran through my mind, I felt a pang in my chest. Something didn’t seem quite right. On a day meant to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women globally, I was sitting at my computer struggling with how to compete with other women for attention. It shouldn’t be a competition.
I began to reflect back on the first time I had learned of International Women’s Day. It was March 8, 2011, and I had just arrived to my hostel in Budapest, Hungary, fresh off an overnight train from Prague. My boyfriend and I were exhausted - we hadn’t slept a wink on our 9 hour train - and we were primed for a fight about what to do first: sleep or see the sights. Our host greeted us warmly, and showed us to our room. He gestured to a small potted flower in the corner and indicated that it was for me. “Happy International Women’s Day,” he said simply, and then left. I had no idea what he was talking about, but I was touched nevertheless. It was a kind gesture. I left it at that. My boyfriend and I took a power nap and then headed off to the famous Roman baths of Budapest and I didn’t think of International Women’s Day again for a few years.
my delayed ascent to feminism
Many who know me now would be shocked to learn that my ascent to feminism was quite delayed. Not only did I not identify as a feminist until after graduating college, I actually opposed the feminist movement throughout high school and college. This is not unusual: in August 2018, Refinery29 released a poll of more than 2000 millennial women, more than 50% of whom do not identify as feminists. Similar studies have been released by Pew and Gallup polls, and the Spring 2016 Harvard Public Opinion Project poll clocked female millennial support of the feminist movement at just 49%.
When I think about the girl that I was in high school, I am sometimes at a loss to explain how it was that I did not support feminism. I remember, as early as grade school, competing with boys in gym class over strength and endurance - firmly believing that I was completely capable of outdoing them in push ups, sit ups, and flexibility, because dancers - and girls in general - were just as fit in mind and body as any of the athletic boys in the class. In 9th grade, I wrote my semester thesis paper on the real-life validity of the movie Mean Girls, stating a firm belief that girls are cruel to one another primarily because they are competing with one another to obtain an unrealistic Disney Princess fairytale romance with boys at school. These seem to be the thoughts and feelings of a feminist in the making… and yet, I couldn’t think of a word dirtier than “feminist” for many of my teenage years.
The same Harvard Public Opinion Project discovered that, despite not identifying as feminists, 68% of the women surveyed believed there to be a glass ceiling limiting women’s ability to advance in career and financial security. The study states:
“It seems that young Americans are reticent to attach themselves to the idea of feminism even when they perceive limited prospects for American women. While roughly half of the Millennial generation supports feminism, only 27 percent affirmatively identify as feminist.”
why do young women reject feminism?
As our political climate becomes increasingly polarized and heated, this seems to be the question circulating around many social activist groups. Most often, this seems to be an issue of branding. Julie Zeilinger, of Women’s Media Center, writes of an experience at Barnard’s Young Women’s Leadership Institute, at which she had the opportunity to ask 55 teen girls about their feelings regarding the term “feminist.” She says, “The biggest reason I have come across, especially when considering my own friends, is lack of understanding of what feminism actually is and/or fearing the stigma of the word. There really are so many girls who think being a feminist just means hating men, or thinking women are BETTER than men. Or they really just have no idea.”
This sentiment is echoed by numerous interviews conducted by Refinery29 as well as Babe.Net, with respondents stating, in a variety of ways, that “the movement it’s now become doesn’t represent my views” (Liat, age 20, Babe.Net). The Harvard Public Opinion Project notes, “The complicated history of feminism as a term and as a movement may turn some young Americans away from connecting themselves to the label. It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that support for feminism among young Americans is so low and that identification as feminist even less common.” The only comment on the article, from user FreedomFirst, states:
“Bigoted, reverse-sexist, female supremacist, and fascist hatred packaged as 'equality' seems to be a hard sell everywhere but in Orwellian academic cesspools like Harvard wherein feminists bigots rule the roost. The constant lies, falsehoods, and misrepresentations that feminists are infamous for also may be turning most Americans aways from this filthy term.”
then and now
As a woman who now proudly declares myself a feminist, this can be difficult to read. At the same time, I can’t say I don’t understand the theory. My younger self definitely subscribed to many of these lines of thought, though with far less vehemence and hostility. I think the real reason I so thoroughly rejected feminism for so long was much more complicated.
To put it simply: high school sucked. I know that is not an uncommon opinion, but when I say that high school sucked, I mean it really, really sucked. And it sucked predominantly because of the behavior of the girls around me. Prior to high school, I was quite the social butterfly. I remember struggling in grade school to narrow down lists of friends to a reasonably sized birthday party guest lists. In middle school, I ran about carefree with a variety of friends. I loved to go to the movies, to Starbucks, to the mall, on hikes through the woods, with any and all friends. By the time I turned 16, while others in my grade planned elaborate Sweet Sixteen formals, I wanted nothing more than a simple dinner out with my family, my boyfriend and my one female friend. There is a picture of me at a pre-Prom picture party senior year, sandwiched awkwardly amidst 18 girls posing prettily for the cameras. My smile conveys a level of terror - I remember being pushed into that picture by my boyfriend. I remember feeling an intense anxiety; I would have rather been invisible than stand in that line of girls. This past November, Avon High School held the 10 year reunion for the class of 2008. I wasn’t invited, either having been forgotten entirely, or simply not wanted.
I have previously written publicly about the bullying I experienced in high school, and at some point, I will share that writing again here. For now, though, I will keep it simple. For nearly a decade of my life, boys were not the enemy. Girls were. Girls called me names. Girls said horrible things to me. Girls excluded me, teased me, and harassed me. Boys were my safety net. My best friends were boys. Boys always let me sit at the lunch table with them. Girls were mean. Boys were funny. Girls hated me. Boys loved me. My beloved Grandmother said to me once, when I was 20, that in the end, my female friendships would be the most important relationships in my life. I didn’t believe her. At that time, I was still dating the boy I thought I would marry. He was everything. He was the most important relationship in my life. Girls were unreliable. He wasn’t. He was safe. He was enough, and I didn’t want more. It hurt too much to want more.
Now, less than a decade later, I have already found that she was right. When I think about who makes up my community now, it is almost exclusively female. When I think about who I trust the most, who will always be there for me, who I can count on to love me when I can’t love myself - the overwhelming majority of people who come to mind are female. It took a long time to unpack and recognize the true nature of the boys that I always surrounded myself with. It took me even longer to work through the deep-rooted self-loathing and internalized misogyny that made it easier for me to keep these boys around me than to trust the girls that tried to befriend me. People can be good, people can be bad, and people can make mistakes. That extends to both genders and to folks who do not identify with one gender or another. At this point, I have learned to analyze better the context surrounding each person’s behavior.
Contextualizing the past, understanding the future
I will never excuse the behavior of my high school bullies. What they did to me was wrong and brought on a life-long struggle with self esteem and self worth that I did not deserve. That being said, the woman I am today can look back on the girls they were then and understand the context surrounding their behavior. It is easier to call another girl a slut than it is to feel comfortable and safe exploring your own feelings about sexuality. It is simpler to say horrible things to another person than it is to investigate how you feel about yourself. It is very difficult to grow up a girl who values and respects herself and other girls, in a world that overall does not seem to value or respect girls or women at all. We live in a world that scapegoats women, repeatedly, for all kinds of offenses, big and small. How can such a world foster a favorable view of a movement designed to support this seemingly deplorable gender? Whether you are the bully or the victim, the heart of the matter remains the same: girls are bad. Girls are mean. Girls are hysterical. Girls are illogical. Girls are passive aggressive. Girls are ruthless. Girls are weak. Girls are not boys. Even if you agree that competent women should be able to run the world, this is a system that is designed to question the intentions of those who are “too loud” or “too fierce” in their desire to do so. It is easy to make “feminism” a dirty word. Haven’t you noticed how easy it is to dirty anything female?
When I think about the girl that I was before high school, the girl I became throughout high school and college, and the woman that I am today, it is almost incredible to see these three very distinct phases in my life - almost as if I lived several lives condensed into a few decades. It has been, in many ways, excessively exhausting. And yet… I believe it has given me the clarity to understand others in a uniquely patient way. It makes me sad to think so many young women reject a term meant to bolster their value on a global scale, but I understand it. I think that perhaps because I understand it, I can rectify the misunderstandings that have so confused the feminist movement. I am still working to learn and grow, and I am far from a women’s history expert. I am incredibly grateful for the work other individuals have done to create enough space for me to continue to learn and grow, to reflect on these experiences, and to attempt to continue to encourage thought and change surrounding these topics. I am grateful for International Women’s Day and Women’s History Month, and other holidays and annual dates that shine spotlight on female achievements while also reminding the world that we aren’t quite “there” yet - the place we want to be. There is more work to be done, and we don’t have to compete with one another to complete that work. After all, the point of feminism is to make more space for everyone at the table, isn’t it?
written by: kristin wagner
Published March 14, 2019
Throughout most of history, male dancers, inventors, presidents, and CEOs have dominated the spotlight. Stemming from an activity of the upper, bourgeoisie class to what we think of as dance today, men have led this art among many other titles: namely King Louis XIV of France to whom the invention of ballet is credited. Known as the Sun King for playing Apollo in a ballet, his court would eventually become the Paris Opera Ballet. Rumor has it he could not perform an entrechat so he invented the “royale”-- with one less beat in the air.
That is until key identifiers involving women in dance started to step outside The Sun King’s diminished jumps. Most notably, when women went en pointe. This drastic difference in movement execution clearly centralized women as the lead of the show.
Along with artistic indicators, there are several women dancers in history who deserve recognition for their influence in style, expression, and technique. Pioneers like Marie Taglioni, Isadora Duncan, and Martha Graham shaped dance as an art, planting their expertise that is still relevant today.
This blog contains contributions from several women with who we are grateful to work. Head over to our TEAM page to learn more about who we are; scan our archives to learn more about what we think.
Top Cover Photo: "shell" by I.J. Chan, Image by Haley Abram Photography