The Trump visit, and every disastrous press statement since, have been beyond upsetting for most of us. The daily bombardment of bad news from across the Atlantic has been as depressing as it has been enraging. There are big issues to deal with. For us watching from our newsfeeds and TV screens, we find it hard to understand our position in world politics and what we can do to help. The mixture of the extreme with the absurd is discombobulating, but we shouldn’t allow the little things to be buried just because the shit on top is really heavy.
So let’s take a minute to talk about the Trump/May handholding. This bizarre act was a custard pie in the face of the women of Britain, but felt more like a kick in the vagina.
Perhaps I’ve had false hope of a feminist surge breaking through to the mainstream as I am bounced around within my particular social media echo-chamber. But I know there are women in the public eye who have the interests of other women high on their agenda. How can Theresa May take the title of only the second ever female Prime Minister without also standing up for women, first and foremost. Why didn’t she get the memo? Would Michelle Obama have allowed Trump to take her hand? Not a chance.
The basics; there were two parties involved, two hands, two humans, two nations, two genders. We know that Donald Trump assumes a dominant role where he can, he craves and seizes control, asserts his presence and seeks to overpower his peers, with sometimes devastating consequences for the recipients of his sinister attention. This hand hold wasn’t a sexual advance, but the act preyed on all the same expectations of gender stereotypes that Trump is clearly used to, and he made it happen.
But Theresa May played her part in this too. It might have taken May by surprise, it might have seemed like a small, even caring gesture, she might have been too polite to make a fuss while she processed the situation, and then it was over. Male American dominance successfully exerted, female British weakness confirmed.
Many of us have experienced situations like this before. Many of us have our coping mechanisms; we may have trained ourselves over the years to minimise and downplay intimidating behaviour in order to reduce the risk of escalation or danger. That’s just life as a woman, our society has made that type of response necessary. As a female politician in Westminster, I have no doubt that Theresa May too has had to deal with her fair share of inappropriate and chauvinistic behaviour before. I do not agree with shaming victims, but make no mistake about it, May is no victim here. In the role of Prime Minister May has a duty to represent us all. She is briefed and advised to within an inch of her life about protocol, expectations and image and she is not that naive. She would have been on high alert at all times to do whatever it takes to achieve a ‘successful’ meeting. Given these circumstances, I simply don’t accept that she didn’t allow this gesture in full consciousness. If May had merely moved her hand away in this instance it would have spoken volumes for British women. Instead May’s self-consciousness entwined with her political vulnerability took precedence over her and our reputation as Brits and as women. She considered the fragility of her political agenda and with an almost exuberant lapdog-like hope for approval, chose to just let this gesture go. Theresa May has the platform and the opportunity to do so much for women, and instead she chose go beyond diminutive to fully submissive in this ‘special relationship’ she seems so keen to foster. Theresa May fails to represent my political views, but putting that aside, here she also fails to represent my humanity, dignity and our equality.
The unity shown by women across the world these last couple of weeks is not just the ‘hippy left’. Women and men are protesting against the patriarchal behaviour in which May is now complicit. We need a beacon of feminism to head our country, and to see a woman in this role betraying and undermining women in this way feels like we’ve regressed 20 years. This episode is testament to the fact that we are still so far from gender equality, further behind that even I had thought. To the same effect, the fact that there were any female Trump voters is difficult to understand. So what can we do now? Call our marches and petitions inconsequential, tell us to ‘calm down dear, you’re overreacting’, but we have to continue to call out every act of misogyny with our loudest voices. We need to talk to our neighbours, our family and friends about how we are affected by this behaviour because any movement towards equality has to come from within the homes of the people of our communities and filter up, it ain’t coming from the top down, that’s for sure.
Roald Dahl’s magical story following the pranks and schemes of a stinky, horrid couple, The Twits, is playing at the Aylesbury Waterside Theatre this week.
The familiar children’s book is full of mischief, naughtiness and wonderful trickery, where you love to hate the good-old-fashioned-baddies. The goodies (cheeky monkeys and glorious birds), use their wit, intelligence and intrinsic goodness to give these terrible dimwits the comeuppance they deserve.
Sadly the characterisation of the lead couple, and therefore the whole play is, I feel, misjudged. They are put very much in the real world and are presented as real people, drawing on tangible references, behaviours and character traits that, if our children have ever seen before, they have been swiftly shielded from. But here we see upsetting scenes of abuse and moral depravity, set dramatically to music, in full sight of our wide eyed kids. Perhaps this is an intentional comment on society’s hidden pockets of awfulness, but the choice to portray The Twits this way put my children on edge. This is an edge that doesn’t need to be in this children’s production, and it manages to remove any element of magic or safety that you expect to find woven into Roald Dahl’s stories.
The small cast are talented all-round musicians, singers and acrobats, playing multiple roles throughout the performance. The staging is creative and clever, and I found the lighting and visual impact exciting, if a little stark. The Roly-Poly bird is somehow like Liberace-on-stilts and is very odd, but it does add another dimension of spectacle to the stage. And although there is an element of participation for the audience through the show; Panto- this ain’t.
The production values of this version of The Twits do offer ingenuity and integrity to the theatrical experience, although the lack of warmth and sparkle means it falls short of where your imagination can take you from just reading the book.