Sunday, 19 February 2017

Does Patriarchy Exist? (further reflections)

So, I had a look at Kristi Winter's analysis of patriarchy, and know that there are some problems with my relatively uncritical acceptance of her conclusions. Primarily, her analysis concentrates on a single body, and it relies heavily on raw, simple statistics. The choice of the USA congress is a tough call, too: why select that particular body rather than another? If she took, for example, statistics on parenting, would that reveal an egalitarian answer? 

In my laziness - I mean, I am just stealing someone else's research - I'm not that worried whether patriarchy is the partially hidden power behind all western civilisation. My brain can't cope with that level of metaphysics. All I needed was a method that could open a conversation about the existence of any patriarchy at all. Since Winters defines her terms clearly, she creates a foundation for this conversation. It's possible to critique her definition, or point out that governmental bodies aren't that important. But she has facilitated a conversation by articulating her position, hypothesis and methodology. 

And yeah, I know she assumes that 'opportunity of outcome' is more important. That's another argument for another day.

The truth is, I am just testing the water on this - if there is any interest, I might start applying her methodology on theatre, to see whether it is patriarchal. It's a simple place to start, and might get debunked further down the line (my rough calculations suggest that, taking a sample from the major theatre companies, and using Winters' statistical analysis, there will be a patriarchal bias). I know that more qualitative research will lead to all sorts of hanging assumptions (like, what would patriarchal theatre look like, and how far is that mirrored in the actual theatre itself?) and arguments about what is actually 'patriarchal' and so on.

But I may or may not follow this. I may or may not accept Winters' methodology in the future. Like her, I am shaping the foundations of a possible future debate... one that will probably happen in my head.

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Gonna Just No?

Much to nobody's interest, I've been worrying about what I regard as an infection in much new (theatre) writing. The habit of otherwise enjoyable scripts to shove too many plot points into the narrative - especially towards the end - has undermined their quality and the power of 'the dramatic moment': too many resolutions, and I start to suffer from compassion fatigue. By way of example, Tamasha's Made in India, which achieved its aim of dissecting the matter of surrogacy, had the sudden introduction of a financial subplot (the protagonist bankrolling the action) which didn't go anywhere, a sudden attack of maternal feeling on the part of the surrogate and a political campaign that allowed the issues to go up a notch. 

Call me Aristotelian, but the focus of a single plot lends far more power to the final resolution: even Shakespeare, who loved a subplot, didn't turn every scene into a mini-play with a new problem resolved within minutes. I mean, for all the idiocy of the last scene in The Winter's Tale, it did, at least, refer back to the first act's bleak tragic arc. 

I watched a couple of films - the tedious After Earth, and then World War Z. As drama, they are dreadful, and they have that same infection. So I guess that's where the patient zero for this can be found: action films. 

Or perhaps soap operas? Or comic books? Because the episodic structure isn't so irritating in film - or in a serialised drama. After Earth was terrible because of the mediocre acting, not the hero's journey that provides an excuse for some half-baked meditation on father-son relationships. And World War Z is just... well, it's a mess, isn't it?

The episodic, however, really irritates me on stage. Maybe that's my problem, my taste: a sense that I am being manipulated. Maybe the technique is being used in a clumsy way (and here After Earth has a prime example of this: check out that scene where the boy hero gets rescued off a mutant eagle. The dramatic tension lasts a good thirty seconds, and I have just ruined it, too, by revealing the twist). 

I might go back over my reviews and collate examples of what I'm talking about: I remember that Jumpy at the Lyceum doing it when the teenage protagonist went through potential academic failure, pregnancy, miscarriage, catching her mum pumping her boyfriend in about ten minutes, each drama simply hand-waved by the end of the next scene. Jumpy had plenty of other problems, mind. 

I find it all a bit much, theatrically. Nothing is allowed to settle and become a serious bit of tension. At its worst - I recall Kurst, which interrupted its concentration on a submarine full of dead sailors to throw in a bit about how one of the crew members on the craft listening in had lost a child back at home - it seems to reveal a lack of confidence in the script's story, or tragic potential. 

I almost bet I can find this in a book about 'writing drama' somewhere. And I bet that's why it is proliferating like a meme of a fascist frog.

Does Patriarchy Exist?

Forgive me for a little self-indulgence. When Big Ideas get chucked about, I like to find out what they mean. I have heard patriarchy used as a justification for feminist activism, but I wasn't exactly sure whether it existed or not. Of course, the answer is always to visit YouTube. 

Kristi Winters tends to get involved in rows with other vloggers, and is a staunch advocate of feminism. In the past, I've found her a little smug - I know that's rare in atheist circles. Nevertheless, the title of this video suggested that this might be a good place to start.


She spends quite a long time establishing her credentials and research methods (which I found quite interesting), but around ten minutes in, she gets down to business. And she does prove that the USA has a patriarchal Congress. So, yeah, patriarchy does exist.

Once she had proved this, I stopped watching to do some calculations on the British parliament. That's patriarchal, too, but not as bad: Winters' hypothesis is that patriarchy can be observed statistically, and by her method, parliament is dominated by men (two thirds of MPs), making it patriarchal.

I'm pretty happy with her conclusions - at least in proving that specific institutions are patriarchal. I also admired her serious methodology. I did notice that the trend was away from total patriarchal control, and if I was any good at mathematics, I could probably predict the year in which equality will be achieved.

(And yeah, the growth mirrors the rise of feminism, so it's not really fair to say that feminism has achieved its aim, making it redundant.)

Anyway, I've got other stuff to do, so I am not quite ready to think about the implications of this yet, and I don't believe that this proves all civilisation is patriarchal (nor does it disprove it, but I'm not mentally agile enough to go Big Picture this afternoon). Winters has presented an effective methodology for making the call on specific institutions, though. If I ever decide to write a piece on 'theatre and patriarchy', though, I have a good place to start: using Winters' definition and method, I could look at the numbers of men and women in a particular area of theatre, and base an assumption on this. 

It's possible to critique both her example and statistical selection, I know. But that wasn't what I was trying to understand. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't throwing about a buzzword.