“Feminist Performance and Utopia: A Manifesto”; Or, Here, Here, Jill Dolan
This morning I read with a fervor that took me back to my college days the last chapter of Staging International Feminisms–a collection of essays edited by Elaine Aston and Sue-Ellen Case and published by Palgrave/MacMillan in 2007. This chapter, entitled “Feminist Performance and Utopia: A Manifesto,” was written by Jill Dolan, a professor at Princeton and the author of the insightful blog The Feminist Spectator. While Dolan’s points are not necessarily revolutionary, they are nonetheless salient and deeply worthy of reiteration and implementation. I share her belief, her hope, in the power, the necessity of performance to serve as a vehicle for social change. I find her use of ‘utopias’ as a cornerstone objective especially interesting, and I think this is partly because her thoughts are at once practical/realistic(??), yet positive and progressive .
Dolan’s “Manifesto” contains eight points, which are listed below. Take a look at them and share your thoughts. Specifically, how do the feminist and utopian aspects of her vision sit with your own ideas about the function of performance in society?
1. For feminist performance to change the world, we must write about it, teach it, and circulate it as an idea, a commodity, and a practice of faith and belief
2. For feminist performance to change the world, we must not be afraid to proselytise, or to preach to the converted, about its utopian possibilities
3. For feminist performance to change the world, we must be spectators and artists, scholars and citizens at once, creating performance that hazards a glimpse of utopia
4. For feminist performance to change the world, we must find resources with which to create, produce, write about and publish the work
5. For feminist performance to change the world, we must instill utopian longings in new generations of students and artists
6. For feminist performances to change the world, we must monitor and comment on the progress of culture–including film and television, magazines and newspapers, as well as theatre and performance–from a feminist perspective
7. For feminist performance to change the world, we need to be loyal audiences, attending performances, subscribing to theatres that regularly present feminist work, spreading word of mouth, and encouraging friends, students and strangers to develop the habit of spectatorship
8. For feminist performance to change the world, we must continue to dream that it can change for the better, that utopia, as a tangible force for wishful thinking–not in a naive, idealist sense but in a fiercely pragmatic political fashion–can fuel our passion to imagine the world as it might be, rather than acquiescing to the world as it is