Weekly report of a young feminist #2: Domination techniques interconnected with the perception of powerful women
Forum 50 % held a project funded by the European Union focused on exposure and explanation of the term master suppression techniques. One of the aims was to demonstrate those techniques in the most explicit way possible. Therefore, we’ve organized a roleplay, where three actors have manifested how harmful and humiliating can domination techniques be. The content of the role play consisted of a simulation of political debate, where one of the male protagonists was leading the discussion and the second one was presented as a political expert. The only woman was placed in a submissive position despite her most relevant education, and was constantly humiliated and ridiculed. The situations were escalated to extreme, so the audience can get a feeling of injustice and wrongdoing. Afterwards, the audience could participate in the roleplay by sitting in the “hot chair” and facing/returning the attacks. However nice and educational it might sound, there was a catch.
Even the event gained visibility and also a high number of attendees, those who were coming, were well aware of the issue discussed. They indeed provided brilliant ideas on how to redress shown situations, but they came from our echo chamber, they already are our audience. Therefore, we didn’t manage to change anyone’s perception, we just patted each other’s shoulders and enjoyed a glass of wine.
But that was not our intention. We wanted to show the harmful nature of the master suppression techniques and the fact, that they are still in use nowadays. During meetings, women are being interrupted, unacceptable comments are subverting their authority, their projects are immediately either questioned or proposed by their male colleagues, etc. You might think it’s exaggerated, I thought it as well, but when people started to share their experiences after the show, especially women, I changed my opinion. Women are constantly encountering this type of behaviour in the offices, in high management, or simply in the streets.
I find it to be closely interconnected to our perception of high-profiled, successful women. When you’re honest with yourself, what do you think when you see a beautiful, well-dressed woman with a child next to her? A lot of people would say, a wife. I came across a countless number of model situations like this; when a man sees an obviously rich woman, he immediately thinks that she just married a rich guy, who’s supporting her and their child. Not to be biased, women often hold this kind of perception as well.
Once I read in a book written by classicist and a professor at the University of Cambridge Mary Beard, that women prime ministers in the UK such as Margaret Thatcher needed to lower the tone of their female voice because voters are not used to high-pitched voice as theirs. Or that powerful political leaders who happen to be women are usually pictured as masculine hybrids with only male features often illustrated by the fact that they’re wearing suits.
As I’m writing these characteristics, I wonder, do we (women) always have to adjust something about ourselves if we want to gain the dignity we deserve? I’m convinced that many men (and women) think the same, that women are successful because they represent a half of the world’s population, rather than because they resemble men or indicate male features. Furthermore, we have to understand that this enduring hegemonic perception consists of a denial of women’s importance, because we should only be wives and good housekeepers. Although we have to remember, all of us, that the equality comes when we consider ourselves equal to everyone.