Securing a Place of Power: Reinventing the Role of Women in Theatrical Representation

Securing a Place of Power: Reinventing the Role of Women in Theatrical Representation

Length: 1533 words (4.4 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓
Securing a Place of Power: Reinventing the Role of Women in Theatrical Representation

In The Feminist Spectator as Critic, Jill Dolan examines the current hegemony of the “white, heterosexual, middle-class male” (121) as the subject of representation in theater. She examines why feminist attempts to expose this bias and use it to change the objectification of the roles of women have failed, when this has even been attempted, and furnishes her hypothesis on how this failure can be prevented.

In the dominant illusionist tradition of American theater, the individuality of the spectator is subsumed in the singular mass of the audience. The face most often given to this mass audience is that of the “white, heterosexual, middle-class male” (121). Women’s roles are objectified, and, in the process, the feminist spectator is alienated as her gender, race, class, and/or sexual orientation have no relation to what is presented onstage.

Feminism is a critique of the prevailing male-dominated social norm that seeks to change this norm and therefore is the platform from which to change its domination in theater. Dolan enumerates three segments of American feminism: liberal, cultural or radical, and materialist. She credits liberal feminism with the bolstering of female visibility and involvement in theater and acknowledges the women-affirming aspects of cultural feminism, but she finds them both flawed and unsuitable for an effective attack on the male domination of theater.

Materialist feminism looks at women as a class, oppressed by material conditions and social relations. It considers gender as a social construct, in the service of the dominant culture’s ideology and accepted as normative by the less powerful, which is oppressive to both men and women. It rejects the universality of the mythical Woman and instead views women as historical subjects whose position in the social structures of the dominant culture is influenced by race, class, and sexual orientation.

Materialist feminism sees as necessity the unmasking of the ideas of gender and power of the dominant culture and thus what most theater and performance represents. Materialist feminism does not aim to judge, but to examine the ways in which a performance delivers its ideological message, in order to formulate strategies for combating the oppressive cultural assumptions inherent in this message. Its goal is “to affect a larger cultural change in the ideological and material condition of women and men” (18), and it sees the necessity of politically analyzing the current condition and its representational

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Securing a Place of Power: Reinventing the Role of Women in Theatrical Representation." 123HelpMe.com. 06 Dec 2019
    <https://www.123helpme.com/view.asp?id=38539>.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Mul Reinventing The Gender Stereotype Essay

- Mulan: Reinventing the Gender Stereotype A stereotype is a, “widely held but fixed and oversimplified image or idea of a particular type of person or thing.” The Disney film “Mulan” is an eminent example of gender stereotype and feminism reform. The movie is based on the main character, Mulan, a Chinese woman from China, during the invasion of the Hans, who willingly impersonates her fathers “son” (who does not exist) to fight in the war, so he won’t have to. Mulan was not the ideal image of a Chinese woman, she was afraid to not bring honor to her family by marrying a man and act like a “proper” woman....   [tags: Gender, Gender role, Woman, Transgender]

Research Papers
1251 words (3.6 pages)

Essay about Reinventing Government in Canada

- Outline and assess the concept of “reinventing government”. What does it mean and what are its strengths and weaknesses. Does the reinvention thesis provide Canadian governments with a viable way to reform and restructure the nature and working of public administration in this country. Why or why not. The reinventing government concept was best explained by two Americans, David Osborne and Ted Gaebler. They made this concept known across a wide popular audience and also enhanced the perceived legitimacy and popularity of this idea among government leaders....   [tags: Canadian Political Science]

Research Papers
1800 words (5.1 pages)

Essay on Theatrical Elements Of The Film Apocalypse Now

- In order to understand more about movies we need to learn more about the tools that filmmakers use during production. We need to identify theatrical elements and techniques used in a cinema and also learn what effect they have on the audience. Camera movement, angle, editing, sound and framing can be some examples of cinematic techniques. Theatrical elements can include props, costumes, sets, and acting choice. Each theatrical element and cinematic technique plays an important role during film making....   [tags: Film, Film editing, Apocalypse Now, Nicolas Cage]

Research Papers
1461 words (4.2 pages)

Case Study : Reinventing Organizational Careers And An Assessment Of The Challenges Of Organizational Leadership

- It’s crucial for companies today to create an ongoing learning environment. This increases organic leadership and motivation within employees. This research will highlight a short overview of the case study CH2M HILL: Reinventing Organizational Careers and an assessment of the challenges of organizational leadership faced by CH2M HILL in both historical and current contexts. In addition, this research will describe what Walstrom should do to address the problems and what I would do to manage my own career if I were an employee of CH2M HILL....   [tags: Leadership]

Research Papers
1198 words (3.4 pages)

Securing Liberty : The Purpose And Importance Of The Bill Of Rights Essay

- In the article “Securing Liberty: The Purpose and Importance of the Bill of Rights”, Postell points out the controversy behind the ratification of the Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments of the U.S Constitution) by Congress in 1791, and also he explains the purpose and importance of the Bill. When the Bill was proposed to add into the Constitution, most Federalists opposed its practicability because they supposed that it was merely a "parchment barrier". According to their opinions, the Bill of Rights would weaken the government’s power....   [tags: United States Constitution]

Research Papers
1169 words (3.3 pages)

Securing the Castilian Throne Essay

- To suggest that Isabella was successful from the outset in securing the Castilian crown and the support of its people would be a foolish interpretation. It took ten years before she was fully accepted as rightful ruler, during which time a number of important factors developed that today can be seen as the clearest reasons for her success. Paramount among these was her determined, intellectual and shrewd personality and character. Without these traits, the other factors would have been irrelevant....   [tags: European History]

Research Papers
2946 words (8.4 pages)

Essay on Theatrical Illumination

- The Role of Illumination Theatrical lighting has undergone significant changes from its first utilization to modern application. Illumination is essential to the theatrical experience we are familiar with. When the lights come up, the mood is set. Lighting in a performance context manipulates the audience's attention to focus on what the director has deemed important. When an actor or space is no longer an integral part the lights around them dim, dismissing that component and refocusing on what is lit....   [tags: Lighting in Theatres]

Free Essays
1385 words (4 pages)

Securing WLAN/LAN Essay

- Securing WLAN/LAN Daily security evaluation is done in your network. However, most of the users are not aware who monitors the security of their network. Therefore, most of these users are hoping that the one involved in measuring the effectiveness of your network's defenses is someone whom they trust. Conversely, tremendous evidence reports that you are not the only party questioning your network's perimeter (Safari, 2007). Most of IP addresses received thousands of attack attempts everyday since it can be easily reached from the Internet....   [tags: Internet Security Virus Technology]

Research Papers
950 words (2.7 pages)

Essay on Medea - the conception of drama within theatrical production

- “The Conception of Drama within Theatrical Production” In Euripides’ tragic play, Medea, the playwright creates an undercurrent of chaos in the play upon asserting that, “the world’s great order [is being] reversed.” (Lawall, 651, line 408). The manipulation of the spectators’ emotions, which instills in them a sentiment of drama, is relative to this undertone of disorder, as opposed to being absolute. The central thesis suggests drama in the play as relative to the method of theatrical production....   [tags: essays research papers fc]

Free Essays
1315 words (3.8 pages)

Personal Experience Aiding the Actor's Development of Theatrical Character

- Through personal experience, reading and research an insight can be gleaned into how improvisation can play such an important role in aiding the Actor's development of theatrical character. Through personal experience, reading and research an insight can be gleaned into how improvisation can play such an important role in aiding the Actor's development of theatrical character. To fully comprehend how liberating improvisation can be as a doorway to one's creative self, one has to experience and understand the process....   [tags: Drama]

Research Papers
1199 words (3.4 pages)

Related Searches

replications in order to revision theater and performance for social change.

Dolan cites the theatrical canon as one of the main perpetrators in this cycle of female
objectification and oppression. As the standard against which theater is measured, the canon claims universality, while promoting male-oriented/dominated plays. The power invested in the canon allows it to perpetuate the “dictums of the dominant ideology it represents” (32) and therefore to perpetuate the objectification of women and the domination of men. In order for a feminist play to be accepted into the canon, it must subjugate itself to this male domination. The canon is an excellent illustration of the problematic concept of “universality”: rather than being truly universal, a canon is, in fact, promoted as universal by the dominant culture, thereby perpetuating female objectification and oppression, and denying historical, cultural, social, and sexual difference. For these reasons, Dolan’s goal is not acceptance into this canon, nor is it creation of a separate feminist canon as the concept of universality is still problematic and oppressive. In order to break the oppressive cycle of female objectification the concept of universality creates, Dolan sees the abolition of the canon as [a] necessary step.

Historically in theater, women have always been objectified by representation and denied
subjectivity because of the ideology of the underlying narrative, which is driven by male desire. To deconstruct performance from a feminist point of view necessitates uncovering this underlying ideology, which no performance is without. Perceptual stimuli cannot be without ideology, and ideology plays a large role in interpretation. In the ideology of the theatrical tradition, “women become objects pursued for the fulfillment of male desire” (49); they are treated as commodities which are theoretically equal but completely exterior. In order for this to change, women’s desire must obtain a place in representation like the one male desire already holds. However, representation is historically linked to real relations, and the male body does not have the same history of objectification that the female body does. To overcome this, an outside viewpoint must be sought.

Pornography has become the center of this debate over the role of sexuality in performance and the representation of women as objects or subjects. Dolan cites two groups of feminists split over this debate: those who are prosex and therefore, proporn as a cultural production of sexual fantasies, and those who are antiporn, believing that pornography contributes to sexual violence against women. Dolan believes that a victory on the part of the antipornography feminists is dangerous to the position of women in theater. For Dolan, the censoring of porn is equal to legislation against fantasy, which
would result in “the free expression of self and sexuality slipping into a totalitarian framework” (60). If women’s desire is to obtain the same place in performance as men’s, this would be a crucial blow.

Dolan also worries about the stance cultural feminism takes on the issue of sexuality in
performance. She sees cultural feminist productions as avoiding the issue by privileging spirituality. However, as the view of male desire leading to violence against women leads to the concept of desire as power, this privileging then removes the possibilities for representing women with power. Privileging spirituality does not remove the body from performance but does attempt to lower its importance.
Cultural feminists attempt to envision the nude female as outside of the system of representation that objectifies women, but this project cannot meet with success as it disregard the external gender codes and markings that operate on and within the body’s communication of meaning, and also ignores the power and importance of historical structures. The performance is still accountable to male-defined standards for acceptable display and is, therefore, caught in the ideology that objectifies women.
According to Dolan, “women always bear the mark and meaning of their sex, which inscribes them within a cultural hierarchy” (63), and disregarding this hierarchy does not exempt the performance from it.

To Dolan, it is necessary to work from an outside viewpoint that manipulates the structures of the dominant ideology. She uses lesbian performance as her example for the success that is possible within this strategy. Fantasy is an important element in the lesbian performance context, and, by playing with fantasies of sexual and gender roles, there is the possibility of changing the “gender coded structures of power” (68). The lesbian performance stage is motivated by different kinds of desire; therefore, it has the potential to manipulate the performance elements of style, role, costume, gender,
and power into alternative cultural meanings and values. Thus, desire does not have to be “a male trap that automatically objectifies and oppresses women” (80), if it is exchanged differently. The use of fantasy and experimentation with gender roles can be used to reclaim power, sexuality, and desire from the male-dominated sphere, with limitless possibilities for revision.

Dolan sees traditional theatrical representations as based on a collective male audience, which leaves women unarticulated and objectified. In this representation, the female body is presented only as the site of male desire; it is framed exclusively by a heterosexual contract. To disrupt this representation, spectators should be led to question the ideological nature of the interactions and relationships, and to be estranged from the illusions presented to them. The spectator must be led to question the traditional representation. As steps toward this, the generic spectator must be denied and the illusion of passivity removed, and illusion must be removed and the apparatus of theater revealed (i.e., the performer should merely display, and not become, the character). One way to force this questioning is through the use of the lesbian subject, as she can signify an existence outside of the structure of heterosexual culture and its representations. The representation of gender that is
oppressive is based on compulsory heterosexuality; therefore, the lesbian subject confounds “the sign system that denotes woman” (117), rather than simply ignoring it.

The process of social change through changing the dominant cultural ideologies is perpetuated by theater is, to Dolan, a work in progress. She sees the lesbian subject as the viewpoint that is as close as possible to being outside of traditional representation and therefore the “most radical position from which to subvert representation” (119). However, there must be a continual reevaluation of form,
content, and context for there to be success in this reinvention. Materialist feminism acknowledges “the varied responses of spectator missed across ideologies of gender, sexuality, race, and class” (121) and, by acknowledging the lack of universality, provides the perfect place from which to formulate (and continually reinvent) strategies to overturn the domination of the white, heterosexual, middle-class male as the subject of representation in theater and performance.

Work Cited

Dolan, Jill. The Feminist Spectator as Critic. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press, 1991.
Return to 123HelpMe.com