Tatiana Pavela: '#MeToo gave some the courage to tell their stories. It let some know what women go through'
- The List
- 1 August 2019
American artist and writer discusses the context behind her solo Fringe production, Brandi Alexander
Brandi Alexander is set in a comedy club in 1987. Stand-up comic Brandi takes to an empty stage. She's kicking off a comeback tour after what has been a long hiatus and is thrilled to be reconnecting with her fans. She's also opening for her rapist. Here, writer Tatiana Pavela talks about what's changed (and what hasn't) in the 32 years since the play is set – what the #MeToo movement has achieved and where it's only scratched the surface – and why it's so vitally important for women to keep telling their stories (real and fictional) in a world where many of the old guard are beginning to whine that '#MeToo has gone too far now.'
I decided to set Brandi Alexander in a comedy club in 1987 because it seemed like the perfect setting for a 'woman in a man's world'. The space of 32 years is used to highlight the fact that so little has changed for women since then (when it comes to sexual assault and harassment).
It would be false to say that nothing has changed. Okay fine, I will give you that. Some things have changed. The Violence Against Women act was passed in 1994. Me Too became #MeToo, which did lead to Harvey Weinstein stepping down. I'm tossing out a few examples rather than an exhaustive list because I can just imagine someone typing 'Yeah, but what about X, Y & Z? Bitches can do whatever they want now' or something to that effect. In my mind, this voice plays out like a bro at a frat party or a VP whining about how he can't have any more fun at the office holiday party. Sorry, boys.
For every example that someone can give me and claim that their dick is getting stepped on left and right by an ugly fucking feminist, I bring up Trump. I have brought him up in every piece of press about this show, and will continue to do so because that is the part that has me thinking whatever might have changed in the past 32 years, it's not enough, it's not enough, IT'S NOT ENOUGH when the United States has a president who has been accused by over 20 women of sexual assault and yet, he is still in office.
That is the part that tells me what happens to our bodies without our consent doesn't matter. That is the part that says, 'Sorry, ladies – we hear you and we believe that it happened – it's just that it's not a big enough deal. Our dicks need the freedom to flap in the wind like a flag at full mast during storm season and nothing will take away our god-given right.' Anita Hill testified against Clarence Thomas in 1991. Dr Christine Blasey Ford testified against Brett Kavanaugh in 2018. Both of those men are currently on the Supreme Court. And I don't think that these men were voted in because no one believed the women. I think they just didn't care. 'It wasn't that bad.'
And for all the injustices I'm whining about as a middle-aged, middle-class white woman in America, I have lived a life of privilege compared to so many others. How have things changed for women since 1987? To the immigrant women and their families that have been locked up in conditions of horror by America when they were only seeking a safer life for their children, what would their answer be? Would they answer with stories of sexual abuse occurring under the watch of the US government? What would the answer be for US trans women – 26 of whom have died from violence in 2018 (the majority of these were Black)? What has changed for women? Not enough.
Fine – here is something. I remember hearing about the Lorena Bobbitt trial as a child. It was funny! People acted like she was crazy. She cut off her husband's penis – ha, ha! Media framed her as a crazy lady. After watching the recent documentary about her on Amazon, I am grateful that she was given an opportunity to tell the story. Oh my god, what the fuck were we laughing at? This woman wasn't crazy, she was the victim of years of sexual assault who was defending herself and was driven to the measures she took. I notice the way that stories are allowed to be reframed and refocused.
#MeToo gave some the courage to tell their stories. It let some know what women go through – the sheer exhausting amount of it all. It made some men fall from power, though we have yet to find out how far and how hard. Harvey Weinstein's trial is pushed to September 2019. Trump is campaigning for reelection. Some of those men have bounced back already. Louis CK is doing comedy again. Sure, some things have changed. It's just not enough. Not fucking enough.
Brandi Alexander, Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre, until 25 Aug, (not 12, 19), 9.45pm, £9.50–£10.50 (£8.50–£9.50).