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the sounds that we ignore

this is a follow-on from jade's story. and other women's stories.
my friend's stories and my own.

last week, as i was walking home from an amazing evening working on a friend's solo dance work, i was accosted by a young guy in my local neighbourhood.

he was a charming young man, menacingly telling me how sexy i looked ('babes'), did i want it?, the old 'you know you want it', delightful displays of his 'big dick' and threatening to give me one, even if i didn't want it. rapist-in-training type shit.

the whole thing pissed me off. the system in which that interchange exists is a common one and i'm sick of it.

after going through a particularly intense session of identification at the police station, i rang a friend, a trans* woman, who was incredibly supportive. and it occurred to me that she actually hadn't spent her whole life rejecting the unwanted advances of men.

i can't even imagine it.

most women, since the age of 10 (or younger), spend the rest of our lives in some act of ignoring the unnecessary sexual words and actions of men:

in the street, from cars, right up in our ear whilst our hair is being pulled, in our faces, from across the room, behind us, towards us, sideways, from scaffolding, under their breath, on the tv, on twitter, in memes, passing on the footpath, on the bus, on the train, in the office hallway, in a pub, outside a pub, at a gig, outside a gig, on the dancefloor, outside the club, at night, early morning, whilst walking, whilst jogging, with kids, without kids, in a group, on our own etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc, etc.


we develop a reaction early - the paying attention of those words and sounds, the instant assessment of them on our character and varying levels of disregarding them, depending on our character and our self-esteem.

it's fucking boring. and surely a waste of our energy by now.

i'm sick of hearing it. i'm sick of ignoring it.
guys, please, give it a rest.

hey you, you, hello, hello? hey slut, dyke, freak, nice hair cut, show us your tits, whistle, kiss noises, heyy, sexy, nice tattoo, nice legs, hey sexy, hey, hello?, oi!, slut! nice hair, nice tatts!, show us your tatts, tits, car horns, oi, ladies, hey lady, miss, hey miss, excuse me, you right? can i get your number, heyyyy, shamood, shamout, butana, yo ho', belle femme, kissy kissy, check this one aaaart...


listening to london on a monday

last monday i had worked inside all day and found myself a little, well, lets just say i didn't feel like watching tv.

i wanted to soak up the goodness that london has to offer, infuse my brain with something worthwhile. i was also feeling a bit lonely that night and wanted to do something with a group, but nothing too big or "group"-y.

i remembered that my friend (and great storyteller) amaara raheem was participating in this year's one-on-one festival at battersea arts centre, london stories, so i forked out the Ā£12 online at the last minute and scooted south west.

i could go on about how amazing battersea arts centre is as a building and a site for performance, but i'll leave that for another post.

this one is about listening to stories.

unlike perth's one-on-one performance festival, proximity, this is just about listening to stories. similarly, there's an individual route that you take through the building. sometimes that is shared with another person, sometimes just on your own.

my initial balk at the idea of having to 'share' my intimate experience passed very quickly, as the intimacy of listening with another person became actually quite delicious. and, considering the kinds of stories we heard, also a bit of relief.

toby, cancer and other bedtime stories
sitting cosy on the back steps, the first story i heard was from toby, who, in his fairly young life, has managed to beat lymphoma twice. although intense, thankfully this wasn't a sob story, but a heart-warming and honest appraisal of negativity, taking responsibility for health and the gob-smacking brilliance of the human body.

amaara, her red shoe and other fairytales
in a sweet laundry setting, lit by candles (as were most of the rooms), amaara told an hilarious story about her relationship between london and her daily commute to work, through an upside-down extension of the hans christian anderson story of the little red shoes. it was personal, engaging, humourous, without being facile or jokey mc joketown.

jade, her escape from uganda and her "5-star" stay in yarl's wood*
this was a harrowing, but all-too-common story of jade's life and escape from uganda, corruption, the military and the lord's rebel army. it was a story of her husband, children, twin sister and nieces being killed. it was a story of dehydration, hunger, deprivation and  hiding. it was a story of kindness and eventual passage to london. she spoke of her time in a detention centre as a '5-star hotel' with 3 meals a day, doctor's nurses and places to chat with others and children to play.
as a couple of naive white gyals sitting there, the disparity was as loud as a sub-woofer, but there was zero resentment, only gratitude at her story being heard.

it was the best use of storytelling and the arts in politics i've experienced to date.

other stories of self-indulgence
i'm sorry, this is going to sound harsh, but most of the other stories i heard - although i enjoyed them - felt, in comparison, a bit, well, whingey.

love stories in london, stories of heartbreak and loss in london, homelessness (although that was actually a bit less-so) - they all felt a little self-indulgent. pretty much the same kind of story we always hear. and sometimes more like therapy and catharsis, than a story.

i spend a lot of time listening to people's personal stories each week and they find a lot of solace from sharing them. but they're not art, or theatre, or even really very interesting to that person and me. and usually i'm only interested because i have similar problems and am looking for identification. it is more intimate than being an audience, but still relatively mundane.

which is why i found the three i mentioned much more valuable.

having said that, the act of listening to others was comforting.

and the combination of being with another person, knowing that i was part of a whole group, but not 'in' that group and well-supported in my journeys (logistic, emotional and intellectual) by the staff at BAC - a really worthwhile sense of togetherness and community.

some of the other trimmings of the evening? perhaps a little unneccessary, but overall, an excellent way to enrich your night.

*i'm sure she said yarl's wood - especially because it has had a fair bit of press lately, although i may have the UKBA immigration centre wrong.