Lynann Politte, producer, writer and performer in a one woman show about misogyny talks about her journey from concept to show with TheVashonLine.
Everyone has ideas about the way things should be; about what is right with the world, and what is wrong. Not everyone creates a one person show to help change the things that are wrong. Lynann Politte took her passion for equality in the world and wrote a one-woman show chronicling her experience with misogyny, what it is, how to name it, and what we, as participants can do to make the world a better place.
TVL: There is nothing funny about the hatred of woman. So, what’s so funny about misogyny?
LP: Misogyny isn’t funny. It’s absurd.
I actually looked up the word absurd and it is “ridiculously unreasonable, unsound, or incongruous”. There’s a second definition I like even better “having no rational or orderly relationship to human life.
Misogyny is defined as the hatred of women, yet it functions as an ideology in patriarchal or male dominated societies that place women in subordinate positions of power – its purpose is oppression.
At what point did a one-woman show solve your need to express your message about misogyny?
While reading Barbara G Walker’s book The Skeptical Feminist, I realized that there was no museum for the biggest holocaust in history, against women. I wanted to create that museum, and put together a schematic for a traveling inter-active exhibition. But I was struggling for about five years on how to manifest it. I couldn’t answer the question – what will the visitor see and experience when they walk in the museum? I realized that I was looking at the wrong media to express my thoughts. Theater affects me viscerally. When I sit in a theater and the curtain goes up, my heart leaps. I’ve been smacked with tears. Theater is so experiential. It’s such a visceral voyeuristic experience, with real people on stage. I realized that is what I should do. And then, in a moment I didn’t ask for, a thought hit me loud and clear, A one-woman show… and I had to perform it.
It was way beyond my comfort level, which is why I knew I had to do it. I directed and produced theater and was enamored with the courage and authenticity of performers. I knew that in order for me to go to the next level of finding my authentic voice…I had to step up there on stage and tell my personal stories. That is all I knew. And that is all I held on to. That moment of clarity came from a very deep gut feelings, I had to get on stage and perform it myself.
It was a process. A process of opening up to the possibilities, hearing the answer from my own intuition. Not until I finished the performances, did I really understand what I needed to learn, and the reasons I did it. There was no way I could have envisioned what was in store for me for my growth. I had to take the leap of faith, do it and then find out.
How much of the message was informed by the show, and how much of your message did you have to alter to fit the form?
The message is the show. I didn’t alter any of the messages to fit the form. I did have to do a lot of editing of the script. I came to Elizabeth Klob (my director) with pages and pages and writings and rants. Bless her when she looked at me and said, “This show is going to be 60 min max, and I just want you to know there needs to be cuts and it will be painful.”
It was about being more succinct, and that takes getting clarity about really what I want to say. In theater, you have to be more succinct and direct. You have to say what you want to say in a lot in less words. Up until two weeks before the show I was editing my script as I was learning the lines. Speaking them was different than reading them.
I remember once reciting a piece and stumbling over the phrases and thinking ‘who wrote this crap…(pause) oh yea, me”. I had the luxury of being able to change it. However at one point, after the umpteenth version, Elizabeth said…ok, enough… this one is the final script. The thing I learned is that the written word is different than the spoken and definitely different that theater dialogue.
It was the brilliance of Elizabeth and her collaboration with her direction. She gave form to the words. She made it a theatrical experience instead of me just getting up there and reading a series of essays or monologues. I wasn’t interested in being like Spaulding Gray and sitting behind a table and reading my essays. I wanted an experience that was entertaining, and also involved the audience. Eve Was Framed became a great mixture of monologues, performance, tech, music, and audience participation, physical theater. I didn’t get puppets in there, but maybe another version will have them.
Is Vashon any less misogynistic than Seattle?
I can’t answer that because I only lived in Seattle a year and didn’t work there. My point isn’t that one region is more misogynistic than another. And I certainly wouldn’t be able to make a comparison about an island than a city in the same region. To me, misogyny is everywhere. Sexism abounds, its embedded in our culture because of our history. We have to admit that we all have it. It is about our values. And there’s a spectrum of values as diverse on Vashon as on Seattle.
The point is to become conscious about it, see it in our culture and our own actions, thoughts and word. We need to do our part to stop participating in it with our behaviors, jokes, sayings stereotypes, sex education; all the places that misogyny has embedded itself. We need to rethink, re-teach and behave different.
What kind of misogyny is systemic, and what do we need to do today to make a change? What is your ask?
Misogyny is manifested in many ways. The most obvious is in words. What is the worse word you can call someone if they betray you? The “C” word, also known as the woman’s genital area. Of course, there’s a guy genital word “D” – but that is not the WORST. Or what about what they call a boy who can’t play a sport well? Besides saying ‘you play like a girl’ which implies, weak and wimpy, they call her the “P” word, which again is a word for women’s genitals. It all associating a woman’s yoni with weakness, anger, betrayal. When in fact, this is the source of birth and power for not only women, but for humanity.
What socio-cultural shifts need to take place so that my daughter has a better life experience than she would have 25 years ago?
Accepting the feminine in our culture as valid and equal and valuable as the masculine. I speak not of gender, but of qualities of the feminine as an archetype. Let’s get away from gender. Both women and men should be able to freeing choose how they express their authentic self. It should be as okay for a man to show emotion, be creative as it is for him to be physically strong and good in sports.
Who influenced your life as a social change-maker?
Writer Barbara G Walker who is an incredible feminist writer of the 70s, but I didn’t discover her until the 90s. She wrote The Skeptical Feminist, The Woman’s Dictionary of Symbols and Sacred Objects, The Woman’s Encyclopedia of Myths and Secrets Feminist Fairy Tales to name just a few. She also is a knitting expert and has written over 10 books on knitting. I think she lives in Florida.
What have you learned about yourself in the process of writing/producing/acting in a one-woman show?
I have learned that I am not alone. And that I have a way – once I’m clear on my thoughts – of communicating what others are thinking and experiencing for those who may not have the words. At least that is what I have been told and feel. My motivation – I found out from doing this show – was to find community. To find others who see what I see. When I do feminist work, it feeds me. When I produced and directed the Vagina Monologues, it invited a community of like-minded people. I love that show. It spoke to me, so I brought it to the island. It attracted other people who were interested in what I was interested in. It connected me to community of like-minded people.
The political power of this type of theater is that it is a way to invoke change. Change in thinking causes changes in action. I use humor, because it opens the heart to hear and accept the difficult stuff we need to face. The court jester was the one person who could tell the king the truth. And he did it through humor. The court jester is my guide – speaking the truth in biting humor that gets to the heart/mind of the culture.
I learned, as I tend to learn when I take these leaps of faith, to listen to my intuition, my inner voice. The whole process is a time that requires you to be present with who you are, what you want to say, and to dive deep to get to that authentic voice. That requires quieting all the clatter in your brain (fears, for example) that can muck up your line of communication, and your ability to speak clearly and authentically. You have to shed the fears. There are a couple things I say in the play that were a bit embarrassing to me.
I learned to admit things coated with shame, on stage, is cathartic – but it is scary. This is what I realize I admired in the actors who I consider authentic. They go up there, bare their soul and project it out to the last row of the theater. It is such a vulnerable place. But that is what you have to do. And you have to know that to do that is enough. Whether it is well received or not – you can’t depend on success or you will get wounded. Instead, throwing it out there is the victory. If the audience loves it, that is icing on the cake. And if they don’t like it, then that’s fine, cake without icing is enough.
This is all not easy. Take my word, the month before the show I’m in total question mode – questioning why the heck I put my self up for this. But even with my first show, I had a small voice that soothed me by reminding me that I had followed my intuition and it will be ok. And it was right.
What experience do you hope the audience has during the show, and what do you want them to walk away with?
I hope it provokes thought.
The show has a series of vignettes that cover different topics.
What audience members told me is all different on what they experienced. Some pieces spoke to people in particular. One woman said that the whole show was an experience because she identifies with each part but upon seeing all that we as women deal with as a whole piece, in one hour, she realized it is a lot! Some other woman came up and said they got reignited. They said they got waylaid with their feminist activism with having a family. They got back in touch with that fire.
One 27 yr old said she had gotten an internship to work at a women’s shelter in south America and that she was considering turning it down. After my show, she said she now is going to go. The show activated her to go out and work for a change, helping women. Another young woman told me she wants any man she dates to see my show.
I loved when a father came up and said he had an “aha” moment about what his daughter and wife are facing in our culture. He just didn’t know. Then he called me back a few days later and said he’s walking through his day and seeing life, but now he sees thing in a totally different light. He says he’s walking about saying ‘Hey THAT’s misogynistic, Wait, that is too!’ It gave him a whole new way of looking at thinks in his daily life.
I love to hear the show provoked thought and discussion, it made people re-examine the world in a different way, it gave people empathy of what women deal with daily, it gave woman a sense that someone else experience what they experiences and they felt community, it activated women into action, it gave words to some who couldn’t find the words to express how they felt.
Is there any hope for mankind?
Of course there is.