Six female students studying the arts share their reaction to the US elections, and how it impacts them and their work.
On the day Donald Trump was elected, we held our third University Women in the Arts mentoring session and event.
Here are the views of some of the fifteen women selected for mentoring, who are fifteen of the most talented female students studying the arts in the UK and who were selected from a nationwide search:
Alys Key, postgraduate student at City University and journalist:
“Hillary’s loss felt somehow personal, because it reflected a lot of my anxieties about the future. Although the election has had such wide-reaching implications, it is the personal drama of the Clintons that has stuck with me. The story of Hillary Clinton suggests to me, as a woman, that by supporting someone I love in achieving their own goal I might well forfeit my own dreams. It may seem illogical, but the election result felt to me like a judgment not just on Hillary Rodham Clinton, but on any woman who tries to have it all.”
Eleanor Colville, recent graduate from Cambridge University and creator of an all female Smoker whilst at Cambridge:
“I was angry. So angry. I had a fight with my dad in the car. He was saying “ I could see perhaps people liked her, so he got the underdog vote; no one thought it would be him.” I was like “in what way is he an underdog?” If you mean he’s not qualified, then he’s an underdog. But he’s white, he’s a millionaire, he’s straight, he’s a man. The standard is unfair. I can’t imagine a woman being in his position. I can’t imagine a black man being in his position. Everyone else, they have to be perfect – not only with their policies under scrutiny, but also their own lives.”
Jingan Young, PHD student at Kings College London, writer and producer:
“The women thing is interesting. No one can fathom that a woman can be the head of an arts institution without acting like a man. I deal with that all that time. It’s the way you’re treated; you’re going into a meeting and they’re lovely but sometimes they’re also like “yeah, but have you looked at the whole thing?” Yes, I have actually. Or if you’re with a man, and they start talking to him, and they just kind of forget about you. And it’s so sad that we’re still going through that. I’m also mixed race and sometimes it feels like if I’m making a point about being a woman, it also has to be attached to being another ethnicity. Which it doesn’t.”
Gretha Viana, writer, Emmy nominated producer and recent graduate from Central Saint Martins:
“I’ve been thinking about this whole discussion about women that’s happening in different parts of the world. For example, in South America, as I’m Brazilian. And this is the kind of situation which makes me think that while we might have achieved, so much in some areas, for example financially and economically in this world, we still don’t have the space to be who we truly are and be understood, because it’s a certain perspective of the world that rules the world. And we, as women, in the arts or in leadership positions, are always subject to that perspective. I think the whole movement around women’s rights and issues is really about that. It’s about asking ‘how can I be a woman, and be understood, be who I am and not be judged by that,’ not be labeled or whatever. As artists we can talk about that and make that our responsibility. As a community of women we have to really rethink why we have achieved so much economically and financially and yet we still have this problem. I think Hillary is a mirror for a lot of other women in similar situations.”
Alice Brazil Burn, student at Warwick University and winner of the Almeida Theatre’s Outstanding Achiever Award:
“The US election and campaign highlighted the accepted norm that certain roles are thought to be gendered and in particular the media reporting on Hillary Clinton showed that binaries still control how women are perceived and treated. The campaign was about the performance of the person and not what the role itself required, which Trump used to his full advantage, and then some. The election proved that gender as a tool in society does oppress women and shows little understanding for women in leadership roles or striving for leadership roles.
“Dominant norms can now not be ignored from this dangerous and misogynistic platform. In order to bring it down there is a lot of work everyone needs to do and a responsibility we all have in order to continue to support one another and work together no matter who we are, our education or background. Now more than ever we must ensure sexist attitudes are questioned and challenged to ensure that skills and experience must be prioritised over sexist narratives.”
Helena Jackson, recent graduate from Oxford University, former President of the Oxford University Dramatic Society and theatre director:
“As arts professionals, surely it’s not just our job to comment on what has happened but to make people consider whether they are complicit in these events. Whether you didn’t help the person being racially abused on the bus, sat by while a waitress got her bum pinched or walked past a homeless person in the street, this doesn’t just happen in the vacuum of ‘elsewhere’, anywhere but ‘not here’, for god’s sake ‘not me’. Art is here to help us realise this, to show us that the world we live in doesn’t exist ‘despite’ us and, most importantly, bring this sort of discussion to places where it hasn’t reached before. Theatre is such a middle-class activity, as Andrew Lloyd Webber’s report has realised – what’s the point of producing pieces in an echo chamber, when those that come and watch already believe in the same values, strengthening this idea of ‘us’ vs ‘them’? My hope for the future is that theatre and art realise the power they have over people, and that artists make the effort to harness that power of art as social change in order to attempt to break down the stereotypes and anger that is blossoming worldwide.”
The next University Women in the Arts event will be on February 2, with CEO of TOAST Suzie de Rohan Willner, who will offer advice on being a female leader in the arts and launch a new competition open to women studying arts subjects at Universities across the UK. More information and free tickets are available here.
Image: Michael Vadon