Songs for the Struggling Artist

The Weird Internet Fame of Crappy Things Happening to You.

Ever since the breast incident of 2012, I have been struggling with how to talk about something around my discomfort with the publicity. Despite the fact that I’ve been a part of the arts for at least three decades, that I have dedicated my entire adult life to a career in the theatre, the only large public recognition I have ever received is a result of something crappy that happened to me. I achieved some fleeting internet fame because I was a victim of some sexist behavior.
I’m afraid that this is the way many women achieve their recognition. Not for the things they make or do but for how they respond to being victimized. We are often not lauded for achievement but for surviving shitty circumstances.
I have been moved and inspired by Malala Yousafzai along with the rest of the world but I’m troubled that she had to get shot in the head to get the recognition she deserves. She was remarkable before she became a famous victim.
Why don’t women’s stories of success go as viral on the internet? Why don’t our achievements, our analyses of the world around us, the ones that don’t feature being victimized, get public acknowledgement?
I’m still struggling to understand it: My one post about a crappy thing that happened to me has generated 6600 more views than anything else I’ve written (and continues to.) My update a year later about the shitty thing got 347 views but it was essentially a discussion of the same incident and Part 2 – in which I looked at what got accomplished? That got 78 views.
Do I have to have something shitty happen to me again to generate more readers? Is being a victim the sole route to recognition for women?
If it is, I’m not interested. I make things. In them, women have the full range of experiences, achievement and failure, having any number of experiences, of which being a victim is only one. I guess one could say that many of my other posts are about how women are victims of a sexist society but I suppose seeing systematic victimization from a place of authority is not nearly as compelling as one guy being a dick.
I guess I’m afraid that the only stories people want to see are ones where crappy stuff happens to women. I hope this isn’t the case. I really do. But in my own case, I’d much rather be known for my work or my analysis than for someone else’s dickish behavior.
On one hand, it all makes sense; Women are often subjected to crappy stuff so we need stories about that so we can figure out how to respond. But, on the other hand, if we keep only promoting stories of women in which the women are victims, we’re sending a message that the victim story is the only one we get. And the culture tells us that story often enough already.
For myself, I try and notice what I forward, what I pass on, what I promote. Is it only victim stories? Or can I remember to post achievements as well? I’m keeping a watch on myself and trying to support women outside of other people’s crappy behavior.


4 Comments so far
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I never thought of it that way, but you are absolutely right. It is important to give our accomplishments as much space on the page.

Comment by vicbriggs

‘Cause you’re awesome.

Comment by Dan R

I want you to know that you didn’t get popular or famous because something crappy happened to you. Crappy things happen all the time. What made you famous was your willingness to speak up, speak out, and relate what happened in a well articulated way. And for that, I thank you. You brought up things I hadn’t put much thought into (being a busy human trying to make my way in this world). Thank you for making me stop and think. I love theatre, I’ve done it haphazardly since I was a kid, always loving it. I’ve attended it since I was a kid as well. And now my children are attending and creating theatre too. I want them to enjoy it and I want them to feel safe and valued too. You’ve given me motivation to search for more theatre facilated by women directors and writers, and to check my own attitude about female roles. Thank you for articulating something so important, so well. My children may thank you someday too.

Comment by Kimberli

Thank you! I’m so glad that this spoke to you and that it feels motivating. May the theatre world grow and change to be better for your kids!

Comment by erainbowd

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