Songs for the Struggling Artist

Transforming Victim Theatre

The show was a series of monologues, of testimonials really, of women who’d experienced violence. I’d seen many shows like it before. You might know the genre. It’s a collection of narratives from an ensemble, a catalogue of horror stories. This particular show was well dressed. The aesthetics of the storytelling were well crafted. It was a little different than the usual monologue show in that it would seem that the actors were telling their own stories – which made them particularly hard to hear. For the kind of show it was it was very well done. But if made me long for a new kind of show – one I haven’t seen the likes of before.

At the end of the show, after the catalogue of atrocities committed against these women, the performers showed us a march, the protest in the streets. We finally got to see the women empowered, walking with strength and fury. I wished the show had started there.

I’ve seen women victimized on stage again and again and I’m not so interested in seeing these stories anymore. It’s important for us to tell them, of course, and important for them to be heard but – do we have to stage them, too? Maybe there are people who still need to see them, for whom the atrocities are a surprise and call to action.

However, I realized as I watched the show, that the stories I need to see and hear now are the ones about women who took the shitty things that happened to them and did something about it – or did something great in response to it.

I want to see the story of the student who carried her mattress with her everywhere in protest. I want to see the story of the organizers of Black Lives Matter. I want to see how Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony got us the vote. I want to see the story of Victoria Woodhull, a Gilded Age candidate for president. (Did you know a woman ran for president in 1872? And that she was an advocate for Free Love? I only learned it this year. That’s ridiculous.)

The victim stories are dramatic, I know. Sometimes it’s the only genre that can give women a taste of success and women ARE disproportionately the victims of violence. I’m sure we’ll continue to tell them for as long this shit continues. But I want to see the part of the story where they kicked ass, took names and helped other women.

If we have to tell victim stories, let’s tell them in a new context – as background, perhaps, as the backstory for the awesome power of what these are doing women now.


Victoria Woodhull, Presidential Candiate & Bad-Ass


You can help me tell the empowered stories by becoming my patron on Patreon.


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