It’s been 4 years since the #MeToo Movement burst forth into the world. It’s been 4 years since I premiered Dream Another Day, a feminist re-visioning of James Bond based on my Oblique/Switch creation strategy to revision Action Hero, Spy, Womanizer. These became:
What is the power that is not parkour, Breaking code breaking secret codes and What about female desire and pleasure.
My thought process; Action Hero – I travel around the world trying to save it by activating people through embodied creative experiences that open up new possibilities of engagement in the world – a slower fix than killing the bad guy. As a me, in my 40’s, with my specific stuff, I can’t really jump much anymore. I tore the ACL in my left knee in 2008 and had it fixed with patella tendon from the same leg. Then in 2016, jumping over the back of a chair, while performing some of the material that I was playing with for this project, I tore the medial meniscus of same knee. Over the course of that season, traveling and performing in many countries, I tore it more and more and then more, so that when they went in to fix what they’d seen on the MRI six months previously, they had to shave it right down because it was torn all along. Not possible to sew it back together. And when they were in there, they discovered that the recreated ACL had gone lax. So, I’m a 40+ yo dancer who can’t jump. Well I can, but I’ve got a limited number of jumps left. I want to make them count. The problem with the knee that is missing three pretty significant ligaments that stabilize it, it that it pops out of place now. There is not much keeping the top and bottom of my leg attached.
So what is the virtuosity that I have as a dancer who sometimes has more movement restrictions than my pedestrian peers?
Presence, trust, the ability to command and change space with energy. I discovered this while I was dancing backwards down the painted white line in the middle of the Brooklyn Bridge with my eyes closed three weeks after the knee surgery of 2017. For 45 minutes I progressed with a big but boundaried energy. People bumped into each other to avoid touching me.
The dancers who’ve learnt the Eye Foci exercise that is so frustrating to do will appreciate this. It was proof that the more focus and attention one puts into their activity/action/movement, the more focus and attention it attracts.
Then Spy. Spies break secret codes. The opposite to that is secretly break codes (the old double agent). The oblique: breaking code breaking secret codes.
On October 15th, 2017 I was in the technical rehearsal for the show that would be performed for audience in a small town the next day. There were doing to be high school students. There would probably be their parents too. And I thought, holy eff, here goes nothing. I’m going to stand there and say these things. And some people are going to look at me, like what are you talking about, or I think you might be exaggerating, or are you sure?
As someone whose experience of sexual violence was met with ‘I’m sure he didn’t mean it’ all of the times that I encountered it, the sexual violence and then the response from various people who do not know how to say “I believe you”, it felt like Oh mah gawd, I’m going to do this, because it has to be said. We have to say this happens and we have to speak up and name the secret codes that protect the system/patriarchy/perpetrators/’good guys’. But oh the price of being looked at in that way.
And on that day the #MeToo movement broke. And I got to go onstage and powerstance it and say it with a wink because now we we could acknowledge that we knew what we were talking about. We’d reached the tipping point.
A week later I did the show in another small town and with a chorus of teenage girls doing a ‘spy’ dance that was also a feminist revisioning of the silhouetted women ‘dancing’ at the beginning of the movies.
The third of the tropes. Female Desire and Pleasure. This. This. Sometimes I think that some of the sexual politics in those old Bond films, while contributing to rape culture might have been accurate. Women were not allowed to admit their desire. To want was bad. To be wanted was good. I conducted the audience in a three-part silent ‘Kegal’ choir. Directing the timing of their Kegals to create a three-part silent rhythm section. I thought it was great. I didn’t think we got all the way with it though. Where was the orgasm?
I did three shows there. I got compliments from the parents of many of the teenagers. There was one set of parents who came to each of the shows. They never made eye contact with me after the show. Then a firestorm from the dance studio. Someone was complaining. The festival got involved. I checked the information I had sent out. It said “Meagan O’Shea imagines a feminist James Bond, examining rape culture, hero worship and inheritance of secrecy in our culture.” The complaint was emphatic, loud, insistent, and full rage. They could not articulate the problem, they were just mad.
Last week I was in Venice, Italy. On holiday. I was staying at a hostel, something I haven’t done for many years, but Venice is expensive. And I knew I wanted to be able to have a few very delicious meals out so I had better suck it up and stay in shared accommodations. Actually I loved it, except the sharing of a room with people who don’t know how not to rustle their plastic bags at 7 am and I’d rather not be in a bunk bed. But the hanging out in a space designed for making friends instead of a hotel or aribnb is great as a solo traveller. I met a woman who is a retired airline steward. One night I walked into the foyer of the main floor – an open space with seating areas, tables, couches, surrounding the bar, café counter and reception that occupy the middle of the floor. She waved me over, a bit enthusiastically I thought. There was a man sitting close to her on the couch. She introduced me and he invited me to sit beside him on the couch. I said no, over her is fine. I sat across the coffee table from the two of them. He hopped up to buy me a drink. She said, oh thank god you’re here. You have to pretend to be really interested in what I’m saying. I told him you were my friend. He wanted to know where I’m from, get my number, said he likes older woman, was getting touchy, wanted to take me on his boat. She was frozen and deflecting.
He came back with my drink. He bent down to kiss me as he put it on the table. Without thinking, I shoved him. No touching I said. He stayed away after that. I asked the bartender if he was a problem. He has many problems, he said, But he’s okay.
(What does that even mean? What is harmless? Is that complicit? Do I need to take more action? Maybe I should push that guy in the canal.)
It made me realize how far I’ve come. I used to freeze and deflect. Now I shove. And then go and tell the bartender.
I think we’ve come somewhere pretty big in the four years since #MeToo first hit the internet. I don’t think we are Post #MeToo. There are a tonne of things that still need to happen and to change, but when one’s instant reaction in a situation is so different than what it used to be, I think it’s progress.