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Sexism at Rocky - Transience Divine
October 31st, 2006
05:23 am

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Sexism at Rocky
Elaina is quitting the show for a variety of reasons, but the relevant one is sexism at Rocky. She convinced me that the problem is extensive, but I don't know how to respect those concerns and still encourage the individual creative talents and sexualities of our members and the boundary-pushing of the show. But I think we can find a way, and enjoy our work better for reaching for it.

Sexism has become a party-crashing term. People worry that if they acknowledge it, it will make every decision more difficult and force us to be more conservative. It shouldn't. Sexism itself-- the faulty societally-ingrained role preconceptions we have-- is inherently incredibly conservative and creativity-blocking. By harboring it, we cripple the sexual and individual potential of our members.

I think that the best solution to the sexism problem has to do with promoting an attitude at the show, not by making rules, and I think we can do it, because we're strong, freely-sexual people who want to promote sexual equality. This attitude would be characterized by honest recognition of how our actions and shows play out sexual stereotypes, and the constant search for what's beyond them.

One aspect of this attitude might be that men at Rocky would be encouraged (expected) to put themselves on sexual display as much as women. It will make us better men. Another is that we should consider the sexism-jostling potential of our preshows. We can get more out of challenging our audience than playing to its fantasies.

Next week: How to get the most out of a rape fantasy...

Current Music: Medeski, Martin, and Wood

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From:asmodai
Date:October 31st, 2006 06:59 am (UTC)
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OOPS! I pressed "post" before finishing.

I wanted to ask for more of your thoughts of the NATURE of sexism at rocky. Is it explicit or implicit? Are you noticing misogynistic tendencies, or more passive objectification?
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From:mals13
Date:October 31st, 2006 12:16 pm (UTC)
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I can see where she is coming from, but on the other hand this is the way it has been forever. There is a general understanding between all of us that, yeah, we are here to entertain and if violence and sex is a form of entertainment that gets the best reaction, then so be it. If it really were a problem, more girls would be complaining about the sexist factors of the show instead of offering themselves up to get up on stage and strip for something as petty as Trixie. Rocky has always had a "strip club" mentality, that I've noticed. And we all understand that no one is out to hurt one another; sure there is lots of sexual harassment floating around the show, but us girls at the show know that it's all in good fun. Ok, yeah, some guys are over-the-top in their comments and gestures, but it's part of the game of Rocky.

It's too bad that we have to lose someone over an issue like this, but if she really feels this way then it's not the environment for her.
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From:transparencies
Date:October 31st, 2006 02:25 pm (UTC)
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wow, i hate to have to rip into a friend like this, but your whole comment really, really, really irks me. that attitude is what allows a whole lot of the wrongs in the world to keep on going.

"but on the other hand this is the way it has been forever."

"If it really were a problem, more girls would be complaining"

"sure there is lots of sexual harassment floating around the show, but us girls at the show know that it's all in good fun."

yeah, if people feel offended, they should speak up. you're absolutely right. but a whole lot of the time, people feel too threatened to do so. no one wants to be the buzz kill who points out how offensive and wrong the actions of their friends are and how harmful to the mentalities of the cast and the audience. something wrong isn't made right simply because no one is willing to speak against it. it could mean it's so wrong that it's potentially dangerous.
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From:jrising
Date:October 31st, 2006 06:12 pm (UTC)

Re: 2 cents

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Sex at Rocky isn't just about pleasing the crowd, and I don't think that's what they pay us for. We *should* offend people and shake them up. If people wanted traditional male-slobbering sex, they would go to a strip club. They come to us because we're supposed to have something about sexuality that you can never get from traditional society.

Yes, women are beautiful and sexual and they make people horny. Men could be too, if we tried. But we aren't being asked to try.

Honestly, I don't think people get that turned on by women as sex objects. They respond, because they know they're supposed to. But true sexuality is far more potent and challenging, and done right will get a better reaction.
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From:revolos55
Date:October 31st, 2006 03:00 pm (UTC)
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Well this is the first I've heard of this problem. That's why we have the yellow rule. You don't have to get naked if you don't want to. But maybe what I think of as a genuine appreciation for the female form, or a specific female form, someone else considers harassment. I was always under the impression that any "ogling" or comments of a sexual nature I made were taken as compliments, and done in good humor. I would hope that people would tell me otherwise.

As for some sort of equal-opportunity male objectification, I'm fairly sure that shirtless o'clock is gender neutral, and while full frontal male nudity has experienced a radical drop in frequency since Acid left, I have seen more penises since joining the show than I had in the entirety of my 22 years of life before that point.

I honestly had no idea that this was an issue at the show. I thought it was fairly well understood that Rocky is an explicitly sexual atmosphere, and that people were free to express themselves in that manner. And this is directed at no one in particular, but you really can't come to the Rocky Horror Picture Show dressed in a shelf-making corset and underwear if you're going to me offended by someone commenting on your boobs. I'm not saying it's permissible for someone to lay hands on, or be outright harassing, and I'm not saying that "she's asking for it", but it's just plain common sense. If you don't want to hear sexual comments, don't come to Rocky.

I don't know if this makes me sound like a lecher or a misogynist, or whatever, but I knew what Rocky was when I joined, and if I've had a problem with something I've spoken up. I'm glad that Elaina has too, and I'm sorry that she's been having problems. If I'd known I needed to change my behavior towards her I would have, and like I said, I'd hope that if anyone else had a problem with something I did or said, they'd tell me. But as far as I knew I hadn't stepped on anyone's toes or offended their sensibilities.
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From:jrising
Date:October 31st, 2006 06:33 pm (UTC)
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I don't think the problem is with the reactions that women in shelf-making corsets get; when a woman wants to say "look at me", we shouldn't be ashamed to ogle. But if women are almost always the ones being looked at and men are just doing the looking, we aren't doing honest sexuality.

Strong women, like you, have no problem drawing their boundaries, and I think we're fairly good at respecting those. But men at Rocky never have that problem: we aren't asked to be outwardly sexual the way women are. I hope that women at Rocky never feel used sexually, but I'm sure some do, and I'm pretty sure men never do.

Finally, I think we present sex in a much more sexist way to our audience than we have within the cast. Rocky is about the love, and we have some obligation to our audience to not leave them with huge misconceptions about hot the love works.
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From:littlenewj
Date:October 31st, 2006 03:43 pm (UTC)
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Unfortunately any views on anything of a moral standpoint are purely relative. Perception is reality. Where one sees red another can see a half naked woman dancing. In essence WYSIWYG *shrug*
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From:jrising
Date:October 31st, 2006 06:35 pm (UTC)
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Perception is reality, and that's the problem. We get to choose/construct our morality-- so why are we settling for one that makes sex objects of women?
From:5411tech
Date:October 31st, 2006 03:59 pm (UTC)

For now...

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Maybe I'll say more later, but for now I wanted to say that I didn't want to make an issue out of this. I'm aware that everyone engaging in the behaviors which I consider to be promoting sexist attitudes are doing so of their own volition. I have other reasons for leaving the show (mostly school) and everyone is quite right in saying that if I have a problem with Rocky, it may not be the atmosphere for me. In general, free expression of sexuality works for me, sexist attitudes and objectification of women do not.

For the record, I wasn't complaining about any personal comments or harrassment, as I've neither witnessed nor experienced any. Is that something others have experienced?
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From:transparencies
Date:October 31st, 2006 04:37 pm (UTC)

Re: For now...

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in my time at the show (hi, i'm shannon, by the way. i was head of costumes for a few years) i was asked by more than one woman for help, both at the show and at parties, in remaining clothed and not compromised in other ways. some of their discomfort was in small, subtle things. some was a lot more blatant and harmful and they felt unable to fend off pressure alone.

and this topic, among other more pressing (for me) things, is one of the reasons i left. not the main reason but it was a concern. and was not something i've ever felt comfortable voicing before now.
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From:overstim
Date:October 31st, 2006 06:17 pm (UTC)
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Men should be WELCOME to put themselves on display as much as women. EXPECTING anyone to be put on display is the exact opposite of what youre trying to accomplish here.

how would you feel if i said "Women at Rocky should be EXPECTED to put themselves on sexual display?"

Sexism is the INEQUALITY of men and women. Men and women ARE inequal. For one thin,g i think if you poll men AND owmen youll find that women are considered way hotter. Men like looking at women. Women like looking a women. Gay men dont even mind looking at women. just look at the fashion industry. Men are just around ot open jars and kill spiders.

Am I being facetious? of course. But hopefully you get my point. Rocky is about sex and women are sexy. No one has EVER discouraged a preshow with men strutting their stuff. in fact, one of the preshows weve put up more than any other is "sit on my face", which normally features a row of guys in nothing but aprons shaking their hairy man-asses. Full Monty was pretty kickass, too.

Instead of just flatly demanding that men bring on the sexah, why dont you propose some man-centric preshows? I for one support the idea 100%. Men can be hot. just not this one.

I dont think the problem at Rocky is encouraging women to be naked and sexy. Objectifying women is only a bad thing if they are PRESSURED into it. that is the real danger at Rocky, the peer pressure. And sometimes there is some, and I try my best to discourage it. I like when Frank, during monologue, encourages the virgins to "dance nasty" and "do waht comes naturally". I HATE when Frank just says "Be a stripper". That impies an obligation to strip, which some arent comfy with. its all in the wording.

Women AND men should feel welcome and encouraged to express themselves how they see fit. Women and men should be wlecome to objectify and Be objectified. But NO ONE, EVER, should feel "expected" or pressured to do anything.

If it harm none, do as thou wilt.
From:5411tech
Date:October 31st, 2006 06:42 pm (UTC)
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The problem is when women ARE expected to put themselves on display, either explicitly or, as I think is more the case here, implicitly. Just saying someone has the right to refuse doesn't mean the expectations aren't there, and aren't uncomfortably pervasive. I've only been at Rocky about 3 months, but in that time I've seen women expected and/or pressured to put themselves on display sexually, and I've seen that happen to men, oh, about never. I think it either needs to happen to everyone, or not at all.
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From:elctric_mayhem
Date:October 31st, 2006 07:15 pm (UTC)
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I want to speak logistically about 2 points.
1) It's Rocky. And everyone seems to be delving in far too seriously to our moral and ethical obligations to our audience.

2) We put up what ideas we have, that we can make good. More people come up with ideas around scantily clad dancing girls, than scantily clad dancing guys. We have more hot women that can dance, than hot guys that can dance. And that's what we put on a show with. When good preshows come up involving stripping guys down, we use them. Full Monty, and Sit On My Face for examples.

Have as much idealogical debate as you want. Or suggest specific, yet stage-worthy ideas for things that balance out the portrayal of genders. But I think to read Sexism and Misogyny into what we do is both extreme and unnecessary.
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From:transparencies
Date:October 31st, 2006 07:47 pm (UTC)
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well, firstly, i think that all people have certain moral and ethical obligations and we can't adjust them radically to suit our needs, even relative to our surroundings. but i don't know that i want to deeply into that conversation right now.

i've never really seen partial male nudity discouraged at the show either. but i think the issue here is the fact that it's expected of women. it's not simply an open invitation to be naked and dancing and seductive. it's very much expected. and that same expectation doesn't hold true for men. there's a pressure on women at rocky to be sex objects. there's an opportunity for men but that's all.
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From:truered
Date:October 31st, 2006 08:28 pm (UTC)
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Fuck that.

Seriously people. It's Rocky. It's about sex. It's about pressuring other people to lighten the fuck up and get naked. That's why I love the show.

If this was a job, or school, or anything even remotely necessary and relevant to a person's life, then fine -- we could talk about sexism then. But it's not. If you don't like the atmosphere at the show, leave.

Maybe this sounds insensitive, but I've been with the show for over 6 years and I really don't give a damn if someone who has been around for less than a year feels uncomfortable.

I come to Rocky to dress up. I want people to look. I want them to whistle. I want them to beg me to be the half naked chic in their preshows. If I didn't, I'd quit.

I like the show the way it is and I don't want it to change.
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From:dariusdraven
Date:October 31st, 2006 08:48 pm (UTC)
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In general I agree with Jon and Savitsky, but the only thing I would caution the FBC about is how we treat virgins.

I've been in the audience on several occasions where I've grimaced at how Frank (or cast and audience members) pressure/cajole/plead with reluctant virgins into removing clothing. Certain Franks are worse than others. Usually the virgins in question are women.

I think there's a line that you need to be aware of between encouraging someone to let loose and full fledged peer pressure.

Now, I don't think that's sexism per se. Could I see someone getting the wrong impression...

Once you're in the cast that's another story. The show does a very good job of presenting all sorts of sexy men and women - as equally as possible. I think portraying strong female characters really is a strength.
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From:d_day
Date:October 31st, 2006 08:51 pm (UTC)
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Why should we listen to you FRAT BOY?!?!?

Afterall, you're always pressuring me to take off my clothes.
:)
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From:just_al
Date:October 31st, 2006 09:17 pm (UTC)
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First of all.. if you think the preshows lean heavily towards provocatively attired women it's because that is what people write. Not just the men but the women write them too. Also, our audience seems to like the preshows with sexily dressed women and the cast likes applause so you'll probably see more.

Next time you go to the show, take a walk up and down the line outside and see how the audience is dressed. You are going to see a lot of women dressed in a way that may lend itself to the belief that they are being objectified, but in reality they've finally found a place where they can let their hair down and feel attractive.

I did the show for a very long time, I even directed for almost 5 years. We put men who were nice to look at up on stage to be looked at. Hell, I even threw a hint as to what might be in the Rocky audition towards Jim Allen because he was CHISELED OUT OF MARBLE and had to be on MY STAGE.

Rocky is about being uninhibited in the face of society's conventions. Some of that may appear sexist but to find any of the goings on sexist is to allow yourself to not step away from polite society and give in to the hedonism and self expression that most people come to rocky for. Seriously, look at the audience and see how much they enjoy how freaky it is at the Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you don't get why they are there and why they are having a good time, you just don't get it.
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From:jrising
Date:October 31st, 2006 10:35 pm (UTC)
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That's the way I was thinking about it before, but I'm convinced that the expectations go deeper than that. If men are such boiling vats of sexual desire, and if Rocky is a place to let that all out, why is it mostly the women who are letting it out?

It's great that people can display themselves at Rocky and be appreciated for it, and feel attractive for themselves and make other people happy. But it's expected that most of the people doing that will be women.
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From:catullus_5
Date:October 31st, 2006 09:54 pm (UTC)
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("you" is not you personally; it's rhetoric:)

Show me a girl who has jumped on our stage in a skimpy outfit, and I'll show you a girl who was overjoyed at the opportunity, and had a great time doing it. A complaint about sexist attitudes is a criticism of HER attitude. Is what she enjoys something that ought to be stopped? Is every cast member and audience member who dresses sexy on Saturday (and looks forward to it all week) wrong to enjoy it? No, of course no one's saying that. But then why is it bad if it's something that all participants enjoy?

I've seen two general claims: First, that the cast and audience enjoy it but they don't realize the message they're sending. A message to whom? So now we have to modulate what we like because of someone else's opinion? Give yourself over to absolute pleasure except when a third party can't accept your reasons for doing it? Second, that the girls think they enjoy it because they've been hoodwinked by peer pressure or something. Like mind control! That would be pretty insulting if someone told that to me: "It's too bad you thought it would be fun to wear a banana hammock for Soccer Practice only because that's what exposure to the show's expectations and preconceived notions made you believe." No, I thought it would be fun because I thought it would be fun.

And by the way, a huge point that accusers of sexism completely miss is that the audience is in no way exploiting the performers, not in the slightest. Rather, the performers exploit the audience. Why else do you think going on stage is more fun than staying in your room? The notion that the preshow writers have served up the performers to be victimized by the audience is preposterous.
From:5411tech
Date:October 31st, 2006 10:16 pm (UTC)
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I am concerned about the message we send to the audience. And it's not necessarily that I think "peer pressure" is at fault, which implies a locality, but rather a more pervasive societal attitude. I think there are a lot of outmoded societal models of female and male sexuality that are being played out at FBC, rather than being challenged. You are, for the most part, missing my point.
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From:5411tech
Date:November 2nd, 2006 01:59 am (UTC)
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I thought Jimmy was naked at lots of parties. Oh, you're referring to me! Clever! Last I checked, I wasn't into prohibiting people from taking their clothes off. Read my comments.
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