Overhaul to Women's Power: My Body Needs to be Happy
Written by LIN Ying-hsuan
Based on the female wardrobe, six emerging female circus artists born in the '90s probe mainstream society's definitions of female aesthetic, bodily autonomy, stereotypes, and moral standards via symbols and the human body, and they also take a look at restrictions, freedom, and interpersonal relationships.
"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman," says French feminist writer Simone de Beauvoir in her book The Second Sex. This single statement fully expresses the extreme state of helplessness women are in. Circus work, which requires a great amount of acrobatic training, is a form of performance whose purpose is to entertain viewers. Sharing the common trait of being "entertainers," women in mainstream society have always been subject to the male gaze in both bearing and image, the demands of which are a range of such objectifying labels as perfect makeup and thinness. Each is part of the unseen box that constrains women's free development.
"The point of the term 'circus of women' is to give female acrobats confidence and to tell women that if you’ve been intimidated to speak, you can boldly speak now. Your body is yours. If you don’t even like yourself, you won't be happy no matter what you're doing," says #Since1994 director and performer MEI Chih-ling. From her own experiences, she has observed how she often subconsciously caters to custom in everyday life, from starting to use makeup as an adolescent to unhealthy dieting as an adult, in trying to meet mainstream society's completely nonsensical beauty standards. This meaningless effort aimed at pleasing others made her unable to help but continually think about the meaning and value of being a woman and bodily autonomy, hence the inspiration for #Since1994.
From the perspective of six women born in the '90s, #Since1994 guides the audience by elaborating on mainstream beauty standards through props that serve as silent symbols in providing an interpretation of how the world restricts, creates rules for, and looks at women and how women view themselves as women. Through an adept performance of the body, the performers provide an interpretation of the processes of obtaining bodily autonomy, achieving breakthroughs in the face of restrictions, and transforming from passive to active. This mindset overhaul takes place as the performers' bodies interweave and overlap while wearing costumes that do not hide who they are. This shows viewers, regardless of gender, the extension and revival of female consciousness through the most primal, completely unembellished exhibition of the female body. Despite the costumes making the performers appear virtually nude, there is no sense of carnality. Through this pure incorporation of acrobatics into scenes of daily life, the audience is brought along in silently redefining what true "nudity" is and re-exploring the joy and sorrow of women in exposing that.
As for the box of constraint mentioned above, both men and women must deal with the unavoidable expectations of mainstream society, but regarding identity and traits of biological gender, as society has become more open and diverse, gender is no longer binary, and the traditional mindset of women having to modify their appearances to please has met its end. When all of the labels related to exterior appearance are torn off, we can finally stop caring about how others view us and just admire and like ourselves for who we are. In this way, we can take proper care of ourselves, accept the perfection of imperfection, and embrace all of our little faults.
The vocabulary of the body is an element of interpretation in circus performance that is just as important as the props. #Since1994 blends theater into circus with the added touch of contemplation, not only bringing up the issue of affirmation of self-identity but also initiating a silent dialogue with the audience in experimentally breaking down the conventional fourth wall in theater to provide a different perspective and boldly empowering women's bodies from the point of view of a neutral third party.
【2021 Weiwuying Circus Platform】Eye Catching Circus - #Since1994
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