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Oh-Oh, Here She Comes!

Watch out boy, I’ll chew you up. Only joking. I'm not a Maneater. At least, I don’t think I am. The male attention I've received and have responded to has been widely unsolicited. Take it as a compliment? Well, we're only just getting started.


I’ve spent a long time now completing what you can call a PhD RA / Artistic Residency, and I fell ill multiple times throughout this process, even being hospitalised (again! - Bipolar Disorder diagnosis - it's a party) - and I love referring to myself as a Doctor/Artist – though the truth simply is that I am an Artist, (yes capital A), and the Doctor thing feels nice and something I'm proud of for a while and then you and I both get over it. Artists don’t technically need PhDs. Especially not Performing Artists. Every other artistic discipline I ever aspired to contribute to required formal training – in my belief – but I mean, sure there are brilliant painters who never went to art school. I don’t know any architects who didn’t receive formal training – perhaps back in the day? Someone taught them how to do it. And a Master of Arts and Master of Fine Arts are stepping-stones to a PhD - which is really hard work - though technically the MFA is a terminal degree. And so even after an MFA I went above and beyond in my education not because it was a necessity for my chosen line of work - though I wanted to do it, and I have learned a lot - but because I suffer from a deep rooted insecurity. I am terrified that the only thing that matters to anyone is my sex appeal, or whatever else you might call it, and that my Mind and Soul (and Heart?) are of no significance to anyone.


Continue reading.

 

I’ve chosen a superficial industry that has its hidden depths. Sex appeal is high up there, but unfortunately for me, and many others who make this awful mistake in approaching me: I become infuriated when people are attracted to me. It’s strange, it's not really a mistake, but all my defences flare up. Part of me probably loved that sort of attention at one point in time. I did - in my own very complicated way. Then I got older and now this whole ordeal about my play about sexual assault and leaving India, a deeply patriarchal and honour-shame based society, and a knife – symbolising perhaps both the sharing of knowledge and castration – has sort of taken over my life these last few years. I felt traumatised again by the attention or harsh criticism it received though I wasn't surprised. The issue is not that I don’t understand why people are upset by it, or parts of it. I know how life works. I know what people do. Because I, too, am people. But I fought so hard to become educated - and to all girls and women, I would always like to emphasise the importance of education – and many people, especially my parents, made a brave, sacrificial, journey to get me to this point in my life, and stood by me through my break-downs and traumas, and I am so blessed to still have their support. So the knife being removed to share knowledge is fine by me. The castration part? Well, that's a lot more complicated, and heavily, deeply, tied to trauma.

 

But why write about trauma? As I mentioned above, and have exhausted throughout my creative work repeatedly, it opened the door to criticism, attempts at humiliation, shaming – all the inevitable things, which hurt, but I was and still am amused and kind of really glad to have exposed a lot of that mentality and violence (by how people reacted) because it only proved my point, and it continues to prove my point. Of course, as a woman, revealing so-called deviant sexual behaviour always gets everyone riled up. What’s right? What’s wrong? Am I a good woman? Was it my fault? Is male violence real? Yes, it is. So is female violence, sure. And I have experienced it all. And that is precisely why I continued to obsess over my education, ever since I was a young girl, because like I said I am extremely insecure about being seen as attractive or sexy.


I am deeply insecure about the fact that my Mind means nothing. My Soul means nothing. My Heart? Does it exist?


The attention I receive may not exist at all if I didn’t appear or seem a certain way. That unfortunately does bother me. I like the attention sometimes, like everyone else it's nice to be seen as desirable, sure it is. But it's not like I'm a super-model. The ironic thing is I don't even see myself as overly beautiful or glamorous. Then I began thinking - maybe there’s something wrong about the way I am – is that why I was abused? People take advantage of you very readily and easily when they know you have those insecurities. In fact, I do believe the abuse is about creating those insecurities. Those inner battles, and that overall psyche, are incomprehensible to those who bank primarily on their sex appeal. Sadly, for me, that feel-good factor is very hard to access. I suffered intensely from impostor syndrome because of that type of attention, which is ridiculous, because my cerebral accomplishments are exactly that. Cerebral. I know that. I used my Mind to work hard, and my physicality played some tiny part in it perhaps. But my body did not take my exams for me. I know that. Then what’s the problem? It's the fact that people - especially men - down play it all the time. As if, despite those hard-fought-and-worked-for achievements - if I am not willing to be sexualised, then they are irrelevant. Who cares what degrees you have and what you know? I was made to feel that way when I was really young, and I have continued to fight it. But I can see how that would make some sort of practical or logical sense - that type of behaviour - and why many women may respond positively to it. Particularly in the performing arts.


Well, because, actors and artists are meant to be hot. Not always, but it does help. And they are meant to sell sex, alongside talent, but sometimes that transactional nature of the business makes talent secondary. In my view. The golden age casting couch, the relentless sexual competition & exploitation, histrionics, attention-seeking: all of it get's so loud, so overwhelming – and that's when I just stop and look at the performances of some artists I deeply admire when I feel uncomfortable and in serious doubt - just to remind myself that I was right – there is more to all this then just that. There is craft. There is art. It does require more than my body and my face. Some people may be really terrible, but therein lies the separating Art from Artist debate. I just want to get to it all with a little bit of dignity.

 

I want so badly for people to believe I am smart. So badly, that sometimes I feel incredibly stupid. Even though I know I am smart, and talented. It's such a terrible headspace to be in. As though no matter how much I try to emphasise that aspect of who I am - the cerebral part – ultimately, it doesn’t matter. And it creates an awful type of tension. Not to be too crude, but it creates that awful tension between men who feel entitled to sex and women who are willing to put out to get ahead. And vice versa. That’s an inflammatory statement. I know all the debates. It’s exercising female sexuality. It’s about sexual freedom and rights. I love sexuality. I love freedom and rights. However, I am emotionally intelligent enough to know myself – and know that conflicts of interest to me are a cause for concern - they are suffocating - and as much as people would bypass these uncomfortable truths, they are important to address. I can’t overlook them and play a game to sneakily manoeuvre my way through whatever it is that I’m supposed to do to attain success and money. If that's the type of door that is opened to me I can't be asked to walk through it.


I won’t do it.


It is coercion. It is manipulation. It is a violation.


Call it naive, call it arrogant, call it anything you want – I need to talk openly and honestly about the dynamics of every relationship because I know the consequences of not being able to do that. It was a form of death to be told repeatedly to tolerate abuse for the sake of reputation and prestige. It made no sense back then, and it makes no sense to me now either. I have fallen into the deepest depths of depression every time this subject has come up and people have made me feel I am not entitled to my boundaries. How dare you? Like I said, it made no sense when I was a young child, when I had no voice and did and tolerated what others made me do and tolerate, because I knew no better - and it certainly makes no sense to me now.

 

The only great difference now is this: back then I didn’t know how to have a voice, and today I’ve found - or fought like a one-woman-army - to find a way to have one. Even if it’s a tiny, squeaky, annoying, repetitive voice, which is tiring, boring, exhausting. I get it. You want me to shut up about it. You've made that blatantly, aggressively clear.

 

You want shiny and sexy. There is plenty of it out there.

 

Unfortunately for you – and maybe me – here the shiny and sexy comes only after I feel cared and loved for: Mind, Soul, (Heart?) and then Body.

 

If you can’t respect my Mind, Soul, (Heart?) - if it is that inconsequential, too dramatic, asking for too much – I don’t see why you should have access to my body, unless of course I am consenting to the situation.


Consent is everything. I don't look down upon casual sex.

 

However! To sum up:


As a woman in what remains a highly sexist, dangerous, male-dominated, competitive world - I take no pleasure in perpetual victimhood even if I have, very unfortunately, been a real victim of abuse several times in the past - who has then fought repeatedly, and extremely hard, to be heard & believed. Instead, today - right now - I choose to assert and advocate for my right & everyone’s rights to boundaries. I know I don’t need to justify my boundaries to anyone, but sadly they are challenged often, which is why I feel obliged to explain & reassert them, because I suppose some would benefit greatly from my not having any.

That’s scary - in fact it’s terrifying & for me: deeply triggering. My boundaries don’t exist to offend anyone, but serve as protective, advisory guidance from my own lived experience - in the form of policy in my professional artistic practice & studio - and as a means for me to honour & respect myself in my everyday life. If someone doesn’t feel it’s important to understand or respect my boundaries, then I don’t care who they are or what they could offer me — I see absolutely no reason to even bother trying to understand or respect them.


Why should it be any other way around? Why should respect exist on a hypocritical hierarchy that asks me to respect those who don't know the meaning of the word so that maybe I can get a scrap of respect from them? Because even if their practices are violent, they are the gatekeepers, and so I need to respect them so they can respect me? Fuck that.


No.


I was not raised, and I have not created myself, to tolerate such old-fashioned, misogynistic, degrading practices. I will respect you and show you the admiration you desire (since I assume that's why you're seeking my attention in the first place) - if and only if - you consider my emotions, my perspective, and respect me by not treating me like some fucking object. I maintain this policy particularly for those I deeply admire because to me that's a sign of respect. And I hope by showing that respect it will be reciprocated.


Sure, people get emotional, driven, and lust is real and not wrong - I can feel sexual desire for people I admire and respect - but I know when to not even attempt crossing that line.


I have self-control. You don't have any self-control?


Then I wish you all the best. And, don't worry, in that case I'm only too frigid for you. You, who refuse to respect me, and that results in me losing respect for you, too. I really don't need that from you. That doesn't make me a prude. Acting like a professional, or trying to show you my form of respect doesn't mean I'm a bad & judgmental person. All it is is me respecting & honouring my own boundaries. That's all it is. I can't believe I even have to explain that. Because guess what? Just because I'm not willing to cross that line with you, in this scenario of power & uncomfortable, transactional dynamics - that do involve conflicts of interest, that if you're not willing to address: I just can't bring myself to trust you - that does not mean I am not willing to cross that line with anyone else. So don't worry about me.


As they say, there's plenty of fish in the sea.


Oh-Oh, Here She Comes...
















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