The Fierce Activism of Feminist Theatre in Slut: The Play

October 11, 2013 marked the second commemoration of the International Day of the Girl Child, established on December 19, 2011 by the United Nations General Assembly with Resolution 66/170.

My feminism class attended Girls Speak Out at the United Nations on International Day of the Girl. (photo credit: Ileana Jiménez)

As I entered the United Nations headquarters in New York City for the Girls Speak Out event, I found myself glancing around the crowded UN meeting room in astonishment and, once again, I felt just like a tourist in the immensity of the city. My wonder overlooked the formality of the room that I’d only seen through the lens of  media and film.  I was overwhelmed with the sense of unity and closeness that the event inspired.

October 11, 2013, marked an important moment of awakening for meas a girl. The leaders and moderators before me were girls, for once, and not adults. As one Indian girl activist said from Nine is Mine, “Children are not just citizens of tomorrow, but citizens of today,” affirming how important it is for children to advocate on behalf of children. A group of girl activists was there to testify their devotion to their causes and the spirit of union that brought them to push forward with enthusiasm and to change what surrounds them through their wonderful stories and experiences.

Through my own experience at Elisabeth Irwin High School, where just a few days before I had the occasion of sharing stories that are at the core of my identity during  our feminism assembly for International Day of the Girl, I learned the effort that it takes to talk about stories and events that are so intertwined with one’s own sensibility and the relief and joy that sharing them brings afterwards. I grew up in an Italian culture that imposed silence and skepticism over differences in girls’ behaviors and, rather, privileged those who filled their thoughts with conversations written by convention and found amusement in forced acts of playful submission to the alpha boys. I know that breaking these barriers is a challenge; the opposition to diversity was overwhelming for me, at first, and I struggled to find myself beneath the images of others.

Myself sharing an excerpt from my personal essay on cultural messages imposed to girls. (photo credit: Lexie Clinton)
Here I am sharing an excerpt from my personal essay on cultural messages imposed to girls. (photo credit: Lexie Clinton)

My recent experience of seeing the production, SLUT The Play,  a show that featured exclusively young girls was life-changing. Described by Gloria Steinem as “truthful, raw, and immediate.”

Steinem’s words convey precisely what the experience of SLUT was for me – purely disturbing. Thus, revealing. I find the term “show” to be almost restrictive, when considering the power and importance of the claims between the lines. SLUT dares to break the barriers through which my Italian culture has taught me to experience diversity and interpret others’ behaviors.

I can’t claim to understand in any way the position of girls that happen to find themselves under the outraged stares, as the characters were, of a strict judgement of their environments – I’ve had the privilege not to be a direct victim of rape, but I felt a strong connection to them, with a terror that I’ve found within me.

Victim of abuse, protagonist Joey Del Marco (Winnifred Bonjean-Alpart) finds the voice to speak up, though to her surprise she has to deal with the consequences of her voice, and not with the relief of the help of others.  I recognized what I had already seen before and around me. I found something within me as well. This girl had dared to speak. It was her mute, symbolic action that impressed me the most. The supreme blame of her rape discouraged everyone to consider the nature behind an unexpectedly, non-stereotypical openness in a potentially bright young woman, and instead tried to oppress this beauty with the isolation that judgement can provoke.

I gave a standing ovation to this inspiring play. The girls stood before me, so young, yet so mature, wearing proudly their beliefs and their courage to take a stand for others, who hadn’t found the same energy. They did not fear judgment. They seemed invincible. Though their courage might have been perceived negatively where I grew up in Italy, here in New York they seemed at home before the fascinated eyes of the public. They seemed to be in blissful enthusiasm. Their ease with their beliefs was astonishing, as they did not show any signs of tiredness.

These girls inspired me to move past the first impressions that my skepticism had gotten used to; their young enthusiasm, and yet their adult, immense strength, and their devoted commitment inspired me. They showed me the importance of finding one’s voice for promoting change.

I experienced their activism through their presence. Their stories and their words enriched my experience. Seeing these girls stand before me was revealing and showed me how to find the strength to stand out and show my devotion to what matters most. They reminded me of the words of Melissa Heckman, when she describes the peculiarity and importance of relations between women: “My femme friendships are a mutual celebration of our brilliance, beauty, strength, power, heart and soul. Ultimately feminist, we heal through loving each other in a world that teaches us to mistrust each other.

The girls who acted in the play SLUT celebrated of the beauty of different images of self. October 11, 2013, marked an important moment of awakening for me as a girl, as I saw the potential that I learned right before me: concrete, beautiful, and not merely ideal anymore.

17 thoughts on “The Fierce Activism of Feminist Theatre in Slut: The Play

  1. It is really interesting to hear about your italian culture and how that has imposed certain values like being silent, but that you know the importance of breaking these barriers. It seems as if this class has helped you find yourself “beneath the images of others” and inspired you to challenge what you had gotten used to.

  2. Your piece is extremely powerful and well written. What surprised me most is the loudness of it. I am so used to your quiet demeanor. This piece shows your passion for feminism and your understanding of oppression even if you have not experienced it, this is evident when you say ” the alfa boys” and express your sympathy for Joey. My reaction to the play was similar to yours, I was disgusted but more so I was horrified and I pitied the fictional character whose story is more common than we think.

  3. Great piece Giulia! I appreciated your reflection on the United Nations and the way you valued the fact that there are actual girls speaking out instead of adults. I also agreed with your reaction to Slut the play and I am glad that you feel as inspired and moved as I did. Great job!

  4. The fascinating part to your blog post was when you described how you’ve been raised in Italy to “impose silence and skepticism over differences in girls’ behaviors.” It shows that the girls in the play Slut are unfortunately the minority in the world and there is still so much we, as young girls can do to spread our awareness of female oppression.

  5. I was excited when seeing that you wrote about kids like us speaking out. When I think of the United Nations, I think about leaders. When I think of leaders, I often picture someone powerful, with wisdom, and great experience. I agree with your point that its important to speak up, regardless of age.

  6. I also enjoyed seeing the play Slut. Like you, I have never been in the position of any of the girls in the show, but I still felt a strong connection and I felt empowered. Even when she is blamed and interrogated by the authority and “friends” for her own assault, Joey continues to fight for her dignity and justice. As I have always been quiet, I wonder if I was ever in Joey’s position, would I have the courage and strength to speak up? Unfortunately, I know that many cases of sexual assault still go unnoticed and unreported. I felt empowered by Joey’s confidence and ability to stand up for herself, even when all odds were against her.

  7. PERSPECTIVE!!! I love discussing this idea of perspective and about how viewing different issues in different perspective makes a huge difference. Your story the different perspectives of culture and I am really glad you brought that up because it is very difficult to view those different sides of the story unless you actually live them. I am also really glad that Slut the play made you feel the way it did. I know when I came out of that play I was unbelievably impressed and I am glad that you were as well with the way those girls broke the barriers that you had grown up with.

  8. I like how you compare the voice of girls in New York to the Italian culture you were born in to. My favorite line when reading this post was “they did not fear judgment,” this line explains perfectly how Diana and the girls at the UN felt. I l enjoyed being able to hear more about your reactions to the United Nations and the play because these are things that are all different to you. When you read your essay you spoke about being in Italy and I wanted to hear more. Reading this post I felt like I was interested mostly because I wanted to hear about your impression to all of this. On our way to the United Nations you told me how you never had a class like feminism before and you were excited to go to the day of the girl. I never got to hear about your reaction until now. I’m glad you are passionate and inspired.

  9. It’s wonderful to see how much the girls at the UN and how much girls all over the world inspire you, and how they show you the courage to stand out and try to break the barriers of your Italian culture that “imposes silence and skepticism” over others. In contrast to your quiet manner, I think the girls have really shown you the importance of promoting change, and the passion is within you.

  10. It was really interesting reading about your Italian culture. I also love how that you are breaking those barriers even though it is hard.
    I honestly agree when you describe SLUT: the play as disturbing. It was very very hard to watch, but I am so glad that this is play seen by the public because the world needs to hear those kinds of stories.

  11. I also found it very moving to see girls just like you and me able to stand tall and be confident and speak to a room full of important people about things that they were passionate about. There is a lot of pressure that goes with that and I aspire to be like these girls. I also agree that the Slut play was very powerful in its message and was very clear for it to be an all-girl cast. The use of dialogue was not only very effective but very clever with the flow of the story line.

  12. I like how you described being at the UN as feeling like a “tourist” because I felt the same way being in that room because it was so unbelievable to be able to be in that room and sit in those chairs. I was also very interested by your comparison of SLUT: The Play to your Italian culture and how the play could be perceived “negatively” in Italy since I don’t know the culture as well as the ones I know in New York.

  13. Giulia, I really liked your description of the UN International Day of the Girl, and also loved “the sense of unity and closeness that the event inspired.” I also agree with the activist who said ”Children are not just citizens of tomorrow, but citizens of today,” because it is so important for children to speak out for themselves and advocate for change. I really appreciated your statements about your contrasting cultures, the “silence and skepticism over differences in girls’ behaviors” that you experienced in Italy, versus NYC’s “blissful enthusiasm” for the outspoken girls in Slut play. My experience of the play was very similar to yours, because I, too, “recognized what I had already seen before and around me. I found something within me as well.”

  14. Your piece is beautifully written and is very cohesive throughout, so i really can absorb what you are saying easily! I liked very much reading about your reaction to slut the play, and it’s impact on you, I think it is very powerful when you said that you “experienced their activism through their presence.” Which completely links back to earlier in your post when you said that you were inspired by the young speakers at the U.N., and hopefully we were that to some girls at our school during our assembly! Beautiful writing again, i enjoyed this piece very much.

  15. Your piece is excellent in that you show your shift from your Italian culture being one of the main lens you saw life through to you using multiple lens. I would say my favorite part of your piece is the line that says “SLUT dares to break the barriers through which my Italian culture has taught me to experience diversity and interpret others’ behaviors.” You expose the barriers that culture places upon us. And you and your story show that these barriers are invisible but not invincible.

  16. It is really nice to hear your perspective of our culture here in America. However, it saddens me to say, that I feel as though we are all in the same boat in terms of the shock from the things we are learning. I think our class has gotten so close because we are making this transition together, despite where we come from. I really like how you said, ” October 11, 2013, marked an important moment of awakening for me as a girl, as I saw the potential that I learned right before me: concrete, beautiful, and not merely ideal anymore.” Because there is so much power to that statement, it has become personal.

  17. Giulia, as many of our peers have said, perspective is the key word in your beautifully written piece. When it comes to the usage of the word slut, because I have been raised my whole life in an American background, I have obtained one perspective of the word; throughout my life it meant that you were “promiscuous” you did not have sexual morals, it was a dirty word. It was interesting to read so clearly about your Italian culture and the lens you were raised in and how that differed from the eloquent and strongly opinionated person you are now! Great job!

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