What screams i'm sexist

Debate about sexism - Intimidating and screaming - the rules of the game in theater schools?

SRF: In your essay you write about discrimination and intimidation at a Berlin theater school. Above the text emblazoned a question: "And what does that have to do with sexism?"

Darja Stocker: The time I described is now many years ago. At first I wasn't sure whether I should mention the experiences there again. But I wanted to document the past, because intolerable conditions cannot be retrospectively, but can be prevented in the future.

At first glance, many of these conditions have little to do with sexism. At the writing school in Berlin there are very old-fashioned forms of oppression: intimidation, yelling, and sometimes manipulation. These are relatively easy to identify.

The title asks this question not only in relation to the Berlin University, but also for the entire German-speaking theater area: its institutes, writing schools, but also the theaters.

What forms of oppression occur in German-speaking theater?

There is a more structural and more subtle form of discrimination there: certain people do not even appear as protagonists in the theater.
A majority of men over 40, from a middle-class environment and without a migration background, have the say - the others are simply not there. This also applies to women.

What consequences does this absence have for theater operations?
Because women are rarely in positions of power in theater institutions, they are talked about, written about and staged - but there are only a few female speaking positions. Women directors who communicate with their bosses on an equal footing are still a minority.

I'm not about bad men. Rather, I am criticizing a system that provides a certain type of power position. It's the same system that has almost exclusively placed men on price lists for decades.

In this respect, the theater even lags behind neoliberal structures. For example banks that have themselves developed strategies for diversity.

What role do the training centers play in this process?

My utopia would be for the school to open a door for those people who did not grow into being an artist from their family. It could be a place where you think about the society you live in.

As long as there are almost only men in the management of the schools, none of this takes place. Instead, you have a power imbalance right from the start. You are subject to an arbitrary system and can play or leave.

You describe drastic incidents at the writing school, border crossing towards students. Are these now isolated cases?

I thought at first that I had experienced an extreme example. It is also my perspective, it may be that other students perceived it differently. In the meantime I have received many letters from various universities where such intimidation tactics are also practiced.

The power structures go beyond the university: while the schools are already scaring off and rejecting people, this continues in the workplace. Actors, for example, are reduced to their physiognomy in a racist or sexist way and are only considered for certain roles. For example, as “the foreigner” or “the woman with the headscarf”, and not as “the architect” or “the student”.

Are you confronted with such stereotypes in your job as a playwright?

The ensembles of the houses usually do not reflect the reality of life in which I find myself. My friends and parts of my family have roots outside Europe or come from other backgrounds.

In the theater I still find a bourgeois white world.

In the theater, however, I still find a bourgeois white world that, when it comes to women, repeats a very classic image of femininity. As a result, I am relatively limited as an author.

To what extent does the university environment have the potential to change such structures?

College can empower people to tell their stories. So one shouldn't say: Your story doesn't interest us, or the market doesn't care because there are no suitable actors or structures for it. Rather, one should say: We want to know what you have to say and we support you with it.

I envision a university that encourages students to trust their own ideas and put them into practice. A university where conflicts that take place in society are discussed from different perspectives.

Students are currently joining forces to debate sexism in drama and writing schools.What can they do?

I think a lot of things play out in the details. Incidents where you first think: This is ridiculous, I ignore it. But these are behavior patterns that lead to exclusion, discrimination and, in some students, depression.

A discussion sometimes has to be forced with protest.

I think it's about students learning to identify something like that. And say something like: This joke is old-fashioned and clichéd, but it has an effect. Somebody was made small.

It doesn't have to be about opening fronts. But I think there are debates that only come to the fore with protest.

Interview conducted by Mirja Gabathuler.

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Darja Stocker (* 1983) studied drama writing at the Berlin University of the Arts (UdK) from 2006 to 2009. As an author, she wrote her version of “Antigone” for the Basel Theater and was a guest at the Berlin Authors' Theater Days.

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