Chella Quint - Feminism at the Festival 2018
The awesome Chella Quint is performing this week at the festival and has kindly agreed to answer some of our questions on feminism and performance! Below are her answers and more info on her show. You can find her on Twitter under @chellaquint or @periodpositive
What makes a show feminist for you? For example, does it need to be explicit in saying that the content or performers are feminist? Is a performance feminist, as long as there are female performers/writers/directors and not actively sexist?
For me a show is feminist if it has intersectional qualities of equality and social justice, and represents women or a group of people of all genders in a many-faceted and deep way. See my recommendations below to find out how not explicitly feminist they can be for me while still being feminist. Would you call yourself feminist? Would you call your show feminist, if so how/why?
Yes - definitely and enthusiastically. My show is based on activism around reproductive justice, which is part of a cross-cultural, intergeneraltional movement that has been described as happening in waves. I’m calling this one the Crimson Wave! In my show we look at the language of old menstrual product adverts, and question what we've been told for nearly a century. Questioning the message is feminist and finding the root of embodied shame around menstruation is feminist. My show is feminist because it aims to look beneath the surface of period poverty and find solutions to the capitalist marketing messages and find fun ways to challenge advertising language and be more critical consumers and more empowered menstruators and non-menstruators.
Can you describe any feminist moments you've experienced recently, either at the festival or elsewhere?
I aim for everything I do to be a feminist moment. I put a lot of thought into how I live. Sometimes that means people say I over-think things, but I’m not sure you can really over-think things - I think there’s huge value in trying to see the depth of the impact of your work, your words, your actions, and how they relate to others - and to have dialogues with people and learn about how these choices impact others. It’s also important to not get stuck worrying about whether something is feminist enough. Are you giving more marginalised women a platform, are you using your privilege to elevate, are you recognising your own success every time you take up space or carve out space for you or your work or message? I need to praise myself more and own my successes more - when I do that I think it's a feminist moment, because I'm not immediately defaulting to self doubt, which I don't think is experienced on quite the same level by my straight cis male friends doing comedy.
At the fringe, every time I flyer I have feminist moments - I don’t have a target demographic for my show - the whole point is that everyone can have Adventures in Menstruating, whether they menstruate or not, whatever their gender - so this means I'm constantly talking about periods to people who are not expecting it, and who maybe never talk about periods or only do it using the language and attitudes of old advertising messages. I use puns - it works well. Humour provides a 'good shock' that opens people up to things they weren't expecting. I'm putting something in the open that women have been persuaded to keep hidden and that everyone has become complicit in. And now more people are starting to join in. It's great to have company and feel like this is having an impact. What are your thoughts on the relationship between performance/comedy and feminism? How do you think we (as a society) can use performance/comedy to explore and talk about issues such as tech abuse and gender based violence in general?
I think it's very powerful. It is my preferred form of protest because I can use skills I have to draw attention to what I don't have. Yet. Around tech abuse and gender-based violence, teaching media literacy is crucial so victims and perpetrators can develop awareness of how to navigate online spaces with more agency and accountability. How do you deal with sexism in your life?
I am trying to be more vocal about it by calling it out, refusing to work with venues who support perpetrators or artists who perpetrate gender-based violence, abuse or harassment. It's very tiring trying to provide solutions to people who don't want it to be their problem, so I try to build up resilience privately before I go at it head on. I block twitter trolls, I report transphobic comments about menstruation, I screen cap and log online harassment.
Any self-care tips?
Binge watch rubbish programmes you love on Netflix. If there is support out there, accept offers. Ask for hugs and human contact. Dance. Try to communicate your worries to someone you trust before you let the worries take over. Enjoy the fringe. See shows, create art. Try open spots if you are offered any. Do workshops if you're new to performing.
There is an amazing self care checklist here that I have pinned to my desktop on my laptop. It is the best and is all attributed and everything.
Finally, do you have any feminist Fringe recommendations?
Here are a few you may not have considered:
I've got period based ones in particular - some of them are not EXACTLY period based...
This one is about periods - I met one of the performers at the media day at Fringe Central - I was carrying period stains and she was dressed as a giant tampon so, you know - we hugged and immediately swapped numbers. I can't wait to see her show!
"Blood, sweat, and... tampons? Sara's period just won't stop – she is covered in it – or is it the blood of her last victim that still sticks warm on her limbs? Watch her fight a storm of tampons and confront her ridiculously handsome vegan housemate before breaking out into song while ripping apart raw meat. Anyone can enjoy this visceral cabaret exploration of womanhood, a highly sensory experience featuring live music and physical comedy. After all, everybody bleeds from time to time. "
And this one is also a historical comedy about feminism and the politics of everyday life- CYCLES! Ya get it? It's a show v much in the style of things I like and I don't just like menstrual cycles, I am a total bike nerd too.
""The Freedom Machine” is an audio-visual stand up comedy show, which celebrates 100 years of (some) women’s suffrage by exploring the revolutionary bicycle. The show is on daily from the 1st to the 27th of August (except the 13th) at 2.30 p.m. C Venues: C Royale, The Royal Society, 22 George’s St, Edinburgh. Venue 6."
Werewolves by Nick Phillips
One of my trans masculine friends did a great cartoon about their period - calling it a 'wolf cycle', and I've always thought of that when thinking about reclaiming language around menstruation. I'm also a big fan of board games and interactive theatre, so I'm recommending this show in honour of all that. It's put on by a super feminist guy who's actually a good friend from back in Sheffield who was my old landlord, believe it or not, and also happens to be the quietly supportive husband to a total powerhouse of an amazing producer who now runs Adelaide Fringe, Heather Croall. He's not feminist for show -he really does all he can to privately and professionally elevate women in the arts and use his platform to do so, while getting on with his own work and taking up a reasonable amount of space and no more. But he's a funny and talented guy and this show is loads of fun. He's giving two free tickets to the raffle at the Bloody Big Brunch so come along!
Aaaand If you're not at the fringe and happen to be in London, Mae Martin is always brilliant - I bled in her audience once after a bad fall (I'm a faller.) and we each keep retelling the story whenever we gig together or see each other. It gets worse each time with even more blood and guts and gore and emergency responders. I think the summer before last, Mae included an air
ambulance. I still have an impressive scar.
Thanks for those amazing answers, Chella! Be sure to catch her show at the festival this week. Details below:
"After a slew of excellent reviews in 2016 for her full run of “Adventures In Menstruating,” Chella is bringing back the popular show from 7th – 11th August to once again raise awareness of period poverty and offer poignant, funny and practical solutions to the issue. This updated show, still on the PBH Free Fringe, will also highlight the incredible strides that have been made in the growing movement to end period poverty, and the serious importance of challenging taboos."
7th Aug 18:20, Banshee Labyrinth Chamber Room - Adventures in Menstruating with Chella Quint
8th Aug 18:15, Banshee Labyrinth Cinema Room - Adventures in Menstruating with Chella Quint
9th Aug 12:45, The Three Broomsticks Room 2 - Me Plus One - Improv With Two People: Chella joins host Mara Joy to create an entirely unique two-person show based off the audience’s period stories.
10th Aug 22:10 - Banshee Labyrinth Banqueting Hall - Adventures in Menstruating with Chella Quint including ‘flashblob’ of STAINS™ spoof fashion line.
11th Aug 12:00 – 16:00 – The Central Library - Brunch from 12, talks and WaterAid VR film from 2, all-ages performance of Adventures in Menstruating with Chella Quint at 3 pm [more info here]