Kate Sheppard and Teresa May have both been labelled as “difficult”. It’s a term that tends to be used by men for any woman who won’t be silenced.
The first written evidence of patriarchal silencing of women is contained in the Lagash Code of 2350BCE. One statute states that “if a woman says [text illegible…] to a man, her mouth is crushed with burnt bricks.”
Court Theatre’s “That Bloody Woman” is an exhilarating and energetic depiction of Kate Sheppard, a woman who refused to be silenced, and was the leader of the movement which led to Aotearoa New Zealand being the first country to give women the vote (Yay!). As well as bringing Kate to life in a personal and moving way, the show portrayed her two firm supporters Jennie Lovell Smith (wife of William whom Kate married after Jennie died), Ada Wells (the first woman elected to the Christchurch City Council in 1917), and her principal opposition, Richard (King Dick) Seddon. The show is a punk rock musical, and perhaps the most entertaining number was the one where Jennie and Ada supplied the f-word, which Kate was too dignified to utter. Their wonderful chorus of ‘F***, f***, f***ety, f***’ will certainly linger in many ears!
The music was loud. I was disappointed that I couldn’t catch some words in the more raucous numbers, and wondered if they’d have been clearer at a lower volume. The feminist vibe was wonderful. No interval in this show, because it would have detracted from the high energy. The season ends on 30 July, and seats are selling fast.
This morning came the news that Teresa May will be U.K. Prime Minister within a few days. She too has been called difficult.
The last word on difficult women comes from U.K. poet, Helen Mort published in nowthenmagazine.com:
In London, it’s said you’re never more than 6 feet
from a difficult woman. Have you or a colleague
had a difficult woman in the last 6 months?
If so, you may be entitled to compensation.
Do you have difficulty with our questions?
Are you afraid you may be difficult yourself?
“So are we difficult if we
want equal opportunity?”