LISTEN: Katherine’s LISTEN Experience
by Katherine Kotowski, July 2013
I find it difficult to believe that with all the progress, and accomplishments that the human race has made, that we still have to deal with issues like human rights and gender-inequality. We have landed on the moon, but women all over the world are treated as second class citizens.
Earlier this year I was talking with one of my male friends about gender-inequality after a history class in which we had discussed current events in different countries. During this conversation, I found out that he believed that gender-inequality is an issue world wide, but not in the United States. I remember being shocked and a little bit angered by his words. I have witnessed and experienced this inequality that he claims is not an issue. I suppose for him, it was easier to push this issue away, turning it into something that only happens to other people in far off lands. It is harder to recognize the immediate problems that surround us, and effect our friends and family. Even considering this, I thought that my friend, who I consider to be a generally very aware person, would see something that I see every day on television, the streets, politics and the working world. I began to wonder who else around me, male and female, may not recognize gender-inequality and male-supremacy as an immediate issue.
This thought festered in my mind, and a few days later my friend Maryam asked me if I wanted to join this “women, acting, India thing” she was going to participate in. I said “Sure”, not quite knowing what to expect. So just like that, Maryam, myself and two of our other friends became a part of LISTEN and The Other Side project. When we got together we began to create a play based on our experiences as girls to send to(NAME OF THE SCHOOL), an all-girls school in India. We talked and talked and we created a few short scenes that we believed would be universally relatable. We also concentrated on empowerment and how we could try to be stronger. During these talks we shared stories about times when we had felt less than equal. This made me feel closer to the other girls and to the people working with us. The next day we performed our play and filmed it for the girls in India. I felt that having shared my thoughts, feelings and frustrations with an audience made our experiences suddenly feel even more real.
Months passed, and then I got an email telling me that it was time to reconvene and see what the girls in India had created. I was excited to see what they had done, not knowing just how much it would mean to me. When we reconvened, I was greeted by so many beautiful letters that the girls in India had written. Those letters were so beautiful and heartfelt that I still cherish them. After reading all the letters, and receiving jewelry that the girls had sent us we sat down and watched their play. I watched them tell their stories.
One in particular stood out to me. It was performed by the Call Center girls, a group of older girls working at the school. They acted out the story of a young girl who wants to attend school. At first her family is resistant to having their daughter enroll in school, but the girl does not give up. She tells her parents that she needs to get an education so she can get a job and support herself. Finally her parents let her attend the school and she excels there. When she finishes school she applies for jobs. She does not get the first job she applies for, but she tries again and gets one. The story fast forwards and we see the same girl, but now as a mother and wife. Her daughter asks if she can attend school and this time the family does not hesitate in agreeing to let her enroll, they know the value of a good education. This story taught me something very important. It told me that we have a responsibility to fight for what we believe in. If we want social change, we have to advocate for it. Nothing will change if we only hope that it will. We have to tell our stories and make ourselves heard. And that is when I realized the true value of the theater of the oppressed.