One Thing More #WakingTheFeminists closing speech, Abbey Theatre

One Year Later, 1800 homeless women live here in Ireland.

One Year Later, over 1000 women live in direct provision here.

Over 3,000 women here have had to travel abroad for an abortion.

And the time to close the gender pay gap globally has widened to 170 years.

One Year Later, I had wanted to talk of Hope, but the outrage remains.

Making theatre is a privilege – it’s not life or death. Behind each of these numbers is a woman in a life or death situation. If we can’t make room for the marginalised to share their own voice from our stages, then what the hell are we here for?

If any of you doubted the real-world consequences of permitting male characters such wide ranging scope to do whatever they want and still be credible figures of power, while vastly restricting female characters’ access to powerful identities:  LOOK AT WHAT JUST HAPPENED [US election result].  That came from our CULTURE.  WE shape our culture, and how we shape it has consequences.

Women are central to the great events and issues of our time.   Our place is not at the cultural periphery, because inequality of voice compounds the inequality of our power.  Exclusion festers until it explodes. Listening to predominantly male narratives, is not only delusional, it’s dangerous. In failing half our talent, we fail our art, we fail our culture, and we fail our society.

Attentive listening and inclusion of other voices is a powerful restorative. Equality is not a luxury we can afford to defer. Equality is a muscle that improves with Feminism and exercising Feminism daily strengthens everyone of us.

Getting in touch with my own dormant feminist muscle through #WakingTheFeminists has been an immense privilege and a transformative experience.  Each of us working on the campaign will carry this learning into every area of our future endeavours. It will not be lost.

To female artists, this year you have heard loud and clear – your gender does not make you less capable of creating extraordinary theatre.  Your voice is vital, and we need it. The flaw is not in YOUR talent or ability, it is in our perception of it.  LOOK AT THIS, THIS IS WHAT COLLABORATIVE, FEMINIST POWER LOOKS LIKE, and it is a JOYOUS, playful, inclusive thing.

To male artists, thank you for listening and thank you for your support, for recognising value of #WakingTheFeminists in all our creative lives. I hope you understand that this movement is about expanding all our opportunities and talents, not diminishing anyone’s. We welcome hearing more from you in this conversation, because all want the same thing really – to live creative lives to our fullest potential.   

Now, the point of any public campaign of protest is to get a seat at the table – to rebalance the power.  All year, week after week, those of us organising #WakingTheFeminists have been pulling up chairs at all sorts of tables. We have found ourselves at tables we never imagined we’d be sitting at!  So that when you sit down to do your artistic work, you can do so in greater confidence that you will have a fair and equal chance that it will meet the audience it deserves.

And with that opportunity comes responsibility. Women of the theatre –  make your work with an urgency like never before. Take on this research as a creative challenge, not a fait accompli.  Be more ambitious than ever – equality can only be achieved with your full participation and your creative curiosity.  Be brave, be big, be rigorous, but as writer Danai Gurira says: Get It Done.

The research shows us where we can improve. It’s not about blame. It shows none of us are immune to bias.  Numbers are important, but they are not the whole story.  Awareness and action need to work hand in hand. No one organisation can do this alone.   Implementing widely initiatives like the Abbey’s visionary Guiding Principles on Gender Equality will help.

We all have an individual responsibility, AND there is additional onus on our leaders to ensure the appropriate practices to support this change are activated. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the law.

Section 42 of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 places a positive duty on public sector bodies to have regard to the need to eliminate discrimination, promote equality, and protect human rights, in their daily work.

This applies to all bodies financed, even partially, with public money.

To all of you, and especially to you leaders of companies, I know, through all our conversations this year, that each of you believe passionately in equality in your hearts. Together we can to figure out with our heads, how to put what’s in our hearts on our stages. We are not defined by these statistics we have seen here today – use them as a springboard not a weight.

This public phase of #WakingTheFeminists is drawing to a close, it has done its job as rocket fuel for this movement. But, we all know there is more to be done. What comes next is slower and more deliberative, because true change takes time and collective, careful attention to be deeply rooted.

In order to manage the legacy project, we have set up a temporary non-profit company. It’s two aims are to publish the research, and to establish a learning programme in gender equality. Later today, we are coming together with our colleagues in the theatre to continue that work.

Last year we asked you t’ Stand with Us. This year we’re inviting you to make equality a reality within 5 years. Today is our momentous opportunity for leadership. Each one of you decides how this story, this history, plays out – WE have it in our collective power to be the first theatre community in the world to attain and sustain full gender equality. Imagine what that would be like.

All inequality is an outrage. Rage out against it in determination without despair until there is nothing to be outraged about. In this chaotic global moment, let’s open up – ignite ALL our stages with big complex messy conversations, using ALL our talent, ALL our genders, ALL our diversity. Make our theatre a beacon for equity, not a bystander to a burning world. International Women’s Day 2021 beckons us. LET’S GET IT DONE.