Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Desdemona, Juliet and Constance Meet the Third Wave

Academic journal article Resources for Feminist Research

Desdemona, Juliet and Constance Meet the Third Wave

Article excerpt

In this article, the author explores a product of Canadian theatre, the play Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) by Ann-Marie MacDonald, and demonstrates how its continuing popularity may be due to an engagement with sexual politics and postmodernism the author considers fundamental to third-wave feminism.

Dans cet article. I'auteure examine un produit du théâtre canadien. Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) par Ann-Marie MacDonald, et propose que l'engagement de la pièce avec la politique sexuelle et le postmodernisme que I'auteure considère comme étant fondamentaux à la troisième vague du féminisme, est possiblement responsable pour la réussite continue de la pièce.

Kelly Thornton is Artistic Director of Nightwood Theatre, Canada's longest-running feminist theatre company, which is based in Toronto. Under Thornton's leadership, Nightwood has developed a new theatre program called Busting Out for girls twelve to fifteen years old. The program is designed to encourage girls to express themselves and to introduce them to the idea that the images they see in the media are not the only images of women available to them. Thornton calls the grassroots initiative "a hardcore feminist action," and expresses the hope that the program will eventually find its way into the school system, with girls serving as leaders for other girls: "It can be like Brownies!"' (Thornton interview, 2002).

I begin with this anecdote because it illustrates the kind of attention being paid to girls in contemporary feminism, and does so in the context of Canadian theatre. In this article, I will look at another product of Canadian theatre, the play Goodnight Desdemona (Good Morning Juliet) by Ann-Marie MacDonald. I want to demonstrate how its continuing popularity may be due to an engagement with sexual politics and post-modernism that I will define as fundamental to third-wave feminism, and how these issues are particularly evident in performance. The proliferation of books and articles published around the turn of the millennium that attempt to address the complexities of feminism for young women suggest that girls have a wider array of possible models and definitions than ever before.21 am not the first to point out, however, that some of those identifications may not necessarily look empowering from a second-wave feminist perspective. But I will go further and say that challenging, contradictory representations of young women lie at the heart of what is now being called third-wave feminism.

This was my interest in attending a conference entitled Third Wave Feminism, held at the University of Exeter in July of 2002.3 Identity, representation, and cultural production are issues particularly pertinent to third-wave feminism, which was sometimes referred to at the conference as "choice-ism." This phrase was meant to imply that a supposedly unified feminist agenda of the second wave, of the 1960s through the early 1980s, has been fragmented to the point where it is left to the individual to define an individualized feminism. In the work of such recent third-wave writers as Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards (Manifesta: Young Women, Feminism and the Future), this translates into a playfulness with representation and identity. The most frequently cited example from popular culture is Madonna, an icon celebrated for her willingness to don and discard one image after another. Inherent in the feminist embrace of playfulness is both a dismissal of sexual stereotypes, through rendering visible their arbitrariness, and a campy celebration of femininity. While these projects might seem to be contradictory, they are central to the third-wave insistence on redefining, literally, what feminism looks like.

As the conference organizers explained it in their call for papers, the event was an attempt to "capture a definition of third-wave feminism(s) in order to redirect feminist enquiry without acceding to the defeatism implicit in [the term] postfeminism. …

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