This Sunday the 8th of March is International Women’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate all women and their achievements, but it’s also a good opportunity to recognise the progress that’s yet to be made – particularly when it comes to gender roles.
While society has become more open-minded in recent times, negative stereotypes are still being reinforced from a young age. According to CNN, a 2018 analysis of three studies found “toddler boys are expected to look masculine and play with ‘boy toys,’ while toddler girls were expected to look like girls, play with feminine toys and be communal.”
According to the UN Human Rights, “harmful gender stereotypes are one of the root causes for discrimination, abuse and violence,” and can drive a lasting wedge between the genders.
One organisation that is flipping the script on tired gender roles is Bell Shakespeare, who has just opened 2020 with a new production of the Shakespeare classic, Hamlet, starring a female in the lead role.
We were lucky enough to speak to Hamlet actress Harriet Gordon-Anderson on the latest episode of It’s Been A Big Day For…to chat about how highlighting the toxic masculinity of the iconic tragedy through a female lens is incredibly enlightening for audiences.
“[Hamlet] is incredibly misogynistic,” she said. “We thought it was really interesting to have those words spoken from a female mouth, from a female body and see what that can show us.”
“My biggest challenge with this role was accessing male rage,” Gordon-Anderson revealed. “I’ve been down this horrid spiral of incels and toxic masculinity.”
“The term male range in itself is interesting. There’s something different about the way you walk through the world that comes with a privilege. Not just white privilege, but male privilege,” she said. “It’s someone who has grown up never questioning themselves, never questioning being horrible to someone and that being the right thing to do. His relationship with his mother and all the women around him is of complete unquestioned superiority.”
“It’s given me a broader sense of empathy. It’s coming from pain, from loneliness, and an inability for these young men to express themselves, not be allowed to listen to their feelings and their hearts. That’s the patriarchy and the negative effect it’s having on young boys.”
Bell Shakespeare’s Hamlet is now showing at Sydney Opera House, Playhouse until April 4th. For performance dates in Sydney, Canberra and Melbourne, you can head to bellshakespeare.com.au.