Over August’s last weekend, MNAC hosted the opening for the show “Because you’re worth it”, an “observational active art” project signed by Sever Andrei, Irina Gâdiuţă, Bogdan Georgescu, Vlad Georgescu, Andrei Ioniţă, Sînziana Nicola, Mihaela Sîrbu. As part of the Political Theater Platform of 2015, an independent theater festival that brings together performative works built around hot issues of contemporary society, Because you deserve it questions the woman’s right over her own body. It’s a purely feminist show, simple and honest, which analyzes and exposes a reality without alterations and special effects.
In a minimalist set-up, four people dressed in fashionably cool baggy and totally asexual dresses have a conversation in the spotlight. The stage seems to be a cheap version of a TV studio for talk-shows. The whole show appears as if it was a girly meeting on Euforia TV! The discourse is rudimental and dry, filled with clichés and conservative turning points. Bogdan Georgescu brings to the stage a reality that is, as they say, better than any movie. The staged dialogue is about psycho-emotional pro-life issues, sprinkled with reflections by all sorts of “persons with opinions” from all over the Romanian mass-media. The woman as a subject is the object of various discriminatory opinions based on pseudo-science or emotionally-ridiculous expertise.
The main plot line places the action in the middle of a pro-abortion counseling. The scene is static and the talk is persuasively dominated by the two counselors who are preachers for the absolute “goodness” while standing out with a multitude of auto-sufficient gestures. Only during the second part of the show do we hear a shy, trembling voice coming from a corner: the pregnant woman – this whole comedy was staged for her. There is (or was) a bill meant to impose this type of psychological torture as a mandatory practice before any abortion. For some, the drama of getting an abortion is not enough: an invasive practice that institutionalizes oppression must also take place. If I wouldn’t know that the idea behind the show is based on real life, I would have had a good laugh while enjoying this feminist version of “One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest”. Any kind of amusement pales in comparison the gravity of the predictable consequences for these comically absurd situations. When everything becomes too ridiculous, the show is interrupted by “live transmissions”, text fragments and quotes from articles that are meant to validate or aggravate mythologies that daub, with an incredible consistency, the idea of discrimination against women. The narratives intersect, overlap, complete each other or disagree in order to keep the viewer on the edge of his seat up until the very end.
“Because you’re worth it” begins with the reading of a recent article (in Romanian) “Career woman, no children, 40 and single, a nuclear bomb with a slingshot effect”. I remember the exact moment when this article became viral: it would pop-up on my news feed along with disappointed or angry feminist comments. I had an excellent auto-conservative intuition back then: I ignored the link because I thought I should live and let live. The text is a kind of psychosis made up of old and new clichés and sympathy for career driven women. Even the limits of misogyny pale in comparison to the ridiculousness. During the show I learned that one of the article’s authors is a medical graduate: a psychiatrist. This authority of this opinion is reinforced by the medical expertize: an aggravating circumstance for publicly discussing a bunch of retrograde thoughts based on the generalization of some speculative observations should remain reflections that ought to be discussed with testosterone fueled enthusiasm only during half-time. Déjà vu? In the 1880s, during a conference at the Romanian Athenaeum, Titu Maiorescu held a misanthropic talk that justified excluding women from public life for so-called biological reasons: women have smaller brains than men. Sofia Nădejde (Hope) then publishes, in issue 24 of the magazine Contemporanul (The contemporary man), a scientific argument as a reply that dismantles, with pure logic, Maiorescu’s claim. The dialogue between Sofia Nădejde and Maiorescu is a triumphant moment in Romanian feminist history that has undoubtedly contribute to the emancipation of women. I wonder why some of us are still stuck in that era.
“Because you’re worth it” is an “open work” that brings to the feminist audience a novel experience: in a society that is traumatized by the old communist decree which stated that each mother should have at least 4 children, the surrealism of “pro-life” discussions remains obsolete and problematic. I wonder how a person who isn’t “pro-choice” would view this show. They probably wouldn’t pick up the very fine subtleties with which Bogdan Georgescu chooses to (apparently) uncritically handle a delicate subject.
Valentina Iancu (b. 1985) is a writer with studies in art history and image theory. Her practice is hybrid, research-based, divided between editorial, educational, curatorial or management activities ...