Last night, I attended my little brother, Justin's play The Romans in Britain. (okay, it's probably The director's play or SUU's play, but all plays are Justin's plays in my mind, so.... anyways).
The whole play is about imperialism and the effects of imperialism.
Because of my own life history, what affected me the most were references to rape. Justin warned me in advance. The most graphic scene was of a man raping another man. Everyone (myself included) was worried this scene would be triggering to me. (I have been diagnosed with ptsd because of rape and sexual abuse. When I say triggering, I don't mean upsetting. I mean possibility of flashbacks, nightmares and night terrors that prevent me from sleeping, etc.)
Because of the possibility of being triggered, I had to ask myself why I am willing to see a play like this one.
There are two answers:
1. I love watching Justin do what he loves. That brings me so much joy, I am not going to let what some men did to me keep me from that experience!
2. I want to increase awareness of and effects of sexual violence. If I avoid it, who is going to talk about it?
One thing I try to be aware of is why rape is a part of plays, movies or books. Is it to increase discussion? Is it because it happened historically (and this is a historical piece)? Is it to make a point? Is it just there as entertainment?
I don't know the reason it was in the play originally, but I know why Justin was okay with it, and I know how it makes sense in this play. I'm using it as a springboard for a possible discussion.
Rape is a dehumanizing experience. In a play about imperialism, it effectively communicated the way the invading Romans didn't see the Celts as people, or the Irishman didn't see the slave girl as a person, or the Saxon woman didn't see her steward as a person, or the Celtic father didn't see his daughters as people. They were nothing but hurdles to overcome or objects to be used to pass the time. And in return the daughters, the steward, the slave girl, etc. saw their only way out, their only way to safety, was to kill.
Strangely, the victims killing their attackers was far more upsetting to me than the one scene that was supposed to be the one that triggered me.
It wasn't lost on me that the same actor that played the victim of the most graphic scene also played the man pleading for peace. (Well done Henry!)
In my own life, I want to be the one to create peace as much as I am capable. I also want to feel safe in the world. This is the line I try to walk on a daily basis as I choose when to speak up and what to say. It's a hard line to walk. If I say or do nothing, it feels less contentious. When I say or do nothing, I feel powerless and unsafe. Stones don't make me feel safe. My voice and my words do.
Art has the power to start conversations. I would have liked to find a way to say these thoughts to Justin in person, but I didn't have the chance to sort them out until now.
Here are my thoughts. What are yours?