In the production Mirror Mirror, playwright Omolala Lamikoran indicts all of us for having one time or another engendered gender-based violence, whilst highlighting the male perspective of the topical social issue.
A collaborative project of Safe Space Initiative and the Dorothy Njemanze Foundation, the 45 minutes production reflects not just our society for making some men prone to violence, but shames even so-called feminists and womanists for often times than not an unconscious perpetrator of gender-based violence.
In the story, couple and recent grandparents, Mr and Mrs Adetutu’s joy turned dark when an innocent joke aimed at delineating society’s value of womanhood, spirals into a difficult conversation of societal stereotyping of both sexes and the abused’s perpetration of gender-based violence.
“I thought it was time that we think about why gender-based violence is prevalent in our society. Not to excuse the actions but to understand the root causes and tackle them effectively. We begin to see those things embedded in men and women that make them enable abuse and violence,” said Lamikoran.
So, while men sexually and physically abuse women, the root cause of that abuse lies in societal norms that have treated men as unfeeling machines, through values like “men don’t cry” unrealistic expectations for boys to shoulder the responsibilities of a man at very tender age, and the fact “that a man is only as useful as his wealth/pockets.
vvtSimilarly, Mirror Mirror shows how we all have perpetrated violence against women – like occasions when we see a victim of gender-based violence and ask– “what did she do to get beaten” or trivialize such issues as “private family matters” or the unconscious assumption that a bad driver “is a woman”. More important, is the reflection that even victims of gender-based violence – encourage their children to bear abusive marriages – for fear of being labelled a failure by society and the fact that it’s all they have known.
However, all good things have its downsides. Mirror Mirror reiterated stereotype that religion and religious denominations engender GBV by encourage women to stay in abusive marriages, when there is evidence to the contrary. It also didn’t address the issue of extreme feminism which often shame women who voluntarily find joy and fulfilment in playing their traditional, biological and gender roles.
Lamikoran, however, noted that in trying to create a balance, as well as address the root causes of gender-based violence, she tried to project the prevalent issues, and will perhaps revisit role of religion and extreme feminism in Mirror Mirror 2.
“We are looking at the root causes of GBV. We are castigating anyone. But there are cases where religious leaders who have much influence over their followers enable GBV.
“I think that every woman should be able to make a choice as to what she would like to do. Be it the choice to stay at home and take care of her children, that’s a good and noble thing to do. It is only when the right of choice and economic power is taken from her that there is problem. That is what I was addressing in the play. There was never a time when the female protagonist chose to stay at home. It was the man who said “stay home”. Taking a woman’s choice away from her is tantamount to infantilizing her, as one without capacity to make her own her choices (as the adult that she is), like “right now, I believe I should stay at home”, or “I believe I should return to work”,” said the head writer at Play Network Studios.
Produced by Dorothy Njemanze, Mirror Mirror, accompanied by an art exhibition comprising over ten paintings by female artistes Ado and Latifa, depicting GBV derived from over 80 GBV cases sourced from the foundation. It is expected to tour the country.
“As an organization that deploys media and technology in addressing GBV arts and theatre are important tools for advocating such cause. The play shows how society influences our thoughts and actions with regards to GBV, gender roles and gender inequality,” said Executive Director, Oluwatosin Akinbade Oshun.
“Art mirrors society. We hope we have stirred in the minds of the people the need to transport these messages far and wide, and that everyone who watched the show will hold up the mirror appropriately in their spheres of influence.