Varadero Josone Festival 2019. Photo: Gabriel Guerra Bianchini.
Varadero Josone Festival 2019. Photo: Gabriel Guerra Bianchini.

Gender violence in show production: changing the game's rules

5 minutes / Amalia Rojas

16.03.2020 / Articles

I don't really remember when I realized that I was sometimes a victim of gender violence. I think I may have sensed it, but either I wasn't conscious enough, or I overlooked it, or solved it, or learned to live with it. In any case, none of those options today works for me.

I started producing very young. I got into the leg of horses when I was 23 years old, being a “streetless” girl who hardly rode a bike or “killed” and never fought at school. I started working with a team of show technicians, all men, for whom I was “the kiddo”. With them I did not take a lot of street, but I had to figure out how they must respect me for reasons other than "having a big ass." Today they continue working with me, and they still look at my ass, but what I say is taken into account, and if it is my turn to set the rules of the game, they comply with them. 

That is one of the main complexes that men involved in show production have: being subordinate to women. Fighting that battle has been, and continues to be today, one of the most difficult challenges of my career. 

The guild of the show is divided according to functions: artists, technicians (sound, lights, tricks, screens, audiovisuals), security teams, drivers, editors, producers and managers. Unfortunately, when you go to a production, the women involved are either producers, or managers, or artists, or —and I am very happy that with more and more presence— camera operators and photographers. It is very strange to find a female sound engineer. Although there are, the disadvantage in numbers with men is abysmal. But with women light designers it is more critical. On second thought, I don't think I know any. And I could continue making comparisons, but I think the essence is clear: in a production of shows, female producers have to deal with countless men who are experts in the rest of the specialties that have to subordinate themselves to our requirements. And there the things get fucked.

Amalia Rojas. Photo: Courtesy of the author.

Amalia Rojas. Photo: Courtesy of the author.

When I came out of the shell that meant that team of technicians I started with, my first encounters with reality came: "the criteria are not negotiable"; "things are done this way because I have been working on this for many years and this is how they are done"; “I am going to do it as you want baby, and so you are indebted to me; we solve that in the room ”; "production must be directed by women or fagots because with a smile and a wiggle they solve everything"; "go to the meeting and put on a tight pair of pants and you will see how you solve everything." The worst thing is that there comes a time when you end up repeating the same phrase and you go with your pants tight and tell him that you will be indebted to him. And you become an abuser yourself, with you. 

But it is only when you see it from another angle that you realize it. 

Today, women not only lead the production of shows, but we get together and team up. So we managed to do great things together. We have women doing general production, general coordination, artistic direction, field production, stage leadership, directing and ordering transport and food, controlling entrances and thousands of others. Women take care of each other, and then we become aware, looking from the outside, of what happens to others. Although I do not know when I became aware that I was being a victim of gender violence, I do know when the other victim was. That is how I saw how a very skinny woman was loaded on stage, how they slapped another and how they ridiculed another (the list of anecdotes is immense).

In terms of gender, professional performance in the entertainment world requires constant improvement. Women have to be educating the people we work with all the time. It is a kind of code, in which you know that, to new equipment, new training. 

Of course, I am sure that this is not only inherent in the production, but it is that just in the show business the female figure is gaining strength, first of all in this area, uniting the others. Today it is women who organize the most important music festivals in Cuba: Jazz Plaza, Fiesta del Tambor, Havana World Music, Varadero Josone Festival, JoJazz... The Gibara Festival, which, although it is not music, has one of its main engines for the public, also has women in the lead. If we enumerate the crews of the best events in Cuba, I am almost sure that the vast majority of the director positions will be made up of women. Could it be a feminine reaction that follows the maxim of "in union is strength"?

Amalia Rojas

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    Short. When you forget (your) ass and you look good in the face, nobody can with you. There is no sex in this business, or you do or you stay; whether you are a man, a woman or a piece of furniture. It is always good to say “Pussy! We did it! You with them, and them and everyone. Without sexism, without asses, without feathers, without leggings. When you put what you put here, you already take for granted the harassment, the ass, and the sex, and also in hundreds. No. We always have to be more.

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