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Helena Jackson on raising the awareness of women’s disease Endometriosis, through the platform of theatre.

 

Never heard of it?  Precisely.  Yet it effects 1 in 10 woman 

 

“ … after all, being a ‘woman’ means far, far more than staining your knickers once a month”

Baby Box Final Image

 

On raising the awareness of women’s disease Endometriosis, through the platform of theatre ...

 

"Feminist theatre might be going through a wondrous revival nowadays (thanks to all the kick-ass female theatre-makers refusing to stay quiet), but this doesn’t mean that the genre is having an easy ride. We’ve all heard the age-old stereotype of ‘comediennes’ (urgh) only being able to be funny when talking about either sex or periods, and are consequently facing a bit of a backlash in terms of chatting about ‘lady problems’ (ie forcing bits of womb and blood out of your vagina) when onstage.

“ … after all, being a ‘woman’ means far, far more than staining your knickers once a month”

 

Not that this is a bad thing – after all, being a ‘woman’ means far, far more than staining your knickers once a month – but it also means that very serious issues connected to menstruation tend to disappear into the ether. Endometriosis is one of these; not just a disease that hasn’t often made an appearance in theatrical terms, but one that seems to be fundamentally misunderstood by society as a whole.

 

Endo is a nasty condition where cells similar to those lining your uterus occur elsewhere in the body – and yet keep their habit of bleeding and shedding when the hormones kick in. This can lead to agonizing cramps, chronic pain, trouble conceiving, fatigue, swellings etc etc, and affects a whopping 1 out of 10 women in the world. That’s 10% of the entire global female population – and, yet, it receives a fraction of the funding that other diseases with similar statistics do (diabetes, for example). Sufferers also have to cope with being disbelieved by friends and family (after all, periods are meant to hurt), trivialized by the medical profession (‘don’t worry, when you have kids you’ll be too busy to be in pain’) and sometimes choose to undergo a hysterectomy because of the chronic agony. It really sucks.

 

Societal reaction to endo, however, is just an example of the disgraceful attitudes many hold towards female pain – particularly female sexual pain, or anything to do with female genitals. Shows that discuss this include the marvellous Ad Libido and The Internet Was Made For Adults (both having played at this year’s VAULTS festival), and both contained characters that waited for years to get any kind of diagnosis. This is a hugely common theme surrounding gynaecological diseases, and it’s been proven that doctors are far more likely to consider female pain as a psychiatric issue – mood-based rather than because of any physical symptoms. The obvious basis of this misconception is in the concept of the ‘hysterical woman’, but one would think that this trope might have become less pervasive over time."

 

Baby Box at the King’s Head Theatre seeks to expose these issues while focussing around a tale of the unconditional love between sisters. Having female stories onstage is just as important as having women themselves treading the boards – and now is the time to get up and start shouting about these wisps of invisible sexism that permeate our society. Stand up, stand strong and #FuckThePatriarchy.

 

Helena Jackson is Junior Associate Director at King’s Head Theatre

 

BABY BOX by Laura McGrady and directed by Helena Jackson is at King’s Head Theatre 1 – 6 May, 8.30pm.  Tickets and more information can be found HERE

 

  HAVE YOUR SAY

  This month director Helena Jackson

Endo Helena headshot