As artists who happen to also be citizens, we often wonder what the world is actually getting of use from us; specifically, we wonder how playing shows for mostly rich old white people performing works by mostly dead (or nearly mostly dead) white dudes contributes to civic culture.
Though we can and do produce incredibly intense and life-changing emotional experiences, the honest response to the question of changing the world is that we probably don’t, and that we do at most maintain a cultural equilibrium—far from invoking the change many of us feel is necessary. What we truthfully provide the world is an escape from harsh realities, and, unfortunately, after we bow and go home, that reality is still there, and there it will continue to be, until quite a few somebodies do something about it.
Luckily, we exist outside the practice room and off the stage, and we can offer our solidarity with the people doing the doing.
For example, March 8th is the International Women’s Strike. It is organized around the Resistance and Refusal of decades of marginalization and oppression. It is, according to organizers, by and for “working women inside and outside of the home, women of color, Native women, disabled women, immigrant women, Muslim women, lesbian, CIS, queer and trans women.” This strike stems from a long tradition of workers using their control of labor to ignite institutional change.
And even when we do not belong to the communities subject to “misogynist policies, […] decades long economic inequality, criminalization and policing, racial and sexual violence, and imperial wars abroad,” we are still directly affected by their presence every day. It is necessary to show support with the resistance through solidarity, because anything less is tacit acceptance of fundamentally unjust social arrangements.
It is our job as artists to tell stories. It is our job as citizens to listen to our communities. So, it’s not that big of a step to combine these two and express active solidarity. Those struggling must not be left alone in Resistance and Refusal if these movements are to gain any ground. All forms of participation are necessary moving forward, from sharing information on Facebook, to marching in the streets, to heeding the call for a one-hour strike and rally in Washington Square on March 8th.
As artists, but also as citizens, we can dedicate our lives to doing more than putting a band-aid on the struggles of existence: it is not that big of a step to recognize our own place among the increasing struggle for more just gender relations, and a more just world. We aren’t good citizens if we don’t participate in the life of our communities, and we aren’t good artists if we don’t leave the practice room.
So get out and march. Our future depends on it.