This study is about—and beyond—the unprecedented revival of cross-gender performance in theatre, especially the male-to-female cross-gender performance of jingju (Beijing Opera), known as nandan. Through years long pre-investigations of the scene, archival work of its history, and case studies of individuals, this project examines the specificity and universality of the (in)coherences between sense of gender, sexuality, gender identities, gender mannerisms, transgressive desires and cross-gender performance behind the advocate of “historical authenticity” and “the return to the social and cultural norm.” Over twenty informants have contributed to the research with their narratives and observations in the scene. The project ends up with the observation that the transgressive potential of performing out of one’s biological sex is peculiar not only to one individual or one theatrical form, but to humankind in general. The conclusions drawn from the qualitative analysis may subvert some of the prevailing epistemologies of gender and sex. Firstly, there is no singular gendered subject. Gender discourse only exists in a “signifier-and-signified” relation to the subject’s perception of other gendered bodies. Secondly, it is not precise to claim that gender is socially or culturally constructed. Gender is reconstructed or amplified out of its ontological attributes based on biological differences, whose existence should be acknowledged. Reiteration does not precisely “do” gender, but may affect it to some extent, as there is a core sense of gendered self, albeit unsettled oftentimes, which is “inalienable” and “inseperatable.” Thirdly, gender may be performable, as in jingju, while gender performance and gender performativity are interchangeable only when they are not placed in a context to discuss their association with identity. In this sense, incoherence does not only exist between gender, sexuality and desires, but also between gender identities, gender mannerisms and gender behaviours. It may be concluded that gender transgression should not be understood on its own terms, but in a context of all social and cultural regulation and institutionalization that regard the interchangeability of signifiers of maleness and of femaleness as a threat to mainstream perception.
'Women make up half the world's population and yet represent a staggering 70% of the world's poor. We live in a world in which women living in poverty face gross inequalities and injustice from birth to death. From poor education to poor nutrition to vulnerable and low pay employment, the sequence of discrimination that a woman may suffer during her entire life is unacceptable but all too common.' The Global Poverty Project.
Millennium Development Goal 3 is to promote gender equality and empower women. This MDG is critical for tackling poverty and improving prospects for women. But how can women break gender based stereotypes to minimise discrimination and reduce gender based violence when they are trapped in societies with socio-cultural practices which routinely discriminate them from having equal opportunities in education, health and livelihood? These women are invisible and the obstacles in their way prevent them from accessing the most basic human rights and needs. The outlook is bleak.
Women make up 70% of the world's working hours and earn only 10% of the world's income and half of what men earn. This leads to greater poverty, slower economic growth and a lower standard of living. In developing countries, millions of women also die each year as a result of gender-based violence. This deep-rooted gender discrimination creates a bleak outlook for women in developing countries. For millions of girls living in poverty, it is often those closest to them who work against the child's interests and their immediate environment is often dysfunctional and sometimes, downright harmful. Parents arrange marriages when you are a child. Neighbours say, if you are a girl, you must limit your activities to your home. Friends say, it is OK not to go to school.
So what is the solution? The World Bank believes that 'putting resources into poor women's hands while promoting gender equality in the household and in society results in large development payoffs'. It is therefore fundamental to nurture their self confidence and empower girls and young women living in poverty to make informed choices about their own lives as well as those of their communities.
Magic Bus' mentoring programme works to enable behavioural and attitudinal change for boys and girls, young people and communities living in poverty in India, focusing on education, health and gender equality. By enabling girls, the world will allow them to be equal participants, with an equal voice, with equal access to opportunities in society. Women and girls in developing countries are currently denied basic human rights, freedom, respect and dignity, so what can the world's girls do to change this? Some questions you could consider in your feature are:
• What role do women have to play in ending global poverty?
• What role can communities play at a grassroots level to create an equal playing field for boys and girls?
• What does the future hold for the girl child living in poverty?
• What impact has the recent global media focus on the rape victim in Delhi had on changing attitudes and behaviour towards women globally?
• Why does gender equality make good economic sense?
• What impact does lack of education and poor health have on a woman's prospects?
• What needs to be done to address cultural and traditional discrimination against women?
• How can women be enabled to break the poverty cycle and have the same rights as men?
Using your own research and investigative methods, you are invited to delve into these issues in developing countries and make the stories behind them come to life. Make sure you use facts to support your article.
Helpful resources to begin your research: