As two of the creators of the 2020 show, we see “RISE” as a political statement. It works to bring attention to gender-based violence, intersectional discrimination and various forms of gender disrespect. It unapologetically creates a space for women to stand together against marginalizing systems. It fosters an empowering community through which women from all walks of campus can resist the patriarchy while coming together to celebrate and uplift each other.
One of the show’s many functions is to visualize experiences relating to sex and relationships because society has centered womanhood and women’s bodies around these issues. While in “RISE,” we work to detangle our gender from our sexuality, we also must confront and challenge the reality that many issues of gender oppression stem from the problematic sexualization and exploitation of women’s bodies. Sexual disrespect and unequal power dynamics contribute to rape culture. The numerous stories we receive about the disregard towards women’s pleasure demonstrate that the sexual culture on this campus needs to be challenged as it fosters a culture of violence.
When the first leadership team created “RISE,” it was their intention that the stories represented were a reflection of the true experiences of Bowdoin women, rather than a forced agenda constructed by the leaders. The content of the 2020 production is comprised of genuine lived experiences, and we as a campus must respect and honor them fully. When many stories submitted each year contend with sex and sexuality, it reflects how pervasive these issues are in our community. Our role is to honor and elevate the truths that Bowdoin women voice and we hope that each year it can become more representative of all women’s experiences.
Storytelling is not the only way to create spaces for healing. This show is one of the many ways we as a campus can begin to confront gender-based violence, support survivors and create a safer and more inclusive culture.
On behalf of the “RISE” 2020 leadership team, we offer our biggest thank you to the women who submitted their stories and the women who voiced these stories. Thank you for your strength; we are all better because of it.
Lucia Gagliardone and Eskedar Girmash are members of the Class of 2020.