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GUEST POST: What role does theatre have to play in the movement for gender equality?

Caitlin Skinner is Artistic Director and CEO of Stellar Quines, an intersectional feminist theatre company based in Scotland.

Stellar Quines create shows and provide opportunities and support for career development, both on stage and backstage, for creatives at all levels. They believe theatre is a force for change, for collaborating with others and building inclusive coalitions.They commission research and join forces with others to campaign for change, and take their work out into the community with projects that nurture creativity and invite action, all with the aim of achieving greater equality.

Find out more about Hack the Patriarchy and all their other work at

What role does theatre have to play in the movement for gender equality?

An orange image with white and teal circles and the text "Stellar Quines HACK THE PATRIARCHY"

In the middle of all that was 2020, Stellar Quines Theatre Company hosted an online version of a discussion event called Hack the Patriarchy. I set up these events as a freelancer in 2019to create spaces for people who work in the performing arts sector to have more meaningful conversations about gender inequality in Scottish theatre. As I watched the tiny squares multiply on my screen I was in awe of the power that was in the Zoom room. Surely if these people want change, we can make it happen?

There has been an unprecedented cry for change from many in the theatre industry in the last two years. There have been a lot of zoom rooms and twitter feeds holding the industry to account and looking at how the closing of theatres might give us the opportunity to come back better.

So I was keen to see how things might feel different when we launched a new series of Hack the Patriarchy events this year. We have done three so far, with another online event to go before our main all day event at the Edinburgh Fringe which will invite women and non-binary people from across the international performing arts community present in the city in August to look at how the patriarchy is effecting us and what action we can take.

And so far I can see, there has been a real change in the conversation. This time it feels like the industry is listening, it knows it needs to change to survive. That wasn’t the case when we had our first event back in 2019.

But there is a frustration and fatigue with the pace of change, with perceived tokenism and with the feeling that as long as the overall structures don’t change (hello capitalism, hello diminishing government subsidy for the arts) there’s not much that is going to get done. I’ve also heard people express a nervousness in coming to a discussion on feminism because they don’t feel up to date, that they might not have the ‘right’ opinion on an issue or use the ‘correct’ language.

I feel strongly that we can’t let this moment pass despite the frustration and fatigue and that we need to include everyone So, I am asking myself, what can we do about gender inequality in the performing arts but also what role does the performing arts have to play in the movement more broadly?

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