I believe that some of the most powerful ways to draw attention to a political issue are through performance art and making a public spectacle. In my news wanderings today, I discovered two very interesting examples of this.
The first, was a woman in Cairo who dressed in a formal white wedding dress and wandered the streets. She did this to make a statement about how woman in Egypt are pressured into getting married and producing children. This woman is only 27 years old, an interior designer and working on getting her MA in performing arts. She has years ahead of her to find a mate and marry. However, her family is already saying she is an old spinster. Egypt is known for having conservative values, and so perhaps this isn’t surprising that the culture pushes marriage and home life.
But what struck me most about this news piece, and this very blatant performance art piece about feminism, is that this is a pressure I feel as well. In the last month, 6 of my childhood friends have become engaged. 2 other friends have already had babies! And I am only 21. And, as ridiculous as it is, when I see their announcements and engagement photo’s on my Facebook feed, I feel lack I am somehow inadequate and don’t compare to them. It couldn’t be sillier, I should feel wildly successful with all that I have accomplished in my life thus far. I graduated with my BA two years early, I was awarded a prestigious international scholarship for my Master’s degree, I am the president of a staff student association, and I am a member of a university sports team. I am in no way lacking of accomplishments, but I still feel as if I don’t equal my friends because I am nowhere near getting married.
It is insane that I feel the same about marriage in a modern, liberal, country as a woman who lives in the conservative Middle East. I am truly inspired by this single Egyptian woman for having the courage to be so outspoken about a feminist issue. While society’s pressure on woman might not be viewed by most as a political issue, I think it is. Society is what sets politics. Woman still feeling like marriage is a requirement to females is an important political issue that should be discussed more. And luckily, this Egyptian non-bride is sparking that conversation.
The second, and equally entertaining of using public spectacle to draw attention to a political issue takes place across the world in Changsha, China. A Chinese court has just approved the installation of a massive T.V monitor screen outside of the city train station. On this screen will be displayed the photos, and details of people who have committed a crime, been ordered a fine, but have neglected to pay. I think this is absolutely brilliant! No longer will people be allowed to be dead beats! If a co-worker notices your picture on the screen, and comes to work asking you about it, the shame and embarrassment will be enough to force you into paying! Sadly, I don’t think America or the UK could get away with this system, only a country that has a government with more centralized absolute power could manage to allow this. But imagine the things that could get done if America was able to put a monitor in front of Grand Central Station! Parents that neglected to pay child support, or people who had insane parking fines would not be able to hide away from their problems. When I really think about the root of the idea, drawing attention to criminals (petty non-fine paying criminals, but criminals all the same) is it really so different from the public sex offenders list? Given, sexual crimes are way way more awful than not paying a fine, but society doesn’t seem to reject having that list. So maybe in the future America could have a public way of announcing who is trying to get out of paying their fines. Just some food for thought.