Such Stuff Podcast

#SuchStuff s3 e1: Women and power

  In the latest instalment of our Such Stuff podcast, we explore the relationship between women and power in Shakespeare

38 minute read


Women and power

In the first episode of season 3 of Such Stuff, we go behind the scenes with the Women and Power festival. As women take to the Globe stage to play the traditionally male roles of King Henry V, Falstaff and Hotspur, we ask what the relationship is between women and power. What does it mean to occupy spaces and roles that have been predominantly male and predominantly white? How can the voices that came before us inspire us moving forwards? Is there a backlash to the progress we’ve made? And what might the relationship between women and power look like in future?

We hear from Sarah Amankwah, who is playing King Henry V in the Globe’s history plays about what it means to take on the role as a woman and a woman of colour. We chat to classicist Donna Zuckerberg, whose book Not All Dead White Men, delves into the murky, misogynistic online world of the alt-right. And we sit down with Claire Van Kampen to talk about the progress she’s seen when it comes to the relationship between women and power in her lengthy career across the arts. And as we move forwards, we look to the women who came before us, with an extract imagining the life of Shakespeare’s sister from Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own.

‘In some ways I feel like it won’t be long before they come for Shakespeare’

— Donna Zuckerberg

Read the full episode transcript below.

Sarah Amankwah as Henry V

Sarah Amankwah as Henry V, 2019. Photographer: Tristram Kenton.


[Music plays]

Imogen Greenberg: Hello, and welcome back to Such Stuff, the
podcast from Shakespeare’s Globe.

You might have noticed, we’ve been taking a little season break,
but now we’re back and well underway with the summer season
here at Shakespeare’s Globe!

Throughout the summer season, the Globe stage will be home to
three History plays which ask huge questions about leadership
and leadership battles, power and the loss of power, truth and
responsibility. And across the three plays – Henry IV parts 1 and
2, and Henry V – three iconic and traditionally male
Shakespearean parts… Hotspur, Falstaff and King Henry V…
will all be played by women.

As our Globe Ensemble takes to the stage every week, the plays
will change and shift, and resonate with our own political
moment… At the start of this remarkable process, the Globe
hosted the Women and Power festival, exploring questions
around what it means to lead, and what it means to lead as a
woman in politics, in academia, and of course, in the arts.

So, this week on the podcast, we’ll be going behind the scenes
with the Women and Power festival, asking what the relationship
between women and power is now, what it means to occupy
spaces that have been traditionally male or masculine, how the
voices that came before us can inspire us moving forwards, and
what the relationship between women and power might look like
in the future.

So here’s Farah – who convened the festival – to introduce it

Dr Farah Karim Cooper: The Women and Power festival at the
Globe is a one-week festival looking at the relationship that
women have or don’t have to power. So we’ve been hosting
events which are giving a voice to a lot of women who are
underrepresented. It’s an intersectional festival, it’s looking at
women across all social classes, all races, all abilities etcetera.
So we’ve had a night looking at what it means to be a female
director in the theatre industry in Britain today; 40 years of
activism with Clean Break theatre company and the activist
group Southall Black Sisters; we’re having Donna Zuckerberg
talk about her book Not All Dead White Men which exposes the
misogynistic online community. And then we’re going to have a
symposium looking at women and leadership. The reason we
wanted to do this is because we knew that our artistic director
Michelle Terry was gonna be programming history plays and
casting women as kings, and we wanted to think about what
does that mean to be a woman in a position of power. How are
you received as a woman in a position of power? Do we have
models for leadership? Is the only model for leadership the one
that men have created over the last 2000 years? And so when a
woman gets into a position of power or leadership, what does
she do? What resources does she have to lean on, and what
brand of leadership should we be cultivating as women,
especially in the 21st century where women’s rights are actually
regressing? So I felt it was a really urgent time to do this festival.
Power means to me autonomy, it means financial independence,
it means having the ability to make my own choices in my work,
in my life, how I raise my daughter. Access to power, it has less
happy connotations, because women generally are barred from
access to power. No matter how much we think we’ve
progressed in the West, think about five other countries
elsewhere haven’t even got as far as we are now, and we’re not
even as far as we need to be, and so if we’re going to think about
women and access to power we have to be global about it and
we have to be intersectional about it. And we need men to
actually support this, to support women gaining access to power.
Because actually no matter where you go they are still the ones
with all the access.

Some of the things I’ve been learning over the week and some of
the discussions we’ve been having have been really thinking
about women bonding together, women collaborating, being
proactive, supporting each other. Because I think one of the
strategies or tactics of the patriarchal systems that we live in is to
pit women against each other and that enables the power
structures that exist to continue to exist. The minute women start
working together and supporting each other, then there’s hope
that that can change.

IG: So, we’ll be hearing from Sarah Amankwah who is currently
playing Henry V in the Globe’s history plays about what it means
to take on the role as a woman and as a woman of colour…

We sit down with Claire Van Kampen to talk about the progress
she’s seen when it comes to the relationship between women
and power in her lengthy career across the arts…

And we get to grips with the backlash to the gains made when it
comes to women and power, as we chat to classicist Donna
Zuckerberg. Her book, Not All Dead White Men, delves into the
murky online world of the alt-right, and how they’re appropriating
classical texts to further a misogynistic and white nationalist

And as we ask how we move forwards with creating access to
power for women in a meaningful and intersectional way… we
look to the women who came before us for inspiration, with
words from Virginia Woolf, read by women of the Globe.

[Music plays]

IG: First up, Sarah Amankwah is currently playing Henry V on
the Globe stage, charting his journey from likely lad to iconic
English king across Henry IV parts 1 and 2, and Henry V. The
role comes with certain expectations… generations have seen
Henry V as a play about a certain kind of Englishness. But the
Globe Ensemble has been looking at these plays as if they were
new writes, not least with all expectations about casting put
aside. Farah sat down with Sarah to ask how she’s been getting
to grips with the character and the play, what it means as a
woman of colour to step into a role that has been the preserve of
white, male actors and what she’s learnt about women and
power, and herself, so far in the run.

FKC: Sarah, you’re playing Henry V this year…

Sarah Amankwah: That’s correct…

FKC: And I wanted to talk to you a little bit about that. Obviously
this is contextualised in our discussions that we’re having about
women’s relationship to power specifically. But the history plays,
traditionally aren’t really places where women get lots of
opportunities for performing.

SA: No [laughs]

FKC: So I wonder if you could talk a little bit about the Globe
Ensemble’s approach to casting in this trilogy of Henry plays that
you’re doing.

SA: Yes. So I guess when we first had our meetings for the
Ensemble, it was sort of pitched to us that we would be looking
at these plays as if they were new plays. So we had no idea
what the castings were gonna be, I definitely didn’t know. Yeah it
was very much the sense of we are approaching these plays
with a whole new way of exploring them, so they can be very
much set anywhere, with anyone playing the King or Queen,
what have you, and exploring it from that kind of narrative. And
for me to, to have the honour and opportunity to play a King has
been one of the most amazing but also toughest challenges I’ve
ever had to take on, surprisingly. But it’s just great, just
approaching a particular narrative that has many assumptions
about how its viewed or who speaks it, who gives it life if you will.
And to be able to be I guess a sort of conduit as well in that
sense, because I’ve never seen these plays, I’ve never read
these plays, so I in particular I guess came from a very fresh and
if anything, raw perspective.

FKC: That’s exciting!

SA: I just saw these people as people, and you know characters
as opposed to sort of imposing a gender on anyone, and just sort
of taking these humans in this world and this experience and
sharing that, really.

FKC: Has playing this part made you think about the different
ways that men lead and the different ways women lead? Has it
made you think about women and leadership or women and

SA: It’s interesting, actually, because I’ve tried not to? Just to,
again, try and not impose anything on the situations and
circumstances. However, what’s been very interesting is the
conversations that have come up with even just me playing the
King. You sort of learn very quickly that no one listens to you.
[Laughs]. Like oh great, this is great, this is going to be
interesting. Again, and that’s not necessarily anything that’s done
deliberately of course, but just in course of what’s kind of…
where we’ve come from and what we, you know the
environments we’ve grown up in, how our culture, backgrounds
kind of shape how we view each other in sort of gender
differences. But it’s very interesting how there is a sort of natural
what’s the word… privilege that comes with certain men, you
know, intentionally and unintentionally when they are playing
roles with… authoritative roles. Whereas to women there’s a sort
of sense of… Oh, oh ok… [laughs]… I sort of have to kind of deal
with this sort of nuisance if you will. And that comes from a long
stem of you know sort of culture enforced on how we… you know
women have been sort of silenced and yeah emasculated or
however you want to phrase it. Yeah, so it’s been very interesting
for myself to again just sort of taking the task of ‘Ok, I just sort of
have to play this person of authority’, and then having certain
opinions imposed on you is very, very interesting, because then
being able to sort of deal with that and deal with the challenges,
in particular of Henry’s thought and Henry’s kind of pursuits,
there’s a part of me that’s sort of like, ‘Are you disagreeing with
me, Sarah? Or are you disagreeing with the character?’ And
sometimes for some people it can be very hard to differentiate
the two. Especially me being a woman of colour as well… there
is what I’ve kind of had an ongoing sense of… the sense of being
invisible. And obviously that’s in and of itself a lie, as every
human being has intrinsic worth and dignity and value. But then
when one is put in a position when they have to somewhat
lead… there is that, that they have to contest with. They have to
contest with people’s backgrounds, people’s views and opinions.
Yes, long-winded answer…

No, really interesting answer, actually because it leads into
other questions that I have, because obviously you’ve been
playing it for a couple of weeks now. And I’m curious about the
audience and how they’re sort of connecting to you as King
Henry. Because obviously this part has this sort of legacy of the
great English King, the big, white, male authority of the past. And
even Shakespeare sort of I guess alludes to that legacy,
because he had that legacy in Shakespeare’s time. So I’m
wondering how you’re dealing with the challenges of all those
assumptions that are on his character.

SA: Ooh, yeah that’s a really hard question. Short answer, I don’t
know just yet. In all honesty, every day, every show, even today I
was just sort of like ‘Oh gosh, God help me get through this
show!’ [Laughs]. ‘Cause its very hard to gauge… I mean
obviously you can only take what people sort of give you, and
some people have been very encouraging and very forward
thinking in the sense of you know, seeing myself play this
character. But it’s very hard to come on the stage and deliver this
narrative and try and read or understand what the eyes are
telling you? And obviously in a space like the Globe it’s so
exposing, so there’s that and you know, being able to say sort of
‘Once more unto the breach’ and then you’re sort of having, you
know this predominantly if you will white audience looking at you,
predominantly male as well. And there’s parts of the inner
psyche that’s like you know, sort of has this imposter syndrome?
Of like ‘I don’t think I’m supposed to be here [laughs]. Sorry I’m
just gonna… I’m just gonna leave now’. And I think that’s partly
what Michelle in particular wanted to tackle and there’s a part of
me that’s sort of like ‘Wow, I feel like I’m at times this sort of
sacrificial lamb that’s kind of been pushed on’. But nonetheless,
it’s something that I’m very passionate about, particularly with
art. And I think for those who come to see it, for one they already
know I’m playing Henry V, so the fact that they’re looking at me
is saying a lot. So the challenges come every day, but I think a
lot of its very much internal challenges, challenges that I have
personally faced dealing with racism in the industry, dealing with
sexism as well, so there’s so many aspects of that that I am
carrying within Sarah’s personhood and having to sort of meet
that and push through, it’s kind of not a yes and no answer, it’s
sort of still being navigated through and it’s very exciting. It’s very exciting because the amount of questions that I’ve had to ask
myself and I have to keep reminding myself, at the end of the
day Sarah, these humans are humans, and they’re broken and
they’re fallible and at the end of the day, for me anyway, that’s
what I am on this journey to expose, that leadership, male or
female, isn’t going to be perfect. And regardless of how people
assume this legacy within Britain, within Henry V, it’s always
going to have some blind spots. You know, with our politicians,
our leaders today, they’re not perfect [laughs]. And I think for me,
it’s being able to show that, if anything, so that we are able to at
least have that same grace [laughs] with each other as well.
That’s kind of been my pursuit or my reminder if you will.

FKC: So to what extent is… really, you’ve probably kind of
answered this in many ways… but to what extent is your identity
being brought to bear on how you’re sort of crafting this

SA: Good question…

FKC: I mean it may not be something, until the end of the run,
that you’re really, fully conversant with!

SA: Yeah. I guess… so when you say, just to see if I understood
your question, my identity…

FKC: As a woman…

SA: As a woman of colour?

FKC: Yes.

SA: I think, without having to… It’s interesting actually, I guess
yeah… touching on what I’d said in the previous question I think
which you’d alluded to… being able to again, strip back and by
stripping back I don’t mean denying my gender and my race, but
at the same time all I have are his words.

FKC: Yeah.

SA: That’s all I have. And there are times where I guess through
the whole process, having to sort of suppress this imposter
syndrome and go, well I’ve been given these words and
whenever I sort of walk on to the stage even to this day, hearing
you know ‘Here comes your majesty’, I have to believe that
they’re talking about me? I sort of look over my shoulder and go,
‘Oh wow they’re actually… they’re talking to me’. And I think in
that sense as well that that can be somewhat relatable to the
character in his journey of having to wrestle with his identity and
being this sort of reluctant king and having to kind of take on the
sins of his father and all of that has allowed me as Sarah to
wade into those kind of issues. But then at the same time, with
the face I have, with the amazing God-given body that I have, I
am able to stand and speak a voice, with a voice sorry, that
people are less exposed to, says something else which I am still
yet to discover, actually. And I think there’s a part of that,
whether people want to call it humility or not, I think it’s… for me,
I just kind of have a delayed response to things anyway. So I
think allowing whatever that is, when I speak his words, for those
people to engage, especially with speeches like ‘Upon the king’
and you know ‘Crispin’s Day’, there is something that again, we
tend to… certain things that we don’t get when we don’t have a
woman’s perspective, which makes it even more poignant
because obviously we’re so used to seeing things from a male, a
white, male perspective. To then have a woman, if anything a
woman of colour who in society, in my opinion is very much the
lowest of the low, to be able to speak such words, to be visible,
for me says so many other things which I think is quite a
powerful message. That I think is an absolute honour to be part
of it. It’s sort of history in the making if you will.

FKC: It really is. Fantastic, have a great season.

SA: Thank you.

FKC: And thank you so much for joining us on the podcast.

SA: Thanks so much, thanks for having me. Thank you.

[Music plays]

IG: Next up… as a classicist and academic, Donna Zuckerberg
might not seem like a likely candidate to stand on the front line
against the darkest recesses of the internet… But when she
stumbled across online groups who were using the classical
texts and ideas she worked with every day to further a
misogynistic and racist agenda, she started the research that led
her to write Not All Dead White Men. So, what has the ancient
Greek philosophical idea of stoicism got to do with white
nationalists? And what has The Art of Love, a book by the
ancient Roman poet Ovid, got to do with pick up artists and
incels? Here’s Donna…

FKC: So Donna, you’ve just published a really fascinating
expose of the alt-right and misogynist online communities in your
book Not All Dead White Men, and I feel like it does tell us a little
bit about the way these groups use classical texts to advance
this sort of awful, dangerous agenda and you also give us some
sort of guidance about how to cope with it as well. Can you tell
our audiences how you came to research this topic and how you
coped with the material once you got digging?

Donna Zuckerberg: So, it started in late Summer 2015, I
launched an online classics publication called Eidolon in early
2015 and then in August we had our first big hit, which was an
article called ‘Why is Stoicism having a cultural moment?’ And I
was searching the sources of the traffic for the article, which was
much higher than I expected it to be, and I found some of the
traffic coming from Reddit. Which was a little alarming, for those
who know Reddit, Reddit can be quite a dark place. But it was
actually quite a nice sub-Reddit, about stoicism where people
sort of debate how to apply stoic ideas to the difficulties in their
lives. So somebody had posted our article and they were
debating about it. But there was a commenter who had been
down voted a lot by the community, because it turns out that red
pill people are not actually well liked by the rest of the stoicism
community. So there was a commenter who had responded to
this community saying he thought that the red pill was the reason
why stoicism was rising in popularity again, because the red pill
was so interested in stoicism and that struck me as deeply
bizarre because if I had one word to describe the red pill, in my
experience of it before that time, it probably would have been
angry, and that’s the opposite of stoicism.

So the red pill is an online community of mostly men, mostly
between the ages of 18 and 35, mostly straight, mostly white,
who are united by the idea that our society and by our society we
usually mean US society, but Western society, discriminates
against straight, white men. And they believe that they have
attained enlightenment that allows them to see that they’re
discriminated against, when most of society thinks that the
opposite is true. And this metaphor of the red pill comes from the
movie The Matrix, where Ne-Yo swallows a red pill which allows
him to see the world for how it really is. Initially, the red pill was
really focused on men’s rights movements and then kind of
gradually shifted from there to misogyny and it grew to include
the pick-up artist community and also allied communities which
don’t have exactly the same view but share a common world
view about what they call the sexual marketplace, which is, I
mean it’s what it sounds like. Everybody is sort of allotted a
sexual marketplace value and everybody’s trying to get the
highest value significant other that they can. So the pick-up
artists are one way of looking at the sexual marketplace, the men
going their own way are another group, they think that the sexual
marketplace is so skewed against men that the only thing is to
opt out entirely. And then the incels, who have been getting quite
a lot of press lately, are another way of looking at the same world
view and they believe they’re the losers in the sexual
marketplace, they’re so unattractive that they will never be able
to convince women to sleep with them. And then over the course
of 2016, this group grew to include anti-Semites, vocal white
nationalists and even people who identify as neo-Nazis and then
people who wouldn’t identify as white nationalists or neo-Nazis,
this is the group that calls itself the alt-light. So they’re aware of
all the sort of negative baggage attached to those terms and
instead see themselves as the defenders of Western civilisation
which is itself for them essentially a code for white culture. So all
of those groups fall under this larger umbrella of the red pill and
they exist almost exclusively online in virtual fora, you know
Reddit, 4Chan, 8Chan, various blogs.

So I decided to look further into that, and around the same time, I
was working on a comparative project about Ovid and pick up
artists and then I started to notice pick up artists actually talking
about Ovid, which I hadn’t expected. I’d expected it to be
comparative as I said, I didn’t expect it to be a reception project.
So at that point, when I had these two very different threads, you
know one with the pick-up artists and Ovid, and one with the red
pill more generally and stoicism, it began to look like a much
bigger project about this online community and classical

So I started researching and I started writing the book in late
2015. When I started it was really about anti-feminism and
misogyny, that was the primary focus of the community. They
were still sort of coming off of gamer-gate? I don’t know if your
audience will be familiar with that. It was a largely American
movement in the video game community, a reaction to the rise of
progressivism and feminism in the video game community, very
focused on harassing female game developers and female game
journalists. And that was really where they developed a lot of
their online terror tactics, you know: doxxing, revealing people’s
identifying documents; swatting, right, placing calls to the FBI to
make it sound like something terrible is going on at their house
so a SWAT team shows up. Tactics like that were developed
during the gamer-gate era and have continued on to today.

Anyway, so I was writing this book and researching it throughout
2016, and I watched as these communities went from being
primarily anti-feminist to being anti-feminist and anti-Semitic,
which had always been there, but it became much louder, and
then by the end of 2016, you know, the rise of the alt-right, really
very vocally white nationalist. And that shift happened whilst I
was doing this research.

FKC: Fascinating.

DZ: And… it was tough to watch. I set myself sort of strict limits
to how much I could research on these sites per day…

FKC: Yeah that’s what I was wondering!

DZ: Because otherwise I think I would have gone off the deep
end. Sort of an hour per day. Or if I hit something that was so
gross that I felt like I needed to sort of sit down, close my
computer, play with my dog, then I did that.

FKC: Yeah. It was really interesting what you were saying about
how in 2016, you actually were able to chart that shift, while you
were actually researching it, and obviously the sort of rise of
populism in the country and Donald Trump’s election may have
contributed to the I suppose feelings of courage that these
groups now have…

DZ: Absolutely…

FKC: They’re emboldened in some way.

DZ: That’s exactly right. I remember how excited they were after
the election. And one of them posted a sort of celebratory article
on his website that said ‘Now if you rank women on a scale of 1
to 10 and openly talk about how hot they are, people will say
‘You sound like the President of the United States”.

FKC: So you’re no doubt aware of the issues in the United
States that the Medieval community, the Medievalists are

DZ: Yes!

FKC: With white supremacists who are co-opting Medieval
literature, ideas and iconography in order to reinforce their own
ideology and of course your book points out what’s happening in
classics. In some ways I feel like it won’t be long before they
come for Shakespeare. And of course, the Nazis in Nazi
Germany already came for Shakespeare…

DZ: Right.

FKC: So I’m wondering what advice you might have for those of
us who are sort of custodians, teachers of, scholars of and lovers
of these classic texts.

DZ: I mean they undoubtedly will. They’re cherry pickers, right,
there doesn’t need to be a real coherent, historical narrative. So
the first piece of advice I would give is that it’s incredibly tempting
when you see the mistakes or the sort of very shallow surface
readings in what they do to focus on correcting that, and though I
do think that’s important to a certain extent, you know it’s our job
as scholars to try to disseminate accurate understanding of the
material we study, don’t mistake that for actually responding or
counteracting their influence in a substantive way. Because you
will never convince a white supremacist not to be white
supremacist by correcting him about Shakespeare, right? I think
that’s a lesson that I think a lot of people learnt the hard way.
They would sort of point out a mistake, and think well, if that
person makes obvious mistakes then no one will pay attention to
what they’re saying. And really that is never true. It doesn’t
matter. You have to point out the ideology underneath. And you
have to do the hard work of showing some people that the kind
of unthinking assumptions behind why they are drawn to
Shakespeare might be the same as the reasons why white
supremacists are drawn to Shakespeare. That’s been one of the
hardest things in classics is that… a lot of classicists fall back on
narratives about the foundations of Western civilisation. Which
are also narratives that are very attractive to the far right.

FKC: Those are actually two really good tips. And the first one
that you mentioned, that is a really easy trap to fall into, isn’t it?

DZ: It is. That was one of the first things that my editor said to
me when I was writing this book. It was on the Ovid chapter,
actually. There was a lot more pointing out mistakes they made,
with a sort of winky, you know, like ‘haha look how dumb they
are’ kind of undertone and she said to me, ‘Donna it doesn’t
make you a better person than they are because you know more
about Ovid’.

FKC: [laughs] Yeah.

DZ: And she was right!

FKC: Thank you Donna, and thank you for being on the front line
and for writing this book.

DZ: Oh thank you, for having me.

FKC: It’s an extraordinary book and we really appreciate you
coming here and speaking tonight…

[Music plays]

IG: Next up, Farah sat down with composer, playwright and
director Claire Van Kampen to talk about her career leading
orchestras, companies and teams in the arts industry. How has
her own relationship with power changed? How has others
perception of her positions of authority changed? And what gives
her hope for the future of women leading from the front in the
arts industry?

FKC: Claire, thank you for being with us today, I wanted to ask
you about something definitional, if you could talk about what it
means to be a female leader. You work in the arts, you’re a
composer, a director, playwright… and I wonder if you could just
sort of elaborate for us for you what it means as a woman to be
in this field.

Claire Van Kampen:
Well I think we’re redefining what
leadership means more and more, and today’s symposium was
no exception really, because my fellow panellists just gave me
so many insights about the developing forms of leadership that
they’re encountering and engendering. When I first became if
you would say the leader of what I was doing, it was probably
twenty, thirty years ago, when we assumed more of a male cloak
as female leaders. We led in that form, in the way that men were
leading, that’s all we could do, because our role models weren’t
there in the way that they are for some of these younger women,
now. So I would say that my ability to lead and my thoughts
about my own leadership are ever-changing, and particularly
now almost exponentially as the world is now focusing itself so
much on gender, and what it is to be led by particularly female
gender in the workplace.

FKC: A lot of people have this imposter syndrome, but I hear
women talking about it more than I hear men talk about it, so
whether or not men actually suffer with it but just don’t mention it
and women are more open about mentioning it… I wonder if you
could talk about the concept of imposter syndrome, and did you
ever suffer it and what advice would you give to younger women
who are sort of dealing with their own sense of imposter

CVK: I think this is a very real problem, and it is not just a
problem for women of my generation… you know, when I went to
school, I heard rhetoric which contained phrases such as
‘women can’t drive, they make bad drivers’, ‘no woman has ever
written a symphony’, ‘name ten women poets of excellence’, that
kind of thing. So I started to think that perhaps all of the things I
wanted to do, I wouldn’t be able to do because I was female. It’s
something that can be so implanted in you that you’re not even
conscious of it and it informs the whole of your life and the whole
of your interface with what you want to do in life, your ambitions
and it creates an enormous anxiety and fear. So that when you
step into what you feel you want to do and can do, it’s very
difficult to lose those critical voices that say, ‘Oh you’re going to
fall on your face’, ‘You’re never going to be able to do that’, ‘Why
not let a man do that? They know how to do that, do you really
know how to do this?’ And it doesn’t help that, certainly when I
started out in my professional life, I was openly questioned by
the men I was leading, especially in orchestral bands and in
administrative sections of my work, I was challenged by men
who perceived me as taking their job. So I think the imposter
syndrome has to be addressed at a very early level for females
in school. I don’t think our education system is geared towards it.
It’s geared to achievement and success on the page, but not on
the stage of life, not enough! But now I think we’re starting to
develop, particularly over the last eighteen months, two years, to
develop female role models that give us more assurity of who we
are and who we might become and it all comes down to
developing your sense of authenticity, self-authenticity,
discovering who you really are. Once you bond with that, then
you are not so much in danger of falling into the imposter

FKC: I think, obviously you’ve talked a lot about how things were
different when you were younger, and we’ve seen a lot of
progress in the last fifty years… what challenges are there now,
and how would you advice young women about taking on the
next fifty years in terms of progress? I know that’s a huge
question! [laughs].

CVK: Well, it’s a very important question because I see there’s a
fork in the road. We can go down the side of the fork that we
know, which is to be militant, adversarial, combative, to take on
sort of face to face those who don’t agree with us or are
objectionable. Or we can develop another route. And we’re still
discovering what that might be but I think it is to do with the
collective nature of a democratic, collective view of how to
proceed, which is to do with empathy, compassion, education
and understanding. For example, if I am faced now with
someone who is blatantly sexist, let’s say, towards me, I no
longer think is that person right? And therefore pull that question
back to myself and get angry about it. I now think, they must feel
very threatened to feel that. This means that they’re world can’t
be very stable to them in a way that my world is more and more
becoming stable in an interior sense to me. Because the more I
know myself, the more I feel I can operate in the world. So in a
sense, it doesn’t mean that you’re excusing or condoning this
behaviour, but you’re putting yourself in a position where you’re
not its victim. And I think there’s… we don’t really know how to do
this yet, but we are… if we can find out a methodology to combat
these problems without being adversarial, and take another
approach, I suppose you could say its conflict resolution in a
peaceful way, then I think the world will really change. If we
don’t, it won’t change it’ll just keep going backwards and
forwards, and we won’t move forwards in a true sense.

FKC: Well my last question then is thinking really about the
theatre industry as it is today, and the world of classical theatre,
Shakespeare. Is it still, in your view, dominated by men who are,
you know, often Oxbridge educated, or do you see some change
happening and do you feel optimistic? Actually, seeing what
Michelle Terry is doing with the Globe, I feel incredibly optimistic.
She’s in charge, although she won’t like that phrase, of the most
incredible experiment where she is changing and sort of
smashing old forms of how we do Shakespeare and how we put
it on the stage. It’s no longer dominated by that Oxbridge sort of
white middle class male highly educated person who tells actors
how to be on a stage and what to do with a text. The actors are
given enormous responsibility. I think that’s a very true model,
personally, of how it originally was in the day the playwright
wrote the plays. So to me that feels very, very inspiring. I think
theatre is changing? I think that’s very difficult for a lot of people
who don’t want it to change and don’t want the structures to
change. More and more I think we need to enable people to go
to the theatre, we need to make it a place that is so attractive
they’re put down their iPhones and their tablets and their
television programmes and want to go out and be social
together. And that’s why the Globe is such a unique space in a
world of theatre because it’s a social space where people see
each other. And real theatre, the blood and guts of theatre, is
where change happens and that’s what the Globe is all about for

FKC: Thank you, Claire, and thank you for inspiring us with your
work today.

[Music plays]

IG: When it comes to women and power, it sometimes feels like
we’ve been having this conversation for far too long, but we still
have so much further to go. To move forwards, we look to the
women who came before us. A Room of One’s Own by Virginia
Woolf is a seminal feminist text, fighting for a space for women,
both literal and imaginative. In a particular passage, she
imagines what would have happened if Shakespeare had had a
younger sister, as ‘adventurous’ and ‘imaginative’ as him… but
bound by the constraints of her age…

[Reading of text]

Lucy Butterfield: Cats do not go to heaven. Women cannot
write the plays of Shakespeare.

It would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any
woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare in the age of

Let me imagine, since facts are so hard to come by, what would
have happened had Shakespeare had a wonderfully gifted sister,
called Judith, let us say. Shakespeare himself went, very
probably — his mother was an heiress — to the grammar school,
where he may have learnt Latin — Ovid, Virgil and Horace —
and the elements of grammar and logic.

He was, it is well known, a wild boy who poached rabbits,
perhaps shot a deer, and had, rather sooner than he should
have done, to marry a woman in the neighbourhood, who bore
him a child rather quicker than was right. That escapade sent
him to seek his fortune in London. He had, it seemed, a taste for
the theatre; he began by holding horses at the stage door.

Very soon he got work in the theatre, became a successful actor,
and lived at the hub of the universe, meeting everybody, knowing
everybody, practising his art on the boards, exercising his wits in
the streets, and even getting access to the palace of the queen.

Meanwhile his extraordinarily gifted sister, let us suppose,
remained at home. She was as adventurous, as imaginative, as
agog to see the world as he was. But she was not sent to school.
She had no chance of learning grammar and logic, let alone of
reading Horace and Virgil.

She picked up a book now and then, one of her brother’s
perhaps, and read a few pages. But then her parents came in
and told her to mend the stockings or mind the stew and not
moon about with books and papers.

They would have spoken sharply but kindly, for they were
substantial people who knew the conditions of life for a woman
and loved their daughter — indeed, more likely than not she was
the apple of her father’s eye.

Perhaps she scribbled some pages up in an apple loft on the sly
but was careful to hide them or set fire to them. Soon, however,
before she was out of her teens, she was to be betrothed to the
son of a neighbouring woolstapler.

She cried out that marriage was hateful to her, and for that she
was severely beaten by her father. Then he ceased to scold her.
He begged her instead not to hurt him, not to shame him in this
matter of her marriage. He would give her a chain of beads or a
fine petticoat, he said; and there were tears in his eyes.

How could she disobey him? How could she break his heart?
The force of her own gift alone drove her to it. She made up a
small parcel of her belongings, let herself down by a rope one
summer’s night and took the road to London. She was not

The birds that sang in the hedge were not more musical than she
was. She had the quickest fancy, a gift like her brother’s, for the
tune of words. Like him, she had a taste for the theatre. She
stood at the stage door; she wanted to act, she said.

Men laughed in her face. The manager — a fat, loose-lipped
man — guffawed. He bellowed something about poodles
dancing and women acting — no woman, he said, could possibly
be an actress. He hinted — you can imagine what.

She could get no training in her craft. Could she even seek her
dinner in a tavern or roam the streets at midnight? Yet her
genius was for fiction and lusted to feed abundantly upon the
lives of men and women and the study of their ways.

At last — for she was very young, oddly like Shakespeare the
poet in her face, with the same grey eyes and rounded brows —
at last Nick Greene the actor-manager took pity on her; she
found herself with child by that gentleman and so — who shall
measure the heat and violence of the poet’s heart when caught
and tangled in a woman’s body?— killed herself one winter’s
night and lies buried at some cross-roads where the omnibuses
now stop outside the Elephant and Castle.

That, more or less, is how the story would run, I think, if a woman
in Shakespeare’s day had had Shakespeare’s genius.

[Music plays]

IG: That was read by the lovely Lucy Butterfield from our Comms

That’s it from us, but you can catch Sarah Amankwah and the
rest of the Globe Ensemble on the Globe stage until the 11th
October. Donna Zuckerberg’s brilliant, if a little terrifying, book
Not All Dead White Men is out now, and you can pick up a copy
in our bookshop.

Look out for more festivals and events like Women and Power,
coming to the Globe soon. Tickets and more information about
all of our productions and events can be found on our website.

You’ve been listening to Such Stuff with me, Imogen Greenberg,
and Dr Farah Karim Cooper.

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