On Thursday we had a warm up with one of our male aerial teachers, and as I knelt on the floor beating my chest with my fists and flinging my own arm over my shoulder to hit myself on the back in something that looks (and feels) like self-flagellation, I started wondering, what is it about circus that's just so male?
I think most would agree that the traditional vision of a female within the circus is of a beautiful sequinned lady being thrown into the air by a burly man, or looking weightless and ethereal on a trapeze. Both of these women are clearly having a great time. But why are we lying to the world? The reality is that women in circus are covered in bruises and burns and smiling through gritted teeth, because these disciplines hurt. We train like we're in the army, and pride ourselves on how many chin-ups we can do, yet we're only confirming our gender difference by allowing men to set the rules. Even in contemporary circus women are physically working their knee high socks off to take over the male role of the base (myself included), yet this only furthers the idea that we define ourselves within the boundaries set out by our male counterparts. What are we doing in circus to speak of what it means to really be female - to be naturally curvy and soft, to be mothers and sisters, to run households and businesses and yet be subjected to the male gaze in everything we do?
And in case you're wondering, no, I don't have any answers. I just thought it was important to ask the questions.