“This play may be uncomfortable to see.”
Abigail Cady, Dramaturg
It is impossible for me to think about Bully outside of the contexts of my own experience. Because of who I am—a white, cisgender, bisexual, able-bodied, relatively fit woman—I understand this play and its characters on a fundamental level. We’ve all been through the wringer of patriarchal society and have the issues to show for it.
When I first read Bully, I was disturbed by the violence, surprised by the humor, and empowered by the message. I was amazed by how clearly Amina Henry captured how I had often felt about myself and other women, and I was frightened by how well I followed the reasons why Wren, Bree, and all of the characters rose so quickly to violence as the solution to their problems. I saw that these women are angry. Then I realized again how angry I am. Then I thought about the myriad reasons we have every right to be so.
We are angry at the injustice of being critiqued, judged, and hurt for aspects our bodies we may or may not have control over. My dramaturgical research for the play proved what I knew from my life: Every day, without inviting observation, a person’s height, weight, ability, gender presentation, skin color, hair, fitness, clothing, posture – is tallied and measured by every other person we encounter. In addition to the personal pressure, it is impossible to avoid the constant media message that there is something we should change, something we should be doing to make ourselves different than we are. We hear about the characters’ eating disorders, troubled self-esteem, abusive parents and relationships and how they molded them to believe that their worth is tied to how well their bodies meet rules that are hidden and changeable. No need to rehash decades of feminist and social theory to show how these elements of our world affect us all and how it might make you feel—we have a play for that.
The women in Bully, and I are sick of this world. The unfairness of it all, the denial of basic rights and respect is enough to make anyone want to punch something. We are tired of our bodies being made into objects of desire, revulsion, or for use by someone else. We reclaim our bodies as powerful, as weapons, as objects for our use and our use alone—but the women of Bully do so by destroying the bodies of other women.
This rage cannot be directed at its source because it is always already all around us. Where is the first link in the great chain of abuse that turns victim into abuser? Who is the first person to feel less-than, to feel jealous, to lash out in an attempt at power? How do we throw our injury back into the face of the one who hurt us when every face you see could be, or is, the perpetrator? The unanswerability of this question haunts me, Bree, Wren, Tanisha, Candace, Simone, Delilah, and every woman who has been attacked physically, mentally, or emotionally for existing in her body in this world.
This play may be uncomfortable to see. It may be jarring to see women be vicious, selfish, and broken. It may be unsettling to understand what could drive a person to violence. It may make you want to look away, to avoid acknowledging your own issues or your culpability in the creation of problems for others. Bully shows extreme reactions to everyday injustices. I encourage you to see it, to feel it, and to fight back.
See original article: http://www.interrobangbaltimore.org/post/161902484077