Women in circus. What images come to mind? Historically, circus was a place of huge emancipation for women. It offered the chance to be strong, the opportunity – in a time of rigid and restrictive clothing for women – to wear very little and move freely. Most circus disciplines necessitate form-fitting costumes or bare flesh. 250 years ago this was radical and empowering but in the intervening years, especially with rising awareness of the ‘male gaze’, and the media’s increasing use of women’s bodies as sexual objects to sell things, it became problematic.
The female body in circus became sexualised – a girl in a corset having knives thrown at her, a girl in hotpants contorting herself inside a metal ring. Fast forward to 2018 and the best contemporary circus is once again achieving what some of those curiously progressive traditional circus shows managed – it has once more become a ‘celebration of humanity’ and a platform for visibility (with a twenty first century eye on how to subvert rather than perpetuate unhelpful stereotypes). A platform for the female body as strong, muscular, capable of extraordinary physical feats. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the glorious rise of female-led circus companies.
Read the Full Article at Exeunt Magazine