Gender Lab response - Shona Reppe

Shona Reppe by Geraldine Heaney


I am a straight, white middle aged married woman with 2 children, a cat and a dog.

I am a children's theatre maker and I wash potatoes, excavate scrapbooks and carry magic handbags for a living.

I am also a campaigner for Let Toys Be Toys, a group of people confronting retailers about their choice of advertising, tenderisation of toys and therefore unfair restrictions on children and because I have children and work with children this matters to me.

“Sterotypes are invidious things. They underpin predjudice and discrimination and place constraints on people lives” Mark Jennett
(Breaking the Mould Project as featured on Let Toys Be Toys campaign pages)

I already know that gender stereotypes are everywhere, clothes aisles, toys aisles, classrooms, books, tv, adverts and even to our realisation children's theatre shows. I know as a mother and theatre maker that we don’t see enough diversity so when I found myself in a room full of carefully selected theatre makers, dancers, film makers, artists, and a facilitator who sometimes dresses as a Polar Bear and is in a band with a name I can’t repeat I discovered that I wasn't alone in my concerns (the harmful gender stereotypes, lack of diversity and positive queer role models in our field, concerned us all).

The 8 days of the LAB were intense, uplifting, challenging, funny, delightful, sad, frustrating amazing, it wasn't easy, but it has stayed with me and changed my outlook dramatically. We discussed more than stereotypes, and challenged how sexuality could be discussed and presented in our work, and how much louder QUEER voice could sing.

It has had an overwhelmingly positive effect on me.

PUSH has made me realise we should all be asking questions and seeking answers. No-one should be exempt. This is about our children future and it is my job to present positive, weird, strange queer, loud, quiet, awkward, funny, inclusive, diverse and sensitive role models/characters in my shows for ALL children and to banish stereotypes that lead to a binary and therefore restrictive view of the world.

I am passing on the word and it feels good. I am stocking my children up with an arsenal of information about what is acceptable and what is ridiculous. As a family we have perfected our ‘why is that for girls/boys..’ point, and questioned collectively the staff in Toys r US.

My work has changed - subtly at the moment - (Rome wasn't built in a day) but I am determined to allow the QUEER child to be comfortable and safe during my performances and go forth into the world knowing they are not alone. I want families to go home and discuss how good it was to see a female protagonist or a caring boy, and then eventually not question these things at all. I don't want to bash people over the head with issues though, this is not my style.

I want to own the word QUEER, the voice that isn't heard. The strange, odd person, to show that a woman can be ugly/strange/funny. That a woman does not always have to be a soft vulnerable person who needs saving. We all need saving. Boys and girls, men and women. 

I now want to make work that allows me, as this middle aged white straight woman to express MY queerness, my weird voice, my non conformist girl/boy maverick even more than I have before and connect with more queer children in a non threatening, funny, questioning and playful way.

I am now part of a larger group of Gender Ninjas.

Watch out.