Ban This Filth!

SPOKEN WORD

Ban This Filth!
4 stars ****
Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30)

WHEN THE AMERICAN feminist writer and thinker Andrea Dworkin died in 2006, after a short lifetime of fierce polemic against male power and those who abuse it, she was still widely dismissed as an extremist of the feminist movement, a woman whose dark vision of male intentions towards women made her views irrelevant to the vast majority.

As the brilliant Scottish writer and performer Alan Bissett has noticed, though, something has changed, even in the half-decade since Dworkin’s death. The internet becomes ever more present and available, as a world-wide medium for pornographic images which are often strikingly violent in their portrayal of abused, humiliated and submissive women; and Bissett’s new 70-minute monologue raises key questions about what it means to be a male feminist in these times, what internet porn tells us about the real nature of male sexuality, and what the male feminist should say to those women who loudly claim their freedom to work in, or to enjoy the products of, a porn industry that seems so abusive of women in general.

Bissett offers few answers, of course, in this infinitely complex minefield of competing rights, freedoms and dreams. What’s striking, though, is the grace and discipline with which he uses a free-flowing, lecture-style format to explore and elucidate his theme. He is eloquent and very funny in recounting his own experience, at only 38, as an old stager who can remember the time when porn meant a furtively-glimpsed corset catalogue; bold in his use of occasional moments of pure physical theatre to dramatise the issues; and oddly magnificent in the voice of Dworkin herself, whose ringing, eloquent and challenging prose sings through the show, demanding that we reconsider her words, demanding that we respond to them.

Joyce McMillan
Until 11
p. 248

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