“No Woman”: Joan of Arc, non-binary icon on the boards in London

“No Woman”: Joan of Arc, non-binary icon on the boards in London

“I’m not a woman. That word doesn’t suit me.” London’s renowned Shakespeare’s Globe Theater reinvents Joan of Arc as a non-binary icon who rejects her identity as a woman while struggling to find her place in a world of men.

“I, Joan” (“I, Jeanne”) had not yet been played when the magazine “Time Out” spoke of it as the “most controversial play of the year” in mid-August. The first images showing Jeanne with a bandaged chest were enough to ignite social networks. In the UK, where not a month goes by without controversy over gender identity, activists of all stripes have found a new battleground.

The play, the umpteenth work dedicated to one of the most famous women in the history of France for repelling the English during the Hundred Years’ War, was written by Charlie Josephine and played by Isobel Thom: two human-born women who… define themselves as non-binary.

The staging is decidedly contemporary. No period costumes here. Dauphin Charles’ wife is a black woman. The fights are represented by modern choreographies. Women fight side by side with men. But the story of Joan of Arc is there, from her presentation before the Dauphin to her death at the stake in Rouen in 1431, of course through the battles and her trial.

And right in the middle there is the question of gender. “To be born a girl when you’re not. God, why did you put me in this body?” asks Jeanne on stage with her hair cropped short and in her man’s clothes. She rejects the clothes we try to force on her.

“I’m not a woman. It’s not the right word for me. It doesn’t suit me,” says Jeanne again. At his heresy trial, one phrase was repeated dozens of times by the judges: “Do you think it’s okay to dress like a man even if it’s illegal?”. “What are you afraid of?” Jeanne replies with a laugh. “I’m not a woman, I’m a warrior!”

– “Offensive Ideology” –

Enough to blow up feminists like Heather Binning, founder of the Women’s Rights Network, who fights to defend women’s rights: “Joan of Arc lived what she lived because she was a woman! You can do not change!”

She denounces an “ideology that offends women”. “Little girls need to see how women succeed. That’s what Joan of Arc stands for: she had a goal and she did everything to achieve it.” For her, few women remained in the story because it was “written by men for men.” “And now this lobby is getting the women who inspire us!” denounces the feminist.

In response to criticism, Charlie Josephine tried humor in The Guardian newspaper: “I forgot I was blaspheming a saint!”. “Nobody takes your Jeanne away from you, even though she stands for you. (…) This piece is about exploration,” wrote Isobel Thom on Twitter.

– Protection against rape –

Same tone of Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre: “Shakespeare did not write historically accurate plays. He took characters from the past to ask questions about the world around him.” “History has provided countless wonderful examples of how Joan has been portrayed as a woman. This staging simply offers the opportunity for a different perspective. That is the role of the theatre: simply ask the question + imagine if? + “.

In France, too, the issue is beginning to emerge. “It has its finger on the pulse,” comments Valérie Toureille, university professor and specialist in the Hundred Years’ War. “It doesn’t shock me. There are women who have chosen to follow a different path, neither that of men nor that of women. This is the case of Joan of Arc”.

Why was she wearing male clothes? “It’s a protection against rape and it’s easier to ride like a man than in Amazon,” explains the historian, author of Joan of Arc.

But for her, Jeanne fell well because of her clothes during the trial for heresy. “It is the material evidence that completes all religious arguments. For the men of the Church, Jeanne transcended her status as a woman by wearing this dress.”

Reference: www.guadeloupe.franceantilles.fr

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