Thursday, April 21, 2016

On the Importance of a Feminist Community

By Ashley Jacobson

My whole life, I’ve been surrounded by strong, powerful and generous women. My mother, my sisters, my friends, my teachers, and even my bosses have all been strong, self-sufficient and badass women. I have always had a strong sense of sisterhood/community and been encouraged to view my own womanhood as a source of strength. As a child, it never occurred to me that anyone would ever expect anything less than me because of my girl-ness.

Now, as an adult, I don’t take for granted this community because it has fortified me against an unrelenting and sexist reality. Because of the strength these women instilled in me as a girl - the moments of degradation, objectification and reduction can be just that–moments. I can be fearless when I need to be–because the world that I have built for myself is safe and unabashedly feminist.

The American Play at the Steve & Marie Sgouros Theatre.
Photo by Melissa Balan. 2015.

When I had my first success as a playwright with THE AMERICAN PLAY, it infuriated me how differently I was treated because I was a woman, because the show was produced by women, but it dared to talk about men, and masculinity and sexual violence. The show was cut-throat and disturbing and even though bloggers and audiences alike seemed to love it, they would still come up to me and say “YOU did that? But it’s so sophisticated….” People seemed offended that I was the writer–that they couldn’t look at me and predict what kind of artist I would be. “How did THAT come out of that pretty little head of yours?” (a direct quote). Their incredulity was insulting, but I knew I was still very lucky to have my voice out there. I still had the privilege of producing my own work in such a visible way that people HAD to respond to it.

So I turned to that strong sense of community to help deal with this insipid sexism, and that's when my best friend and co-producer/co-badass Elizabeth Sarkady and I founded THE DIRTY BLONDES (TDB)–an unapologetic theater company intent on producing more works of theater that stir passionate responses, and more importantly, works that will hopefully bring new and underestimated voices to the table.

What started as a revenge project has blossomed, for me, into a compelling life’s mission to build this theater company that will not only continue to engage and progress my most favorite art form (theater), but could also be a transformative opportunity and community for other daring and unapologetic artists. This personal mission is fueled by a stubborn naiveté, a childish “you’ll see!” that I possess because of the strength and courage of all the women in my life and the community that I was blessed with from birth. That is why representation is so important, visibility is so important, supporting others when you have the opportunity to is so important.

The Miracle Play at The Secret Theater.
Photo by Ashley Lauren Hamilton. 2013.
Now, The Dirty Blondes is in its fifth season, and we had our first Off-Broadway premiere last year. We have created an identity as a company as bad-ass and dark and surprising. There are so many artists out there making work that no one thinks they are capable of. As a writer, I want to create jarring and aggressive works of theater, and as a Producer with TDB, I want to empower artists to make the work that people will say ‘how did YOU do that?’


Ashley Jacobson is a Brooklyn-based playwright. A graduate of The New School, her plays have been produced at off-off Broadway theaters across New York City, including a sold-out run as part of the 2015 FringeNYC, and off-Broadway at the Soho Playhouse as part of the Fringe Encore Series. In 2015 she received the Overall Excellence in Playwriting Award from FringeNYC for The American Play. She is a co-founder and Artistic Director for THE DIRTY BLONDES, a feminist theater company "with a taste for provocation." Now going into its fifth year, The Dirty Blondes have produced more than 15 live events and have featured the work of more than 180 artists. To learn more about The Dirty Blondes and to work with us, please visit

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