When defining a "classic" work of literature, people, most especially man people, often toss off things like "universal appeal" and "overarching themes" and "human experience."
In the thread I linked to, a commenter named Michael Cronin commented that:
"I couldn't really tell you if its a classic or not. It never moved me, but it wasn't really written for me anyway. What I do remember is coming home from elementary school in the late 70s and catching my mother/single parent sitting on the floor with a copy in her hand crying her eyes out. Its pretty safe for me to say she considered it important. My daughter recently read it and her only comment afterwards was "I don't wanna talk about it."Further down, a commenter named Msladydeborah adds that:
"I am from the generation of Black women who supported For Colored Girls. Do I think it could be deemed a "classic" play. Yes. Why? Because at this particular time our voice as WOC was not being heard in this manner. No one was talking about our lives and the different changes that we went through during our twenties. These were sistas that I could relate to. There are moments in this play that I know about because I have lived through them."
Just a few weeks ago, the category of Best Director was triumphed over by a woman for the first time ever. There has still never been a black Best Director, but that's another story. The picture that Kathryn Bigelow won for was a gritty war drama. Its stars were men.
I am not going to say that it wasn't a good movie. I have not seen it yet, but there is not a single person I have spoken to who did not say it was a wonderful movie. Real. Gritty. Emotionally appealing but not sappy. And then, there comes that word: universal.
See, I have a private theory that Ms. Bigelow would not even be a contender for best director had that movie she made been about women, even women at war. Sure, you argue, but Precious got nominated and so did its director! Well, you see, men are allowed to make movies about lady stuff. Women, on the other hand, have to constantly fight for their movies to be considered serious business. I have no doubt that if Ms. Bigelow made a wonderful, emotionally jarring film about women in combat, that it would be praised and praised and-
relegated to "niche" status. Or maybe my favorite, "cult classic". Which cult, exactly? The cult of people who think that women are important, too?
Yeah, right, you scoff. Women directors are always making schmaltzy movies about romance! Nia Vardalos had to fight to keep the star of her comedy, "My Life In Ruins" female. Of course, this comedy about a post-twenties loser-type who has a journey of self discovery and eventually finds love is a movie for the ladies, only, amiright? Let's call it a fluffy rom-com! Let's compare it to Mamma Mia, which it totally resembles because it is about ladies! (One should never compare Mamma Mia, a movie based on Abba songs, with a movie like Across the Universe, a movie based on Beatles songs, because it is about a man! And the lady who does not understand!)
I suppose that it should come to no one's surprise that women are not considered people.
If we were, then the idea of using the right to have a clean, safe, legal abortion would not be debated and discarded by representatives elected by the people and allegedly working for the people. If we were to be considered people, male hormonal birth control would have come out years ago. Maternity and paternity care would be sufficient, paid, and enforced by law. Rape victims wouldn't have to prove, in court and in society, that they weren't raped due to their own negligence/suggestion/past sexual behavior. Campus safety guides would instruct would-be rapists on how not to rape someone instead of discussing pepper spray and the buddy system with women. If women were people, male and lesbian female domestic violence survivors would not be laughed out of the police stations, and their claims would be seriously considered by the law and their peers. If women were people, we would be equally represented in both government and media sources. We wouldn't have to work twice as hard for half of the recognition. Women's health services like STD screening and pap smears and birth control would be fully funded via insurance, and pregnant women would never have to worry about their babies being delivered via a C-Section they did not consent to.
And the debate over whether to include a beautiful, heartwrenching, revolutionary work written by a woman of color in which she invented a new genre (!) the choreopoem, containing universal topics and themes-
sex, love, loneliness, suffering, bad relationships, strength, pregnancy, doubt, rape- the themes are many and yes they are absolutely universal.
The fact of the matter is that in the 70's, when this work was created, women of color were routinely denied humanity on the basis of both gender and color.
And today, in 2010?
Not too terribly much has changed for WOC.
The fact that this choreopoem has as much power today (and is as solidly controversial) as it did at its first production leaves only one possibility:
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow is Enuf is as much a classic as that much lauded novel about a mysterious millionaire named Gatsby.