``Woman for sale'' And she's cheep, too!

`Woman for sale'

By Bronwen Beechey

MELBOURNE - ``Woman for sale'' says the eye-catching headline on
the leaflet. ``Tired of cooking? Cleaning? Well, look no
further!'', it continues. ``She dices, slices, cuts, grates,
vacuums and nurtures in seconds. Made from a high density
molecular structure, with convenient carry handles, she's
guaranteed to last a lifetime. You'll never need to lift a finger

No, it's not our worst nightmares about genetic engineering come
true, but an extract from the publicity for a series of one-woman
shows by an exciting newcomer to women's comedy. Writer and
performer Daska Saleeba is presenting a series of monologues at
different venues throughout October. While encompassing a variety
of themes, Saleeba's spoken word pieces focus on the difficulties
and confusion of being a woman today, using a finely judged blend
of humour and serious comment.

At the recent Green Left Weekly women's cabaret, Saleeba had the
audience in stitches as she discussed the influence of women's
magazines and the recent furore over Di and Fergie's carryings-on
with commoners. Her observations included a suggestion that Green
Left carry fashion pages with items such as ``Dreadlocks around
town'' and ``Who shaved their head this month'', and a theory
that Di and Fergie were actually involved in a revolutionary plot
to undermine the royal family.

She then went on to make some pertinent comments about the media
scrutiny of Di and Fergie, pointing out that it was typical of
the way women in general are observed and judged by the media.

Saleeba is particularly concerned with the way media images are
used to shape our image of ourselves, and the devastating
consequences that this can have for women in such areas as
sexuality, body image, eating disorders and the constant feeling
that we are never good enough. One of her monologues, ``Self
doubt'', she describes as being about the ``endless self-
commentary that goes on in my own head'' and the things in
society that reinforce our feelings of worthlessness.

In ``Masculinity and femininity'', Saleeba confesses her secret
and shameful need to wear pink, and looks at the absurdity of the
roles men and women are forced to play. ``Confusion'' was
inspired by a trip to the supermarket in which Saleeba was
confronted by the symbols of consumerism gone mad, ``like
preboiled frozen white rice''.

After seeing her assured manner on stage, it is surprising to
learn that 23-year-old Saleeba has been performing for only six
months. ``I've been thinking about it for years'', she says,
``but I couldn't get out of bed. On my birthday this year I had a
life crisis and decided I had to do it.''

Six weeks later she performed her first monologue at the Lounge
nightclub. Despite her having written the piece only that day,
``so I'd have something to blame it on if it didn't work'', the
response was positive. Since then she has performed at Melbourne
Uni, Cafe Yartz and the Fringe Festival Women Writers in
Performance night.

Saleeba claims that the monologue form comes naturally to her
``because I live alone and so I talk to myself all the time''.
Her experience as a counsellor for women survivors of sexual
abuse has convinced her of the importance of ``talking about
stuff no-one talks about''.

She deliberately doesn't describe herself as a comedian because
``the whole industry is very male-dominated, with a lot of very
macho comedy which has no relation to the sort of stuff I do''.
While there are a number of female comics she admires, many still
tend to fall back on ``traditional'' humour such as bemoaning
their lack of attractiveness or lack of a boyfriend.

The pressure placed on us by mass culture to be part of a couple
is another of Saleeba's frequent targets. Much of her material
deals with the ``backlash'' portrayals of independent single
women as lonely, frustrated or downright psychopathic: ``It seems
that you can be heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual but you
can't be single''. She sees it as part of her mission to ``stand
up for single women''.

Daska will be performing at the following dates, times and venues
until October 25: Thursdays 1 p.m. at the George Paton Gallery,
Union Building, Melbourne Uni; Fridays and Saturdays 8.30 p.m. at
the same venue; and Sundays 6.30 p.m. at the Linden Gallery, 26
Acland St, St Kilda. Admission is free for the daytime
performances and $5/$4 for the evening shows.

Daska will also be performing at Green Left Weekly's ``Taste of
Thailand'' fundraising dinner on Saturday, November 7.

** End of text from cdp:women.news **