With International Women’s Day upon us, focus is drawn to women all over the world and their incredible achievements. But what about the modern day actress? She may have more control than ever before but what is the real reality? And how about women working in theatre, although there may now be women in a plethora of different roles, have things really changed?
The dis?! -advantages of being a female actor….
- You are frequently objectified.
- Your beauty counts more than your skills, knowledge or talent.
- You are often not allowed an opinion.
- Don’t even think about directing.
- If you’re young you’re there to look pretty.
- You are just there to serve the narrative or you are playing prostitute 1.
- If you are more mature then you will only be regarded as the mother.
Of course this is a very tongue in cheek list, however these points are not far from the truth and sometimes they are an excruciating reality. Because despite many waves of feminism women are still at the bottom of the pile when it comes to interesting narrative.
I’m sure we are all aware of the Bechdel test, which asks whether two women (or more) that are in a scene of fiction, discuss something other than a man. Go on, think about it- pick your three favourite films or plays. It’s a challenge to comply with the rule. Beyond this how are the women in the story portrayed? How much of our opinion of their character is shown to us through the eyes of a man? How many plays/films etc. can you think of which the content of the story is that of a woman? Their feelings, fuck ups, celebrations and good old banal day to day life?
Baby steps are being taken by many writers and I am sure you who can all list those fantastic examples. But until there are more female producers, writers and directors I don’t believe we are going to see a huge change. I know a few incredible male directors and writers who are aware of this injustice and who are trying to correct it. But come on, we don’t want to be solely relying on intelligent men to produce work for us.
Let’s collaborate together and also take action into our own hands, unfortunately even this can be a challenge. Once when I was holding auditions, the majority of the actors headed straight for my male assistant to introduce themselves, I only got asked where the director was! But we can overcome this type of petty social conditioning, yes there is still a disproportion of men to women who are creating work, but we don’t need to let that stop us and equally we do not need to make enemies of the opposite sex.
We can all shift the balance, let’s start writing, creating, meeting people, encouraging others to create work, teaching, directing and producing ourselves. We don’t need to highlight our difference in gender but we do need to acknowledge it and champion each other’s work. We need to soak up as much art, history, science and culture as we can, that will make us better actors as well as artists and business people. This is something that we all have the power to change and with resolve, hard work, creativity and focus we can inspire a whole new generation of intelligent and creative female actors because of all the incredible scripts, female led companies and role models.
Chelsea Newton Mountney is an actress and director, she is currently producing and directing Am I F*#kable?! – a devised piece of theatre premiering at Brighton Fringe 2016.
Chelsea is also appearing in Not Just The Companion at The Dukebox Theatre on Wednesday 9th March 2016. The best men’s roles are gender-flipped to show that if the words are good enough, great drama doesn’t have to be a boys only club.