Posted in A-Levels, Academic, EPQ, Essay, Feminism, Feminist, Sexism, Student, Theatre, Writing

My Extended Project:Is The Theatre industry Sexist.

Currently gender equality is debated more hotly than before, is there still an excuse for sexism? Not only is sexism still happening in the workplace, schools and in the media it’s also happening within theatre. In the UK  there’s a 2:1 male to female ratio within British theatre (1). We may think that art creates positive  liberal changes for society but sexism is so ingrained, it often goes unnoticed and when it is noticed it largely is ignored. Is sexism only prominent within regional theatres or does it go much deeper beyond the parts and into the playwriting? If this is the case what can be done about it?  

 

Sexism within theatre may be due to the history of English theatre going back to Shakespeare, who was writing for all male theatre companies. In Elizabethan time period “actresses and prostitution were merely synonyms” (2) .It was taboo for a woman to enter the world of theatre as “In many Western countries women were forbidden to act on the respectable stage until a mere 400 years ago”(2),during this time period women “were played by male actors in drag while real women were banned from the stage” (3) to the Elizabethans the lack of women  on stage wouldn’t be seen as sexist due to the patriarchal society banning women from the stage.

Shakespeare wrote the vast majority of the parts for men out  of his  981 characters 826 are   male,whereas 155 are female (1). Women don’t have as many lines as men, of roles with over 500 lines only 13% of these parts are female(1). Rosalind one of Shakespeare more loquacious heroines has 730 lines, Hamlet has 1,539 (1). Meaning there are  fewer opportunities for women to develop their acting abilities; the foundation for much of theatre is Shakespeare limiting the roles for women.

Arguably the sexism that has  stemmed from Shakespeare means we’ve  become so used to not seeing women on stage as “classical play (are)..regarded as allies in..suppressing real women and replacing them with masks of patriarchal production” (3). Elizabeth Freestone suggests “we’ve been caught thinking that 30% women is good enough..there has been a sort of  blindness to female actors due to the burden of the classical canon” (1), suggesting an institutional sexism within the theatre industry. Arguably Shakespeare didn’t think about the gender breakdown within his plays only what made good characters. As Twelfth Night demonstrates, Shakespeare  plays around with gender roles as Viola and Sebastian both cross dress.

 

Tonic Theatre looked at a sample of plays and found that if a play was written by a man 65% of the parts were for males; when written by a woman this figure dropped to 48% suggesting women are more likely to split parts up equally.

 

In 2014 Maxine Peake took on the role of Hamlet, possibly a backlash to the sexism her interpretation was widely praised “though reviewers still focused on the presence of a female actor in that role” (8);possibly suggesting that critics still stick to the canon ignoring multiple gender possibilities. Maxine Peake’s performance of Hamlet has allowed the reinterpretation scripts and ideas, however by doing this the misogyny is ignored(9). Even in the twenty first century we still can’t erase Shakespeare’s injustices (due to the patriarchal theatre conventions he had to conform to) and write them off as a product of another time (9). When changing the gender canon we should still remember that sexism  is still a problem within theatre; instead of challenging the problems we pretend they don’t exist in the first place.

 

Stella Duffy echoes this point, arguing when women “do not see ( themselves) on stage( they) are reminded yet again that the people running our world ..do not notice when we are not there. That they think men..are all we need to see” (1). This is also echoed by Phyllida Lloyd who suggests “It’s not a conspiracy by men to keep women off ..stage, it’s just they don’t notice when we’re not there”(5). Duffy then goes on to  argue that “fringe theatre is better balanced” in terms of gender and “national theatre companies should lead by example” (1).  According to the guardian in 2012 the National theatre had a record low of female actors, of all female actors employed on 34% of these were women. Tonic theatre who in 2014 took a snapshot of females in creative roles and found that of the 20 plays in the West End 29% of performers were female compared to 71% of male performers .From my own research looking through theatre programmes, graph one shows within touring companies the male to female ratio always has a higher proportion of males within the cast and overall. Particularly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s where there’s a 3:1 ratio. Within amateur productions ( graph three) there are gender differences, with a higher proportion of males. However  in High Green Musical Theatre Company there is a significantly higher proportion of females, but within amateur theatre groups the directors have to work with volunteers who want to be involved. This suggests the theatre industry is more sexist within professional theatre, there are women who want to be involved but barriers stop them.

Phyllida Lloyd had an all female cast of Julius Caesar at the Donmar warehouse covent garden London, Shakespeare’s most male heavy play giving five females the male roles the share of female lines only increased  from 0.67 to 14%  (1) giving women a greater voice on stage. However 14% increase is a small as female characters  don’t have many lines to start with. This is a positive step forward to challenge sexism however this was on a small scale in a lesser known  location which isn’t as likely to make as much of a change like it would if it was performed somewhere like the National Theatre.

In opposition to this  Nastazja Somers suggests most people “blame big guys at the top” however goes on to say she doesn’t see much diversity at the fringe (4), giving women a voice needs to start from the bottom and work its way up. But it may be a difficulty for this to happen because fringe theatre is often freelance, a hard place for women to sustain a career and children as there is “no pension, no maternity leave, a nomadic lifestyle and unsociable hours” (1) meaning that women are less likely to be represented. Arguably it is the role  of big theatre companies such as the National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare company to be inclusive of women so they will be able to sustain a career. Hynter (previous Artistic director at the National Theatre) suggests he “can’t..tell directors how they should cast”(1).Jonathan Church ( previous Artistic director for the Chichester festival theatre) argues regional theatres face huge pressures when programming 20th century or contemporary work for an auditorium”(1) , for this to be successful they need to attract  big “names “ that have West End success  such as  “Coward, Ayckbourn, Stoppard, Hare, Rattigan: (who are) all men”(1).

Church can be criticised because he ignores the work of amateur groups who attract a large number of audience members despite a lack of “names”. He ignores that an audience member may attend to see a story not a particular actor. Arguably the theatre industry is sexist due to more parts being available to men, potentially gender-blind casting is taking place.Rosemary Squire suggests that sexism in theatre will never change unless quotas are introduced to encourage directors to employ more females, she then goes on to “No one’s going to stop(the sexism) unless they are told to” because after “a few decades, nothing’s really moved. There must be a forced cultural shift”(6) suggesting that it is not only female actresses who need to voice their want for sexism to end but also audience members ;a change of view from society as a whole is needed to achieve this(6). Playwright  Duncan MacMillan suggests a “characters (arguably actors) gender is visible somehow, whereas if it was a male character (or actor) I don’t think we ( as an audience )would think twice..That surely reflects that we have certain biases and a certain type of theatre culture that notices when a woman is talking on stage about something other than men”(7) suggesting that there is an uproar when we distance ourselves from the male canon.

As well as the parts within theatre there are few female scriptwriters adding to the sexism. According to the New York Times, research was undertaken by Emily Glassberg Sands (an economist) who suggests “There is discrimination against female playwrights within the theatre community”, to do this research she undertook three separate studies; she looked at playwrights themselves. She reviewed information on 20,000 playwrights in the Dramatists guild Doodlle.com, an online database of playwrights, her findings again showed a 2:1 male to female split with men writing more plays. Arguably suggesting the theatre industry isn’t sexist if men are putting more effort into writing plays, agreeing with the statement that good scripts by women are in short supply.Ms Sands also discovered that women playwrights were more likely to write about female characters, however they were less likely to be produced adding to the 2:1 gender divide within the parts within British Theatre.

 

But study can be criticised as the source of Doodllee.com relies on the users and the information may be incomplete, therefore her results may not be valid.

 

For her second study Ms Glassberg Sands sent identical scripts to artistic directors and managers around the country split equally between male and female names. In her research she found that the scripts with female authors received worse ratings in terms of audience reviews and economic prospects compared to the scripts with male authors, despite them being exactly the same script.Adding to the evidence that the theatre industry is sexist,arguably a lack of female playwrights adds to the patriarchy. However the biggest twist is the results were driven by female artistic directors and literary managers, suggesting it is women themselves putting barriers up for other women who are trying to make it within the theatre industry. Suggesting it is not men stopping women progressing in the theatre industry but  women themselves. Ms Sands goes on to say “Men rate men and women’s playwrights exactly the same”. This evidence suggests that the theatre industry is sexist to an extent as there are more barriers for women within theatre, but this evidence suggests women are  putting up their own barriers.

 

For the final study Ms. Sands looked specifically at Broadway where women write fewer than ⅛ shows. She examined 329 new plays and musicals produced in ten years to see if the bar was set higher for women. The goal in any theatre is to make a profit, her research shows plays by women sold 16% more tickets than plays written by men and were 18% more profitable. However even though these shows earned more money they didn’t continue running any longer than less profitable shows. Ms Sands suggests this is clear evidence that the theatre industry is discriminative against women, but it could be argued that certain shows (if touring ) are booked in for different time periods therefore the fact that women’s plays sold more but didn’t continue may be due to this.

 

These studies could be criticised on a whole because they are  small scale and don’t look at the amount of female playwrights as a whole. However according to the guardian the latest research show that little progress has been made with gender and play production, a decade ago 30% of new shows were written by women in 2013  this figure stood at 31%.The only area where women playwrights came close to male playwrights was work for children and young people where 40% of shows were written by women ,suggesting women are only successful within theatre when they stay within the stereotypes that society has told them to remain in. In September 2014  Tonic Theatre took a snapshot of the 20 shows being performed in the West End, only  4% were written by women amounting to just one Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap. The amount of female writers within non for profit organisations was only slightly bigger at 8% ;suggesting yet again there is sexism within theatre.

 

However there is a cultural shift happening within theatre, Tonic Theatre is a programme which brings together “brings together the Artistic Directors, Chief Executives, and senior staff of leading performing arts organisations” from May 2013 to October 2014 it piloted a scheme with 11 theatres to get them to look at the root cause behind the lack of women within theatre.  From their research they found that there was a lack of women on stage due to out-dated structures linking back to Shakespeare, suggesting that if changes are left to occur naturally they will happen but slowly. It is also pointed out that women having babies is an excuse for the imbalances there are a range of factors which act as a barrier for women, like Squire suggests there is a need for quotas, “sometimes imposing..50:50 targets is the only way to go”. As a result of this scheme the cohort of the 11 theatres have outlined what they will do as a result of this scheme such as noticing the unconscious bias and becoming aware of its impacts. Secondly create symbolic relationships with artists and freelancers to support their career in a more sustained way and finally work collectively to  achieve change. Sheffield Theatres  was a worked with, in my own research (graph 2) in 2 out of the 3 plays women accounted for a smaller proportion overall however in Lady Chatterley’s lover this was only a small difference with 9 women to 10 men suggesting positive steps are being taken to close the gender divide. Also showboat ran from December 2015 to January 2016, when the plan for change had only just been implemented. Overall these steps are positive in achieving change to close the gender gap and stop sexism within theatre.

 

To conclude in many areas the theatre industry is sexist ; this is largely the case in regional theatres such as the Royal Shakespeare company and The National theatre because they have to attract big names to pull audiences in. There arguably is less sexism within fringe productions this may be because it is done largely on a voluntary basis and there is less pay, also their career is less stable than in a professional theatre company. Female scriptwriters also face sexism within the theatre industry as there are very few women who are able to get their script produced, there is a lack of female scriptwriters on Broadway, The West End and non for profit organisations. However Tonic Theatres initiatives are positive ways forward to reduce this sexism and eventually stop it.

 

Graph 1:

Graph one touring Productions

Graph 2:

Graph 2

Graph 3:

Graph 3

 

References:

(3)Ashton, E and Case,S (1988,2008)Feminism and Theatre.ed.[ebook]Basingstoke, Hampshire and New York:Palgrave MacMillan,p5-28. Available at :https://books.google.co.uk/books?hl=en&lr=&id=OvMcBQAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PP1&ots=PYv7kKf1Oa&sig=rIjSojGrsBfT0OlsTFBBxFkQx-8#v=onepage&q&f=false [Accessed 2nd Jan 2017]

 

(6)Barnett,E(2013) British theatre’s most powerful woman:sadly we need quotas for women.The Telegraph [online] Available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-business/10091323/Rosemary-Squire-British-theatres-most-powerful-woman-sadly-we-need-quotas-for-women.html[Accessed 26th December 2016]

 

(7)Crompton,C(2016)Sexism on stage- meet the women tearing up the script.The Guardian[online] Available at:https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/jan/17/sexism-stage-female-playwrights-royal-court-theatre [Accessed 26th December 2016]

 

(5)Gardner,L (2015)In 10 years nothing has changed for female playwrights-it’s time to act. The Guardian [Blog] Available at https://www.theguardian.com/stage/theatreblog/2015/apr/28/nothing-changed-female-playwrights-uk-theatres-gender-equality [Accessed 5th December 2016]

 

(9)Gentry,R(2016)How should we respond to Shakespeare’s sexism.The Clyde Fitch Report [blog] Available at http://www.clydefitchreport.com/2016/01/shakespeare-sexism/ [Accessed 13th March 2016]

 

(1)Higgins,C (2012) Women in theatre:why do so few make it to the top.The Guardian,[online]Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2012/dec/10/women-in-theatre-glass-ceiling [Accessed 5th Dec 2016]Wo

 

(4) Masso,G (2017)Nastazja Somers ‘Everyone blames the big guys but diversity has to start at the fringe’. The Stage [online] Available at:https://www.thestage.co.uk/features/interviews/2017/nastazja-somers-everyone-blames-big-guys-diversity-start-fringe/ [Accessed 13th March 2017]

 

(8)McManus,C (undated) Shakespeare and gender: the woman’s part .The British Library [online]Available at:https://www.bl.uk/shakespeare/articles/shakespeare-and-gender-the-womans-part [Accessed 13th March 2017]

 

(2) Wandor,M (1986) Carry on understudies:Theatre and sexual politics.ed.[ebook] London:Taylor & Francis e-Library,2005,p14-16.Available at: https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=21yQAgAAQBAJ&pg=PA14&lpg=PA14&dq=%22In+many+Western+countries+women+were+forbidden+to+act+on+the+respectable+stage+until+a+mere+400+years+ago&source=bl&ots=hYoCV6P4El&sig=QHaNcvZjKElHgkw8B0bg8POpmLY&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwilms65-u_SAhWMDcAKHWMMDbcQ6AEIGjAA#v=onepage&q&f=false [Accessed 2nd Jan 2017]

 

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Posted in Body confidence, Body image, Body parts, Emotions, Feminist, Growing up, Humour, Love, Relationship, Sex, virginity, Writing

Bend Clit like Beckham

I’ve learnt through writing my poetry my inner insecurities pop up several times, which I may add I’ve been very open about. Or the poems follow the same themes of love or boys or breast and then there’s the random nature poem thrown in here and there. 

  • I’ve noticed I’m very insecure about my breasts due to their size ; after an appiphany I’ve finally realised that the size of then doesn’t matter. I feel as if society has brain-washed me into thinking that anything under a D cup is un-feminine. We live in a patriarchal , image conscious society where we are constantly bombarded with images of tall, skinny ,big breasted women pasted in magazines, billboards, advertisements and on social media. Which is a constant video game of fakery each person creating an avatar or idealised image of themselves where a like is considered social currency and the more likes you get the more popular you are considered.
  •  In this idealised world we are taught to tear eachother down because our own insecurities are nagging, even the most beautiful women will have their own insecutities. When we don’t bitch we are somehow betraying the stereotypical view of women but we all should stand together not break eachother down.
  •  I’m sure you’ll have seen the image where it gives a list of cup sizes and it says something like:  A: Almost boobs , B:Barley Boob’s , C: Can’t Complain, D: Dang , DD: Double Dang, F:Fake , G:Get a reduction, H: Help me I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.  I think I found this on something called man Bible I’m not too sure , but let me ask you this. Are you really a man ((Or woman so I don’t get the menninsits onto me )) if you decide to judge women on the size of their breasts do you really deserve that title?
  •  Who the Fuck do you actually think you are telling me what size I should have ?  Have I ever asked you to grow an extra inch on your penis?  (( I know men also come under societal pressure to have a huuge 9incher but I honesty don’t think men come under as much scrutiny as women ,but what would I know. I’m obviously on my period according to you because you find it intimidating that I am expressing an opinion))
  • I’ve had a few names thrown at me  such as “Titless.”, “Fried egg boobs.” which added to pressure has helped with gnawing insecurity. Today I’m going to throw that away and say  “Fuck You!” because I have been given this body and there is nothing I can do to change it ((Well apart from a push up bra and a boob job which I’ll never get because I don’t want plastic in my body but if you yourself want one Go for it , whatever makes you comfortable))   my genes have given me 32A’S and I will embrace them . For starters they don’t make my back ache or stop me wearing clothes.
  •   I think all women no matter what shape or size they are want to change something, for starters I’m 5ft 2 and want to be taller, my friend is 6ft 3 and wants to be my height. Curvy girls want to be skinny and vice versa. We all want to have the perfect body , but what is perfect? Everyone’s body is different, special and unique, nobody can take that uniqueness away which is what makes you perfect because no one will have the same body that you have.

  • I’ve also noticed that I tend to point out ..drumroll..Wait for it …Queue the music..I’m a Virgin obviously begging for the Big D  to finally give me the oxygen I’ve been begging for my while life..haha..No.

  • Virginity is a race but a race where there are no prizes there is stigma attached for becoming first and last.  I’m nearly eighteen and when confessed “I’m a virgin.” The reply usually is “Wait ..What ..You..I thought you’d have lost it by now.”  or my personal favourite “Oh you’re waiting ..That’s so cute , bless.”
  • The fact of the matter is I’m not intentionally trying to wait or intentionally trying to lose it either. When me and my ex used to go out I’d say “I want to wait at least a year before we have sex.” we never really got to that point ((obviously)), this made me think if I put a timescale on it does that mean I wasn’t comfortable in the relationship or that I wasn’t ready to lose it ? In the eye’s some beholders that would be enough to make me a “Prude.” ((a person who is or claims to be easily shocked by matters relating to sex or nudity.)) the fact of the matter is I would rather get to know the person.Why  has society taught women that virginity is so sacred?
  • This I can’t answer. I’m going to put my hands up and say sex used to embarrass me. I can only speak on behalf of myself but I can vividly remember being eleven and being forced by my school to watch a DVD where we we’re taught about the sperm race,then we had to watch two cartoon people having sex. When we we’re twelve it moved to putting condoms on dildos and lube sampling…Nice.  I particularly remember watching Schindler’s list in year nine, blushing mercilessly at the sex scene which I got teased for.
  • Like I’ve said before virginity is a race with no winners, the only winner is judgement.  If a  woman has had sex  with a lot of men or  is percieved to have a lot of sex she is labelled a ‘Slut’ (( 1. A patriarchal social construct which hold women to stricter standards than men are held to.  2. A woman with the sexist morals of a man)).  How can anyone tell how much sex a woman has had ? It seems in today’s society relationships, the ones that go wrong leave a stain on a woman and tarnish her reputation. Relationships, sex or labels don’t define a person their actions and words do. Arguably the term slut isn’t a type of girl but an attitude held by society to express panic at the idea of women who dare to enjoy sex , how much and who with.


  • Now the thing with Sex is I learnt a lot about the penis.  For example the penis gets erect when blood rushed into the penile tissue, it then stiffens and points outwards and upwards when erect.Then there was the wonderful diagram which I didn’t really care to read into because hello, I don’t have the penis.  We never learnt about the Vagina, which isn’t actually called the Vagina but the clitoris which on average is 3.5-5 inches long  and 2.5 inches wide.  Equivalent to the width of a tomato sauce bottle , or a jam jar and the length of a pen or a spoon.It contains 8,000  nerve endings and you don’t wee through it either .

  • Then there’s the slang for vagina which include: Love Cave, Minge, beaver, box and cunt.  I found in one of my English lessons that the word Vagina  comes from the Latin for Sword  Sheath  meaning that the only purpose for a vagina is to hold a ‘sword.’ or have things inserted into it and pulled in and out. Whereas the word cunt which we have been socialised into believing it’s awful means small room which is arguably less offensive.   Whereas the slang for Penis (Or at least some if it because we’d be here for days)) Love muscle, Member, Third legg and pocket rocket.   Arguably women’s genitalia are termed to be  derogatory and violent and suggest that the only purpose is for a man’s person is put inside.

I’m sorry this has been different from my previous blogs but it made me think and I hope it has made you too, I’d love to read your opinions and comments.