“She’s our little actress of the family.”
“So do you wanna be an actress when you grow up?”
“You are becoming quite the actress, dear.”
All of these are remarks from my family or family friends and while they are quite kind and mostly encouraging, there is one little thing: the word “actress.” On college surveys, BuzzFeed quizzes, and other things of that nature I always check the box “actor” when asked what my future profession will be even when given the choice between “actor” and “actress.” From the dawn of my performance art endeavors, I have always been confident in the fact that I am a singer, a dancer, and most of all an actor. I have never addressed a female who acts as an “actress.” It never really occurred to me that I didn’t do that or that others may until someone asked me if it bothered me that people use the word “actress” to describe me instead of “actor.” At first, I thought to myself “no, should I be?” But this person continued by telling me that people do not address female doctors as “doctresses.” With this example, I realized that the need for a female version of the word was interesting since other professions do not necessarily have that. I saw other examples and realized you don’t call a female teacher a “teachress” or a professor and “professress.” Yes, the word “actor” did come from the French word “acteur” and “actress” from “actrice,” but why do we still make a point in the English language of using a separate word? It unnerves me to no end that people will correct me when calling a female performer an “actor.” It doesn’t offend me when people talk about females as “actresses,” it’s just kind of odd that we still urge to do that.
As this month is Women’s History Month, awareness of gender inequality, more specifically in the professional world, has been brought to the attention of the public. This caused me to consider the roles (no pun intended) of women in musical theatre. For example, it is significantly easier for a male to get a role on Broadway than a female. Though there are a seemingly infinite amount of male roles and limited males interested in theater compared to females, since before Shakespearean productions, directors, producers, and casting- directors have hesitated even prohibited the use of females even in female roles. As we see in the fictitious story Shakespeare in Love, Viola has to pretend to be a male in order to be allowed to participate in plays. This discrimination against women has carried into the film world. Not to mention that women are also paid less. There have been recent acts of protests from male and female co-leads to fight for equal pay. Studies show that women in Hollywood reach the height of their payment at around their mid 30s while men have a steady increase until about 50. We see actors like Jennifer Lawrence, Sandra Bullock, and Natalie Portman address the absurdity of not being paid as much as their male co-leads.
As I continue in performance art, I think it is important to recognize the injustice especially in the payment gap. I see these Hollywood actors call it out and it makes me hopeful and proud. I have worked on a few films/short films and plan to keep doing so, but it’s hard work so the difference in pay due to gender is unacceptable. It will take an estimated 170 years for equal pay to be possible.
The lack of equality in general is insane.
So let’s fight for it, people!