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A Brief History of the Gender Parity Movement in Theatre

26 Feb 2023 8:30 AM | Anonymous

This post references a brilliant and landmark article by Jenny Lyn Bader which appears on the WIT ( Women In Theatre website March 18, 2017 

A Brief History of the Gender Parity Movement in Theatre by Jenny Lyn Bader

In October 1978, the Feminist Theatre Study Group picketed five shows on London’s West End, handing out leaflets that began with a few questions. To wit,

Did the characters in this play imply that:

  • Blondes are dumb?
  • Wives nag?
  • Feminists are frustrated?
  • Whores have hearts of gold?
  • Mothers-in-law interfere?
  • Lesbians are aggressive?
  • Intellectual women are frigid?
  • Women who enjoy sex are nymphomaniacs?
  • Older women are sexless?

We are a group of theatre workers who are tired of portraying these cardboard cutouts. We want theatre managers, directors, and writers to stop producing plays which insult women.

At that point, the group Action for Women in Theatre had looked at US theatres from 1969 to 1975, releasing a study that found that the number of female playwrights and directors working in regional and off-Broadway theatres was at 7 percent. Women were not merely getting insulted more than men, they were also getting hired a lot less. The two things were perhaps related.

While the numbers have improved since then, the gender imbalance has continued to exist to the present day.

The first known woman playwright: the tenth century German canoness Hrosvitha of Gandersheim. [Image]

I myself became aware of it gradually and then suddenly. I remember the moment a consultant for a certain theatre suggested I apply for a playwriting fellowship designated for disadvantaged minorities because at that theatre, “women are considered a minority.” More profoundly, I remember a town hall meeting where discussion topics ranged from historical statistics to the public’s received image of a playwright as a “bad boy” or “angry young man.”

We live in a world dominated by male imagination. Guys write 80 percent of produced plays and commit 80 percent of violent crimes, while the rest of us try to catch up with the former and avoid the latter.

In case you missed the theatre industry’s gender parity movement, here’s a recap: women have been writing plays for millennia and landing productions for centuries. Over time they’ve also come to play key roles......

Read the rest of the article on the WIT website

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