Back in March, we celebrated International Women’s Day, an event held around the globe to commemorate the struggle and movement for women’s rights. This year, International Women’s Day was celebrated with the theme ‘Be Bold for Change’ to encourage a more inclusive, gender equal world in the changing world of work. The world united in recognition of the importance of empowering all women and raising their voices.
One area in which gender equality is largely challenged is the arts. In the film industry, gender segregation is eminent at all levels with disparity running rampant on screen and behind the scenes. Only 28.7% of speaking roles in films released in 2014 were filled by women and it wasn’t until 2010 that Kathryn Bigelow became the first female director to win best director at the Oscars for The Hurt Locker (2008). In Hollywood, the pay gap is even worse than it is for the average woman working full time. Writing in Slate, Betsy Woodruff found that in 2013, the top-paid male actors listed in Forbes were paid 2½ times more than the top-paid female actors.
The battle for gender equality is slow and lethargic in theatre as well. Agatha Christie’s ‘The Mousetrap‘ is quoted as often being the only play by a female playwright running in the West End, female playwrights make up 17% of produced plays and it was only in 2008 that the National Theatre (UK) staged a female playwright’s original work on the Olivier Stage for the first time. Its not that there’s a shortage of women working in the arts, it’s the obstacles that they face which need to be scrutinised and addressed.
Feminism is fundamental for empowering women and providing people with freedom and choice. Feminism isn’t just a matter of gender – it’s a matter of humanity.
Here are 3 actors who publicly speak out for gender equality:
1.Emma Watson– “Feminism is about giving women choice, feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women. It’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality.”
British actor, Emma Watson, best known for her role as Hermione Granger in Harry Potter, was appointed as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador in 2014 and helped with the launch of the UN Women campaign HeForShe, which encourages men to advocate gender equality. Watson gave a speech in Uruguay during her first country visit as a UN Women Goodwill Ambassador where she highlighted the need for women’s political participation. Watson is not just an actor, she is a activist for women and young girls around the globe.
2.Douglas Booth– “Engaging men everywhere is vital to help end gender-based atrocities in areas of conflict- and also to ensure equality for everyone; wherever they land on the gender spectrum.”
British actor, Douglas Booth, largely supports the UN Women’s campaign HeforShe alongside Emma Watson. In 2015, he gave a speech at the London School of Economics which campaigned to foster a more inclusive environment and urged all students to get involved with the HeforShe movement to take immediate action.
3.Patrick Stewart– “People wont listen to you or take you seriously unless you’re an old white man, and since I’m an old white man I’m going to use that to help the people who need it.”
Stewart’s work as an anti-violence advocate has become equally as important as his acting. Stewart works with campaigns such a Ring the Bell to end violence against women. In 2013, he gave a passionate speech on gendered violence and ended it by saying, “It’s in our hands to stop violence against women.”.
Want to learn more about feminism or gender equality on stage and screen? Here are some links which you might find useful and interesting!