Good news, guys!
Sexism is completely over!
That’s right – no more inequality between men and women socially, in the workplace, or otherwise. We’ve completely solved it. Men and women now have equal rights in every situation, in every aspect of our lives. We should all be proud! We’ve done a great job eradicating prejudice and providing opportunities for all people, regardless of their sex.
Oh, no, wait. That’s not what I mean. I meant the opposite thing. Silly me!
In fact, women continue to struggle against bias everywhere in society. For instance, they experience it in the workplace, where they still receive 78 cents on the dollar for what men are paid. Even more so in STEM fields such as chemical engineering, where just 17% of engineers are women. And our country has still never had a female President or Vice President.
One might assume that in other areas of society there might be more balance, such as the arts. One might assume that, but one would be dead wrong. There is just as much inequality in the artistic fields as there is in the scientific and governmental arenas, despite the fact that women have been producing art for just as long as men.
Take the city where I live, Philadelphia. Philly is a swarming lovefest of culture and art, and yet women are underrepresented in the cultural scene. The Philadelphia Orchestra has only 33% female members, and has never had a female musical director. The Barnes Foundation, a revered art museum in Philly, features five women out of the fifteen members of their Board of Trustees. And the performing arts may be the most woefully womanless of all.
In 1908 – the same year the first Model T Ford was put into production – 12.8% of plays produced on Broadway were written by women playwrights. 100 years later, that number had actually DECREASED by .2 percent.
In the last 25 years, the Tony Award for Best Play has only been handed out to a woman two times – and both times it was to the same woman, Yasmina Reza.
All this despite the fact that women make up 70% of Broadway audiences. Women go to the theatre – a lot. And when we go, we want to see stories told by people like us, people who have experienced what we have experienced, people who can speak to our struggle and tell our stories. We want to see plays by women, for women. We want to see ourselves reflected, legitimized, validated. We want women represented on and off the stage.
This is where female artists have to stand up and take charge. Organizations have cropped up all over the country to combat this outrageous inequality of women in the arts.
In my corner of Philadelphia, I am wildly excited about the introduction of the Philadelphia Women’s Theatre Festival, a brand new community which seeks to create opportunities and resources for female directors, playwrights, performers and other theatre professionals. Their project culminates in a city-wide theatre festival featuring the works of these artists, allowing their work to reach a wider audience and inspiring theatregoers to open their horizons. Organizations like PWTF are making a difference in the artistic community by enabling these stories to be told.
Don’t live near Philadelphia? Check out the Women’s Theatre Alliance in Chicago. Or the Los Angeles Female Playwrights’ Initiative. Or the League of Professional Theatre Women in New York, which has the added bonus of sounding like a superhero posse. All are working to promote opportunities for women theatre artists.
Women need a chance to speak, both onstage and off. Consider supporting women in the arts by donating to a cause – or just by showing up at the theatre with your ticket in hand.