I write a lot asking where all the women are in directing, in playwriting, as lead roles in children’s movies, and books. But in the last two weeks I have been thinking a lot about theatre critics. We had a press night for the show The Great God Pan, which I directed at Epic Theatre Company in Rhode Island. So far, I have read five reviews of the play from the following: Motif Magazine, The Providence Phoenix, The Providence Journal, Broadway World, and The Edge, which I believe is a digital magazine. Guess how many of those critics were women? None! Excellent guess. How did you know?
And as I am a research geek, I went to the American Theatre Critics Association to look at their membership. Under the membership tab, there is a list of members who maintain blogs. About half of the blogs are written by women (13/30). I even Google imaged anyone with a gender neutral name, just to be sure. Of their entire membership, only 37% are women. I laughed when I did the math because it seems like women exist in this 30th percentile range in so many places of representation. Faculty are about 38% female, nationally. e However, we quickly leave such a high percentile if we look at directors (5%) or politicians (18.5% in Congress).
So, why do we care? Well, for one thing, if only men are critiquing what they see and others are reading those critiques and making determinations about whether to see something or not based on that critique, we might be missing half of society’s view. And if we drill down even more and examine how men review plays written or directed by women, do we come up with a bias? Maybe. My friend and artistic director at Epic threw that idea out there, and while I haven’t studied this, I certainly am adding it to the list of articles I want to write but never get to. Maybe I can find some smart graduate student of theatre who will want to study this subject.
We know that women are barely represented as writers in major print and online news. The Op-Ed Project, which I was fortunate to attend, maintains an ongoing study of this phenomenon (or should I call it discrimination?). Check out their stats on women writers on their homepage. You’ll be amazed. Or pissed.
What’s a girl to do? Well, for one, you can write. And if you can’t get into the “big boys club” to write, you have to do it on your own, like I do. I did send a message to one of the papers that reviewed us and asked the publisher/editor if he needed any female writers. His response? No response. That was Motif, by the way, in case you are wondering. You can write an op-ed about the lack of women. And you can be really choosy about what you read. Always check who the author is. It’s not easy in this fast paced world to pause and reflect, but we can’t change anything unless we know how bad the situation is.