The Decline of Women in French Theatre


The theater emerged in Greece over two millennia ago. The Goddesses and heroines were the Greek society pinnacles, and they were the drama production stars. Despite this fact, the woman’s role in the Greek Theater was non-existent. Women were prohibited from being onstage, and it was regarded as dangerous to offer them a prominent platform. In fact, even the famous characters such as Antigone, the tragic heroine, were exclusively portrayed by male actors. The inclusion of women in theatre was always regarded as a venue that will allow them freedom to begin a mass controversy to stand up to the menfolk in political situations.

The Change

In the 1620s, actresses in Europe took to the stage, and it was a tumultuous time for women as they were berated and harassed during performances. Yet, women pursued their stage conquest, though they were ridiculed. In 1660, the Restoration movement set a wave of changes and women were permitted to perform. This movement brought a massive shift in the attitude of female performers. The society also acknowledged the women actors, and in the 17th century, the actresses received a gradual rise in their status.

American translator, playwright, and journalist Amelia Parenteau during her visit to France, where she was writing about the contemporary scene of theatre, asked ‘Where are the women in French theater ‘?  She witnessed in Paris the under-representation of diversity. As per the 2014-2015 survey in France, it revealed that 35% of choreographers, 28% directors, 24% playwrights, 21% instrumental soloists, 5% librettists, 4% orchestra conductors and 1% composes, were all women. These statistics revealed the reality of women recognition and representation in the dramatic arts in France.

Women’s Rights

President Francois Hollande enforced parity, and in the Hollande’s cabinet of 34 members, 17 were women. He engaged Najat Vallaud Belkacem as the Minister of Women’s Rights. Vallaud Belkacem was charged for asking equal remuneration in the workplace and opportunity for women. The French clung to the codes of governance and antiquated systems exclusively for women. They took the claims of idealism to hide behind and were not ready to change the law to parity asserting it will reduce the value of women if they filled in the position of power by mandate and not by merit. They also said they would like the patriarchal systems to change and give women better chances to be regarded for these power positions. This debate of men and women having equal representation in the constitution came to be in 1998, and the well-balanced Hollande’s cabinet in French politics became a striking gesture.

Keeping the law in place, the time appeared to change by allocating more political power positions in favor of women. Even the French feminists were lining to show their support. HF Ile-de-France, an organization, was fighting in support for equal representation of women and men in arts and culture. Thus HF Ile-de-France dedicated towards equality made the theaters stay committed to fighting social and artistic discrimination against women, and created balanced program pieces offering equal distribution of budget to men and women.

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