Letter: The feminine form

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Sir: Sad to read the stock response of Debora Williams to Beverly Mayle's complaint (letter, 29 January). Of course, I agree that there is no need for barristers and surgeons to be distinguished by their sex but, because of actresses' misguided attempts to be taken as seriously as the male of the species, employers who need to indicate which roles are for men and which for women now feel obliged to advertise for "male and female actors". There is something reminiscent of laboratory rats in this phrase, as far removed as one can get from the messy creativity of the theatre.

Aesthetics apart, we cannot ignore the fact that show business is still dominated by men and that in most produced new plays and films women are relegated to the "sex interest". There is also the small matter of massive wage differentials between male and female performers.

The word "actress" is not, as Debora Williams claims, a "fatuous and insulting" diminutive, but conjures up those gifted, alluring and exciting creatures of the 17th and 18th centuries who fought with spirit and courage to overcome Puritan prejudices about women on the stage. I'd far rather be associated with those true feminists than label myself an "actor", knowing I haven't quite as much clout as my male counterpart.


London SW11