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Gender equality revisited

At the risk of becoming the Rust’s ‘gender equality’ correspondent I return today to this subject.

I’m minded to do so for two reasons. Firstly, earlier this week we were treated to the news that actress Sierra Boggess – someone whose existence I was previously unware of – has withdrawn from a starring role in the forthcoming BBC Proms version of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story because of a campaign complaining about the fact that, whatever her origins, she is not a Latina when said role is that of playing one.

See here for a link to the story as reported upon the website of – BBC NEWS

This, of course, is all part of the fashionable politically-correct, diversity-promoting, tsunami-like ‘equality’ movement washing around the globe and sweeping nearly all before it.

But there’s an element of ‘having one’s cake and eating it’ about the thrust because in parallel there’s another, similarly-popular, campaign promoting the notion that anyone – specifically, for example, that those who are women, black, disabled, LGBT (add here any minority you like) – should have equal opportunity to play any role in theatre, film or dance, not least those originally created for people of quite different and specific characteristics.

So let’s just take those two together for a moment.

The extended logic of the former, or so it seems to me, is that no character created in the dramatic arts (or indeed history, if the piece contains historical characters) who is black, disabled, Latino, gay, a sufferer of Asperger’s, mad, stupid, alien … etc. ad infinitum … can or should ever be played by anyone who isn’t black, disabled, Latino, gay, a sufferer of Asperger’s, mad, stupid or alien.

Er … presumably because that would be denying anyone who is black, disabled, Latino, gay, a sufferer of Asperger’s, mad, stupid or alien an employment opportunity.

(Riffing off the top of my head here) so that means that Laurence Olivier should never have been allowed to play Othello, Daniel Day-Lewis wouldn’t have got the job as Christy Brown in the movie My Left Foot (1989) … no heterosexual can ever play a gay, and vice versa …  and er … unless, that is, you take a different view of his antecedents, David Bowie should never have been allowed to play Thomas Jerome Newton in Nicholas Roeg’s 1976 movie The Man Who Fell To Earth.

And so on.

Now to the second campaign above-mentioned, with which to be honest I don’t have a particular problem.

I don’t see any reason why, for example, women cannot or should not have a stab at playing the great Shakespearian male roles.

Fiona Shaw played Richard II in 1995; Sarah Bernhardt (1899) and Maxine Peake (2017) have played Hamlet; in 2016 Glenda Jackson played King Lear and Michelle Terry played Henry V. There are innumerable examples, so I won’t go on.

Why shouldn’t women play male roles, or vice versa?

Innovation and invention, even challenging stereotypical expectations of every nature, is all part of the lifeblood of the performing arts.

But just a minute, taking these two campaigns together, when is a white male ever going to get acting employment in future?

Once every ‘minority’ character is played by a relevant minority actor … and then every white male character played by a black disabled lesbian woman with Asperger’s … white male actors will gradually become redundant.

Oh hang on, I now get it. When white men have become a disadvantaged minority … they’ll then start benefiting from the rules promoting minority groups … and so the world will go around again.


Separately, the IAAF is currently struggling to deal with the issue of transgender athletes – specifically those who switch sex to become women or alternatively exist in the twilight world where they produce more testosterone than any ‘normal’ female and thereby have an in-built advantage in women’s events.

See here for a report on the subject by Sean Ingle as recently appeared on the website of – THE GUARDIAN

I’m a pretty ordinary and straightforward old male so I have plenty of sympathy for those middle-distance lady athletes who have felt hard done by in recent years when being out-muscled and sprinted by the likes of South Africa’s Caster Seymena.

This is complicated and sometimes difficult territory to stray into – and will probably remain so for years to come yet.

However, there is one development that would sort all of this out, of course – and in all sports as well.

That would be to make no distinction between men and women, or indeed transgender individuals (whichever direction of journey they’re on).

And just simply have one competition for all human beings and let things pan out as they might.

Why not?

It might be better than going down the ‘We shall not rest until we have 50:50 representation of women and men in every employment’ or even ‘If women cannot compete upon equal terms in a certain sports then men shouldn’t be allowed to play them either’.

Can you imagine England rugby’s Eddie Jones having to decide which seven or eight women he’s going to be picking – and in which positions – to play in the 2019 Six Nations?

Or Gareth Southgate working out which five or six females he’s going to include in his next football World Cup starting eleven?

[Actually, now I think of it … it actually could be quite fun!]



About J S Bird

A retired academic, Jeremy will contribute article on subjects that attract his interest. More Posts