When US researcher Emily Glassberg Sands sent out identical scripts to theatres in the US in 2009, half with a male name and half with a female name, she found that those believed to have been written by women were rated significantly worse by artistic directors and literary managers than those written by men. This was even the case when many of those artistic directors and literary managers were women. With my thesis approaching; a play called The Cracking Hour, written by Jahna Ferron-Smith, I found this study particularly disturbing and frustrating. And it’s not even the sort of thing that we can just blame on complacent white men in power- women are part of the problem too. There must be some expectation deeply engrained in our society that colors our perception of female writers.
Of course, we need to keep in mind that theatres are doing classic plays like Shakespeare and others, but even then the numbers are grossly uneven; the most recent research done by Sphinx Theatre Company shows that only 17% of produced plays are by women.
So how can we counteract this? If the idea that female playwrights are inferior is somehow woven into the fabric of our society, so much so that female and artistic directors and literary managers hold an equal bias, what is there to be done? Several theaters have begun operating under the rule that plays be submitted anonymously so there is no chance for gender bias. I think this is a good start and should become expected of theatres- why the heck not? If we know that our view is going to be colored, even subconsciously, shouldn’t we remove the chance for bias if we are able to? It seems like an easy choice to me.