‘I’ve seen shameful treatment of women over pay, weight and age' – Love/Hate’s Tom Vaughan-Lawlor
Love/Hate star Tom Vaughan-Lawlor has slammed the “shameful” treatment of women in the acting industry.
The Dublin actor, famous for his role as Nidge in the hit RTE crime drama, said women face many obstacles that male actors do not encounter – such as inferior pay, fixation on weight and bit-part roles.
Speaking at the Waking The Feminists event in Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, Vaughan-Lawlor pointed to a number of subtle differences that make the profession tougher for women.
“Over the years it became clearer and clearer to me that acting is a different profession for women,” he said. “Besides the visible imbalances in terms of pay and available roles, the focus on ageing and weight... there are a myriad of subtle ways that women in rehearsal rooms and on sets are deliberately or otherwise made to feel less.
“Once you open your eyes to it, you can see it everywhere,” he added.
He said that his wife Claire Cox, also an actor, made a point about the vast differences to him a number of years ago but he did not believe it at the time.
“She told me ‘you have no idea how hard it is to be heard in such a masculine environment’. I laughed it off at the time and teased her for not being tough enough,” he said.
The IFTA award-winning star has said he now wants to be proactive in taking a stand against these issues in order to create a fairer acting environment for both genders.
“When you realise the deep profound effects not only on those you love but also colleagues that inspire you and make you want to become an artist in the first place, it is shameful if you don’t at least add your voice to the call for change,” he said.
“The one thing I have resolved to do is to strive to be active in support rather than simply standing on the sidelines playing lip service to an ideal, to be more educated about the intricacies of gender inequality and to use that knowledge to play a part in making real change happen,” he added.
Vaughan-Lawlor was among actors, theatre professionals, writers, academics, business and community leaders, who gathered at the Abbey Theatre to mark the final major public event in Waking The Feminists’ year-long campaign for gender equality in Irish theatre.
Stand-up comedian Alison Spittle also spoke and said her role as a female comic meant she often received backhanded compliments such as “I don’t like female comedians, but you’re funny”.
She said that the lack of women on panel shows meant she would become envious of those that did appear on them, as she knew she had missed an opportunity.
“I saw women as rivals. There’s only one place for a woman on that panel show, there’s one slot on that night for a woman and there’s only one unfunny girlfriend role in that s**t sketch,” she said.
“Us comedians held our own meeting to encourage more women into comedy. The turnout was class. The amount of support offered was staggering, practical support such as cameras, script advice. Since then I’ve seen a lot more speaking out, festivals and comedy nights now get asked, ‘where are the women?’,” she added.