According to the internet, Whoopi Goldberg once said “An actress can only play a woman. I’m an actor. I can play anything.” When I had the good fortune to run into her one day, I told her how that quote inspired me. She looked at me and nodded and said “there you go.” To be honest I don’t think she had any idea what I was talking about so maybe she never said that, but the words had already worked their magic on my impressionable heart.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with the word actress. I don’t want to be so politically correct that I imply a bad connotation with a word that’s a perfectly okay word. If I tell you I’m an actor and you call me an actress out of old habit- we cool. If someone corrects me by smugly laughing as if I’m the cutest thing in the world and says “you mean actress?” then we aint cool. It’s happened a few times. Here is why it bothers me:
1) By correcting me you’ve assumed I made a mistake and imply you know how to introduce myself better than I do.
2) I don’t need to be reminded I’m a woman. I have a drawer filled with bras and I bleed out my vagina once a month. I get it. I’m a woman. But honestly, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about that and neither should anyone else. Don’t get me wrong – I love being a woman- but aside from making babies it really doesn’t make much of a difference.
3) How is it that a word that means equality for all genders bothers people just because it has a feminine prefix, but other words that are used solely to differentiate from a man and woman doing the same job are totally accepted? I’ve never understood why words like “actress” and “waitress” are okay but feminism is a dirty word. Also- let's get one thing straight: Dude is a gender neutral term.
I just want to touch briefly on the election. Do I think Hillary lost because she is a woman? No. But I do think that it hurt her chances more than people are willing to acknowledge. If it isn’t about having a woman as president than why hasn’t it happened yet? It certainly isn't because of a lack of kick ass women with big aspirations. I remember a conversation I had with my father when I was very young while we were driving his old red truck to the dump one early afternoon. He told me, with only the intention to prepare me, that this was a man’s world. I still remember his amused frustration as I called bullshit during every step of the conversation. Two decades later I will never forget the feeling I had in the pit of my stomach as the nation watched Clinton lose to a man with no political resume and who the world literally heard meretriciously disrespect women. I believe it was the biggest moment of solidarity for women during the election because most of us have felt that same sting in one way or another. I hear my father’s words echoing in my head. I understand them now. I disagree with them more than ever because I have to.
I no longer justify my silence in situations that make me uncomfortable by giving the benefit of the doubt to people who blatantly don’t deserve it. I don’t downplay my accomplishments for fear of sounding like a show-off. There are a lot of traits and behaviors I learned to push aside in hopes of fitting into my place in the world. That’s so backwards. Growing into adulthood in New York City has shaped me in ways I will always be grateful for. To succeed you need to be the strongest version of yourself. Being likeable is a priority that now comes after “being a boss” and “being accountable.” If it truly is a man’s world, I look forward to the challenges and changes that I will inevitably bring just by having the confidence to be myself- woman and all.