Acting : Actor vs. Actress- what is the correct title now? by Marissa Stahl

Marissa Stahl

Actor vs. Actress- what is the correct title now?

I have been thinking about this a lot lately. As a female performer and also a fierce believer of equality in the workplace, I have always introduced my profession as being an "actor." More and more I am "corrected" by the people that I am talking to with "I think you mean 'actress'". It was my understanding that the term "actress" was outdated, and now it was more politically correct to say "female actor," "male actor." Personally, I prefer the latter. I feel that by using the same word to describe us all it puts us on an equal playing field; the word "actress" just sounds less professional and serious to me--as if I'm still the little girl I was when I was 3 dreaming of being a big performer one day (not that there was anything wrong with that). I'm curious to know: Females: what do you introduce your profession as? What else have people heard the most?

Lisa Regina

Actor is really PC in today's industry. I'm an Acting Coach in NYC for over 28 years now, and that is the appropriate title for either male or female 'actors'

Dan LaRoy

I was told not to call female actors actresses because its an outdated term and to just call them actors. I'm guessing a lot of those people correcting you aren't actors? call yourself whatever you like better, but I would probably call you an actor. Not even a female actor just an actor.

Andrew Mondia

I prefer actor more simple. Stick to what feels right and correct those who correct you. A matter of educating those who aren't in the know.

CJ Walley

Marissa, indeed gender marking is sexist and old fashioned. Kudos to you for being the voice of progression. I see the term used a lot and certainly slip up myself from time to time. Next time someone corrects you or debates the term, just ask them to name their favourite directress.

Tatom Pender

If I remember my theatre history correctly (& I may not), I thought it wasn't about gender. An actress historically was an apprentice in training to become an actor. As for the gender question, Shakespeare was originally performed with all male casts-- even the female roles. So personally I've always called myself an actor but when it comes to awards seasons I'd be ok with being referred to as an actress. I don't see either as a negative in today's society!

Mark Ashworth

Great question Marissa ! I've enjoyed this thread.

Nkosi Guduza

Soon we should be calling a woman a man... for equality. Actor or Actress is (or should be fine) I guess soon people should not address wives as Mrs (you know), it is rather ridiculous.

Bo Dean

I think you have a rather old-fashioned way of looking at things, Nkosi!

Adela María Bolet

As a NY actor, I always had the sense that actress was for Hollywood stars and actor was more "serious" designation for theater folk. So I prefer actor.

Marc Isaacs

I introduce and refer to my peers, male and female, as actors.

Stephanie Gilbert

I prefer actor, as well. Weirdly enough I also prefer stunt woman. Hm...

Suzanne Bronson

I heard years ago that it's male actor and female actor which I believe the Academy now uses. And of course you don't say stewardess or waitress anymore, but flight attendant and server. For awhile I was all about being PC. but I actually like saying actress. So I agree it is a personal preference, but I am an actress and feel no shame!

Maurice Tyson

I came out as a thespian, so I would not have to feel conflicted. LOL!

Anne Stafford

Hi Marissa, I call myself an actor, but accept that some people still cling on to the actress thing. I do feel uncomfortable when someone refers to me as an actress though, as it just feels outdated to me.

Stephanie Gilbert

Lol, Alle, too funny. For some reason I'm hungry for chicken now.

Franz von Toskana

By saying you want a "level playing field" do you mean that either gender should be able to audition for parts of either gender? How else could you have a level playing field? Do we go back to Shakespeare when all parts were played by men? That's illogical. The Oscars, BAFTAs, EFAs and IMDb all use "actress". Our priest begins prayers with "Sisters and Brothers" which is frowned upon by traditionalists and loathed by feminists who say "don't patronise us" so which is right??

Jex Resheske

You should call yourself as you wish, and just be confident about it. When they correct you, be sure to let them know that you prefer "actor", and they should't have anything to argue about. It's not their call to make. It's yours.

Nic Penrake

Personally I think too much has been made of this distinction. Saying 'actor' when you mean 'female actor' is stupidly self conscious. Female actor? It almost sounds vaguely medical. We have 'actress' and 'actor' in the language so that we can use one word to mean female, one word to mean male. it wasn't invented to put women down or elevate men, it was purely in existence to create clarity. Now that we have 'actor' to mean actress I find myself in conversations with people where everyone is interrupting the other person to say, Do you mean male or female? What a bloody waste of time. Who cares, frankly. Just be clear. I don't know any men in the business who would regard a 'great actress' as in any way less than a 'great actor'.

CJ Walley

Aiming for equality isn't stupid or a waste of anybody's time.

Franz von Toskana

Thanks for the fresh air Nic!

Steff Hutchinson

I was always told that the suffix -ess means 'little' and any word that takes that suffix was originally intended to mean a lesser form of the original word. Actress = little actor. Such terms helped to justify lower pay for women in the past. I agree with Marc, 'actor' is the job so is the right word to use.

Kjirstin Youngberg

Love this thread, as it is important to many of us. Peter, a duck is a duck. (Has anyone except a farmer or someone on a PBS Documentary EVER referred to a duck as a Drake? C'mon!) As many have suggested, would we ever DARE call Gia Coppola a DIRECTRESS? Waitresses have been called servers since I was one over forty years ago, so don't even go there. I once heard a woman on a plane call, "Oh, stewardess?" who then frostily handed her a cranberry juice with, "I am your flight attendant, ma'am." I think MOST women agree the term "actress" conjures visions of an air-headed 17 year-old wannabe, which is a large reason we'd prefer a neutral designation. Our daughter has always referred to herself as an actor, so when I started getting IMDb film credits (which is laughable, since mine pre-date IMDb) I set up my account as an actor. Funny thing is, IMDb then thought I was male, and it took some work to change the designation. (No; I did not have sex-change surgery, I'm female, but I'm an actor!) In order to classify myself as female on IMDb, I found I must refer to myself as an actress, but when it comes up in conversation, I'm an actor. Thankfully, I do little of it, and in films much prefer the title, Costume Designer. Hollywood will hopefully never get rid of the actress designation, though. If it did, we could one day find Leo DiCaprio pitted against Viola Davis for an Oscar. Would losing to a woman make him feel better, or worse?

John Newkirk

Great thread! I agree with that it is a new day and the old terms should stay in the past. We call wait staff "servers", not waiters or waitresses. My $.02 :^)

Franz von Toskana

Churchill said that the English and Americans are divided by a common language. Here we have waiters and waitresses. In Europe they are proud of a skilled profession and are not servile, as they are not our serfs. (Latin Servus = slave). A server is a computer providing your browser system. And yes, most people here do know a duck from a drake, (we have some beautiful mallards on our village pond) and a cow from a bull, which is handy when walking through a field.

Kjirstin Youngberg

ROTFL-that's great, Franz...and only goes to show how American-English is simply not as refined. ;) I learned about drakes in third grade, but that was the first--and last--time I ever used the term. So, do tell; what is a female in this profession called in jolly old England?

Steff Hutchinson

Depends who you ask, same as in America. Everyone I know calls them actors, but not everyone else does.

Suzanne Bronson

While I don't really care about actor/actress and I often say that I am an actress, I would not call myself a "Mrs." That is Ms. my feeling being there is no different form of address for a married man versus a single man, so why should there be one for a woman? It's no ones business. That is equality more so than male actor and female actor.

Suzanne Bronson

By the same token, if you do not use the word "actress," then you can't use the word, "waitress."

Suzanne Bronson

If we feel that using the term "actress" is degratory because it conjures of negative images and that's why we don't use it, then really, whose fault is that? Society. Marilyn Monroe was an actress, size 10 and considered one of the most beautiful women in the world. And now, we don't want to be an actress or a size 10 but we still want to be beautiful. So what has changed? Our constructs? Or has politically correctedness ruined us? Which may be another thread altogether. I think reality is Americans are too soft and can't bare to be insulted nor bare the thought of insulting someone else. If the Academy wants to nominate me for Best Actress, I am certainly not going to argue with them and say, "no, I'm an actor.' And then what? they just throw the men and women together in one category? Acting is my passion - I would love for it to be my job- and I have no qualms about saying, "I am an actress." because that is who I am. (among other things.) ultimately, really who cares?

Enrique Novello

Personally, I see no reason to genderfy the term. A female doctor is not a doctress. We are Actors

Steff Hutchinson

Just what I was thinking, I"m a teacher, not a teachress. When I was learning Finnish I was pleased to discover that they have no gender pronouns (and hence no need for gender agreements with nouns and adjectives, as so many languages have). Everyone and everything is the equivalent of 'it' which makes life a lot easier. Languages are evolving all the time, and are always pushed on their way by changing society. Just because 'historically' certain words were used in certain ways, doesn't mean they have to be for ever. Actor = one who acts. No problem.

Shonna Small

good question, as I have thought the same thing and I use "actor"

Aimee Theresa

I prefer actor. In school, we all just referred to ourselves as actors, so it always just stuck with me.

Cheyn Cole

I introduce myself as an actor, but often when people discuss my profession in conversation with me, mainly when they aren't in the business, they refer to me as an actress. I don't really mind either, but I do tend to lean towards actor.

Taylor Hay

I always say actor. Sometimes people "correct" me, but I just keep saying actor and eventually they let it go.

Steff Hutchinson

Peter Corey Evolve means to develop gradually, which is what languages do, surely? I put 'historically' in quotation marks, because I was quoting, from you. Not that hard to understand, I would have thought. And no, I don't use the gender-specific name my parents gave me - I use a version of it that I adapted because I liked it better, and that most people I meet seem to assume stands for Stefan, so it clearly doesn't seem feminine to them. Not that it matters either way. And at no time did I say I was embarrassed by anything labelling me as female, just don't see why it needs to happen. Can we agree to disagree now?

Zack Amzallag

My sister's an actor as well- and when it comes up, I always say "She's an actor as well". I don't know who's correcting you- but that's a little cheap in the first place : ) I'd stick with ACtor- esp. if it makes you feel better.

Anna-Sophie Keller

I always saw "actor" as a universal term. I agree with you, I think it sounds more professional, too. I really don't like being corrected by people - especially those not in an entertainment field haha I think you should call yourself what you want; it's your craft, and you should choose by what you would like to be referred :)

Enrique Novello

As much as I dislike needless debates with cyber bullies, here goes: None of my sister's diplomas proclaim her to be a female doctor. Though it may, at times, be useful in specific conversations we are discussing general usage. More specifically, we are discussing how a young woman refers to herself. And no, genderfy is not a traditional word (though autocorrect didn't happen to catch it this time) It has, however, been used with increasing frequency over the years in the psychological community. So expect to see it used more often. That plays into our discussion on how language evolves/changes. Being a fan of history I have enjoyed your posts on this thread, seriously, I love the information. But as an actor one of the first things they teach you is not to be so "judgey" (also not a word). All in good fun :)

Michael Dean

I believe that until the Oscars combine them, it's not important. Until then, if you get a paycheck, let them call you what they will, as long as they call you ;)

Ruby Kleinschmidt

I feel women should be proud to be female. We are special people and therefore should be seen as women and actresses.

Franz von Toskana

The whole debate (argument?) boils down to the differences (ie which is correct?) between American English, which has evolved in its way, and British English which has evolved in a different way, both having different influencing factors. You must all accept that they are now different, and both are correct for their respective countries. We in England will dine in a restaurant which has waiters after having afternoon tea in a café which has waitresses whilst Americans will go to self service which have servers (?) which in the UK is a computer which provides this web system. On the Queen Mary however, (US owned!) they have a variety of waiters (not a waitress in sight) for each course plus a wine waiter who is highly trained and would be most insulted to be called a wine server. As a BAFTA and EFA member I vote for Best Actor and Best Actress and Americans do similar for the Oscars. Just accept that there are differences. In England we prefer to treat women as equals rather than patronise them with fake titles.

CJ Walley

These straw man arguments are clouding the real topic at hand here. The issue is with gender marking job titles. This isn't about actor vs actress, it's about every gender marked job title that's out there and trying to bring universal equality. Actress is one of the least offensively sounding examples, mainly because being a good actress is seen as highly feminine and thus feminising the title is attractive to many. As I wrote previously, it catches me out from time to time and I didn't even realise it was a demeaning term until I was part way through writing a blog post in support of gender equality. So I do appreciate the jolt learning this can cause, especially considering that the vast majority of people using the term actress mean no sexist implications whatsoever. At the moment it's a two sided coin. While it's not cool to use the term, it's not cool to call people out on it either. The awareness isn't really there yet. The more apparent issue is with positive male gender marking in job titles. A chairman does not have to be a man, a fireman does not have to be a man. When a woman joins the fire-service she is not trying to show the courage and strength of a man. When a woman chairs a board she is not trying to show the competence and leadership of a man. These qualities are not exclusive to men. But let's just take a look at the action we're being asked to take here. We're being asked to use a different variation of a word. That's it. Nothing more. It's no hardship. Next time you go to use the term actress you use the term actor. If you really need to specify the gender you use the term female actor. The energy being expelled to argue against this tiny change screams volumes to me. I don't care what the tradition and history is. Why? Because history and tradition is the whole freaking problem. I can understand adversity to change. I can sympathise with being a laggard. But I have to question any proactive resistance to what is blatantly a progressive and positive movement, especially when that reasoning is little more than convenience and tradition. There's a few males in this post who really need to go put on their big boy pants and grow up. As for the comment on women being treated equally in England. Seriously? Seriously? Let's not even go there.

Anton West

Excellently put, CJ.

Enrique Novello

And to my current antagonist: Oh Kay, u winn. Yu mist the poynt intirely butt eye cunseed. (drops the mike) (eggzits stage left) (curmudgeons rejoise) (dynosores, in they're limited capacity, baffle over the suddin climaktic chanjes) f7 f7 f7 f7 f7 f7 f7 Still in good fun, Enrique (non-gender specific) Actor :)

Marissa Stahl

Thank you all so much for your interest and comments. I really enjoy reading all of your opinions!

Kathleen Puls Andrade

I always say @you wouldn't call a doctor a doctoress, or a president a presidentette. We do the same thing. Why make the distinction?

Cameron Mark Lewis

I call all of my friends "actors", female or male. I don't think there needs to be a special designation for women, let's make it an equal playing field. :)

Vicki Kagawan Zabarte

I prefer to be called an actor. Just like I prefer to be called, in my profession, a massage therapist and NOT a masseuse.

Ginger Marin

I use the term "actor". People already know I'm a female.

Bo Dean

Why have you turned this into an attack on CJ, Peter?

CJ Walley

Peter's wasting his time if he is trying to attack me. I don't bother to read his posts.

Bo Dean

Good thinking, CJ.

Kathleen Puls Andrade

Actually, I often refer to myself as an actron.

Kathleen Puls Andrade

Look, if you want to call yourself an actress, do it! It's a matter of preference. I personally refer to myself as an actor. The only people who try to correct me are not in the business. I find that amusing, actually. So, I do the whole explanation and ask them what they do and add an -ess or -ette to it and it sounds funny and we all chuckle. No big deal.

Bee Devereux

I think CJ has hit a raw nerve with you, Peter. Did you get told off in English class as a child and have been seething ever since? I don't think he's obsessed with anything to be honest. It's you who seems to have the obsession.

CJ Walley

June, judging by your response I can only assume Peter has adopted the same attitude he did with another thread on here. Since then I've chosen ignore his posts. I suspect others will as a result of this one.

Suzanne Bronson

I have no idea what is going on...

Marissa Stahl

I love that people are really passionate about speaking their minds and being their true selves unapologetically; that is, after all what being an actor calls you to do. However, the entertainment industry is already wrought with such harshness in criticisms, expectations and comparisons. This should be a safe space where we can come together to discuss our passions, not claim our disdain for the opinions and paths of others. Please refrain from commenting on this thread, or any other for that matter, if your intention is to attack or name call. I would hate to have to remove this post.

Beverley J Simmons

Thespian ;)

Aida Munoz

Actor. I've always used that term (and I've been a professional actor for 23 years) because it denotes equality. The people who correct you are not in the business, although the term is commonly used in the media. Sometimes I will use "actress" in my children's classes but most of the time I refer to the group as young actors.

Dane Light Aka D Unknoen - Damian Forest Light

Actress or female actor. Also actor. but also Actress and Female Actor. Not just Actor.

Mehdya Fassi Fihri

In french we say Actress, we can not say actor for a girl, everyone will coreect you. I like the idea of calling a professional: Femal Actor I think I will start introduce me like that ;) thanks this topic is interessting ! Cheers

Michelle Romano

I thought about this as well and struggle with the same. I refer to myself as an Actor for the simple reason it is not gender specific and like you, want to promote equality in the business. There was an interesting docu on television about a week ago on women in comedy and the struggles they encountered in what is typically a male dominated business. They also stated there is no male comedy or female comedy....it's just comedy. Would like that to be true in acting as well. Thanks for the discussion.

John E Repa

On Facebook I posted Diminutive where I discuss this. I think it's a subtle sexism. By using 'actress' it makes 'actor' a male term by default. Writers are authors, novelists, journalists and the person flying the plane is a pilot. The terms are job descriptions- same as an actor. If we don't correct them, then sexism wins another small victory.

M L.

The Academy still makes the distinction with Best Actor, Best Actress. As far as I know, no one has ever turned down the award because of the "sexist" implications of the title.

Aida Munoz

Yes, but that's from a long-standing tradition. The SAG Awards refer to Female Actors in their awards because it reflects contemporary practice.

Matthew Michaelson Erceg

I personally don't see why people have to take offence at this and believe that all human souls are equal, therefore using the literally correct term is the best and most logical course of action, that being "Actress". to do otherwise is a denial of your femininity and an incorrect assertion that women are the same as men when they are not. women think differently and feel differently and I wouldn't want it any other way.

Kathleen Puls Andrade

Peter, you certainly are a "fan" of "quotation marks" aren't you? With that said, what possible difference does it make to you which term one prefers? Aren't you as guilty of pushing your own agenda on the rest of us by your diatribes? So I prefer to use the term "Actor". So what? There are several words that have made it into the dictionary just by common usage, or misusage. For example, the word "terrific". We think it to mean "fantastic, good" when it actually means "horrific or to inspire fear". But we've used it incorrectly for so long that, eventually, a new meaning will be added to the dictionary. So, with that said, I will still call myself an "actor" and not be offended when someone calls me an "actress".

Nanette Bulebosh

I think we should respect all working theater/film artists enough to call them whatever they want to be called. If a woman genuinely prefers to call herself an "actress," who am I to insist that she change? (Perhaps later, if I get to know her, we can discuss feminism and the importance of neutral gender titles) If I don't know the woman, I'll refer to her as an actor unless she requests otherwise. I do think "actor" is the more respectful term. Thanks for generating this conversation! How we are introduced DOES matter.

Kathleen Puls Andrade

Actron. Say "actron".

Chris Herden

Actor - I agree with Marc, 'Actor' refers to your profession, not your gender

Richard John Andrews

I would always default to calling someone an actor. If they prefer to be referred to as an actress, that is their right - but it is not my place to impose a gender-specific term on them when gender is not what defines a person.

Marco Fiorini

" Players, we are all PLAYERS."

Nicholas Jordan

I agree with your take on it.

Marisa Torre

All actresses are Actors, but not all actors are actresses ...

Marco Fiorini

Therefore all, non-Fazool THESPIANS are Fun-loving honest liars. q.e.d.

Elisabeth Meier

Wow. I always have the same problem in other cases. As a writer I'm grateful not being called a 'writress' given by the fact no one will ever be able to speak such a word correctly. I feel the same degrading as you describe it like is for a waitress, a stewardess (now flight assistant btw) etc. and isn't it strange that no teacher, pilot, doctor, scientist has this problem? There it is even not necessary to mention it is a female doctor, female pilot and so on. Hence, I think go on as you do, calling yourself an actor. All women should do that.

Alexis Albright

Honestly I always thought actor represents the male and actress represents the female. That is my thought process on it.

Alan B. Cox

Same here Alexis. I'll call you what you like. I am new here, but in the film industry I feel that it does make a difference. You write roles for certain characters. Although we don't use actor/actress in our scripts, the job posting should identify the sex. In no way would I want to disrespect anyone. And I do agree with the doctor, teacher, pilot, etc. I have a daughter that's an engineer. Oh, and by the way, she's pretty too.

Lisa Regina

I'm an NYC acting coach of 28 yrs, 'actress' is outdated and no longer used. The industry professionals that I work with and communicate with use 'actor' for both men and woman performers.

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