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Wednesday, 17 September 2008


Yesterday I spoke to the Federation of International Actors on how we can work at European level for action in getting equal opportunities in the performing arts.
They were an interesting group of actors from a number of countries. The meeting was held in the Drill Hall, a theatre and local centre in Chenies Street, WC1, which has been the location for one of the polling stations in my Ward. Small world.

I spoke to the FIA about recent reports in the European Parliament which might interest them. Two in particular could directly affect equality and the way of life of many members of the FIA.
Firstly, earlier this month Parliament passed a report on gender stereotyping called "How marketing and advertising affect equality between men and women". You may have read about this in the Eurosceptic press as "Brussels to ban housewives on television". Adverts are generally short and have little time to get their message across, and so MEPs wanted to ensure that advertisers did not play up to, or reinforce stereotypes as a way of selling products.

As often happens with EU reports on gender issues, the report was deliberately misunderstood by certain quarters of the media. The report was not about preventing adverts which are "discriminatory or harmful" to women, but about ensuring that advertising does not lead to stereotyping or typecasting because of lax or lazy editorial standards. Improving how we portray men and women, not just in adverts but in the media at large could go some way to improving the employment conditions for performing artists.
There was also a bill passed in June 2007 concerning the social status of Artists. Employment conditions for artists contribute greatly to problems in gender representation. As in other professions poor social and employment protection affect women more then men. The very nature of the employment contracts in the profession disadvantages women.

The report made a number of suggestions about improving sickness insurance, unemployment protection and pension provision for artists. These measures would help to ensure an employment landscape that was more able to accommodate both men and women equally. There were also suggestions that the Commission launch a pilot project of a European electronic social security card especially for European artists. This would help artists working across national borders to receive social security that they were entitled to. The report also highlighted problems with cross-border employment and the difficulties obtaining visas and work permits. The report stressed the need to take into account the atypical nature of artists working methods. Poor social protection disadvantages women, particularly those with young children. It makes it harder for them to balance work and family life.

Finally there is a report coming up on the "Equal treatment and access for men and women in the performing arts". My colleague, French Liberal MEP Claire Gibault will be drafting this report, and it is likely to be dealt with at the end of this year or at the start of next.

But like on other reports, there are a number of MEPs who don't see the importance of these issues. They prefer to get cheap anti-European press rather than address the issues that concern people. For that reason it's important for organisations like Equity and the FIA to lobby MEPs to make sure that they understand the importance of these issues and make that these reports are passed.

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