Earlier this spring, MTV decided to make its awards gender-neutral, part of an effort to match the demands of a generation of young people increasingly skeptical that gender is binary. And though Showtime didn’t go fully gender-neutral, it did allow Kate Dillon, the gender non-binary star of Billions, to choose which Emmy category was the best fit.
But the industry’s embrace of gender neutrality could end up hurting actresses, said Helen McCrory, star of Peaky Blinders, in an interview with London’s Evening Standard.
“The benefits are you’re not saying someone is a brilliant woman or brilliant man because they’re all humans portraying characters,” the 48-year-old actress said. “But it seems like there will be an awful lot less awards—which no actress likes to hear.”
In 2015, Time analyzed the careers of 6,000 actors and actresses. The magazine found that actresses peak early in Hollywood, with their roles sharply declining after age 30. In contrast, male actors don’t see their careers decline until age 46—which means that they often have an 15 years or more than their female counterparts to score prime roles and compete for awards.
Emma Watson, 27, won MTV’s first gender-neutral award for “Best Actor in a Movie Role.” But her days in the spotlight may be numbered, if the Time’s analysis is any indication; even A-list actresses weren’t immune to the after-30 curse of declining roles.
McCrory said she’d prefer to see more recognition for women in Hollywood in general. “We should have [awards for] actresses between the ages of 30 and 31, actresses most happy living in Tuffnell Park and actresses with children who actually got themselves to work,” she quipped.
On a more serious note, McCrory said that gender actually does matter for her profession, much more so than in other lines of work.
“I’m not an actor—I’m an actress,” McCrory said. “I find it odd when people introduce me as an actor. There are many, many jobs that it doesn’t matter what sex you are—it doesn’t matter what sex your doctor is, or your lawyer. But as an actress your sex really matters because part of your experience of the world is as a woman.”
— Jillian Kay Melchior writes for Heat Street and is a fellow for the Steamboat Institute and the Independent Women’s Forum.