I recently tried to put my profession down as ‘actress’ on Instagram, but the only option available from the drop-down menu was ‘actor’. Why? Actress is such a graceful word, so evocative of elegance, refinement and poise that the common and blunt ‘actor’ cannot possibly conjure. It’s even worse when we are referred to as ‘female actors’. How utterly contemptuous and disrespectful towards women. We have fought long and hard for equality only to be lumped in with the male appellative in the rat race of showbiz — some victory. Although many other actresses agree with me, it appears that the younger generation think my view is old-fashioned and ridiculous. I hear the term ‘mother’ is also becoming démodé and ‘parent’ is the PC word to use on a birth certificate. Will the imagery of bountiful ‘Mother Earth’ providing sustenance and protection to her children now be replaced by a remote and strict ‘Parent Earth’? How unromantic.
Women have to fight back to stay on top. Dodging wandering hands and sexist remarks is only a part of it. At a party in St Tropez, I was seated next to a beefy aristocratic male who began moving his chair closer to mine, leaning over my cutlery and following his remarks with a squeeze on my arm or a dig in my ribs as he laughed uproariously.
‘Sorry, but you’re invading my space,’ I remarked.
‘What? What do you mean, young lady?’ he barked back.
‘First of all, I’m not your “young lady”. This is 2019. Haven’t you heard of the #MeToo movement?’
‘No, what’s that?’
‘You’re not supposed to touch people or come close to them or make sexist remarks.’
‘How utterly ludicrous,’ he replied, without an ounce of irony.
I excused myself to the powder room and asked a friend to switch places with me.
Joan Collins's Notebook is in the Christmas issue of The Spectator