An open letter to Ideastap - Opportunities and ‘positive’ discrimination

Dear Ideastap

What angers and frustrates me as a writer who wants to contribute and be productive in a consumptive world is having barriers put up to me that I can never break down.

I’m talking about opportunities that are only open to those of a certain age (Ideastap) or from a certain background (location specific).

As editor of Female Arts it sometimes worries me that I don’t promote men as much as women, that I may be excluding men and therefore am I just as guilty of having a set agenda which discriminates? I remind myself This is Not the Case!

Men are welcome at Female Arts – as I’ve always stated in our FAQ's – particularly if they are involved in work that promotes equality, I want to hear about it – e.g. see our interview with Second Skin theatre director Andy McQuade.
We have a prolific male writer in our review team, the website was built by a man, I know a lot of men who are supportive of Female Arts.

Any man has the potential to be involved with Female Arts, it’s not exclusive to women. What pisses me off is when opportunities are barred to me based on factors I can do nothing about, such as my age and background, so I will always be ineligible to apply e.g. Ideastap briefs or eg. a drama prize only open to those living in or born in Ireland.

I can see why it is a good reason to prioritise these voices but I think it is a shortcoming to permanently exclude others who can do nothing to change their age or where they were born.

Last year, when I was a mature student at CSSD I was ineligible to join my classmates in applying for Ideastap opportunities or in 2010 obtaining a free theatre ticket under the Night Less Ordinary scheme – the criteria for entry is only age, not ability or potential!

Even Network Rail for all their shortcomings recognised me as eligible for a Young Persons Railcard (16-25 year olds) when I was in my thirties because I was a mature student. Why not Ideastap? Why not A Night Less Ordinary?

Exclusivity leads to division and that is what I want to avoid with Female Arts – it’s not about women vs men it’s about women reaching equality with men. Men who are supportive of gender equality (male feminists) are welcome here.

Here is my Ideastap profile.
All my Master’s degree classmates joined, were networking and I wanted to be part of it! I lied and set my age to 30 to ‘fit in’. I shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed of my age. I shouldn’t have barriers to entry. Positive discrimination enforces an artificial divide between the young and the old when we should be free, even encouraged, to collaborate.

Wendy Thomson (age 35).

p.s. I was shocked and pleased to see that your current brief for ‘The Columnist’ is open to those ‘aged 16 and over’ with no upper age limit. What happened to bring on this change of heart?