I was recently watching an interview of actress Anne Hathaway, who was narrating her experience of shooting for the thriller film Serenity on a ship in the Maldives. Anticipating that the cast and crew would be at sea for the better half of the day, Hathaway had carried a coffee machine so that everyone had access to a good ol’ hot cuppa. What she hadn’t realized was that it was a shooting boat and not an actual one, so the machine couldn’t just be plugged in anywhere. She recounted the incident in mock horror, that she felt like “such a diva” when they had to haul in a huge generator to get the machine running.
The video was titled, “Anne Hathaway Had An Accidental Diva Moment on the Set of Serenity”, as though it was a solemn mistake in judgement which had many repercussions.
If one gets down to it, the Internet can prove to be a toxic rabbit hole, which believes in naming and shaming women celebrities (actors, singers, comedians etc.) for having certain requirements at their workplace or for even having a personality. The word ‘diva’ has come to denote a high-strung and high-maintenance woman who won’t comply unless she has things her way
To give you context, Scarlet Johansson has been called a diva for admitting that she has an ego like any other actor, Katherine Heigl for asking for extra security at work, Jennifer Lopez for hosting a party with horses, Lady Gaga for firing her personal assistant and Mariah Carey, her formal manager, Aretha Franklin for wanting to do away with the air-conditioning at a venue as it affected her vocal chords, Ariana Grande for licking pastries at a doughnut shop and the list goes on.
The Oxford dictionary defines ‘diva’ as a celebrated female opera singer, but now the term has been reduced to damning women as being difficult, aka for knowing exactly what they want. And this sexist usage is not just limited to public figures. The few women who occupy powerful positions at their workplaces across industries are often spoken about in hushed tones and called divas for having their priorities straight.
Successful (heterosexual) men, however, are never assuaged with this label. Their steadfastness, no matter how unreasonable to some, is perceived as a stellar trait in a determined individual. As this article points out, even if a male celebrity has a meltdown in public, it is laughed off as a slight indiscretion, but a moment of vulnerability in the life of a woman gets no such leeway.
So, for a temperamental Mariah Carey who is believed to have said that she doesn’t “do stairs”, had the best retort to combat the rumour, “Apparently not only do I not do stairs but I won't walk on carpet and I refuse to walk on grass. What do I do to get around? Hover? I mean, you live and exist under a microscope and at a certain point the rumours become amusing.”
In the age of social media, we unfairly demand constant access to celebrities but as the common folk, we are the last to embrace them in all their imperfection, more so for the women. It is high time to purge the word ‘diva’ of its bad rep. Women are constantly pressured to succumb to the society’s unrealistic expectations of femininity when instead we should be empowering them to chart their own unique path. A woman asking for some amenities at her workplace or just simply having a bad day or making a mistake doesn’t make her a diva.
She is just someone living her own truth, and doesn’t need your approval for it.