Sunday, February 22, 2015

Pondering the sexism in the Oscars (and other awards)

As we made it through this recent "awards season" I was struck by the thought: Is not the notion of men and women being segregated into categories by gender a holdover from a much more sexist era? In the so-called progressive twenty-first century were equality of the sexes is supposedly the aim, is it condescending to suggest that women would not be able to compete were they in the same category as me for the acting roles? There aren't gender distinctions when it comes to directing or writing or sound editing, but for those who appear on-screen the fact a century ago it was the case women were separate seems to suggest they still require that special status in order to get any awards.

It is the case that Hollywood is still as much an old boy's club—and a white old boys club at that—where if "the fairer sex" didn't have a separate category for the acting awards the trophies would still be largely doled out to those with the XY chromosomal alignment—and not because men are inherently better actors but (let's face it) because men would have a harder time voting for women over men. Not all men, of course, but enough who have the vote who remember those days when a dame was a dame.

Women don't get acknowledged as much in those other categories either, so perhaps there should be (for example) a "Best Female Director" award to allow more women to get up and give an acceptance speech. It sounds sexist—and in a way it is—but recognizing that someone without a penis is capable of directing a motion picture may be a way to break the association that society clearly has.

Recognizing more different types of performances and contributions might make the awards shows less elitist (read: improve ratings). As ridiculous as it seems on the surface, were there a category for "Best Actor of Color" category then some fine performances wouldn't go unacknowledged. Or perhaps having awards for first-time performers, or those under 30, or something, would shake things up in interesting ways.

The notion of turning artistic achievements into a completion where there is only one worthy of lauding is ludicrous on its face, and these awards ceremonies are largely famous people who have really cool jobs patting each other on the back in an effort to get the public to go see their films, but to the extent we the public continue to acknowledge the awards as having any worth (besides the telecasts being a fun thing to lampoon on Twitter) it seems like getting trophies in the hands of more deserving people by having more diverse categories is no sillier than the sex-based paradigm that has existing for decades and decades.

As the parent of a toddler I of course saw no nominated films and have no idea who was or wasn't deserving, but it seems like there was a good chance both the nominees and others who weren't nominated did a good job.


So the real question was: Can one be a feminist (and believe in gender equality) and watch the Oscars and the other awards shows (where the acting trophies are arranged by gender) without seeing them as supporting a sexist status quo?

Moreover, will there come a time in the future when making these distinctions by gender will be deemed archaic and the categories will be merged to ignore sex?

Or perhaps the appeal of watching famous pretty people applaud each other will wear off for the general public and these ceremonies will be relegated to the same corner of culture as beauty pageants.


Or maybe we should embrace the traditional sexism because it offers a pleasant, innocuous distraction for a few hours, and ultimately that is all we should expect of the entertainment industry. It gives something for a swath of society something to get worked up about on social media for a while, and that offers some worth in this age. A respite from the crap of the world, even temporary and reeking of sexist overtones (not to mention the racist ones), is perhaps best appreciated for exactly what it is, and exactly as it is.


All of this is, of course, the sort of crap a middle-aged white guy has the luxury of contemplating.

No comments:

Post a Comment

So, what do you think?