Sexism and the Oscars
Louise Livesey // 26 February 2008
Sarah Churchwell has written a thought-provoking article over at Comment is Free about how women lose out at the Oscars unless it’s ring-fenced as a woman’s award.
In 1928, at the first Academy Awards, there were 15 categories. Men won in 14 of them, but Janet Gaynor managed to sneak away with the award for best actress.
Last Sunday there were 24 major categories of which women won in seven categories, twice on their own, five times jointly with men (there is also one name I can’t place into a gender, sorry). This equates 29% to compared to the 1928 7%. Of those two were women only categories (the two sole winners) and of the total 26 winners (counted individually) only there were only seven winners. The categories also show gender bias with women winning in Costume Design and Music and men in film editing and cinematography. The only non-traditional woman’s win was Karen Baker Landers for sound editing.
The problem is that awards which do not segregate on the basis of gender tend to overlook women altogether. There is no Nobel prize for women’s literature: women go head to head with men. And they’ve won 10 times in 107 years.
The best actress category persists because we wouldn’t want to risk the possibility that no women would win an Oscar, for obvious reasons – which have nothing to do with equality and everything to do with economics, of the sexual variety.
Obviously, this being Comment is Free the usual host of misogynistic responses are there (although some of the best/worst ones have been moderated off the site now) those left up include:
JeremyJames: “you are a senior lecturer in American literature and should know better. You have misused the word ‘gender’ all the way through your piece – gender is grammatical, sex is biological. And the word, correctly, is ‘actress’ which is not a synonym for ‘slut’ any more than ‘actor’ is a synonym for narcissist.”
NevOmphalos: “Women, why not concentrate on doing a better job and fighting your way to the top- rather than arguing for special dispensations?”
MrMydak: “I think that the issue may be down to ability more than “discrimnation”.”